The Swans returned from Winterfield Road with three points after a feisty encounter against a Paulton Rovers side that looked unrecognisable from the side from last season. The hosts took the lead just before the break with a disputed penalty, but two goals in five minutes from Slimbridge substitute Marley Thomas secured the win for the visitors.
Both sides began the game well, and it was clear from the kick off that it was going to be a quick passing game, and the first ten minutes saw the teams cancelling each other out as they eased their way into the new season.
There were then two good chances at either end – James Byrne shot wide for Paulton, and Rich Thwaite had an effort blocked for the Swans.
Slimbridge had a good opportunity to open the scoring on 14 minutes, when Thwaite was fouled on the edge of the Paulton box – Adam Mace’s free kick was saved by Paulton Keeper Kieran Hodges, and Nathan Payne’s attempted follow up was ruled out by the offside flag.
Paulton hit back strongly, and Slimbridge had Ollie Hall’s point blank stop and Thwaite’s subsequent goalline clearance to thank for keeping the scores level before Byrne blasted way too high for the home side in a dangerous passage of play.
As the game ebbed and flowed, Joe Wilton was unlucky at the other end after good work from Harrison Reeves, before Hall and Thwaite again combined to keep Paulton out – this time to stop Dave Sims’ effort.
Jack Twyman was off target with an effort as the Swans pressed forward again, and then Alex Hoyle was next to try his luck, shooting too high in the 35th minute.
With seven minutes remaining in the half Thwaite was penalised for a tackle on Sims in the Paulton box, although the Swans man appeared to make clean contact with the ball. After consulting with his Linesman, Referee Andy Sheppard confirmed his decision as a penalty, and Bryne’s shot just evaded Hall, going in off the crossbar to put the hosts ahead at the break.
The second half saw more of the same – Luke Payne was off target with a header from a Wilton cross, and Reeves had a good effort blocked after Sam Turl had created a good opening on the edge of the Paulton box.
The Swans were gaining the upper hand, and Joe Stokes was unlucky with another 20 yard effort after a free kick was cleared to him on the edge of the Paulton box.
On the hour mark, Wilton was replaced by Marley Thomas, in a move by Manager Freddy Ward that would ultimately have a huge influence on the outcome.
On 65 minutes, Thwaite had a header cleared off the line, and it was beginning to feel as if it would be a frustrating afternoon for the visitors – Thomas had an effort just wide a couple of minutes later after some neat play by Max Harper-Emerson, and then Thomas couldn’t convert a rebound after Hodges made a good save from Mace’s long range effort.
Slimbridge were not having it all their own way though – Omar Simpson shot too high on 70 minutes, and then Hall made a superb stop at his near post to deny Kailen Gould as Paulton continued to look dangerous when they broke as Slimbridge pressed for the equaliser.
The Swans got the leveller their play deserved on 76 minutes, when Sam Turl’s great work down the right saw him feed Stokes – his cross was drilled home by Marley Thomas to even things up.
Slimbridge again went close three minutes later, when Thwaite just missed Harper-Emerson’s dangerous cross, but, two minutes later, Thomas was again on hand to follow up a saved Harper-Emerson shot and put the visitors ahead.
With three minutes remaining, Paulton Keeper Hodges was penalised for handling the ball outside the box as Slimbridge pressed, but Mace’s effort was blocked.
Paulton were appealing for a similar decision to go their way when Hall chased down a through ball and chested it clear from the oncoming striker, but Referee Sheppard waved play on.
As the game went into stoppage time, Thomas’ effort was deflected for a corner as he chased his Hat-Trick, and Paulton Captain Dale Evans was way too high with a 94th minute effort, before the whistle blew on a very tight and entertaining encounter.
Slimbridge kick off their home League campaign on Wednesday, when Cirencester Town are the visitors to Thornhill Park, before hosting Cinderford Town in an FA Cup Preliminary Round game a week today (3.00pm).
Team: Hall, Turl, Mace, Thwaite, Hoyle, Luke Payne, Twyman, Reeves (Turner 79), Stokes, Nathan Payne (Harper-Emerson 59), Wilton (Thomas 60). Subs not used: Pring, Squires
Supporters Man of the Match: Harrison Reeves