MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs Havant & Waterlooville | National League South | Saturday 27th January 2024

Published: at 8:30am

The Bluebirds continue at the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium this weekend in the Vanarama National League South when the second of their back to back home fixtures see them take on The Hawks of Havant & Waterlooville.

Last Time Out

Chippenham come into this game in a good run of form at the moment, looking very difficult to beat backing up their exploits in the FA Trophy where they ran Bromley all the way to penalties with a point away at Aveley in a game which many in attendance felt, the Bluebirds should have taken all three. It was a similar story on Tuesday when the Blue Army took on the Yellow Army against a backdrop of wind and rain and a little bit more wind and rain at the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium where in the end, both managers felt their side had dropped two points as opposed to gaining one.

Chippenham started brightly under the lights looking to get the wingers into good positions and similarly to the game at the weekend, the goal came against the run of play when a long ball wasn’t dealt with, Brad Ash tried to wriggle free of his markers after collecting the loose ball. Will Jenkins-Davies then picked the ball off of Brad’s toes and slotted past Will Henry in the Chippenham net to give Torquay United a lead on 11 minutes. Chippenham responded brightly and arguably should have been on level terms when intelligent build up play saw Matt McClure brilliantly turn the ball into Craig Fasanmade in the box. With the goal in sight and a square ball to the middle almost an impossible decision to make, the indecision probably cost us a little and coupled with a recovering defender, the ball found it’s way onto the hockey pitch at the Sheldon End. Another great chance for the Bluebirds came when Caine Bradbury’s thunderous strike from the edge of the box looked to deceive Mark Halstead but it hit the body of the Torquay keeper and the loose ball just wouldn’t fall to a blue shirt. After going one down and dominating the half, it was a real blow for Chippenham to see Dan Ellison depart the pitch through injury just before the half time whistle and he was replaced by Nat Williams. This was really a cause for concern after the half where on the hour mark, Chippenham with the wind behind them and looking good for an equaliser, Aaron Amadi-Holloway was withdrawn also through injury to be replaced by Jake Evans with Luke Spokes taking up a position in the back four. 5 minutes later, the game would change significantly when Torquay goalscorer Jenkins-Davies was shown a RED CARD after a challenge on Will King was his second bookable offence. This seemed to give Chippenham an added boost to an already lively side and got their just desserts only 3 minutes later when Tyreke Johnson crossed for Fasanmade keeping the ball alive and Matt McClure poked home from close range for his 9th National League South goal of the season.

This sparked a crazy last 20 minutes where both sides will feel they got the better of the other and should have taken all 3 points from the contest despite the numerical advantage. Jake Evans’ shot was deflected wide when it seemed destined for the goal, he had another half chance from the edge of the box when Tyreke Johnson’s ball across the box looked certain to be tapped home by somebody. A massive chance for Torquay’s Ethon Archer looked to have given Torquay the lead but a great block onto the crossbar saw the chance go begging. Will Henry earned his stripes again when a shot to his right hand side brought about one of the best saves seen at the TS Stadium for a long time with a strong hand beating away the ball with the Torquay fans behind the goal already celebrating. Caine Bradbury then had a fantastic chance to go ahead when a cutback found him with a little space inside the 18 yard box but his curling effort went agonisingly wide of Halstead’s goal. With Chippenham turning the screw, it was a little amusing to see Torquay penned in their own half, falling on every ball, taking minutes over every set piece against little old Chippenham Town FC but in the end, Torquay clung on for dear life and despite a barrage of corners, balls in the box and being pulled around by the Bluebirds persistent moving the ball around the floor, escaped the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium with a point.

Catching up with Gary after the game, it was much the same as after the Aveley game where a point against a playoff spot occupying side was a “disappointment” given the nature of the game and how his side had performed over the two games. However, Horgan cannot be disappointed for long with a game on Saturday coming up, injuries to contend with in the camp, a hard slog in tricky conditions only a few days before the visit of Havant & Waterlooville to the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium.

The Opposition

Havant & Waterlooville, the Hawks were formed in 1998 only 26 short years ago following the merger of Havant Town FC and Waterlooville FC. Playing at the wonderful 4G facility at Westleigh Park, the Hawks have been a consistent big hitter in the National League South for many seasons even winning promotion to the National League in 2017/18 but it was a very short stay for Havant and were back in the National League South only one season later. Currently Havant & Waterlooville are having “ONE OF THOSE” seasons where it all seems to be going wrong. Currently sitting 23rd in the National League South, all the Pre-Season excitement has given way to worried faces, several different managers, several more different players all trying to crack the case of how to pull a big side like Havant & Waterlooville out of the drop zone and to safety in the National League South. Currently being managed by an interim team of coaches following the departure of Steve King, himself only a the club a few short months after replacing Jamie Collins, the Hawks have hit somewhat of a purple patch, picking up a few important points over the last month however, will be coming to Chippenham this weekend off the back of a hiding at home from St Albans however, the 4-1 scoreline will arguably flatter the Saints after two of the goals came in the 89th and 90th minutes. So with both sides needing the points, the stage is set, let’s take an in depth look into our opponents and our history with them!

Countdown to kick-off






Despite only being formed 26 years ago, Chippenham fans of most ages will have a great memory against Havant & Waterlooville whether it be Lewis Powell curling in a late free kick to see us through in the FA Cup, our first ever National League South game at home against the Hawks in 2008 or more recently the epic 2-0 win down at Westleigh Park to send the Bluebirds into the National League South playoffs for the first and currently only time in the clubs history. All in all, the two sides have met 10 times, with Chippenham running out the victor on 4 occasions, Havant 3 times and a draw being played out 3 times giving Chippenham a slight historical edge over the Hawks with a win percentage of 40% with Havant posting a 30% and a draw obviously taking up the other 30%. The Hawks do however, slightly outscore the Bluebirds over this time with a GPG of 1.3 to Chippenham’s 1.1.

They do say however, the most important meeting is the last one and in the last meeting between these two sides, a crazy game saw Chippenham run out 4-2 winners against the Hawks with goals from Jake Evans (x2), Nat Williams and Craig Fasanmade saw the Bluebirds go 2 wins from 2 games at the start of the season. Of course, since then, lots of changes at Havant, let’s have a better look at our opponents as they stand now!

Familiar Faces

Well this one was a nice easy one wasn’t it! At the beginning of the season, a certain Mr Thomas Mehew was clutching the Managers Player of the Year award, just come off the back of a standout season in the middle of the park for Chippenham with a superb range of pass, effortlessly gliding over the surface like a ballerina with a football, nutmegging whomever got near him and looked like a player that certainly would attract the eye of other clubs. Havant & Waterlooville being a full time team offered him something that we simply could not and Tom was announced as a Hawk. Of course, we all know how this ended with Tom never really settling at Havant and the pull of the club that he had made his home just a little too strong, Mehew signed with the Bluebirds on a permanent deal until 2025 and will no doubt be relishing the chance to get one over on his old teammates after playing against the Bluebirds with them earlier in the season.

Other players to represent both teams include Jake Andrews, Scott Donnelly, Marvin Morgan, Ben Swallow, Kieran Phillips, Brad House, even legendary former Bluebird, Charlie Griffin who enjoyed 3 spells and countless goals at the TS Stadium had a 5 game loan spell with the Hawks when he was at Woking!

One to Watch

With so many signings this season, Havant have had their share of quality players for this level come through the door at Westleigh Park this season and despite their current position in the league. They will provide a massive test for the Bluebirds this weekend with some real standout players that if their performances match their potential could really cause us some problems. Goalkeeper Ross Worner has played second fiddle to a lot of loan keepers over his time at Havant but the former Sutton shot stopper has now firmly established himself as Havants number one and with teams creating a good amount of chances against the Hawks, Worner is to thank for a lot of hard earned points at times under pressure. At the back they have got Yoan (Brother of Kurt) Zouma, the big defender will be a physical presence for the likes of McClure and Fasanmade to deal with and will no doubt be a threat from set pieces.

New signing Sion Spence will be one to keep an eye out for. The former Gloucester and Kings Lynn midfielder has gone really well in the National League North the last couple of seasons and the last signing of the Steve King era seems to be doing quite well down in Hampshire now.

However, the one that sticks out above all others is a man known very well to the league and in keeping with documentaries about non-League football teams, the ‘on loan’ Dorking striker Ryan Seager of former Hungerford fame sure knows his way around this level and his goalscoring feats are not to be ignored. Coming through the famed Southampton Academy from 2004 to 2014, Seager was rewarded with a pro contract with the Saints that saw him stay from 2014 to 2019 having various loan spells during that time with the likes of Crewe, MK Dons, Yeovil and Telstar. Leaving after 1 solitary Southampton appearance (coming on as a sub for Shane Long in the FA Cup 4th Round) he joined Yeovil but never really settled with the Glovers. In 2020 however, Seager signed for Hungerford and in a fairly average side in the National League South, Seager’s scoring exploits became a real story with a whopping 41 goals in just 59 games for the Crusaders. This form earned him a move to Dorking Wanderers as they took the striker into the National League and has scored 14 times for them in the top level of non-League football. Havant secured the services of Seager when they were crying out for a striker and the former Hawk took to his old stomping ground very quickly and already is showing the National League South why they remember the name Ryan Seager with 5 goals in 13 games. He will no doubt lead the line against the Bluebirds at the weekend and his movement in the final third will have to be dealt with if Chippenham are to claim their 5th win against the Hawks and complete the league double this season.

