Epsom & Ewell 1 Swans 1

Saturday 4 March 2017.     Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.

Epsom & Ewell 1   Walton & Hersham 1.

Swans further cemented their position as the league’s draw specialists as they fought out their thirteenth stalemate of the season, but the point gained kept them just above their hosts in fourth place in the table. A draw would probably have seemed a good result for them before the game, and that was even more the case at the final whistle as they were subjected to a fair amount of pressure by the home side in the second-half. But having taken a one goal lead into that second-half they will feel probably feel disappointed they could not create more openings in the second 45 minutes. Neither goal-a-game Francois Gabbidon, nor top-scorer Jamil Okai looked like adding to their tallies as they seldom had the ammunition to do so.

Craig Tanner came back in to fill the left-back spot, while Nathan Gordon also returned after injury to play a more forward role on the left. Howard Newton dropped to the substitutes’ bench.

The home side had the first opening with just over ten minutes played when Jordan Gallagher was played into the left of the box and Swans’ goalkeeper Liam Beach had to make a good block at the near-post, the ball then being cleared as it ran loose.

Swans had an opportunity with a free-kick just outside the right edge of the box, but no-one could get on the end of Billy Marshall’s delivery.

Beach made a good diving take when Reisse Griffin drove the ball across from the right, and he then got across well to take the ball when Matt Ferdinando sent a free-kick into the right of the box.

But it was Swans who took the lead after 27 minutes. Home left-back Matt Tanton had already been fortunate to escape sanction when he had scythed TJ Nkoma down, when he was left trailing on the right by the Swans’ player. Nkoma got into the box before going down, and after what seemed a period of consideration the referee awarded a penalty. Swans’ spot-kick record has not been good this season, but Marshall made no mistake with this one.

A speculative effort by The Salts’ Robert Hendry from 35 yards out on the left went wide of the far-post, and Ferdinando’s free-kick from the left was over-hit and also dropped wide.

Swans finished the half positively, Nkoma just being denied when Louis Taylor’s cross from the left found him in the box. Corey Haywood-Roye made a good surge forward before sending Nkoma down the right, and Gabbidon looped a header just over when the ball was crossed high to the far-post. In stoppage-time Gordon’s through ball almost got Gabbidon through, but he was denied by a tackle.

Lea Van Sullivan picked up a yellow card early in the second-half in conceding a free-kick just outside the right corner of the box, but Marshall got his body in the way of Hendry’s kick.

Gordon stole the ball from the home side’s Adam Heagney to break free on the left, but his cross was blocked. Marshall’s free-kick from the left then drifted wide of the far-post.

At the other end Beach got well behind the ball when Ferdinando cut across the edge of the box from the left to get a shot away.

Just past the hour Ferdinando laid the ball inside to Griffin, wide on the right, and he struck a fine shot that was superbly tipped over the far, top corner by Beach, diving to his right.

But the Swans’ keeper had no chance after 66 minutes when Hendry’s through ball put Gallagher clear in the box, and he slotted in from close to the penalty-spot.

The home side now looked the more likely to get a winner, and they thought they had done so with just under ten minutes remaining when Dan Dean’s far-post header went in from Hendry’s right-side cross, but the flag was up for offside. As the match entered the final five minutes Ferdinando’s shot from the edge of the box took a deflection, but Beach took the ball on his line.

In stoppage-time Swans had one last opportunity to win the game as Nkoma made a clever run into the box on the left, and if he had gone down instead of staying on his feet as he appeared to be clipped, the referee may have been left with an interesting decision.

Swans’ Team: Liam Beach, Corey Haywood-Roye, Craig Tanner, Louis Taylor, Lea Van Sullivan, Jamie Thoroughgood, TJ Nkoma, Billy Marshall (Elliott Simpson 70’), Francois Gabbidon, Jamil Okai, Nathan Gordon (Malachi Thomas 82’). Subs. not used: Sean White, Seb Castello, Howard Newton. Scorer: Marshall, penalty (27’). Cautions: Sullivan (48’), Thomas (88’).

Epsom & Ewell Team: Eacott, Heagney, Tanton, Taylor, Dean, Panayiotou, Gallagher, Farrell, Hendry, Ferdinando, Griffin (Nwachukwu 72’). Subs. not used: Hastings, McKay, North, Turpie. Scorer: Gallagher (66’). Cautions: Dean (26’), Gallagher (31’), Ferdinando (51’), Farrell (58’), Eacott (76’).                  

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