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MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs Cheshunt | National League South | Saturday 18th February 2023

Published: at 8:28pm

Simon Lawrence previews our home game against Cheshunt.


Two home fixtures in a row? What kind of sorcery is this? It’s another game at the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium this weekend in the Vanarama National League South and it’s the return of the age-old cliché ‘THE SIX POINTER’ as the Bluebirds prepare to face Cheshunt FC for the second time.

Last Time Out

After a disappointing away defeat to Dartford, not many outside of the Chippenham dressing room gave the Bluebirds a chance when Tuesday came around and Ebbsfleet landed in Wiltshire. With their coach load of supporters and their even bigger coach load of star players, the ‘Champions Elect’ had arrived and they were here to make things worse for Chippenham. Many were surprised no more so than the visitors when the team sheet was produced and dropped to the bench was Matt McClure, Owen Windsor, Joe Hanks and Aaron Simpson also missing from Saturday was Spencer Hamilton so no less than 5 CHANGES from the side that lost away to Dartford with Craig Fasanmade, Caine Bradbury, Alefe Santos, Eddie Jones and Will Tizzard all returning to the side for arguably our toughest task of the season.

For the first 30 minutes, Chippenham were more than holding their own against the runaway league leaders and carved out a few half chances but never really testing Mark Cousins in the Ebbsfleet goal. Both sides were looking for a game changer and they found one in the form of referee Steven Hughes who deemed Eddie Jones’ challenge on Sido Jombati to be a straight red card. If Chippenham were going to get anything out of this game, it was going to be a Herculean effort from every man in a blue shirt, and we were treated to just that!

The second half was a constant onslaught of pressure from the Fleet as they struggled in vain to break down the Chippenham back line. The midfielders offered protection. in particular Luke Russe, who just threw caution to the wind and threw himself in front of absolutely everything, the full backs were limiting the crosses into the box and forcing Ebbsfleet to come through a congested low block of Richards and Tizzard doing bits and Will Henry, so many times the hero of Chippenham was about to do it again. A burst into the box and a challenge from Caine Bradbury saw the referee point to the spot and it seemed that Chippenham were about to surrender the point they had worked so hard to hold on for. Up stepped O’Neill and SAVED! Will Henry dives to his right and once again Chippenham have hope. The rest of the game was much of the same, Ebbsfleet trying in vain to break down the resilient Bluebirds’ defence but being shut down every time.

A 0-0 draw the result and players, management and spectators celebrated in unison the most unlikely of points against the league leaders.

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In the aftermath of a brilliant albeit solitary point, Gary and the team were quick to remind themselves and the supporters that despite this being a huge point and a real cause for celebration, it was only just one point, in one game and that our season won’t be defined by it despite being boosted by it for certain. The more defining games will come against the teams in and around us as we seek to pull clear of the drop zone and into more comfortable scenery. And where better to start than with the visit of a team one point ahead (albeit three games) in front of us, Cheshunt FC.

The Opposition

Cheshunt FC or ‘The Ambers’ are a new addition to the National League South this season coming up via the Isthmian Premier Division Play-Offs beating much fancied Hornchurch in the final, only one year after Hornchurch won the FA Trophy!

Managed by Craig Edwards, the Ambers have found life a little tough upon their return to the National League South currently finding themselves hovering just outside the drop zone on goal difference but everyone below them having a game in hand, in Chippenham and Concords case, three games in hand on Cheshunt. They know these are the games they need to be winning if, like the Bluebirds, they have ambition of staying in the league this season.

They come into the game against Chippenham winless in their last 6 games with 2 draws and 4 defeats, giving the Ambers 2 points from a possible 18. Chippenham come into the game in a slightly better run of form (but only just) picking up 6 points from a possible 18 with the 2 defeats by Braintree and Dartford being combined with 3 draws and of course the win against Chelmsford at the start of January. The form guide, however, gets ripped to shreds in situations like this with both sides fighting for what seems like so much more than just three points given where both sides lie currently in the table.

Last time these two sides faced each other was earlier in the season in one of the strangest games I have called this season. Coming three days after the biggest win in Chippenham Town history against Lincoln City in the FA Cup First Round Proper, we travelled to Hertfordshire without our manager Gary Horgan and Matt Coupe took the reins for the Bluebirds. The first half of the game was as good as I have seen Chippenham play all season, popping the ball around with confidence and intent the Bluebirds rightly took a 2-0 lead into the half with goals from Harry Parsons and Alefe Santos from distance giving us the advantage. And then in the second half, a total capitulation with Ken Charles hitting a second half hat-trick with goals in the 48th, 51st and 74th minute completely turning the game on its head and sending Chippenham fans home wondering what on earth had just happened! Chippenham tried in vain to get back on terms following the blitz but, in the end, Cheshunt ran out 3-2 winners and Chippenham will rightly feel they owe themselves a performance to right this wrong.

