MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs Dover Athletic | National League South | Saturday 11th March 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our upcoming home game against Dover Athletic.
With the cheers and celebration of Tuesday night still ringing in the ears of Chippenham supporters and Luke Russe’s ‘Wonder Goal’ doing the rounds on social media accounts up and down the country, the Bluebirds now prepare for another tough test when they host Dover Athletic at the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium in the Vanarama National League South on Saturday.
Last Time Out
For the Bluebirds, after a run of 6 successive draws in games which arguably they should have taken more from, the task of travelling to Weymouth on a Tuesday night to play a side say just below us and fresh from a victory over Dartford days earlier, looked daunting to say the least.
The opening exchanges were shaky, with Chippenham looking to find their feet in the game, Weymouth made their game plan abundantly clear in the opening 15 minutes with long balls over the top for Brad Ash to chase and Akheem Rose, lurking a little deeper than his strike partner ready to pounce on his endeavours. Chippenham held their former colleague off well though with Will Richards taking on the role of stewarding Ash and Will Tizzard covering in behind him. A couple of sighters for Weymouth were really all that were mustered but the first real chance of the match came for the visitors. A good sweeping move through the middle of the pitch saw Alefe Santos pick out Craig Fasanmade who crossed from the right side looking for we assume Matt McClure. Only Fas will be able to tell you whether he meant to catch Oulah off his line, but his cross come shot was expertly turned over the top of the crossbar from the Weymouth stopper and Chippenham had a corner. The resulting corner was swung in by Santos and after a scramble, poked towards goal. The cheers went up from the crowd and the players in unison, but the linesman wasn’t interested, and the referee waved proceedings on with Chippenham feeling a little hard done by.
The second half started much like the first with Weymouth getting a reaction from I would imagine stern words from Bobby Wilkinson at the break about letting the Bluebirds grasp control of the game. Chances for Bearwish, Ash and Rose were all found wanting before a moment of brilliance ultimately decided the game. Great work down the left from Jones, Santos and Mehew saw Alefe get the ball in a crossing position, his left foot cross was intended for Fasanmade however the Weymouth defender just nicked in front and cleared the ball. The ball was only cleared as far as Russe about 30 yards from goal when he took his touch. Seeing nothing was particularly on for the midfielder, he decided to take matters into his own hands and absolutely leathered one from all of 25–30 yards, and his sweet strike flew past Oulah and into the postage stamp of the top corner. Chances to extend the lead followed with Santos striking the bar and a couple of chances for second half substitute Joe Parker but alas, Chippenham reached the 90- minute mark with a precarious 1-0 lead. When the 7 minutes of added time were shown, many fans in attendance and many more listening back at home must have feared the worst and fingernails were being tested all over the great town of Chippenham. In the end however, the boys game management was spot on with Santos in particular, doing an incredible job of heading to the corners, draining the clock and in the end, the whistle blew, and celebrations could begin.
Gary was quick to point out afterwards that whilst this was a great result and a pleasing one, the performance ironically wasn’t as strong as recent weeks but none of that really mattered in the grand scheme of things, it was 7 unbeaten (albeit draws) and the win for the Bluebirds ended an unwanted stretch of two months without victory. The victory was made all the sweeter when finding out both Hampton and Cheshunt won their game so anything other than a win for the Bluebirds would have made for terrible reading of the National League South table later that evening. As it goes, the Blues now find themselves primed to take advantage of their games in hand and sitting only one win (with results going our way) from 17th in the table, Chippenham will be hoping they can extend their unbeaten run this weekend when they head back to the TS Stadium and take on Dover Athletic.
Dover Athletic are based all the way down in Kent and play their football out of the Crabble Stadium in Dover. Last season, Athletic were relegated from the National League into the National League South alongside Weymouth and have fared slightly better than their Dorset counterparts despite finishing the National League season last term with only ONE point and conceding 101 goals in the process. It does seem only fair however to point out that is only half the story with a points deduction and various fines hampering Athletic throughout the season. However, with 2 wins and 7 draws, 13 points would have been far from enough to remain in the Division anyway and would have been the lowest points total of any side in the National League since Hyde only amassed 10 in 2013/14. Dover are managed by Mitch Brundle who took over the hotseat from Andy Hessenthaler earlier this season when Hess left the club to return to the club where he spent 10 years as a player, Gillingham to become their head of recruitment. Dover come into this game off the back of a 3-0 home defeat to Cheshunt on Tuesday night in a game to forget for the Whites, they will be looking to bounce back quickly as they look to put together a run that will see them end the season strong. Sitting in 14th place in the table currently they are probably far too many points away to entertain a late entrance into the playoff spots and have likely amassed more than enough points to see them pulled into the relegation fight so Dover will have to find a way to get themselves up for these games with nothing really on the table left to play for. Prior to defeat again Cheshunt, Dover themselves were on a strong unbeaten run of 6 games with 3 wins and 3 draws so they have got the pedigree to hurt Chippenham and their own chances of staying in the league.
