Swifts had a big squad of 13 players for the remembrance day game, which began with a minutes' silence, as did every Swifts game, and every game in the Witney and District League this weekend. They opted to start in a 2-4-1-1 formation; with Oliver Hayes, Beau Lawrence and Jack Buck once again making up a familiar goalkeeper and defensive unit. Beyond them, Joe Walsh and Toby Norman partnered each other in the centre of the midfield, with Oliver Edwards on the left, Theo Petrosanu on the right, and Daniel McAndrew behind the lone striker, Henry Clements. From the Substitutes bench; Alex Goode, Jacob Kedward, Ben Seward and Tom Sayers all made second half appearances, to superb effect.
Vikings had the better of the opening 5/6 minutes, with Swifts starting slowly. Their defence held firm though, a series of long balls forward from the visitors were giving Chippy plenty to think about; but Beau Lawrence and Jack Buck dealt with the vast majority of them - if they couldn't, Oliver Hayes was on hand to come off of his goal-line and sweep up around the edge of the penalty area. There was just the one scare for Swifts, which came after 11 minutes - a contentious back-pass was picked up by Oliver Hayes, resulting in an indirect free kick, a matter of yards from goal. After some initial confusion from both teams regarding the situation, the Swifts defence came out bravely, and closed down brilliantly, resulting in the close-range effort going wide of the left post.
In truth, after that chance, the first half was limited in terms of chances, and the game went quiet. Vikings clearly had the territory, with the majority of possession going their way and penning Swifts back towards their own goal - but Swifts seemed to get better and better defensively as the half went on, limiting Vikings to virtually nothing. Neither team looked like scoring at all for a good 20 minute spell.
There was some action in the final minutes though, as Swifts almost stole the opening goal with just a minute to go, with what was essentially their first meaningful venture forward. Henry Clements received the ball on the right flank after his run was spotted by Theo Petrosanu; he cut inside, leaving his marker on the floor, before cutting the ball back to the edge of the box towards Oliver Edwards, who opened his body up beautifully to strike first time, with his effort coming off the crossbar.
HALF TIME: SWIFTS 0-0 WITNEY VIKINGS
After a host of changes for the second half, with Alex Goode, Ben Seward, Jacob Kedward and Tom Sayers coming on for Oliver Edwards, Jack Buck, Toby Norman and Daniel McAndrew; Swifts began the second half with much, much more quality on the ball, something that was spoken about over the interval, and the only thing missing from their first half performance. Suddenly the defence were given a chance to take a breather once they had won the ball back, and the home side could play the game at their tempo, further up the pitch.
It showed immediately. A matter of minutes had passed, and Swifts took the lead. A superb quick throw-in down the left wing from Beau Lawrence picked out the run of Henry Clements, which dragged two Vikings defenders across towards him. Clements spotted this, and, after cutting back inside onto his favoured right foot, crossed brilliantly towards the back post, where Alex Goode found himself in acres of space. He took one touch, which set him slightly wider than he would have liked, but it didn't matter, as his second touch saw him drill the ball across the goalkeeper and into the far corner for the opening goal. Goode's second of the season, with his first coming on the opening day.
In stark contrast to the first half, the second was all Swifts. They looked to threaten with several crosses into the Vikings' penalty area, but a mixture of good defending, some fortunate deflections which took the ball away from onrushing forwards, and at times, runners into the box being just half a yard off the pace, meant that the score remained 1-0.
Swifts were hugely unlucky not to double their lead and seal the game with just 7 minutes to go, when the same pairing for the goal combined once again - Henry Clements' cross was cleared into the legs of Alex Goode right in front of goal, with the deflection coming off of him and somehow skimming just wide of the right hand post instead of into the back of the net.
Chippy had defended brilliantly throughout the game, right the way up until the final 5 minutes, where they so nearly threw it all away. Swifts fell asleep after a suspect free kick was given on halfway. The ball was half cleared, and allowed to come straight back, where it fell to an unmarked forward on the edge of the box. Beau Lawrence was left stranded as the only man behind the ball, and was forced to come across to make a block, with a cross deflecting off of him and falling to the Vikings number 11, completely free, no more than 6 yards out. Oliver Hayes saved the day though; scrambling across his goal, standing up to the shot, and deflecting the shot away with his feet to preserve not only the 3 points, but his clean sheet as well. A Super Save.
The final whistle blew and Swifts got their reward for a brilliant, hard-working performance. 3 important points, lifting them up to third place in the 'C' League, just a point behind today's opponents in second. They have the chance to jump above Vikings next week (November 16th), as the two teams face off once again in the reverse league fixture.