Saturday 11th September 2021. Cherry Red Combined Counties League Premier Division South.
Walton & Hersham 7 AFC Croydon Athletic 0.
Swans made sure they did not suffer any kind of hangover from their midweek FA Cup exit by crushing first-time opponents AFC Croydon Athletic. The visitors had few answers in combatting the close, incisive passing game and decisive finishing of a Swans’ side that found these Rams much more to their liking than the similarly nicknamed Beaconsfield Town, and they could well have suffered an even heavier defeat. A downside to the win was a serious-looking injury sustained by Stuart Baldwin that resulted in the defender being stretchered off midway through the second-half. Early indications suggested a bone break, but later diagnosis was more promising, with the final outcome waiting on reduction of the swelling, so it is hoped he makes a quick recovery.
There were injury problems for the home side before the game, with Harry Mills, Dominic Ogun and Onur Bakici all unfit following the game in midweek, and they were joined on the absentee list by the unavailable Darryl Siaw. To help plug the gaps two new signings were drafted in, both on dual-registration. Wide player Brandon Barzey comes in from Hampton & Richmond Borough, while striker Tom Cursons joins from Metropolitan Police. Both had impressive debuts, slotting seamlessly into Swans’ playing style, although Barzey could not resume for the second-half having sustained an injury just before the break. Cursons marked his first appearance with two goals, although that tally was close to being doubled as he was twice unlucky with efforts that struck the goal-frame. The main goal-scoring plaudits however went to Palace Francis, who got back on target with a superb hat-trick.
The match kicked-off a quarter of an hour late as both sides had several players held-up due to traffic problems on route to the ground, but Swans were quick out of the traps. After just two minutes a patient build-up resulted in Cursons bursting past Rams’ left-back Alfie Young on the right to drive the ball low into the box, and Hermes Mengi to clear it behind for a corner.
The visitors had an opportunity with a free-kick a couple of yards outside the edge of the box on the left, but Jay Bradley’s ball into the box was easily dealt with.
Clever play by Alex Kelly on the right led to him getting the ball to Barzey, and this time it was the other debutant who showed Young a clean pair of heels to force another corner. Swans’ pressure paid off after just six minutes with the opening goal, and it came in unexpected, but spectacular fashion. Joe Hicks found space on the edge of the ‘D’ outside the box, and struck a tremendous left-foot shot that flew past goalkeeper Oshane Brown and into the top, left corner.
Francis was soon being fouled out by the left corner flag, and Hicks and Cursons were both at the near-post when Kelly drove the free-kick in, the ball being put behind seemingly off a visiting player, but no corner was awarded. Louis Collins did force a corner on the left, and Brown had to punch the ball away from his line when Kelly swung it in, the keeper then going down to save Francis’s low shot from 35 yards.
Another goal had to come, and it did after 13 minutes. Kelly played the ball inside from the left to Francis, and he got into the box, cut to his right, and thumped the ball into the net.
The visitors tried to get back into the game, and Joe Nwoko struck a low shot from outside the box when Tijani Eshilokun laid the ball into him from the left, but Swans’ keeper Liam Allen saved comfortably.
Francis was soon doing well on the edge of the away penalty and seemed to be fouled, but play continued and Barzey drove a low shot wide of the left post.
The Rams went close to reducing Swans’ lead with a rare opportunity. Bradley’s free-kick from the edge of the centre-circle found Marcus Travers in the left of the box, and he sent a dipping shot onto the top of the crossbar and over.
But Swans soon went close to extending their lead. Barzey made a fine run on the right before crossing to the edge of the 6 yard-box, where Cursons powered a header against the bar. Zach Dainkeh then sent a strong shot dipping just over from 25 yards after Kelly laid the ball in from the left. Midway through the half Francis got Collins away on the left, and Brown just denied Cursons when the cross came in.
The visitors won a left-side corner after Bradley had sent a free-kick into the box from deep on the left, but Allen made a good catch from Jermaine Green’s delivery.
For Swans, Jacob Munting made a run forward that was only ended by Luwayne Greenwood fouling him 25 yards from goal. Kelly drove the free-kick into the wall, but he was immediately brought down closer to the penalty area on the edge of the ‘D’. This time his free-kick was wide of the left post.
