MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs Maidstone United | National League South | Saturday 9th September 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our home game against Maidstone United.
The Bluebirds continue their Vanarama National League South campaign with another home fixture this weekend as they prepare for the visit of Maidstone United.
Everybody connected with Chippenham Town FC is probably still catching their breath from the midweek game against Taunton Town FC, for the neutral, a proper advert for the excitement that the National League South can provide. However, for the Blue Army, it will feel like two points dropped after a late goal denied the Bluebirds a home win under the lights.
Last Time Out
Chippenham went off like a bullet from a gun and when Aaron Amadi-Holloway expertly turned Nat Williams’ effort from distance home after 8 minutes, Chippenham looked to be truly on their way. Chippenham doubled their lead when Owen Windsor picked up the ball on the right hand side and danced his way through the Taunton defence showing equal parts skill and determination to get himself into the box and poked the ball past Lavercombe in the Taunton goal, even Ollie Chamberlains last gasp slide to try and stop the inevitable was in vain and Owen ran off to the corner to celebrate his moment of magic. Joy turned to despair however, mere minutes later as Freddie Grant was deemed to take a little too long with the throw in and the referee whipped out the all too familiar yellow card. Seconds later, Freddie going in for a 50/50 with the opponent was deemed to have been a little over zealous in the challenge and with the Taunton bench only a few feet away, the standard cry of foul play was screamed loudest and the referee brandished a second yellow card to Grant leading to his dismissal after only 28 minutes.
This gave the Bluebirds all to do for the remainder of the match and got themselves in at half-time level after a series of direct balls were repelled brilliantly by the Chippenham back line. With a host of former Bluebirds in their ranks, Taunton went about finding a way back into the game and the three former Chippenham lads would play a huge part in doing so. Firstly, Nat Jarvis evaded his man in the box to head home in front of the LIT FIBRE COMMUNITY STAND and bring Taunton back to 2-1. Chippenham held out resiliently and thought they had the game won in the 84th minute when Luke Spokes drove home an absolute pearler into the top corner to send the TS Stadium into utter delirium but the joy was to be short-lived. Ross Stearn, so many times the tormentor of Chippenham on his return to the TS latched onto a loose ball in the box and rounded Will Henry to bring the score back to a nervy 3-2 and set the game up for a grandstand finish.
Taunton threw everything at the Bluebirds and in the end, a moment of magic claimed a point for the Peacocks. A cross from the left wing found its way to the chest of Nick McCootie who’s clever assist allowed Ollie Chamberlain to strike into the bottom corner past Will Henry with pace and precision. The game at 3-3, many would forgive you for thinking the drama was done, however in the dying embers of the game, young Marcel Lewis found himself switching the ball to Owen Windsor on the break and his dink over Lavercombe seemed goal bound until and outstretched leg from the goalkeeper saw the ball bounce agonisingly up into the air and Taunton could clear their lines to claim a point on the road and one that many given the circumstances will feel they were fortunate to take.
This result left Gary Horgan’s men in 8th place after occupying the playoff spots for the majority of the evening. However, this did ensure that the Bluebirds were unbeaten in 4 and another valuable point added to the tally for Chippenham see’s them within striking distance once more of the playoff spots when they take to the field this weekend for the return of Maidstone United to the TS Stadium.
Our Opponents – Maidstone United
Maidstone United, a team that won’t need much introduction to the non-League aficionado. Formed in 1897, Maidstone United FC were a Football League side between 1989 and 1992 before being forced out of the league via bankruptcy. A fallen giant with a huge fanbase, the club set about rising like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes coming through the Kent County League, the Kent League, the Isthmian Leagues before arriving back in the National League South in 2015. Ironically, that was the year that Chippenham and Maidstone met in the FA Cup in a back and forth game that eventually saw the Stones beat the Bluebirds 2-1 and set up a tie with Yeovil in the FA Cup First Round Proper. That season also saw the Stones promoted to the National League for the first time since the club was taken over and combined with that same great support and the new Gallagher Stadium built for purpose in 2012, the club was on a seemingly upward trajectory.
However, Maidstone were relegated in 2018/2019 and wasted no time in making their way to the National League and won the National League South again in 2021/2022. Unfortunately for the Stones, this was to be short-lived and after being unable to consolidate their place in the National League, were relegated with 5 games to spare finishing bottom of the pile and condemning Maidstone to another season in the National League South.