Famous Faces

With a club such as Havant & Waterlooville, in a close range to big clubs the likes of Portsmouth and Southampton. You are bound to have a few EFL players either start, finish or come through your club and the Hawks certainly do have their fair share. Jonah Ayunga is a name some Bluebirds will recall from his time at nearby Bristol Rovers. Nowadays, Ayunga is north of the border playing for St Mirren but has also faced off with Chippenham during his time at Havant before moving for a fee of £10,000 to the gas! Players such as Stevenage’s Dan Butler, former Bournemouth and Portsmouth dynamo Wes Fogden and Sammy Igoe (Another with local links playing at Swindon and Rovers) have all turned out for the Hawks during their careers. As have former Juventus star and Premier League players Vincent Pericard and Swindon Town legend Fitzroy Simpson but with the recent Disney+ documentary, Welcome to Wrexham making stars out of the likes of Paul Mullin and Co, we thought it was a nice little link to see one of the other stars of the show having spent some time down on the south coast.

Surprisingly it was neither Ryan Reynolds or Rob McElhenny but Ollie Palmer, the signing of the season that turned the tide for the Dragons and steered them towards a record breaking promotion signed for a club record fee at the time of £300,000! But before he was the star of a Disney backing documentary or chums with Deadpool, Ollie Palmer was a Conference South star with Havant & Waterlooville, the club that propelled Palmer to the EFL! Signing in 2011 from Woking scoring an incredible 37 goals in 69 appearances for the Hawks. This form gave him a move to Mansfield then of League 2 and he continued to bang in the goals wherever he went heading to Leyton Orient, Lincoln and Crawley Town before drawing the attention of Phil Parkinson and Wrexham whilst playing for AFC Wimbledon in League One. Dropping 2 levels to join the Wrexham project, Palmer now has the exact same 37 goals for Wrexham as he did for Havant when he was there showing the same predatory instincts around the box that he was 10 years ago! For those who don’t know Ollie Palmer or Welcome to Wrexham, it’s a great watch for all non-League football fans! I recommend it.

Bluebirds News

With this fixture bringing to an end a very busy January with two different cup competition and several league games packed into the month, Chippenham manager Gary Horgan will be working hard to ensure that a fatigued and somewhat injury hit squad is fit and able to take on the Hawks on Saturday. With Alex Bray and Tom Mehew named on the bench against Torquay, hopefully that signifies their return from injuries to the Hamstring (Bray) and Back (Mehew). Speaking to Blue Army TV on Tuesday night, Horgan has told us that Luke Haines is awaiting the results of a scan whilst he will have to assess the damage done to Dan Ellison and Aaron Amadi-Holloway as both were withdrawn against Torquay.

For the Bluebirds, this is a chance to get back in front of the home fans again after a series of really positive results with the win against Westbury in the Premier Shield being followed with a draw at 2nd place National League side Bromley in the FA Trophy and back to back draws against playoff occupying Aveley and Torquay. ‘Fine Margins’ is a phrase batted around a lot in football with often the smallest detail changing the outcome of a game or a situation. In our last 3 games, all draws we can consider ourselves unfortunate not to have come out with wins in all of them. Only the lottery of spot kicks denied us in the Trophy and but for a few missed chances and strong defensive displays by both Aveley and Torquay, we could be hovering in and around the playoff spots ourselves! As supporters of the club, I have often said that it is within our power to help inspire our players, drive our management and assist our club.

I was really pleased on Tuesday night that despite the horrendous conditions that faced us, 651 people made it to the TS Stadium around 500 from Chippenham to help cheer the lads on against Torquay. Ask any player, ask the manager, ask anyone who’s been in the game of football. When nights like that come around and you’re 1-0 down against tough opposition, in the howling wind and the belting rain, football is a hard game to play let alone love! Your support is invaluable to us and we urge you once again to come along to the ground on Saturday, lend your support, lend your voices and back the Bluebirds as we look to deliver that win that has been so deserved over the last couple of games! You can make a difference!


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