BIRTHDAY boy Dan Walker celebrated in style by giving new Heybridge Swifts manager Steve Tilson the perfect start with a 3-2 derby victory in his first game in charge, writes JON LONGMAN.

The see-saw clash with neighbours Maldon and Tiptree in Isthmian League division north was heading for an entertaining score draw when super sub Walker strode in to lash in the winner three minutes into time added on.

Jammers fans standing behind the goal claimed that two Swifts players, Andy Fennell and Manny N’Daw, looked suspiciously offside but referee Emily Heaslip gave the goal her seal of approval.

Heaslip was in the thick of the action as the Swifts made an early attempt to take charge.

She had the whistle in her mouth when Swifts snatched a 15th minute lead, ready to award a penalty after Joseph Turpin brought Jack Adlington-Pile crashing to the floor.

Before she had a chance to blow for the foul, centre forward Andy Fennell had crashed Archie McFadden’s centre past Maldon’s new keeper Ted Collins who was on debut after signing on loan from Colchester United.

Fennell had a broad smile as he confirmed: “Yeah, that’s four goals in four games and a great win.”

18-year-old Collins was well worked by Fennell and company with Lionel Ainsworth giving Jammers left back Mak Khanye a torrid afternoon, turning him inside out on several runs and even nutmegging the defender.

Adam Topley then fired in shot that proved why Collins has been on the U’s books since 2020.

Khanye and Charlee Hughes received yellow cards before the break as the Jammers frustrations boiled over as Heaslip was not having any back chat.

The Swifts were obliged to rely on excellent passing moves as the towering giants of Hughes, Shomari Barnwell and Brian Moses, signed from Tilbury last week, ensured that Swifts keeper Callum Chafer impressed the Jammers fans.

Swifts had two excellent chances that Collins blocked before the Jammers set up a lively second half, finishing off the first period on the front foot after Moses headed the equaliser with four minutes remaining, having sent an earlier opportunity over the bar.

There was even time for Barnwell to curl one inches wide in with the final move of the half to get biggest crowd at the Aspen Waite Arena for many a long year, 464, buzzing with excitement.

Swifts secretary Steve Crisp joked: “I had so much money to count that I didn’t get a half-time cup of tea.”

The bumper attendance added to the arena’s impressive new look, even though there is still considerable work to be done, and this derby clash, rearranged from the August bank holiday because of the installation of the 3G, was well worth the wait.

Jammers manager Wayne Brown had to bark out his orders on the pitch and in the dressing room during the break as his side showed signs of the collapse that had resulted in a 3-0 defeat at Hashtag United a few weeks earlier and his frustration grew when Dylan Logan put the Swifts back in front on 50 minutes.

Logan is commuting from Baldock after being snapped up by Tilson’s predecessor, Julian Dicks, after scoring a blistering top corner goal in the pre-season game between the clubs.

Logan’s effort took a wicked deflection to beat Collins as the Swifts stepped up a gear with Ainsworth twice bearing down on Collins but the Jammers debutant blocked his efforts.

Then Adlington-Pile came agonisingly close to giving the Swifts a commanding advantage with a fierce downward header that grazed the wrong side of the post.

The Jammers took full advantage of the Swifts missing their chances with 2020 FA Cup hero Hughes bagging one of his trademark goals on 71 minutes thanks to Lordon Akolbire’s assist to set up a grand finale.

Ainsworth fired one effort into the side netting and Khanye forced Chafer to repeat his heroics that had earned Swifts their first point of the season at Aveley a week earlier.

A five-star draw looked to be on the cards as neither side deserved to lose but Walker had other ideas as he had been coming off the bench for the final minutes in recent Swifts fixtures to snatch a late goal.

His birthday celebrations erupted as he was submerged by his elated team-mates and Jammers fans, players and officials were stunned by the Swifts smash and grab raid to claim all three points.

Derby games often see form thrown out of the window but Brown, who has welcomed back Sam Cornish from Colchester, has hard work ahead of him if the Jammers are to banish the blues of missing out on promotion because of the pandemic.

The Jammers went home with Brown’s lament ringing in their ears.