Monday 10th January 2022. Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division South.
Walton & Hersham 2 Sheerwater 0.
Watched by another 300+ crowd, Swans capitalised on their game in hand over second-placed Redhill with a hard-fought win over no-nonsense, dogged opposition, stretching their lead at the top to eight points. First-time opponents Sheerwater had shown their credentials by beating Beckenham in their last match, and they put on a determined, organised performance, not being averse to the odd physical challenge, but quality goals in the latter stages of each half saw Swans to the three points.
A change in formation saw Harry Pointing and Reece Brewster come into the starting line-up, along with Ollie Twum, while other new signing Dean Rule was unavailable.
Inside the first minute Pointing fouled Jacob Breckon outside the left of the box, giving the visitors an early free-kick opportunity, but Sean Swift’s delivery went harmlessly wide of the far-post. Sheerwater continued to press Swans in the opening minutes, and Anthony Ogbanufe shot wide of the near-post after getting into the right of the box.
Harry Mills immediately set Twum breaking down the left to pose Swans’ first threat, but his low ball across the box was cleared away. Joe Hicks’ excellent cross-field pass from the left picked out Harry Mills on the right, and he was left prostrate when he was clattered into by Billy Nutbeam while going up to head the ball, with surprisingly no foul being called against the Sheers’ left-back. A fine build-up on the left ended with Jacob Munting being fouled just outside the corner of the box, giving Swans a free-kick in a promising position. Brewster delivered to the far-post, but Hicks’ header looped across goal and wide.
The visitors responded with a good build-up outside the box and Morris Musselwhite getting Ogbanufe in on the left, but his shot was comfortably gathered by Swans’ goalkeeper Liam Allen at his near-post.
Brewster picked out Dominic Ogun’s clever run into the box with a pass from deep on the left, but the ball had just too much pace on it and ran away from the Swans’ striker and behind. With just over ten minutes played Swans had the best chance so far to open the scoring, as they cleverly passed the ball around, looking for an opening. The final pass was an excellent one from Munting that got Alex Kelly clear into the right of the box, but former Swans’ Academy keeper Alfie Mickley just managed to stick out his right leg to block Kelly’s shot. Then Nutbeam’s attempt to head clear sent the ball straight to Mills on the right, and he drove inside before striking a shot that took a deflection to go behind. Mills’ left-side corner picked out Max Hustwick at the far-post, but he could not get in a clean header and Mickley saved comfortably.
Sheers’ right-back Ashley Hitchinson became the first yellow card recipient for a fairly agricultural challenge on Twum, and Mickley punched away when Brewster sent the free-kick into the box from the left. With half an hour played another excellent move on the left led to Eddie Simon cutting in and cleverly setting up Kelly 25 yards out, but his low shot flew wide of the left post. Kelly then set up Mills in the left of the box to have a shot blocked following another fine build-up.
Ogbanufe picked up the second yellow card of the evening for a foul deep on the left, and Brewster’s free-kick into the box was well gathered by Mickley. Mickley’s opposite number Allen then made an equally good catch when Nutbeam delivered a free-kick into the box from out on the left following a handball by Pointing.
A fine cross-field pass from deep on the left by Hustwick was met with a superb first-time, back-heel flick over Nutbeam by Mills, that took him clear on the right, and when he drove the ball into the 6 yard-box Ogun looked to have been fouled, but the referee did not agree. Another foul on Mills by Nutbeam gave Swans a free-kick on the right, but Mills’ delivery into the box was headed clear.
The breakthrough finally came with three minutes of normal-time left of the half. A fine move on the left led to Twum getting to the edge of the box and laying the ball inside to Munting, who played Ogun in to turn and drive the ball into the bottom right corner. Soon after the restart Ogun laid the ball in from the right to Munting, but he drove over from the edge of the box.
Sheerwater soon won a free-kick on the right in the second-half when Brewster fouled Breckon, but Nutbeam’s delivery into the box was headed clear by Simon, who was immediately sent clear by Kelly to force a corner on the left. Ogbanufe then set up Swift on the right for the visitors, and Allen had to beat down a shot on goal. Ogbanufe forced Simon to concede a corner on the right, and Breckon cut in on the left byline to get in a cross that Allen cut out at his near-post as Sheerwater continued to make a strong start to the second-half.
But Swans went close when Ogun drove in from the right to strike a strong, left-foot shot into the side-netting from the corner of the box. Then Ogun again shot wide of the near-post when Simon played him into the right of the box. An excellent, patient build-up by Swans ended with Brewster crossing from the right to the far-post to try to pick out Twum, and when the ball was headed down by a defender in the 6 yard-box Mickley just denied the lurking Ogun.
The visitors continued to carve out half chances, without seriously threatening Swans’ goal. Musselwhite sent a low shot straight at Allen, and Rikki Letch’s free-kick, delivered from just inside his own half following Hustwick’s foul on Ogbanufe, forced a corner on the right off substitute Louis Collins. Jonathan Casson-Kinch’s kick was safely headed clear by Pointing. The ball was then driven over from the right by Casson-Kinch to Nutbeam on the left, but he shot weakly into the side-netting.
Simon completed another patient build-up by Swans by driving the ball over from the right, and just failing to find Collins, coming in at the far-post.
Nutbeam put a close-in header looping over for Sheerwater when Hitchinson crossed from the right, affirming Swans’ lead was still a slender one.
But, with eight minutes of normal-time remaining, the win was effectively secured when Twum won the ball off Hitchinson by the left corner flag. Twum laid the ball back to Collins, who then played it across to Simon. Simon set up Mills in the right of the box to drive a shot low into the far corner.
It was close to being 3-0 when substitute Will Kouadio laid the ball off to Mills in the right of the box, and he drove a terrific shot against the crossbar. Swift then fouled Twum to concede a free-kick out on the left touchline, and surprisingly faced no further sanction as he petulantly threw the ball at the Swans’ winger. Mills drove the ball into the 6 yard-box, where it was just headed clear.
Sheerwater pressed for some reward in stoppage-time, and Nutbeam was set up on the left by Bradley Roberts for a strong shot that Allen beat down. A corner was then needlessly given away on the left, but that only resulted in a shot over the goal from the right of the box by Roberts.
Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Pointing (Stuart Baldwin 84’), Reece Brewster (Will Kouadio 84’), Max Hustwick, Joe Hicks, Jacob Munting (Louis Collins 67’), Harry Mills, Eddie Simon, Dominic Ogun (Darryl Siaw 78’), Alex Kelly, Ollie Twum. Sub. not used: Joe Pratley-Jones. Scorers: Ogun (42’), Mills (82’).
Sheerwater Team: Mickley, Hitchinson, Nutbeam, Pooley, Letch, Leech, Ogbanufe (Roberts 78’), Swift, Breckon, Kazakis (Casson-Kinch 57’), Musselwhite (Dore 66’). Subs. not used: Roissetter, Goodfellow. Cautions: Hitchinson, foul (22’), Ogbanufe, foul (33’),