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MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs Hungerford Town | Emirates FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round | Saturday 16th September 2023

Published: at 5:53pm

Simon Lawrence previews our Emirates FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round game against Hungerford Town.

The ‘Magic of the Emirates FA Cup’ returns to the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium this weekend. Also returning are a familiar foe in our former National League South sparring partners, Hungerford Town FC in a game that the romantics will be keeping a very close eye on.

Chippenham come into this game with the achievement of last season still very much burning in the memories of players, staff and supporters of the Bluebirds and will be hoping and praying for a repeat of last year’s heroics that saw them reach the 2nd Round proper for the first time ever, but more on that later!

Last Time Out

For the Bluebirds, this game will mark the third of a trio of home fixtures and will be hoping for a better result than Saturday when Maidstone United proved just a little too strong for a Chippenham side that were clearly suffering the effects of a midweek thriller against Taunton Town.

Playing much of the game with 10 men, Chippenham started brightly against Maidstone moving the ball around well but to little avail. On 14 minutes, it was the visitors that opened the scoring when Connor Kelly struck towards goal committing Will Henry but after seeing his shot ricochet back to him, Kelly had the enviable task of just keep his shot true and past the stranded Henry on the deck to put the Stones one goal to the good. Maidstone continued to press and harass the ball away from Chippenham and 10 minutes later, Maidstone found themselves comfortable when Sol Wanjau-Smith slotted home following good work down the left-hand side. Connor Kelly nearly put the game to bed at the end of the first half when his shot cannoned off the crossbar of Will Henry’s goal but luckily for the Bluebirds, it bounced over and away to safety.

In truth, the second half was one of control from the Kent side who for the first time this season against Chippenham, really looked like a full time side. In the blazing sun against the leggy Bluebirds, they closed the game out well without ever really having a glove laid on them and the big positive for the Bluebirds being that they got through the second half without conceding, without injury and without any further cause for concern ahead of the Emirates FA Cup tie with the Crusaders.

The Bluebirds in the Emirates FA Cup

So, here it is again! The Emirates FA Cup, the oldest club competition in world football. Dating back to 1871, the Emirates FA Cup pre-dates Chippenham Town F.C by around 3 years, However, Chippenham wouldn’t make their first entrance in the Emirates FA Cup until 1945/46 where they would beat Devizes 9-0 in a Preliminary Round victory which to this day remains a scoreline that no Chippenham side before or after have ever eclipsed despite hitting that twice against Dawlish in the Western League and in recent history against Moneyfields also in the Emirates FA Cup.

Chippenham Town beat Sholing 3-0 at home at this stage of the competition last season.

The Bluebirds have NEVER missed an Emirates FA Cup competition since that cherry was popped in 1945 and have made the First Round Proper on 4 occasions, playing Leyton in 1951, Worcester in 2005, Northampton in 2019 and of course Lincoln City last season. Chippenham until last season did hold an official Emirates FA Cup record of being the club that had participated in the tournament the longest without EVER making it past the First Round. Many wouldn’t have given Chippenham a prayer of breaking that last season when they hosted League One Lincoln City, a club with their own incredible Emirates FA Cup pedigree reaching the Q/F whilst still a National League side! However, Gary, Matt and Joe knew different and in the end a sensational back heel volley by Joe Hanks and a resilient defensive effort verging on Herculean! saw the TS Stadium united in scenes not seen since the FA Vase Semi Final with the entire ground bouncing and not a single person leaving until they had congratulated every player and the party went long into the night.

Chippenham of course were humbled in Round 2 away from home against League One Burton Albion, but a record had been broken, history had been made and only a few short months since Gary Horgan led Chippenham into their first ever National League South Play-Offs, he was leading them to the Second Round of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time ever.

Can he repeat the magic? Can he go one further and hit the Premier League riddled 3rd Round? Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain, if Chippenham are to replicate the heroics of last season, they are going to have to get through Hungerford Town FC, a side that Chippenham will know well after only departing the National League South last season and playing them as recently as pre-season although we all know, it’s a different ball game when that huge prize money and prestige comes into play.

Our Opponents – Hungerford Town

Managed by Danny Robinson, Hungerford Town, The Crusaders, are a team from the Southern Premier League formed in 1886 and play at Bulpit Lane, a place they have called home since just after World War One previously playing at Hungerford Marshes. Hungerford too are another side that have never made it past Round One in the Emirates FA Cup, an achievement they managed in 1979/80. Hungerford have been a familiar opponent for Chippenham in recent history whilst playing in both the Southern Premier League and the National League South, the latter of which they achieved promotion too via the playoff system in 2015/16 beating our old nemesis, Leamington in the final by a scoreline of 2-1. Chippenham of course would join them a couple of seasons later in the National League South and Hungerford would prove to be somewhat of a bogey side for the Bluebirds, however in recent years, that seems to have changed significantly and when Chippenham have needed a result against the Crusaders, it has proven quite hard to stop them!

The head-to-head between these sides will make for an interesting read I am sure. The last time out for these two was in pre-season when Hungerford ran out 3-2 winners at Bulpit Lane. Chippenham took the lead via Matt McClure after Fasanmade had headed back across goal but were pegged back when Curtis Angell struck range to level. Chippenham would re-take the lead through a Luke Haines wonder goal from distance before substituting almost their entire team in favour of giving some of the youngsters a run out. A good 20 minute shift for the young Bluebirds against arguably one of their toughest ever opponents in mens football would see the determined youngsters eventually succumb to goals from Michael Fernandes and Toby Thorp but both managers on the day refused to put stock in the result.

