Saturday 25 November 2017. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.
Sutton Common Rovers 5 Walton & Hersham 0.
Swans conceded five goals for the first time in a Combined Counties League game as they put on a dreadfully poor performance against their promotion rivals at Gander Green Lane. Although trailing to two poorly conceded goals at the break they had created good chances themselves, and the signs were there they could still salvage something from the second-half. But their play completely fell apart after the resumption as they barely mounted an attack, and they conceded three goals in a matter of minutes for the second time in two matches.
Swans needed to be at their best against a home side who have reinforced their squad this season and are in a rich vein of form, but too many players had games they would best like to forget. They have had plenty of experience of artificial pitches in recent weeks, and cannot hold Sutton’s 3G surface at all culpable for their poor display.
Billy Jeffreys was still absent injured, while Jake Newton was again away on international duty, but Chris Onoufriou was able to return after missing several games.
Swans started well and Flo Bojaj laid the ball in from the right to Jamil Okai, well-placed on the edge of the box, but he could not get a shot away. Howard Newton then made a good run forward and Athan Smith-Joseph was set up with a clear chance in the left of the box, but his shot was blocked.
But it was the home side that took the lead after a quarter of an hour with a goal that was distinctly avoidable. Malachi Thomas needlessly conceded a free-kick close to the left touchline just inside Swans’ half. From Owen Davies’s kick the ball was knocked back by Asa Rixon-Nicholls, and was only cleared to the left corner of the box, where Julian Hornby failed to get it away and Ayden Richards drove it into the far corner.
Swans soon had a chance to hit back when Jim Fenlon’s clever pass from the left found Bojaj in the right of the box, but in trying to make sure his shot was blocked.
More slack play almost cost Swans again as they lost the ball just inside their own half, allowing Rovers to break forward. Goalkeeper Brendan Norris did well to push away a low shot, and the ball was just scrambled clear as a follow-up came in the left of the box.
Determined play by Swans allowed them to make inroads into the home box, but they could not make space for a shot. Smith-Joseph then got past Jeff Addo-Dankwa on the left to cross the ball low to the near-post, but it hit Bojaj and went wide.
But just before the half hour Swans gifted Rovers another goal. Lea Van Sullivan tried to find Okai with a forward pass inside his own half, but the ball broke to the home side and Matt Ferdinando drove it past Norris from the right edge of the box, the keeper getting a touch but unable to keep it out.
Swans had a fine chance to halve the deficit with just over ten minutes of the half remaining when an excellent pass by Bojaj put Smith-Joseph away on the left. His cross picked out Thomas unmarked at the far-post, but he volleyed wide. Deep into first-half stoppage-time Howard Newton played Fenlon down the left, and he got in a fine cross that was just headed away from close to the goal-line.
Swans brought on TJ Nkoma and Elliott Simpson for Thomas and Okai for the second-half, but they were soon in trouble again when Rovers got to the goal-line on the right to get in a low cross, and Andrew White drove a shot against the far-post. Ferdinando followed up and Norris made a great block on his line. Rixon-Nicholls then sent a low shot wide of the far-post from the left of the box.
Swans could not keep the ball, and twelve minutes into the half they went 3-0 down. Liam Holden and Ferdinando did well on the right, and when the ball was driven in to the near-post White got in front of both Norris and Hornby to deflect it in.
Just three minutes later it was 4-0 when a free-kick was sent in from the right. An initial far-post header was blocked, but Ferdinando followed up to head past Norris.
Rovers made it three goals in an eight minute spell when they scored their fifth. The ball was crossed from deep on the right and was in the air a long time, but no-one picked up Rixon-Nicholls at the far-post, and he was free to head home.
Fortunately for Swans that was the end of the scoring as they continued to look totally out of sorts and were glad to hear the final whistle.
Swans’ Team: Brendan Norris, Julian Hornby, Jim Fenlon, Chris Onoufriou, Lea Van Sullivan, Jamie Thoroughgood, Malachi Thomas (TJ Nkoma 45’), Howard Newton, Flo Bojaj, Jamil Okai (Elliott Simpson 45’), Athan Smith-Joseph (Shaun Smart 75’). Subs. not used: Dave Musendo, Bilal Benali. Caution: Sullivan, foul (60’).
Sutton Common Rovers Team: Eacott, Bogle, Farrell, Cooper-Smith (White 29’), Auletta, Addo-Dankwa, Rixon-Nicholls, Richards (Holden 45’), Ferdinando (Mead 76’), Tanton, Davies. Subs. not used: Hastings, Nelson. Scorers: Richards (15’), Ferdinando (29’ & 60’), White (57’), Rixon-Nicholls (65’). Cautions: Farrell (45+2’), Ferdinando (75’).