Last time out for these two sides was a 1-1 draw at the Crabble with Chippenham taking the lead via Will Tizzard from close range, an early red card for Lee Martin saw Dover having to fight back with 10 men on the pitch and eventually got their reward for digging in with an equalising goal from Alfie Pavey. Chippenham had a golden chance to take all three points right at the death with Harry Parsons laying in Joe Parker, but Parker couldn’t force his shot past Stuart Nelson in the Dover goal and the points were shared. That game was the first meeting between the two sides at this level although Chippenham and Dover have faced each other in the Southern Premier League with Chippenham just edging this contest overall with 2 wins, 1 defeat and a draw against the Whites.
One to watch
The One to watch this weekend is quite a simple one. Luke Wanadio is currently the top scorer for Dover Athletic this season with 8 goals in the National League South. The 30-year-old midfielder is quite well known in the non-League circuit with spells at Dulwich, Welling, Bromley, Aldershot and Dartford to name a few. He will be looking to add to his tally for the season when he visits the TS Stadium on Saturday and no doubt, looking for a little vengeance as he was part of the Dartford squad that Chippenham eliminated from the play-offs last season in a shock result at Princes Park.
Familiar faces this weekend is another easy one. With not many players sharing these two clubs over their career only one link could be found. Current Chippenham player Aaron Simpson long before the days of Love Island and marauding runs down the wing for Chippenham Town played 20 games for Dover Athletic in the 2019-20 season before being signed by Sutton United.
Famous faces again is an easy one with former manager Andy Hessenthaler (mentioned earlier) having a great 10-year career in the EFL for Gillingham and Peter Taylor the former England manager having been manager in the 90’s as he was on his way to becoming one day the leader of the National team. But without question the famous face this week is legendary Welsh international goalkeeper, Neville Southall. Perhaps one of the most iconic stoppers of the 1990s, Southall’s career at Dover was short-lived when he took control of the club in the Nationwide Conference in 2001. Before taking the helm at Dover, Big Nev was probably most famous for his exploits between the sticks at Premier League Everton and of course, Wales. He would later go on to manage his country, giving Dover not one, but two international managers amongst their decorated history. If Steve Clarke ever loses his job with Scotland, I will be chucking a cheeky fiver on him to manage Dover within 10 years 😉
Chippenham come into this game fresh from Tuesday night’s victory over Weymouth and full of beans on a SEVEN match unbeaten run. However, with most of those being draws and even results conspiring against the Bluebirds on Tuesday, a strong result will be needed here to ease the tension around the TS Stadium as we head into the business end of the season and still looking up.
Manager Gary Horgan will be buoyed by the fact McClure and Hanks both came through around 60 minutes on Tuesday and Alex Bray’s injury might not be quite as severe as once thought. However, he will have to contend with losing club captain Spencer Hamilton for a minimum of three games following his dismissal against Concord Rangers last weekend. This should be slightly eased pressure wise with the signing of young Sam Heal formerly of Bristol Rovers. The academy graduate was released earlier in the season and after looking at the youngster, Gary has moved to secure the signing to help push Chippenham through this difficult run of fixtures.
Tuesday was a special night on the road for Chippenham. It never ceases to amaze me the reception when we go away together. All behind the goal as one, team battling on foreign soil it very much feels like a united club, behind a common goal and all in the foxhole together. Tuesday night we were rewarded with victory from the boys on the pitch and it was noted how much nicer that was to share that feeling with a crowd that were supportive and behind them from the off. We need to make sure as a group, the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium is that kind of place with praise and support for the boys in blue and the management in the dugout and the right amount of vocal atmosphere to make our home a fortress. I trust you all to do this and to give us another day to remember in the National League South. Dover will be coming with every intention of derailing our good form, let’s get right behind the lads to ensure that doesn’t happen without a fight!
We of course look forward to seeing you all turn out to #TheTSStadium for what promises to be a big test for Gary’s side.
Tickets can be purchased on the gate, priced at:
- £14 for adults
- £10 for concessions, including armed forces personnel along with students who have valid ID.
- £3 for under-18’s
- U16’s get FREE entry when accompanied by a paying adult.
Cash and contactless card payments are accepted at the gate.