MATCH PREVIEW: Bath City vs Chippenham Town | National League South | Monday 26th December 2022
Simon Lawrence previews our Boxing Day away clash at Bath City
With Santa Claus preparing to deliver presents to approximately 7.8 billion houses in one evening. Chippenham Town manager Gary Horgan has a task that is just as tricky as he prepares the Bluebirds for the annual festive battle in the A4 derby against our noisy neighbours, Bath City in the Vanarama National League South on Boxing Day.
Last Time Out
Both sides are coming into this game after exploits against National League teams in the FA Trophy on Tuesday with contrasting results. Bath City entertained Bromley (The holders of the FA Trophy) at Twerton Park and after the visiting side gift wrapped two goals in the second half, the Romans prevailed via a penalty shootout winning 5-4 and sealing their place in the FA Trophy Fourth Round where they will travel to lower league opposition in Bracknell Town. Chippenham, however, are out of the Trophy. Not many people gave Chippenham much of a chance when they travelled to Torquay United on a Tuesday night with league form out of sorts and illness rife in the squad. The Bluebirds however had a different script they were reading from and with early goals from Jordan Young and Alex Bray, Chippenham found themselves 2-0 up and had Chippenham fans once again dreaming of a cup upset. A guild edged chance for Jordan Young and a big shout for a penalty went begging before Torquay hit the Town on the counter with Will Goodwin tapping home to bring the Gulls back into the game. The second half came about, and Torquay showed the fitness that comes with being full time, as two goals from Stephen Wearne turned the game on its head and saw Torquay see off the challenge of Chippenham to win 3-2 and book a home tie with Taunton Town in the next round.
So, with the cup competition now laid to rest until next season. Chippenham can now turn their full attention to a league campaign that so far has proven tricky with performances not quite aligning with results for the Bluebirds and has left the playoff Semi-Finalists from last season in the bottom four and in desperate need of points to climb up the National League South table.
Our opponents will need no introduction to the Blue Army, Bath City, the Romans are managed by Jerry Gill and have been since 2017 following the departure of Gary Owers. Bath play at Twerton Park, a stadium that they have called home since 1932. An old school football stadium with large terraces behind the goals and carrying an average attendance of 1071 this season, Twerton Park is one of the more daunting places to visit in the league and no more so than when local rivals Chippenham Town descend on Bath for the A4 derby.
Bath City come into the game against Chippenham not only after a fantastic win in the FA Trophy but with a mixed form in the league. After a brilliant start Bath find themselves in 11th place with two losses and two draws in their last 4 league matches. The last win for the Romans was on November 5th with a 2-1 win away at Tonbridge Angels. However, they will no doubt be relishing the opportunity to take on the Bluebirds as in recent years, Bath have dominated the fixture against Chippenham with Jerry Gill always seeming to find a way to fire up his Romans for the A4 derby. In fact, the last time Chippenham Town won this fixture was the maiden season in the National League South with goals from Matt Smith, Dave Pratt, Will Richards and a brace from Andy Sandell giving Chippenham a 5-2 victory at Twerton Park in 2017.
Since then, Chippenham have only managed 2 points from a possible 24 against the Romans with two home draws in 2018 and 2020 and Bath City running out the victor 6 times since that famous win. Traditionally quite a fiery derby on the pitch as well with 5 red cards brandished in the fixture since Chippenham came into the National League South, 2 for the Bluebirds and 3 for the Romans.
Before we go too far into the preview, it’s important to recognise something incredible that both clubs have shared this season. Chippenham and Bath are known for sharing a rivalry, often players and in some cases even management, but this season, the clubs shared something that no football club should ever have to endure however, to the credit of both clubs in their quick actions, their love and support and their collective prayers. Both Pablo Martinez and Alex Fletcher have made full recoveries from what could have been tragic circumstances on the pitch this season. It is with great pride and testament to both the lads and the love and support of their clubs and the wider football community that both Pablo and Alex can attend the A4 derby this season and for all the off-pitch rivalries between supporters, I, for one, hope that the biggest cheer of the day (apart from our late winner of course) is reserved for Pablo and Alex in respect of their tremendous comebacks.
This time around should be an easy one, with players often spending time at both clubs. 3 players from each side are facing their former employer this Boxing Day with Chippenham Town having Will Henry and Eddie Jones who are both former Romans (although both played for Chippenham Town first) with Will signing for City following his release from Swindon and Eddie Jones signing for Bath after Covid derailed what would have likely been a Player of the Season campaign for Eddie at Chippenham Town. Eddie, however, re-signed for the Bluebirds after only one season at the Romans.
Another Chippenham player facing off against his old club is Tom Mehew. Then at Bristol Rovers, Mehew spent time on loan at Bath City in 2020-21 and made 9 appearances for the Romans. Bath City also have three players in their ranks facing off against their former side. Jordan Dyer signed for the Romans after his release from Exeter City following a loan spell with the Romans. However, some Chippenham fans will remember him spending a short time with the Bluebirds on loan as well. Coming in from Exeter under Mike Cook alongside Noah Smerdon, Jordan will be most remembered for the penalty shootout contribution against Ebbsfleet in the FA Cup where the Bluebirds saw off the Kent club to progress to the next round. Danny Greenslade will be hoping to feature against his former side as well with the Welshman swapping Hardenhuish Park for Twerton Park in the summer following the play-off SF.
With a season spent mostly nursing injury, Danny came back in towards the end of the season and was a real contributing factor in Chippenham’s late surge to the playoff spots. In perhaps the biggest move of the summer, Bath announced the signing of Chippenham captain, Kieran Parselle in a move that would see KP end his 4-year association with the Bluebirds. Making 126 appearances for the club following his switch from Gloucester, Pars went on to be club captain for much of his time with Chippenham. He wasn’t shy of a goal or two either with KP notching 9 goals for the Bluebirds including an outstanding ‘Goal of the Season’ candidate last year against Braintree.
Also not forgetting Chippenham Town Assistant Manager, Matt Coupe who despite playing for many clubs, including Chippenham in his playing days, is probably most well known in the area for his decade with the Romans making over 200 appearances and cementing himself as a bit of a club legend alongside his defensive partner of many years, Jim Rollo.
Chippenham come into the game with no fresh injury concerns. Manager Gary Horgan is hoping his side will shrug off the illness that came through the camp last week and players such as Tizzard, Hamilton and Simpson can make their return to contention. Joe Hanks seems to have shrugged off his ankle injury and there is a question mark over Craig Fasanmade who is hoping to pass a fitness test ahead of the festive fixtures that could see him return for the second time following an injury to his ankle sustained against Hendon in the FA Cup and again against Burton Albion.
So, there it is folks, the tale of the tape. On paper this game looks as straightforward a home win as it gets with Chippenham struggling for points, Bath having held dominion over this fixture for as long as they have. However, as the old saying goes ‘games are not won on paper’ and Chippenham will be more than up for this one. Our performances of late have been far more than the score line and a great sense of once we get that little bit of luck to match our effort and performances, results will follow.
Will it turn around against Bath City in the A4 derby? Or will the Romans add another agonising chapter to their own illustrious history in this fixture. There is only one way to find out. See you Boxing Day!
COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!