Saturday 23rd February 2019. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.
Walton & Hersham 3 Cobham 2.
Swans made it three wins in a row by virtue of a superb first-half performance that sent them in at the break three goals to the good. Their 3-0 half-time lead could well have been greater as the visitors struggled to cope with their quick, clever attacks. The second-half was a different story however as errors crept into their game, and this led to them conceding two goals in a six minute spell that gave Cobham a chance of salvaging at least a draw from a game that for an hour had looked well out of their reach. Although Swans still had further chances to seal the win, they could not find the net again, and another tense finish was set up for their supporters.
With Luke Daley injured, Kevin Manuel made his first appearance in goal, while Didi Castanho returned, and Ahmed Elsahib and Aaron Bryan also came into the starting line-up. Sam Marfo was also a late replacement for Jordan Simmons in central defence.
Swans had been guilty of conceding early in the last few games, but it was they who were to take little time in scoring the opening goal. With just two minutes played Castanho sent a free-kick into the box from the right, and the ball came to Sean White, centrally placed 25 yards out. White played a neat pass to get Pat Kirby into the box on the right, and he drove a fine shot across Cobham goalkeeper Andrew Westphal and into the far-corner.
It could well have been 2-0 after eight minutes when Tyreke Leslie got through, and this resulted in Seb Osei-Obengo being set up in the box to have a shot blocked, the ball then falling to White, whose follow-up was also kept out.
Swans’ defence was tested for the first time when they had to scramble the ball away when Cobham made inroads on the left, and Bryan then had to head clear when Nathan West sent a free-kick into the box from close to halfway.
With a quarter of an hour on the watch Castanho made a good run forward for Swans before laying the ball off to his right to White, who drove a shot over from 25 yards. White then won the ball in the middle of the pitch and played a fine pass to get Osei-Obengo into the right of the box, and Westphal just managed to tip his low shot wide of the far-post. Regan Mendes was immediately getting in a low shot from 22 yards that took a deflection to go behind for a corner.
Swans were thankful to Manuel for preserving their lead when they failed to deal with a bouncing ball down the middle and Cobham’s Chris Davis got clear to get in a shot, the debutant keeper making a fine save to turn the ball round his right-post.
Leslie was having a terrific game for Swans with his darting runs on the right, and more fine play by him led to Elsahib driving a shot over from the left. Elsahib was again played in on the left by Castanho, and this time Westphal had to get the ball behind at his near-post. Leslie made another superb run into the box to have a shot blocked, the ball coming to White 22 yards out, whose low drive was also blocked.
Swans’ pressure finally paid off after 27 minutes when they doubled their lead, and Leslie was again involved. The ball was played out to him, and he made another fine run forward before sending Osei-Obengo bursting clear of Cobham’s high back-line, and he coolly slotted the ball past Westphal from just inside the box.
Elsahib was soon making a good run on the left before laying the ball in to Osei-Obengo, but he couldn’t quite find the space to get in a shot. Manuel had to punch the ball clear when Cobham’s West sent in a free-kick from out on the left touchline, but Elsahib was soon getting into the left of the visitors’ box to set up White, but his attempted back-heel was blocked. Conor Symon then played Osei-Obengo through to the byline on the right to lay the ball across, and when it came to Castanho outside the box, he sent a fine shot dipping just over.
Cobham were given a rare opportunity when the ball was lost in midfield and Davis was found on the right, but when he drove the ball in low a foul was committed, resulting in a free-kick for Swans and a yellow card for the visitors’ Gary Abisogun.
As the half entered the final five minutes Manuel got well behind a shot from Abisogun, who had made space 25 yards out, but Swans made it 3-0 just before the break with a great goal. Castanho made a terrific, tricky run on the left that took him past several defenders, into the box and to the byline. He then cut the ball back onto his right foot and neatly slotted it past Westphal.
The warning signs were there for Swans straight after half-time when Cobham won a corner on the right, and James King planted a free header wide at the far-post from West’s kick.
But Leslie almost added a fourth for Swans when he made a good run in on the left to have a shot partially blocked, and the ball rolled agonisingly just wide of the far-post for a corner. Castanho then sent a shot wide of the far-post from the left edge of the box.
The visitors had begun to see more of the ball however, and just past the hour they got themselves back into the game. An attempted cross was only partially blocked on the right, but the ball ran kindly for Abisogun in the left of the box, and he drove it into the far corner.
Elsahib made a good run forward for Swans, and was tripped five yards outside the box by Mike Dart, earning the Cobham player a booking. Castanho’s free-kick took a deflection, and the ball went over for a corner.
Only a fine tackle by Symon stopped a dangerous run by Cobham’s Davis on the right, but following a corner on the right Swans’ lead was cut to a single goal. The ball was crossed back from the left, and King was in the right of the box to meet it on the volley, and lob it into the far, top corner.
Swans’ nerves were almost settled with eighteen minutes of normal-time remaining. Leslie did well on the left, forcing Cobham’s Harry Walker to head the ball behind at the far-post. From the corner Mendes got in a terrific shot that forced Westphal into a superb save, the keeper going down at his left post to turn the ball wide.
Manuel had to take a shot from Cobham’s Ibrahim Danjuma high up on his line, and with five minutes remaining Swans’ substitute Simon Offei cut in from the left to get in a shot from 22 yards that Westphal was well-placed to take. Kirby then crossed from the right for substitute James Robertson to get his head to the ball and Elsahib to get in a volley that was just blocked behind for a corner. Westphal did well to grab the ball on his line to deny Robertson, and Swans were soon relieved to hear the final whistle that signalled another valuable three points.
Swans’ Team: Kevin Manuel, Conor Symon, Aaron Bryan, Pat Kirby, Regan Mendes, Sam Marfo, Tyreke Leslie (Simon Offei 77’), Sean White (Arif Hattabi 62’), Seb Osei-Obengo (James Robertson 77’), Didi Castanho, Ahmed Elsahib. Subs. not used: Nicolas Osborne, Jordan Simmons. Scorers: Kirby (2’), Osei-Obengo (27’), Castanho (45’). Cautions: Kirby, kicked ball away (35’), Leslie, foul (70’).
Cobham Team: Westphal, Dowling, Walker (Kugathos 88’), Yeboua, Taylor (Brian 45’), King, Dart, West, Thurgood (Danjuma 81’), Davis, Abisogun. Subs. not used: Popov, Simpson. Scorers: Abisogun (62’), King (68’). Cautions: Abisogun (36’), Dart (64’), West (71’). Walker (88’).