MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town v Ebbsfleet United | National League South | Sat 10th Dec 2022
Simon Lawrence previews our home clash to top of the table Ebbsfleet United
It’s back to the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium this weekend for the Bluebirds as they prepare for the visit of high flying Ebbsfleet United in the Vanarama National League South, a side that will need no introduction to the Blue Army.
The Fleet have played the Bluebirds in almost every guise since dropping into the National League South with games coming both home and away in the league, in the FA Cup, the FA Trophy, the National League South Play-Off Semi-Final. In fact, the only match type we haven’t taken part in against our Kent opponents is a friendly! Which is quite fitting considering every game we have had against Ebbsfleet has been an all-out war with the games being far closer than the stature of the clubs should allow for.
Last Time Out
Last time out for the Bluebirds was a real tough one to take. After defeat against Burton Albion in the FA Cup Second Round. Chippenham were focused on their aim of climbing up the National League South after finding themselves adrift following their cup heroics. Chippenham, without a win in the League since Dulwich at the end of September, could be forgiven for not holding out much hope travelling to Eastbourne. The Sports were themselves on a run of excellent results, not losing a game since the end of October, scalping Ebbsfleet in the FA Trophy and scoring goals for fun to leave themselves only one point outside the Play-Off places. Add to that a long travel for the Bluebirds starting much earlier than usual after the National League decided to move kick off times in accordance with the potential of England finishing second in their World Cup group and having to play at 3pm therefore clashing with games on the domestic front. They needn’t have worried as England strolled to top spot in their group and against the backdrop of a very chilly Priory Lane, Chippenham went about their business.
A fast start for the Bluebirds saw a high intensity press from the off with Harry Parsons setting Alex Bray in on goal with only 20 seconds on the clock. The Welshman was ruled offside but it was a sign of things to come as the Bluebirds took the game took to Eastbourne. A good passing move resulted in Luke Russe being fouled around 30 yards from goal. Up stepped Jordan Young and his free kick went over the wall and stung the hands of Lee Worgan in the Eastbourne goal. The veteran keeper however, couldn’t keep hold of the fierce strike and Alex Bray was on hand to follow up and bundle the ball into the back of the net and send Chippenham into a 1-0 lead.
Chances continued to come for the Blues with Harvey Greenslade nearly marking his return to the side with a goal if not for a slip of his right foot. Minutes later, another good Chippenham move saw Harry Parsons shot hit Greenslade and trickle out for a goal kick. Tom Mehew was pulling strings in the midfield and the former Bristol Rovers man sent Luke Russe through on the half hour mark, Russe found Young and his clipped cross evaded all except for Parsons who tried to set Spencer Hamilton on the edge of the box, his shot blocked by an Eastbourne side praying for a miracle to stay in it, in the end the miracle came in the form of controversy. A long ball was looking like it was going to be dealt with by Will Tizzard. Two strong hands in the back of Tizzard were spotted by everyone except the referee and Eastbourne came down the right. A cross was put in to the Chippenham box and following a scrambled clearance, the ball ended at the feet of Shiloh Remy who passed the ball calmly through the bodies and past Will Henry in the Chippenham net. It seemed very harsh to be going in level at the break but a good performance from the Bluebirds gave hope for the second 45 minutes. A good second half showing from both sides saw chances for both sides but with Chippenham creating a good deal more chances than the home side, it was looking like if anything, three points were heading back to Wiltshire.
Chippenham supporters were already adding those points to the tally when Alex Bray passed inside to Jordan Young who rode the challenge of Mitch Dickenson to go in on goal with only Worgan to beat, Harry Parsons to his right and the goal at his mercy. Unfortunately for the Blues, Jordan Young is human and his radar was slightly off and his shot hit the foot of Worgan. It was a chance that the Blues would rue missing. With 85 minutes on the clock and the disappointment of that missed chance weighing heavily on a few. Eastbourne forced a ball into the Chippenham box. The initial ball was dealt with but Shiloh Remy (a thorn in the side of Chippenham all afternoon) picked up the ball and before he could do anything was taken to the ground by Will King. The referee didn’t hesitate for a second and pointed to the spot. When you are struggling for a result or two, football can be a cruel game and with one swift stroke of Shiloh Remy’s left foot, Chippenham were staring defeat in the face. One final chance from Tom Mehew went begging and the final whistle blew on Chippenham’s chance of picking up points from Priory Lane.
Afterwards, manager Gary Horgan called on his men to show character, with fixtures over the next month or so throwing up some difficult games and none more so than this weekend with the visit of a side that have only tasted defeat once this season and have been top of the table since the first week of the season, Ebbsfleet United.
Ebbsfleet United, the Fleet are a side based in Kent and play at the Kufflink Arena, Stonebridge Road. And come into the game on top of the National League South table. The Fleet have also been a force in the FA Cup this season as well joining Chippenham as the other half of the National League South presence in the competition in the Second Round. Ebbsfleet suffered the same fate as Chippenham however, with a defeat in the FA Cup against Fleetwood seeing them exit the competition with their attention now fixed on going one better than last season where they missed out in the Play-Off final against Dorking Wanderers after a 3rd place finish in the regular season. Of course, Chippenham will remember it well as their opponent in the Semi-Final last season, Chippenham Town, the surprise package! Chippenham played their hearts out that day especially given the 120 minutes they played only a few days before against Dartford. Ebbsfleet were a class outfit to come against and Chippenham after another heroic display went down in extra time to the Fleet with Lee Martin curling in from the edge of the box and sending Chippenham home and Ebbsfleet to the final. The final couldn’t have been more dramatic with Ebbsfleet taking a 1-0 lead through Rakish Bingham only to be pegged back by Dorking. In the final minute of the game, Dom Poleon shot against the post and the rebound was struck home by Craig Tanner who thought his goal had sent the Fleet back to the National League. However, in the 98th minute, Luke Moore equalised to force extra time and, in the end, Alfie Rutherford struck home to send Dorking to the National League and condemn the Fleet to kick off their season in the National League South. Their first opponent, ironically, Chippenham Town!
A 3-0 win on the day for the Fleet saw them take top spot with goals from Greg Cundle, Toby Edser and Darren McQueen and they have been there ever since. It’s no surprise that people are already calling Ebbsfleet the ones to beat in pursuit of the league title. With strength all over the park and particularly with 12 goals to the name of the deadly Dominic Poleon already this season. Rakish Bingham and Greg Cundle also have 7 each and with Dennis Kutrieb and his men very aware of the threat that taking Chippenham lightly will pose, we can expect another tough game at The Thornbury Surfacing Stadium this weekend. Familiar faces this weekend is a little tricky but Sido Jombati, formerly of our local rivals Bath City is now playing at the back for Ebbsfleet United.
For Chippenham this weekend, there is still fitness doubts over Joe Hanks and Craig Fasanmade who are both struggling with ankle injuries but after speaking with both, they are running and really hoping to be in contention for this big fixture. It’s also a big day for the country, with England playing against France in the Quarter Final of the World Cup at 7pm following the game at The Thornbury Surfacing Stadium. The Bluebird’s Bar is open all the way through from the final whistle to kick off and showing the game live on the big screen for all supporters! We encourage you to stay, enjoy the game and come together as one to cheer on the Three Lions and support the club coffers by enjoying a pint or two!
We have received such incredible support this season and we are going to need you again in a difficult fixture against one of the league’s top teams!
If ever we needed a 12th man, this is it! So, pack the park, get behind the boys and COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!!