Saturday 20th April 2019. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.
Southall 4 Walton & Hersham 3.
It was an all too familiar story for Swans as they took on a highly placed Southall at Ashford Town. An early spurned chance was quickly punished by a calamitous goal, and although an equaliser eventually came, two more poor goals were conceded before half-time. It was 4-1 to Southall soon after the resumption, and although Swans scored two goals in the second-half they came too late to avert another defeat.
The events leading to the free-kick that gave Swans their first-half equaliser were highly contentious, and almost certainly had a big influence on the outcome of the match. Midway through the half Seb Osei-Obengo was sent clear by a long ball, and with just home goalkeeper Frank Atwell between him and the goal he was clearly pulled back by Atwell just outside the box as he attempted to go round him. The referee awarded a free-kick to Swans, but to everyone’s surprise took no further action against the keeper. The home side clearly should have been facing the final three-quarters of the match with ten men, and without their goalkeeper, but the referee judged the offence not worthy of even a yellow card.
Swans were able to welcome back keeper Kevin Manuel, Sam Marfo, Sean White and Didi Castanho, who were all unavailable a week earlier, but this was offset by the loss of Conor Symon and the unwell Tyreke Leslie.
On an unseasonably hot afternoon, and hard, bobbly pitch, Swans should have taken the lead after just four minutes. Castanho’s clever pass put White clear into the left of the box, but he could not quite set himself to slide the ball past Atwell, and the keeper just managed to block it.
Instead of being 1-0 up, Swans immediately found themselves behind.to a goal that bordered on the farcical. Regan Mendes’s attempted pass-back to Manuel outside the right edge of the box only resulted in the keeper kicking the ball against Southall’s Darreon Mark, who was left with a free run in on an open goal.
Pat Kirby made a good run from the left across the edge of the home box to have a shot deflected, before Swans had another good chance with just under a quarter of an hour played. Castanho again played White clear into the left of the box, but in trying to hit the ball first time he could only scuff his shot. Kirby’s long ball soon found Osei-Obengo outside the left edge of the box, but his first-time shot was wide of the near-post.
Then came the incident that led to the free-kick and Swans’ equaliser after 23 minutes. Castanho took the kick, and struck the ball superbly past Atwell and into the top, left corner to exact some sort of retribution for the Southall keeper’s offence.
Unfortunately parity was only to last two minutes, as more slack defending led to another goal for the home side. Several opportunities to clear the ball in the left of the box were not taken, and Jack Bennett was left with space to drive a low shot into the right corner.
With just over half an hour played some clever work by Osei-Obengo on the left enabled him to get Castanho into the box, but after getting to the byline his low cross could not find a teammate.
With half-time approaching Southall won a corner on the left, and Peter Dean played it short with Sandro Fernandes. Fernandes swung the ball into the box for Gavin Austin to head a good chance over. But the home side doubled their lead in first-half stoppage-time with a goal that had a fair amount of good fortune about it, but really should have been prevented by Swans. Louis Dailey was found outside the right of the box, and only he knows whether he attempted to cross or shoot, but his scuffed effort crept in off the inside of the near-post with Manuel motionless on his line.
Things got worse for Swans just three minutes into the second-half. Southall were allowed to lay the ball back from the left of the box, and Dean was unmarked by the penalty-spot to strike it on the half-volley, and again the shot was not well-hit, but it beat Manuel just inside his right post.
Southall soon played another corner-kick short on the right, and Bennett cut inside to strike a short that Manuel kept out with a fine save, diving to his right. Swans looked dispirited, and Bennett sent a half-volley from 25 yards dipping just over their goal. A cross from the right was then met with a close-in header that struck the near-post, and Manuel was grateful to be able to clutch the ball from the rebound.
Marfo put the ball wide at the far-post when Kirby took a corner from the right, but at the other end Southall got in on the right byline to get in a low cross that Swans had to clear over their own goal from close-in.
Swans reduced the deficit with twelve minutes of normal-time remaining with a fine goal. Kirby’s long pass found Osei-Obengo just inside the right corner of the box, and he sent a terrific lob over Atwell and into the far corner.
Southall responded with a free-kick 40 yards out that James Gurteen struck well and Manuel had to tip over. Fernandes then cut in from the left to put a low shot wide of the near-post, and as the match entered the final five minutes he got free in the left of the box to strike a shot that Manuel beat down on his line.
With stoppage-time being played Southall substitute Ricardo Faux-James sent a free-kick dipping over from 30 yards, before Swans reduced the deficit to a single goal. Substitute Ryan Smith sent Osei-Obengo clear into the box, and the chance looked to have gone when he failed to beat the onrushing Atwell, but the ball finally came to Castanho 22 yards out, and he drove a fine shot into the top, right corner. Unfortunately it proved again too little too late for Swans.
Swans’ Team: Kevin Manuel, Tristan Noel, Aaron Bryan (Charlie Burns 58’), Pat Kirby, Regan Mendes, Sam Marfo, Simon Offei (Arif Hattabi 45’), Sean White (Ryan Smith 73’), Seb Osei-Obengo, Didi Castanho, Munashe Mwatsiya. Sub. not used: Ahmed Elsahib. Scorers: Castanho (23’ & 90+1’), Osei-Obengo (78’). Caution: Marfo, dissent (68’).
Southall Team: Attwell, Dailey, Burton, Owusu, G. Austin, Gurteen, S. Fernandes, Olajubu, Dean (Wilson 54’), Mark, Bennett (Faux-James 60’). Subs. not used: Gradwell, Mullane. Scorers: Mark (4’), Bennett (25’), Dailey (45+2’), Dean (48’). .