Tuesday 24 October 2017. Cherry Red Combined Counties League, Premier Division.
Walton & Hersham 1 Bedfont Sports 0.
Following two opening defeats Swans picked up their first win at their new home, and it was a highly important one as it sent them above their opponents into second spot in the table. After a tight, goalless first-half, the two significant moments of the match came in the opening 23 minutes of the second, as the visitors were reduced to ten men and Swans scored the only goal of the game six minutes later. After the goal Swans played their best football of the match and created several good opportunities that should have sealed the points, but they failed to take them. They then struggled to keep possession as the Middlesex side pushed for an equaliser, and they had to come through a difficult final ten minutes.
Billy Jeffreys made his debut in central defence, the former Hampton & Richmond Borough player having completed his transfer from Swans’ opponents, with Jake Newton moving to right-back.
Swans made a bright opening, Chris Onoufriou driving a low, left foot shot wide of the right-post from 22 yards. Julian Hornby then drove the ball across the goal-face from the right, and Abdeen Abdul just failed to get a touch at the far-post as a deflection took the ball behind for a corner. With just over a quarter of an hour played Elliott Simpson laid the ball off to Jim Fenlon 25 yards out, and he struck a fine shot that visiting goalkeeper Rourke Pickford did well to get to, diving to his left to push the ball away. Pickford was then quickly across to smother the ball when Simpson played the ball through to Abdul in the left of the box.
Soon after, midway through the first-half, Abdul appeared to suffer a muscle pull and was replaced by TJ Nkoma.
Pickford again had to be alert, coming out to claim the ball when Simpson’s long pass almost got Jamil Okai through.
The visitors then had their first effort, Jacob Lambe turning on the edge of the box to drive the ball just wide of the left-post. They came closer just before the half hour when Tim Pitt was found in space on the right, and when his cross led to the ball not being cleared Scott Harris struck a shot against the left-post.
Swans had a chance when Pickford failed to cut out Simpson’s left-side corner, before the visitors were awarded a soft free-kick 22 yards out, but Julius M’Ngadi sent the ball straight through to home keeper Brendan Norris. Conor Moody then got forward to put a shot wide from the edge of the box, while Swans responded with Nkoma driving wide of the far-post from the left.
With the first-half inside the final five minutes Simpson’s free-kick from deep on the right sent the ball across the goal-face, and it took a deflection to go behind for a corner.
Swans made a positive start to the second-half, and when Nkoma’s long ball from the left found Hornby on the right, he cut inside to put a shot straight at Pickford. Flo Bojaj’s clever pass then got Nkoma to the byline on the left, and his low ball-in had to be pushed away by Pickford at his near-post.
Bilal Benali came on for Hornby, and he was soon getting forward to shoot wide of the left-post. Benali then played a significant role in the visitors being reduced to ten men after 62 minutes. He set off on a surging run down the right before being sent flying by a lunging tackle from Jamie Richards, the referee showing no hesitation in giving the Bedfont skipper a red card.
Swans then went close to taking the lead when Bojaj got Nkoma down the left. He pressurised his marker into giving the ball back to him, and after cutting inside he hit a terrific low shot against the near-post.
The breakthrough did come after 68 minutes when Onoufriou’s fine ball sent Okai into the right of the box, and he cleverly knocked the ball past Pickford before squeezing it into the goal from a tight angle.
Simpson’s excellent pass found Nkoma on the left, and he cut inside to hit a low, right-foot shot that Pickford found too hot to hold, but no-one was following in to capitalise. With a quarter of an hour remaining Swans should have doubled their lead when Okai did well on the left before laying the ball across to Benali, but he drove a fine chance over. Okai then struck an equally good chance over after being put through by Bojaj’s fine pass. Bojaj was again the provider as Okai was sent clear, but he again cleared the bar with his shot.
Swans were almost left to rue those missed opportunities, struggling to keep the ball out of their own half as the visitors pushed forward in search of an equaliser. In the final minute of normal-time they had Norris to thank for preserving the three points, their keeper making a superb, point-blank save following a long throw-in from the right.
Swans’ Team: Brendan Norris, Jake Newton, Jim Fenlon, Chris Onoufriou, Billy Jeffreys, Jamie Thoroughgood, Julian Hornby (Bilal Benali 55’), Elliott Simpson, Jamil Okai, Flo Bojaj, Abdeen Abdul (TJ Nkoma 22’). Subs. not used: Sanchez Benali, Howard Newton, Louis Taylor. Scorer: Okai (68’). Caution: Simpson.
Bedfont Sports Team: Pickford, Pitt, M’Ngadi, Jackson, Ruddick, Richards, Moody, Hicks, Lambe, Harris, Mbonkwi. Subs: Sinclair, Welch-Turner, Spencer, Kinsella, Riggs. Cautions: Lambe, Hicks. Dismissal: Richards (62’).