Saturday 3rd October 2020. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Division One.
Westside 0 Walton & Hersham 2.
Swans’ first away goals of the season gave them their first away win as they put an end to the home side’s 100% league record. Although it took a fine penalty save from their goalkeeper Liam Allen and a superbly struck free-kick from Sean McCormack late in the game to seal the three points, Swans were more than good value for the win.
They were pleased to give belated first starts of the season to both Harry Mills and Joe Hicks, Mills having recovered from a hamstring injury picked up in pre-season training, and Hicks starting a game for the first time in 19 months following a bad leg-fracture. Top scorer Jamie Byatt had not recovered from bruised ribs picked up in a collision with the British Airways’ goalkeeper in midweek, and missed his first game. There were however two new signings in the starting line-up. Zach Deinkah is a product of Ebbsfleet United’s Academy, while Troy Walters joins from Bristol club Keynsham Town after moving to London to attend university, and both had impressive debuts.
Walters went close to getting on the scoresheet just three minutes into his debut. Good build-up play led to Dan Taylor getting down the right, and when he crossed to the far-post Walters was stretching and could only get a slight touch to poke the ball wide. Mills then broke down the right to drive the ball low across the goal-face.
Swans continued to dominate play, and should have taken the lead with just over ten minutes played. Westside keeper Giordano Zabotti seemed to be caught unawares by a back-pass, and could only slice the ball out to McCormack unmarked on the edge of the box, but after setting himself the Swans’ player shot over with the goal beckoning.
Some excellent play by Walters on the left soon led to Swans again going close when he crossed to the far-post. Mills was by the corner of the 6 yard-box to drive in a shot that took a deflection, and the ball struck the top of the crossbar and went behind for a corner.
Swans had totally bossed the first quarter of the game, and some more fine approach play led to Mills sending Taylor clear on the right, but his cross went disappointingly behind. Taylor got in a better cross minutes later when he picked out Walters just inside the box, but he could only direct his header over.
Swans deservedly took the lead with just over half-an-hour played. Westside’s Ahman Dahdouh was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon for stopping Mills’ break on the left by pulling his shirt, and the free-kick awarded just outside the corner of the box was delivered by McCormack. The ball broke to Stuart Baldwin, who made room before getting in a shot that was blocked, and Walters capitalised as the ball ran to him by driving it into the top of the net.
The home side had been kept well in check, but they won a free-kick ten yards outside the box on the right. The Division’s top scorer Tevon Webster elected to try for goal, but drove the ball wide of the near-post.
With just under ten minutes left of the half Hicks’ terrific surge forward in the middle started a fine move that led to McCormack driving the ball into the 6 yard-box from the left, forcing a home defender to head behind for a corner. Alex Kelly then fed McCormack on the left, and he cut inside to drive in a low shot that Zabotti went down on his line to save. Mills was fouled just three yards outside the edge of the box on the right, giving Swans a free-kick in a promising position, but Walters drove the ball over the goal.
With three minutes of normal-time remaining the home side were temporarily reduced to ten men when Jason Mensah became the first player to be sin-binned in a Swans’ match this season.
Swans could have made it 2-0 before the break when Mills got in on the right to set up a chance for Kelly, but his close-in shot was blocked, and they would feel a single goal lead to take into the second-half to be scant reward for their superiority.
Westside had the opportunity to exert some early second-half pressure on Swans’ goal with a free-kick out on the right touchline, but Webster sent the ball wide of the far-post.
Swans immediately went close to doubling their lead when some terrific play by McCormack inside the left of the box enabled him to lay the ball inside and set up Walters, but his shot was blocked on the line.
Five minutes into the half Swans were inexplicably denied the chance to extend their lead from the penalty-spot. Taylor’s excellent pass sent Mills surging into clear space on the right, and he laid the ball across to Walters in front of goal. With the goal at his mercy and about to pull the trigger Swans’ new striker went down after clearly being pushed in the back, but the referee surprisingly saw no offence.
Hicks made an excellent run into space in the box when Kelly sent in a free-kick, but he was just inches away from getting his head to the ball.
A substitution for the home side seemed to trigger some pressure by them, and Webster shot wide of the far-post from outside the right of the box. Then, with just over an hour played, Westside got into the right of the box, but with little threat to Swans’ goal a player went down. This time the referee needed little convincing in pointing to the spot and showing a yellow card to Max Hustwick. There was a huge sense of justice when Allen dived to his left to make a great save and deny Webster from adding to his season’s tally of eight goals. The home side continued to have their best spell of the match, and Michael Tia got in on the left to force the ball being put behind for a corner at the near-post.
Despite their domination of the game Swans’ lead was still a slender one, but they again went close to extending it midway through the second-half. McCormack got the ball over from the left of the box to the far-post, but Walters couldn’t get in a clean header and could only find the side-netting. This was immediately followed by another contentious incident when Walters broke clear and got to the left corner of the box before being barged down by the last defender, but again the referee waved play on. Mills then got in a good strike from 30 yards that flew wide of the right post.
With just under a quarter of an hour remaining a flare-up close to the technical areas led to McCormack being shoved with some force into the pitch-side fencing, and Westside’s Chris Ogunlana going into the referee’s notebook.
Some fine play by Walters on the left led to him to get the ball over and just fail to pick out substitute Adam Toubal in the box. With just over five minutes left Mills was fouled five yards outside the box, and the free-kick was delayed while Hicks was substituted, with Max Lohmeier coming on. Walters made a dummy run by stepping over the ball, leaving McCormack to drive a superb shot past Zabotti in the home goal and clinch a deserved three points for Swans.
Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Dan Taylor, Joe Pratley-Jones, Max Hustwick, Joe Hicks (Max Lohmeier 85’), Stuart Baldwin, Harry Mills, Zach Dainkeh (Adam Toubal 76’), Troy Walters (Josiah Bridgeman 87’)), Alex Kelly, Sean McCormack. Subs. not used: Darren Simpson, Youcef Azzouz. Scorers: Walters (31’), McCormack (86’). Cautions: Hustwick, foul (61’), Toubal, foul (78’).
Westside Team: Zabotti, Ogunlana, Johnson-Read, Walters, Mensah, Gayle (Smith 70’), Forsythe (Tia 54’), Shokoya, Pinder, Webster, A. Dahdouh (Lever 87’). Subs. not used: Stone, Jupp. Sin-bin: Mensah (42’). Cautions: Dahdouh, foul (29’), Mensah, foul (63’), Ogunlana, foul (76’), Lever, foul (90+5’).