MATCH PREVIEW: Chelmsford City vs Chippenham Town | National League South | Saturday 7th January 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our away tie against Chelmsford City
It’s a brief return to the road for Gary Horgan and his men on Saturday as a trip to Essex awaits the Bluebirds before kicking off a succession of home fixtures that see Town play 6 times at the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium in just the month of January. Before that however, it’s to the Melbourne Stadium at Chelmsford for the away fixture against the Clarets in the Vanarama National League South.
Before we go into anything else, these two clubs are linked by something far greater than football this season. It was in the home fixture against Chelmsford that tragedy fell over the TS Stadium and the quick actions of both Chippenham and Chelmsford benches in rushing to the assistance of Pablo Martinez that we have said many times (but never with less importance) that saved the life of a young man that afternoon. In the aftermath of the incident, Chelmsford supporters offered a shoulder and comfort, the players and management offered their support to the people of Chippenham Town and a generous collection from the city supporters in games that followed showed a compassion and love that you can only find in the world of non-League football. I on behalf of all at Chippenham Town would like to thank the entirety of the Claret Army for all of the love and support they have shown us and regardless of the result on Saturday, you will always have a special place in the hearts of Town supporters!
Last Time Out
Last time out for the Bluebirds it was the second game of the A4 Derby. Buoyed by a 3-1 win against their rivals and a 1-1 draw away at a Braintree side that haven’t lost at home all season, Chippenham and their supporters could be forgiven for coming into the game at home vs Bath City thinking that there had been a shift in the tide and that they could look forward to this game for this first time in a long time. When the team sheets were printed, it was clear from the offset that Bath were doing everything they could to ensure the Boxing Day result didn’t repeat itself with Jerry Gill opting for a more defensive shape, dropping Lines and Wilson to the bench and losing Raynes through injury, City were on the back foot for the opening exchanges with Young going close from a free kick forcing Gould to tip around the corner, another good save from Gould from Alex Bray albeit deemed offside saw Chippenham mounting a little pressure on the visitors.
A booking for a late challenge saw Tom Mehew find his way into the book before the big turning point of the game, Jordan Young going off with an injury to his quad muscle. He was replaced by Hanks and within seconds of his introduction, he was in the thick of a melee following a late challenge from Luke Spokes. Spokes picked up a booking for his challenge and Hanks and Dan Hayfield picked up cards for their reaction.
With Dan Greenslade picking up his standard booking earlier on in the half, the big question at half time would be not so much if either side were going on to score a goal but if both sides would end the game with their full complement of players. The removal of Young seemed to slow Chippenham down with a lot of their creative play coming through Young.
However, a shot from distance from Russe let the Romans know the hosts weren’t going away. Leighton Tuodolo coming in for the injured Eddie Jones not only put up a great defensive performance against Ebanks but nearly erupted the stadium when a drive from his own half saw him cut into the penalty area. However, his low drive was easily saved by Gould. City then really had the better of the game in the last twenty minutes or so, using the slope to their advantage and kicking towards a fantastic following support. Ebanks had an effort clawed away by Will Henry before a frantic goalmouth melee saw Henry tip an effort through the bodies onto the post and out for a corner. Two efforts from Dan Hayfield before Chippenham had their best chance of the second half to grab all three points came when Hamilton won a free kick on the edge of the area, sadly for the skipper, his good mate Joe Hanks could only pick out the Sheldon End with his effort and the game ended goalless for the first time between these sides since 1901!
This draw coupled with the two previous results gave the Bluebirds 5 points from a possible 9 from the Christmas fixtures and given the results of previous years in these fixtures, many a Town supporter were very happy with the return and now look forward to a January littered with home games and hopefully, a good platform for Chippenham to pick up some big points and start climbing the league table. Chippenham will be hoping to continue their good run of form into the game this weekend against an opponent that are having a very good season themselves in Chelmsford City.