With a quarter of an hour left of the half Francis found Cursons on the right, and he forced a corner off Young. Kelly, Francis and Barzey all combined as the kick was played short, and this led to a patient build-up that culminated in Swans’ third goal. Hicks played a neat pass to send Kelly down the right, and his low ball into the 6 yard-box found Cursons, who drove it past keeper Brown.
Jermaine Green took another corner on the left for The Rams, but Allen again made a comfortable catch.
A fine pass by Munting found Kelly on the right for Swans, and his low cross was put behind for a corner with Barzey in the middle waiting to pounce.
The visitors enjoyed some possession with a patient build-up, but it was ended with a disappointing cross by Ibrahim Kallon from the right that went behind.
With three minutes of normal-time left of the half some fine play by Collins on the left allowed him to get the ball over to Barzey, whose shot was blocked. The ball ran loose to Cursons, who poked it just wide of the right post, but Swans’ fourth goal soon came. Barzey did well to cut into the left of the box and have a shot blocked, and when the ball broke to the right to Francis, he drove a terrific shot low into the net. Barzey had picked up an injury in setting up the goal and could not resume for the second-half, Alec Fiddes coming on.
Swans were a bit slow to settle after the resumption, and five minutes in a good build-up by the Rams led to Eshilokun driving a low shot wide of the left post from 22 yards, but it was soon close to being 5-0 for the home side. Fiddes played the ball inside from the right to Cursons, who was fouled just outside the box on the right edge of the ‘D’. Collins was the rather surprise free-kick taker, but only a fine save by Brown, diving to his right to push the ball wide, kept out a super strike.
Swans’ fifth goal was not long in coming however, and it was superbly set-up. Dainkeh played a tremendous low pass through the middle of the visitors’ defence to send Cursons clear, and after getting just inside the box he calmly slotted the ball past the oncoming keeper.
Harry Pointing came on for Max Hustwick, but just past the hour Swans were forced into a third substitution when Baldwin sustained his injury following a tackle. After five minutes of treatment he was stretchered off, to be replaced by Jordayne Henry.
Swans soon completed their five substitutions, with Reece Brewster and Darren Simpson coming on for Munting and Dainkeh, and they took a while to regroup. Fiddes headed away when Bradley took a free-kick by the right corner of the box for The Rams, whose Eshilokun had a far-post header blocked from Jermaine Green’s left-side cross.
Swans soon settled again however, Collins’ cross from the left being cleared behind for a corner and Simpson almost playing Francis in, and with just under ten minutes of normal-time remaining they made it 6-0. Francis was played into the left of the box, and he took the ball to Brown’s right before slotting it past the keeper from the corner of the 6 yard-box to complete a terrific hat-trick.
It now seemed a question of how many Swans could score in the time remaining, and Collins just failed to find Cursons in the middle after being put down the left by Hicks. Fiddes did pick out Cursons on the edge of the 6 yard-box with a cross from the right, and he improvised superbly to flick the ball up and hook it goalwards, only to be denied a debut hat-trick as it struck the right angle of bar and post. Kelly then made a terrific forward run, that took him through the middle of the visitors’ defence, before he was brought down just outside the box, but the referee seemed extremely lenient by not awarding a free-kick.
Francis cut inside from the left to have a shot blocked, before doing so again in the 90th minute. This time keeper Brown could only push the shot away to his left, and Fiddes was at the far-post to clip the ball into the net and make it 7-0.
As a lengthy period of stoppage-time started, Cursons almost had one last chance to complete his hat-trick, but Collins’ cross, following a fine run of the left, was just too high for him waiting in the middle.
Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Stuart Baldwin (Jordayne Henry 67’), Louis Collins, Jacob Munting (Reece Brewster 69’), Max Hustwick (Harry Pointing 57’), Joe Hicks, Brandon Barzey (Alec Fiddes 45’), Zach Dainkeh (Darren Simpson 69’), Tom Cursons, Alex Kelly, Palace Francis. Scorers: Hicks (6’), Francis (13’, 43’ & 81’), Cursons (31’ & 54’), Fiddes (90’).
AFC Croydon Athletic Team: Brown, Kallon, Young, Bradley (Marney 77’), Travers, Mengi, J. Green, Eshilokun (Lopeman 77’), Greenwood (Bloomfield 45’), Nwoko (Agoro 59’), N. Green (Boateng 45’).