Ones to Watch

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Striker Ken Charles bagged a hat-trick in the reverse fixture.

The one to watch this weekend for Cheshunt is going to obviously be that man, Ken Charles. The scorer of a hat-trick that sank Chippenham at Theobalds Lane earlier in the season. In a season that has seen him score 5 this term, 3 of them coming against Chippenham he will certainly be invigorated for this one and looking no doubt to heap more misery on the Bluebirds.

Also keep an eye out for top scorer Reece Beckles-Richards who has one more than Charles on 6 for the campaign.

Additionally, watch out for another man who has previous of scoring against Chippenham in Temi Babalola. The former Concord and Hampton & Richmond striker has scored against the Bluebirds in both of his last two games for his former clubs and will no doubt be looking to make the third time a charm with his new club, Cheshunt FC.

Familiar faces

Familiar faces was always going to be a tricky one this time around with Cheshunt sharing no real connection to Chippenham Town in terms of history, geography or anything else in between. In fact, in the archives I could find no record of a player sharing the two clubs, so we decided to shift our focus elsewhere for this one and look at a few players that have donned the Amber shirt for our visitors.

Before he was bagging goals in the Scottish Championship, Dipo Akinyemi was striking fear into National League South defenders playing for Dulwich, Braintree and Welling in stunning form (he in fact scored against Chippenham for every single one of these clubs) of course he now plays his football north of the border in Scotland where he has 15 goals in 19 games for Ayr United but spent 10 games on loan at Cheshunt in 2019 scoring a goal every other game in 10 appearances for the Ambers.

Playing for Blackburn currently on loan from Huddersfield is Welsh winger, Sorba Thomas. A regular in the Championship for both Huddersfield and now Blackburn, Thomas has been capped 7 times for Wales since 2021 and was selected to be part of Rob Page’s squad in Qatar for the recent World Cup. What you may not know however is before he was an international football, he was playing for non-League side Boreham Wood. A popular player in his time making 77 outings for the Wood however, was sent to gain match fitness in 2018 and turned in ONE appearance for Cheshunt FC!

Perhaps the most famous of all though is a man who has played multiple times in the Premier League, managed several clubs at the top level and as a pundit, inspired the Oxford English Dictionary to rethink their process and include sensible mash-ups like “BOUNCEBACKABILITY”. Of course, I am talking about Mr Iain Dowie who a long time before he was banging in goals for West Ham, Southampton, Crystal Palace and the likes was trying to get spotted at the non-League level. The first club Iain Dowie played for? You guessed it, Cheshunt FC, departing the Ambers for St Albans City and then Hendon before getting picked up by Luton Town for his big break. With some 500 playing appearances and 59 international caps for Northern Ireland, Iain Dowie is no doubt the most famous of faces for Cheshunt FC.

Bluebirds News

For Chippenham, no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game were reported after the Ebbsfleet game with only the potential of Eddie Jones’ ban for his red card hanging over the gaffer and this could be slightly relieved with the expected return of club captain, Spencer Hamilton.

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Local lad and stalwart Callum departed the club this week for A4 neighbours, Hungerford Town

Of course, there is one face who won’t be there this weekend, Callum Gunner. It has been announced this week that Callum has left for a new challenge at a new club and has joined our friends in Berkshire, Hungerford Town. Callum has been a constant fixture for the Bluebirds for the last 4 years and can I honestly say has been a total pleasure to have around the club.

From battling performances in the middle of the park to stunning goals from miles out in the FA Cup, Callum has given all Bluebirds supporters a fond memory to take forward with them and we wish Callum all the very best in his new venture at Hungerford and trust that they will look after him and get him playing again. Also, a registered thanks to Callum’s father Mark who has been a long-time supporter of the club and indeed, is a club sponsor with his company Oakhill’s. I hope that we see you again Sir and not just when the time for next year’s sponsorship comes around 😉

So, there you have it folks, the tale of the tape, a massive game ahead of us at the TS Stadium. When it comes to situations like this, your home must be your fortress. It needs to be a daunting place to come and one of the best ways you as supporters can help that be the case is come in your masses, bring your friends, your families, your kids, your parents, bring anybody who wants to come and get behind your town and your club.

The atmosphere on Tuesday night in the second half was fantastic, with the drum going behind the goal and the Chippenham support in fine voice, it really did add a level of big game intensity to the affair, and I am convinced that it makes a difference. So, get yourselves down to the TS Stadium this Saturday, jump behind the goals and make all the noise you can and let’s win this together #PrideandPassion

COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!

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