Saturday 10th October 2020. FA Vase, 2nd Qualifying Round.
Walton & Hersham 1 K Sports 0.
After totally dominating the tie, Swans were just minutes away from having a penalty shoot-out decide whether they progressed to the 1st Round Proper. If they had faced that and had gone out, it would have been a total injustice, as they had been the better of the two sides by some distance. Fortunately they were spared that possibility when they finally broke the deadlock with just three minutes of normal-time remaining.
Their Kent opponents had drawn three of their seven matches in the Southern Counties East League, Premier Division, with eight goals scored and eight conceded, and they backed up those statistics with their play in this match. A strong, physical side that backed their defence to see them through, they held out with the aid of more than a little good fortune, and were beginning to force Swans to run out of ideas until the late breakthrough.
Swans were forced to make two changes to the side that had played so well the previous Saturday. Joe Pratley-Jones became their third player this season to suffer from damaged ribs, with Max Hustwick and Jamie Byatt having also suffered such an injury, while Troy Walters, who had made a highly impressive debut a week earlier, had decided to try his luck at Tooting & Mitcham United. Fortunately Dominic Ogun was able to return from injury after missing four games, while Reece Brewster returned from suspension.
Swans attacked from the off, and forced two early corners. Harry Mills made inroads into the box before setting up Ogun to his left, and his shot was blocked behind for a corner on the right, which eventually led to another kick.
The visitors had shown little going forward in the opening stages, but after ten minutes they were given an opportunity by some slack play from Swans. The ball was given away in midfield, leaving Bradley Large space to run into on the left. He was able to get into the box and drive in a shot that Swans’ goalkeeper Liam Allen deflected wide of the far-post with a fine save.
The game continued to be mostly played out in the visitors’ half, with Swans trying to create openings down the flanks, and with twenty minutes played they went close to taking the lead. Mills made a terrific run on the right past Peter Huggens that got him clear to the byline. When he played the ball across Zach Dainkeh got in a strong shot that was blocked, and the ball rolled just wide of the left post for a corner. Another corner was soon won on the right, and from Mills’ kick Joe Hicks was beyond the far-post to get in a powerful header that was unfortunately straight at K Sports’ keeper Steven Lawrence. The visitors could not handle Mills’ pace on the right, and he again left his marker trailing to get to the byline, but his cross was cleared away.
Despite their dominance Swans continued to be denied by a packed visiting defence, but they had an opening with just over five minutes left of the half. Mills was again the architect, getting down the right before laying the ball across to Dainkeh inside the box, but again the shot was blocked. Mills was again able to get forward on the right after being picked out by Hustwick’s excellent pass, but his low cross went unchallenged across the 6 yard-box.
Following an earlier booking for Large, a member of their technical area became the second of the visitors to be shown a yellow card, presumably for something said.
There was one last opportunity for Swans to make the breakthrough before half-time when Sean McCormack left Samuel Itauma trailing on the left to cross into the box. The ball ran to Mills in space twenty yards out, but his shot was wide of the right post.
It was clear Mills had been identified by the visitors as the main threat, and straight after the resumption another surging run on the right was halted by Thomas Montgomery’s scything tackle, that earnt the K Sports’ player a deserved yellow card. McCormack’s free-kick from the right touchline was cleared behind for a corner on the left.
Swans continued to press for the opening goal, and four minutes into the second-half they went close to getting it. Dainkeh got in a terrific shot from 25 yards out that looked destined to find the back of the net, but Lawrence made a tremendous save, diving to his right to put the ball wide of the post.
Itauma was soon ending McCormack’s tricky run on the left with a blatant trip that surprisingly failed to earn the K Sports’ player a yellow card. His teammate Joseph Lewis was not so fortunate however, as he petulantly kicked the ball at the prostrate McCormack and was duly booked.
The visitors continued to frustrate Swans, and they had a rare chance of their own as the match approached the final quarter of an hour, substitute Lewis Foreman getting in a shot from the right that Allen got well behind on his line.
After being denied any clear openings for some time, Swans made a big push to try to win the tie in the ninety minutes, and they went desperately close to doing so with eight minutes of normal-time remaining. Some terrific play by McCormack on the left enabled him to cross to the right of the 6 yard-box, where Mills came in to thump a volley against the right post. Mills made a run in on the edge of the box before going down, but he was backed up by Alex Kelly, who was able to drive in a low shot that Lawrence got behind.
Apart from taking the tie to a penalty shoot-out, the visitors’ best opportunity to progress had looked to come from a set-piece played into Swans’ box to find one of their tall players, and with five minutes of normal-time remaining they had that chance with a free-kick on the left. Lewis sent the ball into the box, where it was eventually headed away from close to the goal-line by Ogun to clear the danger.
Swans then got the goal that was to deservedly put them through. Mills made another fine run to cut in on the byline on the left, and when he drove the ball low across Lewis, in trying to deny Ogun, could only deflect it into his own net.
The visitors had a final chance to salvage the tie with a corner on the left, but Allen made a fine take to cut out Lewis’s kick.
Swans had a chance to clinch it when substitute Youcef Azzouz was brought down on the edge of the ‘D’, but the free-kick came to nothing.
The visitors were then reduced to ten men for the remaining minutes when Lewis was sent-off after picking up his second yellow card of the afternoon.
Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Stuart Baldwin (Owen Coleman 74’), Dan Taylor, Max Hustwick, Joe Hicks, Reece Brewster (Youcef Azzouz 79’), Harry Mills, Zach Dainkeh, Dominic Ogun, Alex Kelly, Sean McCormack. Subs. not used: Josiah Bridgeman, Darren Simpson, Max Lohmeier, Sonny Stiller. Scorer: Lewis, own goal (87’). Cautions: McCormack, kicked ball away (65’), Brewster, handball (68’).
K Sports: Lawrence, Lewis, Huggens, Montgomery, McLaughlin, Hooper, Martin, Rumble (Foreman 72’), White (Osunkoya 72’), Large, Itauma. Subs. not used: Abbott, Carcary. Cautions: Large, kicked ball away (38’), Montgomery, foul (46’), McLaughlin, foul (83’). Dismissal: Lewis, 2 cautions (49’ & 90’).