In the Southern Premier League, Chippenham and Hungerford clashed SIX times and Chippenham didn’t win a single one. Hungerford 3 times running out the victor, with the other three games finishing as a draw. This looked to be something that would continue in the National League South with Hungerford winning their first 3 games against the Bluebirds to extend their own unbeaten run against Chippenham to NINE! Chippenham would claim a 3-1 win with goals from Nick McCootie (2) and Nat Jarvis.

Since then the fixture has been predominantly dominated by the Bluebirds with only a win on the opening day of the 2020/21 season for the Crusaders with 2 draws and 3 victories for the Bluebirds suggesting a real shift in fortune for Chippenham Town. With the relegation last season, many could be forgiven for thinking this arduous run will continue for Hungerford and Chippenham should sail through but as we know, this is the Emirates FA Cup, anything can happen and Hungerford will arrive with nothing to lose.

We will need to be at our best to put away this plucky side and avoid the proverbial ‘Cupset’. Chippenham have only ever played Hungerford once in the Emirates FA Cup, and it came in the 1981/82 season, coincidentally in the 2nd qualifying round, where the Crusaders ran out comfortable 4-0 winners at Bulpit Lane.

One 2 Watch – Conor McDonagh

With former Bluebirds Callum Gunner and Rhys Tyler now at the Berkshire club, we are very aware of what they bring to the table and Robinson has moved well in the Summer to tool his side up for what he is surely hoping will be a short stay in the Southern Premier League as they look to return at the first attempt to the National League South. However, with their early season form being erratic to say the least, to get anything from this game you will feel that Conor McDonagh will have to add to his 6 goals already this campaign for the Crusaders. A statement signing for Robinson in the summer making the switch from Swindon Supermarine where he was a very popular player and a proven goalscorer for the level Hungerford found themselves at. With loan signing Dave Tarpey (a bit of a non-League legend in terms of goals) and former Farnborough man Michael Fernandes in their attacking ranks as well, Hungerford will be sure to ask questions of Chippenham’s back four.

Familiar Faces

An easy one with more than a couple of players facing their former club this weekend. For Hungerford, we already mentioned Rhys Tyler and Callum Gunner who themselves will remember that glorious 2019/20 Emirates FA Cup run for the Bluebirds with Gunner even scoring the ‘Goal of the Round’ against Cirencester with his 45yd laser strike into the the top corner past Lewis Clayton leaving everyone in the Corinium Stadium picking up their jaw!

For Craig Fasanmade he will be playing against his old club in Hungerford leaving Bulpit Lane for Wealdstone in 2021. However, of all of these guys, one player made the switch as recently as last season and will no doubt be looking to show his former employers that he is just as dangerous in Blue as he was in White. Jake Evans made the switch to the TS Stadium in the summer following Hungerfords’ relegation to the Southern League Prem. Described by his former manager Danny Robinson as a ‘Managers Dream’ Evans has made a good start to life as a Bluebirds scoring twice in our 4-2 win over Havant & Waterlooville and cementing his place in the Chippenham starting lineup for all bar one of the games this season. A real match winner on his day and could he be the spark for Chippenham this weekend to see them into the hat for the 3rd Qualifying Round (Only 2 wins from that famous First Round Proper)?

callum gunner
Former Bluebird favourite Callum Gunner now plays for Hungerford.

Bluebirds News

As mentioned earlier, a real positive of the Maidstone game was coming through unscathed in terms of injury with Tyreke Johnson featuring on the bench and Aaron Amadi-Holloway once again stepping off the bench for minutes in his return from a slight niggle. Chippenham will likely still be without Tom Owen-Evans and Caine Bradbury as both sat out on Saturday with respective injuries and the Bluebirds will definitely be without Freddie Grant following his red card last week against Taunton and subsequently misses his first taste of Emirates FA Cup action with his new club through suspension.

Gary Horgan will come into this game no doubt also fondly recalling last year’s Emirates FA Cup heroics and will be sure to want a repeat of those exploits, previously citing a cup run as not just a huge financial boost for the club but also a fantastic way to galvanise the town and really throw support behind the lads as they seek to build not just on but off the pitch.

So, Chippenham Town once again make their first strides in the Emirates FA Cup, it’s a game at home, it’s a game against a team from the step below, but make no mistake. Your support is as always, vital to us as a club, as a staff and as a playing squad. No one will ever forget the scenes against Lincoln last season, the huge travelling and vocal support at Burton and those are memories that the lads gave us to last a lifetime. However, these memories can only be replicated with your unwavering support in these earlier rounds to spur us on to reach the heights we know we can, we dream to achieve and together. Once again I am sure Chippenham Town can have another great chapter to add to their own Emirates FA Cup heritage! So as always, grab your friends, head down to the TS Stadium, sing, shout and be merry but most importantly, be there as Chippenham Town needs you.

Just a quick reminder as well, this is an FA competition in which ALL SPECTATORS PAY. Season tickets, complimentary tickets and any other promotions will not be accepted on the day and it is ALL PAY on the turnstile where we accept both cash and card in turnstiles 1&2.

Thank you all, see you Saturday and as always…


Ticket News

Supporters can purchase their tickets on the gate, tickets are priced at:

Adults: £15,
Senior Citizens: £11,
Junior (16-18): £5,
Child (5-15): £3

£11 for Students/Armed Forces personnel with an ID card.
U16’s FREE when accompanied by a paying adult.

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