Saturday 22 April 2017. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.
Hartley Wintney 1 Walton & Hersham 1.
Swans completed their maiden season in The Combined Counties League by becoming the first team not to lose to the runaway champions over the two meetings. After their 1-0 win at Stompond Lane they battled to a thoroughly deserved share of the spoils on their first visit to the Hampshire club. Although Hartley Wintney went close on occasion, Swans also had other chances that could well have seen them become the only club to have completed the double over the home side. Unfortunately their 15th draw of the season, allied to a recent poor run and other results going against them on the final day, resulted in them dropping to a fifth place finish in the table.
With Jamie Thoroughgood having picked up a hamstring injury against Windsor, he was replaced by Louis Taylor, who was free to return having served his suspension, and he had a fine game. The other change to a Swans’ side who began the match playing up the pronounced slope was Jordan Wisdom-Muir starting in place of Francois Gabbidon.
The home side suffered an early injury blow when Shane Hollamby had to receive lengthy treatment and was replaced by Adam Liddle after just seven minutes. But they posed the first threat when Dean Stow drove the ball low across Swans’ box from the left, and when it was crossed back in from the right goalkeeper Liam Beach dived to punch it away.
Having dealt well with Hartley Wintney’s early pressure Swans had a half-chance after twenty minutes when Jake Newton laid the ball inside from the left to his brother Howard, but his low shot from the edge of the box went wide of the near-post.
The home side soon replied when Liddle got in a looping header as he met Tom Walsh’s high ball down the middle, and Beach took the ball high up.
With a quarter of the match played TJ Nkoma made a run on the left for Swans before cutting inside and having a shot blocked. The ball came to Elliott Simpson 25 yards out, and he sent a shot dipping just over the top, right corner. Wisdom-Muir then dispossessed Hartley Wintney left-back Louie Paget on the right to break away, but had to settle for a corner-kick.
Nathan Gordon appeared to be fouled on Swans’ left, but the referee surprisingly awarded a free-kick to the home side in a dangerous position, but fortunately it came to nothing.
With five minutes of normal-time left of the half Howard Newton broke on the right to cross into the six-yard box for Jamil Okai to net, but he had clearly used his hand and the Swans’ striker was fortunate that the referee showed leniency in not booking him.
But just a minute later Swans had the best chance of the match so far. Howard Newton put Nkoma clear into the left of the box, but home keeper Jake Maddock blocked his shot.
There was another long hold-up when Walsh was injured, and he became Hartley Wintney’s second player to be substituted as the half went into lengthy stoppage-time.
The home side pressed hard for a half-time lead during the added on period. A diagonal ball from the left picked out the league’s top scorer Sam Argent wide on the right, and he sent a volley wide of the far-post. Liam Eagle then played the ball through to Liddle, but Beach was quickly out to clear.
The Swans’ keeper had to be alert again soon after the resumption, coming out quickly to save at the feet of Liddle, who had been played into the left of the box by Argent.
Okai was soon making a fine break from halfway for Swans to get down the right and win a corner, and from Simpson’s kick Taylor sent a header over.
Hartley Wintney took the lead after 57 minutes in somewhat fortunate fashion. Beach made a superb save, beating the ball away as a strong shot came in from the left, but an attempted clearance at the far-post hit Liddle, and the ball rolled slowly over the line.
Nkoma tried a low shot from 30 yards for Swans and Maddock spilled the ball, but recovered to claim it.
Sean White replaced Wisdom-Muir after 66 minutes, and five minutes after coming on he had grabbed Swans’ equaliser. Howard Newton did well on the left, getting past his marker before crossing into the six-yard box. Okai got in a glancing header that hit the far-post, but White followed in to nod the ball home.
Three minutes after the restart Swans had a chance to take the lead. Okai again broke from the halfway line to get clear into the right of the box, but Maddock came out to block his shot.
Nkoma beat Stow on the left before crossing to the near-post, but Simpson volleyed wide, and Okai turned 25 yards out to strike a low shot wide of the left-post.
With just under ten minutes remaining Swans had Beach to thank for keeping them level. The ball was played in from the right, and when it came to Argent in the box he got in a clever overhead kick that looked destined to score, but Beach dived to his right to make a terrific save. The home side continued to apply the pressure and Swans had to survive a nervy final five minutes. Marc Votkins took another of his long throws from the right, and when the ball came to Stow 25 yards out he sent in a volley that Beach beat down. Gordon then conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the right edge of the box, but Stow’s kick was cleared away.
Seb Castello replaced Simpson for Swans, and as the game went into stoppage-time he could have won the game for his side. A left-foot shot from the edge of the box was on target, but the ball struck the head of a home defender and looped over the crossbar. White’s corner from the left led to another on the right, and following Castello’s kick Taylor hooked in a close-range shot, but Maddock just got down on his line to keep the ball out.
Swans’ Team: Liam Beach, Corey Haywood-Roye, Nathan Gordon, Jake Newton, Lea Van Sullivan, Louis Taylor, Jordan Wisdom-Muir (Sean White 66’), Elliott Simpson (Seb Castello 90’), Jamil Okai, Howard Newton, TJ Nkoma. Subs. not used: Cameron Gyeabour, Matt Rose-Hazel, Jamie Thoroughgood. Scorer: White (71’).
Hartley Wintney Team: Maddock, Walsh (Bath 45+2’), Paget, Eagle, Sills, Jones, Votkins (Lacey 88’), French, Argent, Hollamby (Liddle 7’), Stow. Subs. not used: Noakes, New. Scorer: Liddle (57’).