Tuesday 27th September 2022. Isthmian League, South-Central Division.
Walton & Hersham 2 Northwood 1.
Swans finally returned to league action after a run of six cup ties and a gap of a month with a match against leaders Northwood, who had a 100% record after their first six games For a while the visitors looked like keeping their run going as they led 1-0 at the break after putting on a well-organised, disciplined performance that restricted Swans to a couple of chances. But Swans stepped up their play in the second-half, and two goals scored in the space of five minutes on the hour were enough to secure the three points and end Northwood’s proud record. It was not straightforward however, as the final twelve minutes plus a lengthy period of stoppage-time had to be played out with ten men after Joe Hicks had been sent-off for two bookable offences.
The visitors went close to taking the lead after just six minutes when former Swan Andy Lomas made a run on the left to get Sydney Ibie past Hicks and clear into the box, but his low shot was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Liam Allen.
Swans had a great chance to go ahead with ten minutes played when Harry Mills found Josh Millo on the right, and he sent a fine cross into the box to pick out Max Blackmore by the penalty-spot. Blackmore chested the ball down to get in a shot that brought a fine save from keeper Andrew McCorkell.
Northwood’s Luke Tingey had the first opportunity to utilise his long throw, and his delivery from the right had to be headed behind for a corner. The kick from the right was met by a far-post header that was blocked for another corner. The visitors then had a free-kick from deep on the right that was headed away at the far-post. Northwood had hit a spell of dominance, and some slack play by Swans allowed Micah Jackson the space to get Joshua Helmore in on the right corner of the 6 yard-box, but Allen made a fine save at his near-post to get the ball behind for a corner. Another Tingey long throw from the right led to the ball coming to Jackson in the left of the box, and he made room before having a shot blocked, resulting in a scramble to clear. Northwood then had an opportunity with a free-kick 35 yards out, but Jackson drove the ball well over. Ibie forced a corner on the left, and the kick went across goal and wide.
The visitors’ good spell was rewarded with a goal after 38 minutes. Alex Kelly slipped by the centre-circle, allowing Ibie to burst clear down the middle and into the box. Hicks came across and appeared to win the ball in his tackle on Ibie, but the referee saw it as a penalty. Ibie took the kick himself, and although Allen got hands on the ball, he could not keep it out of his right corner.
Swans had had little success in getting behind the well-organised Northwood defence, but with five minutes of normal-time remaining of the half some fine play by Kelly in the middle of the pitch led to him playing Jordan Adeyemi into the left of the box, but after opening up the chance he drove a left-foot shot well over. Another chance soon came however when John Gilbert sent a free-kick from deep on the right to the far-post, and the ball glanced off the head of Blackmore to go wide.
Blackmore had picked up a foot injury earlier in the half, and was replaced in stoppage-time by Eddie Simon.
Northwood had a corner early in the second-half, and Jackson’s kick from the right went across goal and wide.
Swans, who had already looked sharper after the resumption, then brought on Taurean Roberts for Arsen Ujkaj. Following a throw-in by Dominic Ogun on the left Gilbert made a fine run into the box before playing a neat one-two with Simon that got him in on the byline, but his low cross was cleared in the 6 yard-box.
Swans got the equaliser they had been seeking on the hour mark. Allen sent a clearing kick out to the right touchline, where the ball was nodded back inside by Hicks to find Simon on the edge of the 6 yard-box, but it was Mills who followed in to add the final touch.
A terrific long ball by Hicks from deep in his own half on the right picked out Simon’s run into the box, but keeper McCorkell was quickly out to make a fine block at his feet.
But, just five minutes after equalising, Swans took the lead with a superb team goal. Hicks got forward on the right to set up a rapid interplay between Simon, Gilbert and Millo just outside the box. Millo laid the ball through to Roberts by the penalty-spot, and he quickly dragged the ball from his right foot onto his left to completely deceive Northwood right-back Sam Jenkins before lashing the ball inside the near-post.
The visitors again caused problems with a long throw from Tingey on the right when Riccardo Alexander-Greenaway nodded the ball on at the near-post, and it went across goal and wide. A strong run by substitute Jake Tabor then forced a corner on the right.
A fine move by Swans won them a corner on the right, and before the kick could be taken Ollie Twum came on for Millo. Gilbert then took the corner, and when McCorkell palmed the ball on Hicks knocked it back in from the left. Simon, Twum and Hicks all had shots blocked before the ball was finally cleared
But with twelve minutes of normal-time remaining Hicks made a rash tackle on Tabor and was shown a second yellow card, leaving Swans with ten men. Carl Stewart’s free-kick from 35 yards out was wide of the left post. Stewart then played the ball through to Ergys Pepaj 30 yards out, and he drove in a good, low shot that Allen went down on his line to save. The same player then tried from 35 yards, but this time the ball went over the goal.
Northwood looked fortunate not to be reduced to ten men themselves when James Gurteen brought down Twum with a poor challenge out by the right corner flag, but he was shown the leniency of just a yellow card.
The visitors continued to press for an equaliser and won a corner on the right, but Swans went close to settling it in stoppage-time. Adeyemi stole the ball off Stewart to open up a chance 20 yards out, but he drove just over.
Lomas got in a low shot for Northwood from 35 yards, but it was wide of the right post. There was one last threat to Swans five minutes into added-on time when Tingey had the chance to launch another long throw from the right. The ball was nodded on by Tabor and Jenkins got in a shot that was blocked. This led to a scramble and Alexander-Greenaway got in a header that Allen grabbed on his line before being fouled. The final whistle soon came to seal another win for Swans.
Swans’ Team: Liam Allen, Harry Mills, Dominic Ogun, Alex Kelly, Charlie Nicholas, Joe Hicks, Josh Millo (Ollie Twum 76’), Arden Ujkaj (Taurean Roberts 54’), Max Blackmore (Eddie Simon 45+1’), John Gilbert, Jordan Adeyemi. Subs. not used: Jude Molloy, Flynn Bolton. Scorers: Mills (60’), Roberts (65’). Dismissal: Hicks, 2 cautions for fouls (38’ & 78’).
Northwood Team: McCorkell, Jenkins, Lomas, Alexander-Greenaway, Tingey, Gurteen, Pepaj, Jackson (Kalu 85’), Helmore (Tabor 60’), Ibie (Jude-Boyd 76’), Stewart. Subs. not used: Hutchins, Cole. Scorer: Ibie, penalty (38’). Cautions: Lomas, foul (55’), Gurteen, foul (89’).