Tuesday 1st May 2018. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.
Abbey Rangers 0 Walton & Hersham 4.
Swans put on a superb second-half display to end their season, and the two year tenure of the departing management team of Simon Haughney, Paul Thomas and Howard Newton in fitting style. The performance left one wondering what could have been achieved by this set of players, but for some disappointing, and at times inexplicable, results at their new ground following the move from Stompond Lane. Following a first-half, during which they only showed sporadically what they are capable of, Swans came out after the break to totally dominate the second-half, hitting the post twice and creating enough chances to have possibly doubled their final score.
Both Billy Jeffreys and Jamie Thoroughgood were available to return to the side in central defence, while Sid Dack was a late inclusion in midfield, the U-18s player making his second start due to Elliott Simpson being held up on route to the ground. Brendan Norris also returned in goal, replacing James Russell.
Swans made a sluggish start, looking off the pace on a bobbly pitch, and it was the home side that made the early running, Elliott Firth sending a long range effort over, and a low shot being put wide of the far-post following an attack on the right. Norris then held a header from the left of the box by Michael Carey when a free-kick came in from deep on the right.
But despite them being mostly on the back-foot for the opening quarter of an hour, it was Swans that took the lead after seventeen minutes. TJ Nkoma, named the supporters’ Swans’ Player of the Season, picked out Julian Hornby in the left of the box, and he dummied a defender before driving a left-foot shot low past home goalkeeper Liam Stone.
Despite the lead being somewhat against the run of play, it should have been immediately doubled. Hornby got to the byline on the left being laying the ball back to Abdeen Abdul, unmarked in front of goal, but Swans’ top scorer cleared the bar with his shot, a bad bounce possibly being a factor in his miss. Sam Shaban then drove in a shot from 22 yards, but it lacked the power to beat keeper Stone, who saved easily.
The home side won a corner on the right, and Tom Bentley put a far-post header wide.
Swans had settled down however, and Abdul was played down the left to get in a good cross that picked out Nkoma unmarked at the far-post, but his strong left-foot volley was blocked by Stone on his line. Just past the half hour some fine play by Nkoma by the right corner flag enabled him to whip over a cross to the far-post, where Hornby met the ball on the half-volley, and it just cleared the crossbar. Dack’s fine diagonal pass then picked out Nkoma on the right, but he was just denied on the edge of his box by the home keeper. With five minutes left to the break Jeffreys’ free-kick from halfway forced a defender to head the ball behind for a corner on the left. Jeffreys came up for James Simmonds’ kick, and his header at the far-post was blocked.
The home side appealed for a penalty when a player went down after a good ball got him into the right of the box, but the referee was not interested. Carey then had a shot from the left deflected behind for a corner, but it was Swans who finished the half on the attack.
A fine ball by Simmonds found Nkoma on the left, and when he played the ball inside, Abdul and Hornby combined to force a corner on the left. Simmonds’ kick resulted in another corner on the right, and from this one, also taken by Simmonds, Thoroughgood put a header wide.
Swans made a double substitution for the second-half, with Simpson replacing Dack and Ali Fofanah coming on for Howard Newton.
Jeffreys was soon picking up a booking for a foul just outside the box to give the home side an opportunity, but Carey’s free-kick was blocked by Swans’ defensive wall.
But it was Swans who were to double their lead just four minutes after the resumption. They forced successive corners on the right, and when Simmonds’ second kick was met by Jake Newton, Shaban got in a header before Abdul finally hooked the ball in.
Just a minute later it was almost 3-0. Shaban made a run forward before finding Nkoma in the right of the box, and he cut in before sending a terrific left-foot shot against the far-post. Nkoma then hit a fine diagonal ball to pick out Hornby on the left, and he sent in a great cross that was cut out by Stone.
The home side posed a rare threat as the ball was got to the other end, and Norris was brought into serious action for the first time, tipping a shot over his crossbar.
Just before the hour Shaban made another good run forward before making the space to get in a shot from 22 yards that went wide of the left post. The ball was then nodded on by Shaban to find Hornby on the left, and when he played the ball inside, Shaban laid the ball off to Nkoma on his right, but he was just closed out. Abdul was soon getting in a low shot from the right of the box, but it lacked the power to beat Stone. Swans’ pressure on the home goal was incessant, and Shaban was just closed out when Nkoma got the ball over from the right of the box. Hornby then laid the ball in from the left to Simpson, who made room on the edge of the box to drive in a shot that was blocked.
Swans finally made it 3-0 after 72 minutes. Hornby sent Fofanah racing clear, but after taking the ball wide of Stone he was brought down just outside the box by the home keeper. Despite awarding a free-kick, the referee surprisingly did not deem the offence worthy of any colour of card being shown. The home side did not escape without further punishment however, as Simpson struck the free-kick superbly over the wall and past Stone.
With just over a quarter of an hour remaining, Rangers’ substitute Perry Osei-Tutu was rightly cautioned for an awful tackle on Shaban by the left touchline. Simpson’s free-kick was just inches too high to find the head of Shaban, and the ball was taken by keeper Stone. Shaban was soon cutting in from the byline on the right, but his effort to flick the ball in from a tight angle could only find the side-netting, with Nkoma unmarked in the middle.
With ten minutes remaining Swans made it 4-0 with a superb goal. Hornby found space in the right of the box to get in a shot that thumped against the far-post. When the ball finally came to Simpson 30 yards out, he struck it first time with his left foot, and it stayed a foot above the ground as it flew past Stone and inside the left post.
Swans continued to press for a fifth goal, and in the final minute of normal-time Shaban got forward before finding Nkoma in the left of the box, and the ball appeared to be blocked by the arm of a defender, but claims for a penalty fell on deaf ears.
Swans’ Team: Brendan Norris, Jake Newton, Howard Newton (Ali Fofanah 45’), Sid Dack (Elliott Simpson 45’), Billy Jeffreys, Jamie Thoroughgood, TJ Nkoma, James Simmonds, Abdeen Abdul (Cameron Gyeabour 69’), Sam Shaban, Julian Hornby. Subs. not used: Joe Wotton, Louis Taylor. Scorers: Hornby (17’), Abdul (49’), Simpson (72’ & 80’). Cautions: Jeffreys, Thoroughgood, Hornby.
Abbey Rangers Team: Stone, Shannon, Macklin, Hendrie, Bentley, Firth, Thomas, Carey, Robertson, Paris, Reynolds. Subs: Osei-Tutu, Workman, Louison. Caution: Osei-Tutu.