Swifts had a squad of 11 to choose from for their first league game of the season, with their starting line-up consisting of Ethan Brook in goal, Isaac Payne and Ethan Soper as central defenders, with Henry Harrington Turner playing in front of them as a defensive midfielder. Blake Howard started on the right wing, with Jude Rutland on the left and Ned Jackman as the lone striker. This left Henry Conduct, Callum Keenan, Isaac ‘Ike’ Ledbury and Noah Poole on the bench, all making first game appearances.
The match started at a high tempo, with Clanfield pushing forward and attacking from the off; having several early shots blocked by the Swifts defence or saved by Ethan Brook. In a theme that was to continue throughout the match, Swifts had difficulty in clearing the ball away from the danger area and the repeated attempts to dribble out of trouble resulted in immediate Clanfield pressure, with no time being allowed on the ball for the Swifts players.
Following what was to be the first of many Swifts free kicks, play did manage to make it into the opposition half after the initial onslaught. The dead ball pass led Ned Jackman to brake through the Clanfield defenders and take a decent shot on goal which was unluckily blocked and collected by the visitor’s keeper. A quick dispatch by Clanfield led to a lighting counter attack, taking Swifts by surprise, and the resulting strong shot into the corner of the goal by the opposition forward was unstoppable, after only 3 minutes of play.
Clanfield pressure continued from the re-start and their next break found their striker in a prime scoring position, a blasted close-range effort on target was somehow saved by the ever-impressive Ethan Brook, who seemed to stop the unstoppable, with the Swifts keeper gaining applause from both sets of fans. However, another attack was soon in motion and a series of strong shots were first blocked by Brook and then by a Swifts defender, before a third managed to finally find the back of the net. The visitors third goal came from some nice passing play with a final run and an accurate shot from the right-hand side beating a valiant diving save effort from the keeper.
Despite their goals, Clanfield were in no mood to relax and the extremely physical match continued in the same vein. Whether on or off the ball a theme of pushing and shirt pulling was kept up by the visitors. Credit, however, must be given to Clanfield for some excellent attacking passing play, combined with a tactic of immediately closing down any Swifts player who had the ball - although the manner of challenges left something to be desired and appeared cynical at times.
A break by Jude Rutland into the opposition half was met with a rash sweeping tackle and the Swifts winger went down hard. The resulting free kick was whipped in by Callum Keenan, only to deflect cruelly off the cross bar. Within minutes another Swifts free kick was fired in by Keenan towards the back post, and Noah Poole was only inches away from tapping in a potential comeback goal for Swifts. This was not to be Swifts Day.
Wholesale changes were made going into the second half to allow first half players to recover. Both the Henry's; Harrington Turner and Conduct, were now in defence, with Callum Keenan as defensive midfielder, Noah Poole and Ned Jackman as wingers and Isaac Ledbury as a forward. Unfortunately, within a minute Clanfield had won a corner and a brilliant cross to the far post found a complete lack of blocking Swifts players and an easy tap-in for goal. Ethan Soper returned to the pitch under the power play rule to bolster the home sides midfield.
Clanfield goal number five resulted from another good cross from the side-line met by a strong half volley. Ethan Brook managed to take out most of the power but not quite enough to stop the ball rolling over the line. Still the visitors kept coming and the pressure piled on although the next cannonball shot was cleared off the goal line by a chest block from Noah Poole, a chest which now has ‘Mitre’ imprinted on it.
Finally, Swifts combined some good passing play into a counter attack and allowed defender Henry Harrington Turner to break free through the centre and run clear on target before neatly slotting in an accurate shot into the bottom corner to gain a goal for the home side. The remainder of the match saw more of an equal share of possession between the two sides although the constant stopping for free kicks continued.
Swifts had improved by this point; Blake Howard and Ethan Soper covered the centre of the pitch well now, allowing the opposition less time to work their passing play and Isaac Payne and Henry Conduct performed admirably in shielding their goal, more successfully passing up the field to enable runs by Ethan Soper, Noah Poole, Ned Jackman and Callum Keenan. Two good crosses into the opposition box were met by Isaac Ledbury, who unluckily could not convert them against a strong Clanfield goalkeeper. Despite good shots by both Henry Harrington Turner and Noah Poole in the final period, another goal was not to be found for Swifts, with Clanfield instead putting away two further goals to finish the game.
Ultimately, despite the result, the whole Swifts team can be justly proud of their performance, their behaviour, and their full-on effort made in often difficult conditions – they never gave up!