MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs Braintree Town | National League South | Saturday 4th February 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our home game against Braintree Town.
It’s a return to action in the Vanarama National League South this weekend for Chippenham. However, more importantly for the Bluebirds, it’s a return to the TS Stadium and a chance to play in front of their own supporters as we welcome Braintree Town to Wiltshire.
To put this into some perspective, it’s now February. Chippenham have played only TWO league games at home since the END OF OCTOBER! With the weather really wreaking havoc on our January schedule with games against Weymouth, Welling, Worthing and Farnborough all due to be at home, all having to be postponed to a later date. Chippenham did however manage to end the month of January with a game of football against Hungerford Town.
Last Time Out
All the excitement going into the game was heightened by the arrival of Matt McClure from Gloucester City, a striker with a huge pedigree in non-League football. McClure went straight into the starting line up in a very attacking side that saw Matt paired up top with Harry Parsons and the move from Horgan looked like it was going to reap instant reward.
The first half was littered with chances for the Town, with Parsons going close with a left foot effort, McClure forcing Jed Ward in the Hungerford goal into a save at his near post and Joe Hanks defying logic to retain the ball and get a shot off that crashed off the post all within the first twenty minutes of the game. This game was only going to end one way, Chippenham were applying pressure like never before with the movement of McClure showing his quality pulling defenders about, dropping in behind and creating space and was just looking for that goal to mark his debut. Hungerford rarely threatened however, when they did, it was the best chance of the half. A cross from the right-hand side inexplicably found Dan Roberts in the 6-yard box unmarked. However, fortunately for Chippenham, Roberts fluffed his lines and put his header wide of the target where it would have been arguably more difficult to do so. The half time break came around and Chippenham were looking good value to add to their points tally. Hungerford on the other hand had a different idea.
Chippenham looked completely different to the side that started the first half with such intensity and the Crusaders were more than happy to capitalise on an increasingly difficult playing surface. An injury to Will Tizzard saw Joe Hanks have to go in at centre half with Caine Bradbury coming on for the injured Tizzard before a big header in the middle led to Leighton Tuodolo being pressurised. The young right back was unfortunate to lose his footing on the surface and was helpless as the ball was crossed over into Joel Allinson who graciously tapped home to give Hungerford a 1-0 lead. One more chance for the Crusaders was thwarted expertly by Will Henry. With Christie Ward bearing down on goal, his one on one was saved brilliantly by Will Henry to his left and tipped around the post for a corner. This was to be the last time Hungerford threatened as Chippenham laid siege to the Hungerford goal. In a move off the bench, Gary Horgan sent Alefe Santos and Craig Fasanmade in to try and get Chippenham something from the game.
To the credit of Hungerford, they managed the game well, defending hard and slowing things down at the right time. With 5 minutes added by Dale Wooten, Chippenham threw everything at Hungerford and eventually, it paid off. Caine Bradbury turned two players on the edge of the area and crossed the ball in for Craig Fasanmade who stabbed the ball past Jed Ward in the Hungerford goal for the equalising goal. A couple more chances for the Town were repelled by Hungerford who by this point were hanging on but, in the end, they managed to do so and the points were shared in Berkshire. After the match, Gary Horgan was quick to heap praise on his team for the character shown in the game, on a very difficult surface against a very difficult side to break down. As always, the gaffer was humble and cordial in his assessment of the game and was happy to take the point away from the game heading into a very tricky fixture against Braintree, another side who find themselves at the top end of the table.
Match Center: Hungerford Town 1-1 Chippenham Town
Braintree Town, also known as the Iron, are based in Essex and play out of Cressing Road. Managed by Angelo Harrop, Braintree are finding themselves having a great season following the misery of last term. With a recent draw against Chelmsford at Cressing Road, Braintree are the only side in the National League South that are UNBEATEN at home this season. Of course, Chippenham have already had the honour of playing Braintree at Cressing Road and due to the weather conditions killing most of January, it was only a few games ago that the Bluebirds took a point on the road against the Iron. Former Chippenham player Jordan Young gave the Bluebirds a 1-0 lead at Cressing Road and it looked as if this was going to be the first defeat inflicted on the Iron by a side on their home ground however, 15 minutes from the end, a long throw caused a scramble in the Chippenham area and Bermuda international, Willie Clemons put the ball home for a share of the spoils. A red card for Jack Cawley minutes later didn’t really do much to change the game with the Iron putting the remaining players behind the ball for the rest of the game and it sort of fizzled out to a point that both sides were ultimately happy with.
Braintree come into this game sitting in 9th place and have 42 points on the board so far. Greatly buoyed by their home form however, the encouragement for Chippenham will be that Braintree have been a mixed side on the road and with results against sides that they would expect to be beating not going their way, it has been a very tricky time to call a Braintree result. In fact, Braintree have only recorded 2 wins in 13 games with wins against Hungerford and Bath City standing out among a lot of draws, and a couple of losses. Chippenham by a contrast after a rocky start are finding their feet in the league and will arguably come into this game as favourites according to the form guide. Being at home as well, Chippenham will be hoping that their supporters come out in droves to roar the boys over the line. With a home debut almost guaranteed for Matt McClure, Craig Fasanmade back to fitness and a good surface ready to play football on, Chippenham are primed to make their good form transition into points and catapult themselves up the National League South table.
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.
Chippenham will be champing at the bit for this one, with a squad fully fit except for Will Tizzard who will be assessed following a suspected concussion at Hungerford and possibly Eddie Jones who is still recovering from an ankle injury sustained on Boxing Day, Gary Horgan will have almost a full complement to pick from for one of the first times this season. No doubt a lot has been made of the signing of Matt McClure with last year’s National League North top goalscorer due to make his home debut, he and of course the Bluebirds supporters, will be hoping he can also open his account after positive signs at Hungerford.
It’s been said a few times now however, with Chippenham playing so many games away from home in both league and cup, games being cancelled due to cup runs, weather and various other acts of God, we need you now, more than ever. Chippenham Town FC has always been run within its means. Whilst we have a fantastic Chairman in Neil and a board of directors that so often have steered the ship safely, we make no secret that our biggest asset is our supporters.
It has been a tough period with very limited home games and perhaps clever management of the budget being the reason why Chippenham have been able to ride through, only playing at the TS Stadium 3 times since Lincoln City way back at the start of November and not one of those games being on a Saturday! If you are at a loss for something to do this weekend, know of a person who would love to come to a game or even a regular supporter that knows someone sat on the fence, please do your best to be there this weekend, grab a ticket, have some food, enjoy a drink in the Bluebirds Bar and most of all, enjoy being a Chippenham Town supporter as you are more important than you know!
COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS