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MATCH PREVIEW: Braintree Town vs Chippenham Town | National League South | Thursday 29th December 2022

Published: at 2:26pm

Simon Lawrence previews our away clash at Braintree Town

The Bluebirds continue their seemingly never-ending run of games on the road as they head to Essex to take on the Iron of Braintree Town in the Vanarama National League South.

Boxing Day saw a game that will live long in the memory of the Blue Army if for nothing else other than getting a win over our noisy neighbours for the first time since 2017. However, the much bigger picture is the win in the derby saw Chippenham collect a much needed three points as they attempt to climb the National League South table and away from the relegation zone.

The day started in a very humbling fashion for both the Bluebirds and the Romans. Before a ball was even kicked, Twerton Park rose as one to welcome back Alex Fletcher from his horrific injury and successful completion of his neurosurgery.

Accompanied by his partner Ellie, Fletch soaked in the applause of both City and Chippenham supporters, players and management to mark his return to Twerton Park. However, it was to be one of only a few highlights for the Romans who are used to dominating this fixture.

The game got underway in the traditional fashion, both teams feeling each other out and trying to wrestle control of the derby away from the other. It was an even and somewhat cagey affair for the first twenty minutes or so with few chances for either side before it was the Romans that broke the deadlock through Scott Wilson. A shot from Rex Mannings came in after Chippenham failed to clear their lines, the ball skipped up off the surface and Will Henry (facing his former employers) was unable to collect the ball and it bounced out to Wilson who was on the spot to slot home and give Bath the lead sparking scenes in the Bath City end. This joy was to be short lived. Within 3 minutes, Jordan Young collected in the middle of the park before playing Alefe Santos down the right-hand side, his inch perfect cross found the head of Harry Parsons and his header was placed wonderfully past Josh Gould in the Bath City net. It was all Chippenham after that with flowing passing moves and excellent movement only lacking that killer ball to stop the Bluebirds going further in front before the half. This was not to be the case when the two sides returned. A period of pressure from Chippenham saw Eddie Jones force a corner on 54 minutes. After leaving his ankle in a divot at Twerton Park, the full back saw his return to Bath stopped short and Leighton Tuodolo took his place. And his first job was to celebrate. Alefe Santos whipped the corner in and Spencer Hamilton completely unopposed thumped his header through the keeper and into the back of the net sparking wild celebrations behind the goal. Chippenham supporters haven’t had much to cheer about of late and nervous tension was replaced by total ecstacy when Jordan Young picked up the ball in front of the Chippenham dugout and went on a mazy run, a run taking him past former Bluebirds Danny Greenslade and Kieran Parselle, Young reached the edge of the box where one more player was left for dead before unleashing a shot towards goal, a deflection off Danny Greenslade and a limp hand from Gould saw the ball in the back of the net and Chippenham were done. After the game, Chippenham supporters and players were over the moon and celebrating once again like they were at the end of last season. Manager Gary Horgan was of course ecstatic however, in his cool, calm manner reminded supporters that this whilst an important game, was only one game and three points and we now need to build on this performance and back it up with results over the coming months.

The Opposition

Which leads us to our opponents for Thursday night, Braintree Town FC. The Iron play out of Cressing Road, a 4,222-capacity with only 553 seats so there will be plenty of room for supporters wishing to make the crazy long journey to Essex for a game re-arranged to a Thursday due to Chippenham Town and their incredible cup exploits. They are managed by Angelo Harrop and currently sit just 3 points outside of the playoff spots in 9th position. However, the Iron haven’t had the best of runs lately and after a storming start to the season, find themselves with only 1 win in their last 5 league games. Scoring seems to be a bit of an issue for the Iron as well with 3 draws against Farnborough, Taunton and Oxford City all ending 0-0, a defeat to Weymouth coming by a score line of 1-0 to the Terras and their only win coming against bottom of the league Hungerford Town where they ran out 3-2 winners. Chippenham by contrast come into this fixture following their first win in the league since September against Dulwich Hamlet with cup games and the inclement weather coupled with a few poor results leaving the Bluebirds in the drop zone and looking to claw their way up the league.

Ones to watch for Braintree this time around we have highlighted their forward players who are no doubt going out to try and prove a point with all of them misfiring of late however, Levi Amantchi, Alfie Matthews and Lamar Reynolds scoring 6.5 and 4 goals respectively so far this season for the Iron and this lively trio will no doubt be looking to get their shooting boots back on against a Chippenham side in which the Iron have had the better of in recent history. A goal from Gianni Critchlow gave Braintree a 1-0 win last season at Cressing Road and in the game at Hardenhuish Park, a 95th minutes equaliser with the last kick off the game from Myles Anderson gave Braintree an unexpected point with Chippenham flying high and Braintree themselves trying to fight their way out of the relegation zone. With the roles reversed this time around it would be a brave man to nail their colours to the mast and predict this one.

Familiar Faces

Familiar Faces is quite a difficult one this week with a big geographic distance between the Bluebirds and the Iron, however not impossible. With a couple of managers that have gone on in the game such as Hakin Hayrettin (Maidstone), Alan Devonshire (Maidenhead) and most notably Danny Cowley (Portsmouth) having spent time in the dugout at Cressing Road. Some Chippenham supporters may also remember a bit of a local legend back in the day turning out for Yeovil Town, Bristol Rovers and most prominently Swindon Town, Giuliano Grazioli. In 2008 he ended his playing career in non-League with Braintree Town. After digging through the archives as well, we managed to find a playing link between the two sides. Former shot stopper, Will Puddy spent over 100 games between the sticks over two spells with the Bluebirds and following his departure from the club for the first time in he ended up playing for Bristol Rovers in 2014. With a severe competition for places at the Gas, Will was sent out on loan and played 4 times in 2016 for, you guessed it, Braintree Town.

Bluebird News

Chippenham come into this game in buoyant spirit following their win in the A4 derby however, it is very unlikely to be the same team that takes to the field against Braintree with such a quick turnaround in games and with Bath at home on New Year’s Day kicking off an action-packed January at the TS Stadium. We are almost certain to be without Eddie Jones who looked to really injure his ankle during the game against Bath City. With Joe Hanks, Aaron Simpson and Craig Fasanmade all pushing to be back in contention shortly as well, this could come as music to the ears of Gary Horgan who will no doubt need to make changes for Thursday if nothing else but to keep the squad fresh and fighting over the next month.

For those making the trip to Braintree, good luck to you all. Enjoy the day and hopefully cheer the Blue Army on to another brilliant result on the road. For those unable to make the journey, please remember that we have Blue Army Radio/TV providing you with full commentary of the game from Cressing Road and we will be providing a highlights package for you as well so you can catch up with all the big moments from this key clash against the Iron. We will see some of you Thursday but with 5 fixtures at home in the month of January, commencing with the home leg of the A4 derby against Bath on New Year’s Day, we are urging all our supporters to come out in your masses and get behind the lads in that way that only you can! We cannot stress enough; we need you now more than ever. So, get on down to the TS Stadium and let’s pack the park throughout January as Chippenham attempt to climb back up to where they belong in the National League South!


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