Swans 1 Windsor 2

Saturday 2 December 2017.                                                                FA Vase, 3rd Round.

Walton & Hersham 1   Windsor 2.

It will be of little compensation to Swans that they participated in a superb game of football that was a credit to the level that both sides play in as their FA Vase hopes were crushed. Having finally made the breakthrough in a tight match with just under twenty minutes of normal-time remaining they looked to be on the way to a place in the draw of the last 32. But their Hellenic League opponents equalised in the 86th minute to seemingly force the tie into extra-time, and in the 3rd minute of stoppage-time even that possibility was taken away as the visitors scored a last-gasp winner.

Although they have only met them three times the reformed Berkshire club are already proving to be Swans’ bogey side as, when members of the Combined Counties League, Windsor scored an 88th minute goal in the final match at Stompond Lane last season to ruin their unbeaten home league record.

Swans were only kept from going in with a half-time lead by a fine display from Windsor goalkeeper Hugo Sobte, who made three superb saves, and a couple of goal-line clearances, but chances were fewer to come by in the second-half. They suffered a major blow when Flo Bojaj, who was having a big influence on the game, had to retire with an injury after just 34 minutes.

The unavailable Julian Hornby missed only his second game of the season, but Craig Tanner, who has re-signed for the club after making a few appearances last season, came into the side, and Jake Newton returned after being away on international duty with Guyana. There was also a welcome return for Abdeen Abdul, who has missed the last eight games with a hamstring injury.

Swans made a good start, and Malachi Thomas was soon running onto a clearance from keeper Brendan Norris to get down the left and drive in a low cross that Abdul just failed to get on the end of. Bojaj then had a volley from the right of the box blocked after Howard Newton had sent in a free-kick from deep on the right, and Jim Fenlon followed up on the left with a good cross to the near-post that was just cleared away.

The visitors won a corner on the right, and when the ball came back to Ashley Smith from his own kick, he cut inside to drive a left-foot shot just over.

Swans soon went close when Bojaj got past his marker on the left to get in a low cross, and Athan Smith-Joseph had a close-in shot blocked on the goal-line. Smith-Joseph and Bojaj then combined well on the edge of the box, and Smith-Joseph set up the chance for Bojaj to get in a low shot that was saved by Sobte.

Swans had made most of the running, but after ten minutes they were grateful for a superb double save by keeper Norris. They were opened up on the right and Jack Denton got through to drive in a low shot that Norris pushed away. The ball was crossed back in from the right, and Keiron Knight was in the left of the box to strike another powerful shot that brought another great save from the Swans’ keeper.

Some clever play on the right by Bojaj for Swans led to him getting the ball inside to Thomas, but indecision let him down.

Windsor had an opportunity with a free-kick outside the right edge of the box, and Tanner had to head the ball over his own bar as Smith sent the kick in.

With 26 minutes played Swans had a free-kick in an even better position when Bojaj was fouled just outside the box. Thomas took the kick and struck the ball well, but Sobte kept it out with a fine save. On the half hour the Windsor keeper made an even better save, tipping over Smith-Joseph’s terrific shot from the edge of the box after Thomas had laid the ball into him from the left.

Swans then unfortunately lost Bojaj, who had been involved in most of their attacking moves, with Jamil Okai replacing him.

Windsor were again grateful to Sobte for keeping them level, the keeper somehow deflecting the ball over the bar at his near-post when Thomas got into the left of the 6-yard box to hit a strong, close-in shot. With the last five minutes of the half being played Jake Newton got down the right to cross the ball to Abdul, whose shot from the edge of the box was blocked on the goal-line. Sobte then went down on his line to keep out a low shot from 25 yards from Abdul.

Straight after the resumption Windsor got in on the right and Norris had to take the ball at his near-post, but Swans immediately broke with a good run down the left by Smith-Joseph, and his shot was blocked for a corner. Smith-Joseph was soon making another fine run down the left to cross the ball in low from the goal-line, but he could not pick out a team-mate. Tanner then brought the ball forward with a good run on the left before being brought down by George Gould, who picked up the game’s first yellow card.

With an hour played Windsor should have taken the lead when Swans gifted them the chance. Smith-Joseph had just done well on the right to get in a cross to the far-post that was cleared, when the ball went to the other end. Norris came out to clear, but completely missed his kick, leaving the veteran Barry Hayles with a free run in on the left, but with the goal open he could only find the side-netting.

Okai knocked the ball down for Abdul to get in a low shot from 22 yards that Sobte got behind, just before Swans finally took the lead after 71 minutes. Abdul was played down the right, and when he drove the ball across Thomas volleyed in from close range.

It wasn’t long before the hard-won lead began to look fragile as Windsor pushed forward for an equaliser, and Joash Nembhard glanced a header wide from Smith’s left-side corner. Norris then had to make a terrific save at his near-post as a shot came in from the right.

Swans’ substitute TJ Nkoma got in a cross from the right that had to be headed behind for a corner, but the visitors’ pressure finally paid off with just four minutes of normal-time remaining. A free-kick was given away out on the left touchline, and when it came in the ball was headed against the bar at the far-post. Barry Pearce was first to react and he drove the ball in to equalise.

With the tie well into stoppage-time Swans’ best hopes now looked to rest on an extra 30 minutes to enable them to regroup, bit it was not to be. Windsor again made inroads on the right, and Pearce drove a fine shot low into the far-corner.

With the minimal time remaining Swans tried desperately to hit back, and Nkoma went down after getting into the box, but hopes for a last-ditch penalty looked at best optimistic.

Swans’ Team: Brendan Norris, Howard Newton, Jim Fenlon, Jake Newton, Craig Tanner, Jamie Thoroughgood, Athan Smith-Joseph (TJ Nkoma 71’), Chris Onoufriou, Flo Bojaj (Jamil Okai 34’), Abdeen Abdul (Elliott Simpson 88’), Malachi Thomas. Subs. not used: Lea Van Sullivan, Shaun Smart. Scorer: Thomas (71’). Caution: Thoroughgood (90+3’). Dismissal: Simpson, 2 cautions (90+3′).

Windsor Team: Sobte, Sutherland (Bowles 84’), Smith, Pearce, Ingram, Nembhard, Gould, Denton, Knight, Hayles, Cannon (Brooks-Smith 62’). Subs. not used: Woodham, Shafi, Poole. Scorer: Pearce (86’ & 90+3’). Caution: Gould (59’).

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