Saturday 10 March 2018. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.
Walton & Hersham 1 Sutton Common Rovers 3.
Two goals in quick succession by the visitors midway through the first-half, the first being a highly questionable penalty, gave them a massive foothold in a match Swans could not afford to lose if they were to maintain a promotion push. After a poor start when they were slow to settle, a fine spell in the final quarter of an hour of the first-half could well have got Swans back into the game, but they went into the break 2-0 down. It was then not until the final quarter of the match that they looked like salvaging something from the afternoon, and after getting a goal back, only a superb save from Rovers’ goalkeeper Michael Eacott denied them an equaliser. Their comeback ended in stoppage-time however when a break by the visitors ended with Jake Newton handling a shot on the goal-line, resulting in his sending-off and Rovers making it 3-1 with their second penalty of the afternoon.
Swans made two changes from the side that had won at Guildford City in midweek, Adam Thompson coming in for the unavailable Leon Solomon, and Athan Smith-Joseph returning in place of TJ Nkoma.
The visitors had an early effort on goal, Matt Ferdinando getting in a shot from 22 yards that home keeper Brendan Norris got well behind on his line.
Smith-Joseph soon won a corner on the right for Swans, and following Taurean Roberts’ kick the ball was laid back to James Simmonds, but he shot well over.
Rovers had settled the better however, and Craig Nelson sent another shot wide from the edge of the box. Andrew White then drove the ball in from the right and it was blocked behind at the near-post for a corner. The kick caused a scramble in the box and a shot found the net, but the flag went up for offside.
Swans had a half-chance when Roberts seized on a clearance and made room for a shot that was blocked.
With just under a quarter of an hour played Rovers had a free-kick on the right and Ferdinando sent the ball into the box, but the referee spotted a foul and gave Swans a free-kick.
Swans had another free-kick deep on the left, but Thompson headed wide at the far-post from Chris Onoufriou’s kick.
The penalty then came that resulted in Rovers taking the lead. Aaron Bogle sent a free-kick from deep on the right into Swans’ box and Norris raced out to the edge of his area to punch the ball away. The Swans’ keeper carried through as the ball bounced down, and although at full stretch on the ground clearly got both hands on the ball to push it away. Rovers’ Daryl Cooper-Smith came in from the left and fell rather theatrically over the outstretched arms of Norris, and the referee awarded a penalty amid concerted protests from the Swans’ players. Cooper-Smith elected to take the spot-kick himself and made no mistake.
Two minutes later it was 2-0 to the visitors as they were allowed to build up an attack on the left, and Cooper-Smith was unmarked to drive the ball inside the near-post from ten yards as Matt Farrell laid the ball across.
With the last quarter of an hour of the half coming up Swans began to look more threatening, and Roberts sent a good long throw into the box from the left, but keeper Eacott was allowed to claim the ball. This triggered a spell that could have got Swans back into the match before the break. Roberts did well on the left before playing the ball inside to Karl Parker, who had a shot blocked for a corner. Thompson then got in a terrific strike from the right edge of the box, and Eacott did superbly well to prevent the ball entering the near, top corner. Simmonds then got into the box, and Jake Newton was on his right to turn and get in a shot that brought another fine save from the Rovers’ keeper. Roberts was soon bursting into the box, and Eacott came out but could only clear the ball as far as Parker on the left, and his low shot was cleared off the line.
To try to change things Swans made two changes for the second half, with Nkoma replacing Smith-Joseph and Jesse Kewley-Graham coming on for Billy Jeffreys.
But the visitors soon had the first chance when Farrell was played into the left of his box, and his shot was cleared round the near-post by Jamie Thoroughgood.
Swans struggled to create further openings, and with a quarter of the game remaining brought on another striker in Sam Shaban, replacing Thoroughgood. They soon began to have chances, only a fine tackle by Rovers’ Owen Davies preventing Parker from getting in on goal. A better chance soon came to Roberts, who was played clear into the box, but his shot was well blocked by Eacott.
Swans’ pressure finally paid off with just under twenty minutes remaining, but it needed an assist from the visitors. Nkoma got down the right to drive the ball across, and Rovers’ Asa Rixon-Nicholls was at the near-post to head into his own net.
The chance was soon there for Swans to level things up, but Shaban completely missed his kick when Kewley-Graham picked him out with a ball in from the left. Nkoma then cut in from the right to have a low shot from 25 yards saved by Eacott, and with ten minutes remaining Thompson put a header over from Roberts’ right-side corner.
Shaban had looked lively after coming on, and when he burst forward to the edge of the box he was only prevented from getting past White by the Rovers’ player deliberately handling the ball, for which he was duly yellow carded. Swans had to settle for a free-kick, but this almost brought them the equaliser. Roberts took the kick from the edge of the ‘D’, and he struck the ball superbly, only for Eacott to pull off a terrific save, tipping the ball over his crossbar.
With just over five minutes of normal-time remaining a ball down the middle sent Shaban through, but he was again denied by a fine tackle.
Swans were almost undone when the ball came off the head of Thompson, and only a good save by Norris prevented an own goal.
The chance was still there for Swans to at least salvage a draw, but although their best efforts had been denied by some good defending and goalkeeping, they had also been frustrated by the play constantly being broken up by blatant timewasting and Rovers’ players going down injured. That chance disappeared in stoppage-time however when they were caught short at the back, allowing substitute Malachi Thomas to get free on the right. Their former player drove the ball across to the left of the 6-yard box to pick out Matt Auletta, who sent in a shot to the near-post. Jake Newton had got back to block the ball on the goal-line, but was judged to have used his hand, a second penalty being awarded and the Swans’ defender being sent off. Thomas rubbed salt into the wounds of his former club by driving home the spot-kick.
Swans’ Team: Brendan Norris, Jake Newton, Jim Fenlon, Adam Thompson, Billy Jeffreys (Jesse Kewley-Graham 45’), Jamie Thoroughgood (Sam Shaban 67’), Athan Smith-Joseph (TJ Nkoma 45’), Chris Onoufriou, Karl Parker, James Simmonds, Taurean Roberts. Subs. not used: Julian Hornby, Elliott Simpson. Scorer: Rixon-Nicholls, own goal (72’). Cautions: Onoufriou, foul (55’), Fenlon, foul (86’). Dismissal: J. Newton, handball (90+2’).
SCR Team: Eacott, White, Davies, Bogle, Tanton, Rixon-Nicholls, Nelson, Farrell (Thomas 78’), Ferdinando, Cooper-Smith (Auletta 78’), Neale (Campbell 59’). Subs. not used: Hastings, Fernandez. Scorers: Cooper-Smith (23’ [pen.] & 25’), Thomas (90+3’ [pen.]). Cautions: Neale, Ferdinando, White.