Now managed by George Elokobi, the Stones come into this game sitting in 10th place, level on points with the Bluebirds but with an inferior goal difference. Maidstone have found it tough going so far in the National League South as they would have been expecting to be one of the favourites before a ball was kicked but a slow start for the Kent club has seen them with only one win in their last five games and only two wins all season against both Slough and Braintree respectively. This will however have no bearing whatsoever on their fortunes against Chippenham which over the years has been fairly solid. The year they won the National League South, Maidstone picked up maximum points over the Bluebirds however in two tight affairs which saw the Stones claim a 1-0 win at the Gallagher through a Joan Luque penalty and it was the former Barcelona schoolboy that was Chippenhams undoing again as he scored the second goal in 2-1 win for Maidstone at the TS Stadium.
Of course, before that the two sides did meet in the 2019/2020 season where Chippenham were dominant claiming a 0-0 draw away from home before a headed winner from Luke Haines in his first spell with the club sealed all 3 points at home after Maidstone saw red twice through Noah Chesmain and now manager, George Elokobi.
One 2 Watch
Maidstone are of course littered with quality, athletic footballers throughout their ranks but for the One 2 Watch this week we have decided to throw a little spotlight on the one that stands tallest, literally! Standing at 6 ft 3, Levi Amantchi is certainly going to be one for Chippenham to deal with. He is also the Stones’ leading scorer for the season on 4 goals for the term and will no doubt be looking to the likes of Lamar Reynolds and Sol Wanjau Smith for delivery from the wings to add to his tally against the Bluebirds.
Of course, Maidstone also have an abundance of talent elsewhere with midfielder Sam Corne regarded as one of the best in the division and Brazilian stopper, Lucas Covolan will be one to keep an eye on as well. Covolan was the keeper that famously scored a late equaliser for Torquay in the playoff final a few years back which would see Torquay and Hartlepool go to spot kicks for a place in the EFL which Covolan and Torquay would lose and like our opponents this weekend, find themselves now playing back in the National League South!
Famous Faces for Maidstone could be a roll call with plenty of quality coming through the Kent club down the years but we always love a chance to pull out the fabled story here at Chippenham so we have gone for Chris Smalling!
Like our very own Tyrone Mings, English defender Chris Smalling began his career in non-League in 2006/2007 with Maidstone United. Plucked directly from the Stones by Fulham for £10,000 and a further £10,000 for every 10 games he played for the club. Smalling would make his Fulham debut in 2009 before a sensational transfer to Manchester United in 2010. He would play 10 years at United winning countless trophies including 2 Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a Europa League, an EFL Cup and 2 Community Shield winners medals just to name a few!
Smalling is still playing now in the Serie A for Roma where a late resurgence in his form at the age of 33 has seen him touted for a return to the England Squad!
For Chippenham, we come into this game very happy with the league standing and the performance levels even if a little luck has evaded us in the recent games against Dover and Taunton. 2 draws which arguably could have been wins see the Bluebirds wondering ‘what if’ ahead of the visit of Maidstone and of course the return of the FA Cup.
Gary Horgan however will be ecstatic that his injury list seems to be dwindling with both Caine Bradbury and Tyreke Johnson creeping closer back to full fitness and Tom Owen-Evans undergoing accupressure and various treatment to solve his troubled ankle following his injury pre-season. The Bluebirds could still see Freddie Grant this weekend following his dismissal on Tuesday depending on when that ban comes through.
So with back to back Saturday games at the TS Stadium, the boys need your support more than ever. Make no mistake, every game at this level is tough and Maidstone will be no different with a buoyant crowd expected to be swollen by a good number of travelling Stones, the atmosphere you guys created on Tuesday against Taunton was on display for all to hear and see. In tough games like that, the added roar of the crowd and the pushing the lads on to give a little more than what’s in their tank can be a huge advantage to any side and we have always said here at Chippenham, we are stronger together!
So grab your friends and family, head down to the TS Stadium and let’s show this league what a small little market town can do when we are all together and united as one!
COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!!
Supporters can purchase their tickets on the gate, tickets are priced at:
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.