Perhaps a surprise package this season based on last season, Chelmsford City are better known as the Clarets and are managed by former player Robbie Simpson. They play at the Melbourne Stadium, a 3,000-capacity stadium in Chelmsford, Essex and have played there since 2004 after bouncing around a lot of different sites in the area, they finally had a place to call home. They celebrated with a game against their former landlords, Billericay Town in front of a then record crowd of 2,998 people!
The Clarets come into this game flying high in the National League South table currently sitting in 4th position only 10 points off top spot. After one of the best starts from any team in the league, Chelmsford have started to see a few indifferent results this month with 2 of their 5 total defeats so far in the league all season, coming in the month of December. Also, a draw with local rivals Braintree mean that the Clarets only have 1 win in their last 4 outings (The Boxing Day fixture against Braintree) and will be in no small part due to the departure of leading goalscorer, attacking midfielder Charlie Ruff who has left the Clarets to join Havant & Waterlooville. Also, a big factor in the game against Chippenham might be fatigue. With Chippenham now resting after a busy festive schedule, Chelmsford do not have that luxury with a home tie against National League side Wealdstone in the FA Trophy on Tuesday night.
We have dipped deep into the archives this week, asked the historians, consulted Town United and nowhere can we find a link between the two sides from a playing perspective. We couldn’t even really find an outstanding “Famous Face” in the Chelmsford alumni so instead; we have decided to delve into previous meetings between the two sides for a little interest instead. We have already mentioned the circumstances earlier of how the two sides are linked. That game of course was abandoned and played later in the month, with a sombre feeling in the air and perhaps still a little emotion in the air, the Bluebirds and the Clarets played out a 0-0 draw at the TS Stadium making Chippenham one of the only sides to stop Chelmsford from being victorious in their explosive start to the league season. Last year with the Bluebirds finishing in the playoff spots and Chelmsford falling away to obscurity, it was surprising that Chippenham were unable to take more than a solitary point from their counterparts with a stalemate in Essex and a 3-2 defeat at the TS Stadium. In fact, since coming into the National League South, this has been one of the more unpredictable games to call with Chippenham winning 3, Chelmsford winning 4 and the two sides playing out 3 draws, often with the results going against the form book and league standings which should prove to be a good omen for the Bluebirds with the 22nd place side going up against the 4th placed Clarets if history is any guide, this will be an away win and a blemish on the accumulators of many non-League supporters.
Chippenham manager Gary Horgan looked more focused and determined than ever after a string of bad results being put to bed with a win and a draw against their local rivals Bath, either side of a good point away at Braintree. For weeks Horgan shrugged his shoulders and couldn’t quite understand the lack of luck that was coming the way of his side and speaking to Blue Army TV after the New Year’s Day fixture, Horgan stressed the importance of building on these results to avoid them being a highlight of the season and not a turning point. With news that Eddie Jones is going to be side-lined for a couple of weeks, it will be great news for Horgan that Will King has made his return to the side, Leighton Tuodolo is playing well deputising for Jones and Aaron Simpson is back training following a lengthy injury. With Young going down in the first half of the Bath City game, he will no doubt face a series of tests this week to determine his fitness however, with Hanks now back in the fray and Craig Fasanmade coming through his recent fitness test ahead of his return to the side, Chippenham will no doubt have a good array of options to choose from ahead of this crucial fixture in Essex.
Ticket & Stadium Information
For those hoping to make the trip, tickets are available to pre-order at https://chelmsfordcityfc.com/chippenham-town-h-ticket-details/ you can jump on here to save yourself a quid or two by purchasing in advance. The Supporters are not running a coach however, the train station is only a short walk away from Salerno Way and a bus runs every ten minutes from the station and goes straight past the ground. This is going to be the last away game for a while before returning to the TS Stadium for a run of fixtures that we will absolutely need our 12th man for! Hope to see some of you up at Chelmsford for a drink and a good day out before heading back home to cheer the boys on up the National League South and away from the drop zone.
COME ON YOU BLUES