MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs St Albans City | National League South | Saturday 21st October 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our National League South game against St Albans City.
The Bluebirds return to action this week in the Vanarama National League South at the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium when Chippenham take on ‘The Saints’, St Albans City FC.
Last Time Out
The Blue Army will be looking to bounce back in front of the home support following the disappointing defeat last time out to Dartford FC. After a bright start from the Bluebirds, the man in the middle would soon have a huge role to play in the end result of the game when his decisions quickly turned the game on its head. A free kick from Luke Coulson was dinked in towards the back post. When Joash Nembhard went down, everyone was shocked including the Dartford players and supporters behind the goal when the referee pointed to the spot. It was one of those coming togethers in the penalty area that occur probably about 10-15 times a game and almost never get given but given it was and Harvey Bradbury stepped up to strike his penalty down the centre past Will Henry and give Dartford a 1-0 lead. Five minutes later, it was the same combination with the referee pointing to the spot for Bradbury to convert. A challenge from Eddie Jones on Moussa Diarra at first glance appeared to be outside of the box but despite being quite a few yards back and with no need to consult with the better placed assistant referee, once again the whistle blew and Bradbury struck to Henry’s right to double Dartford’s lead and make it a long road back for the Bluebirds. If the road was long it was soon to become almost impossible when Will Henry held on to the ball just a little too long and by the time the stopper went to clear, Brandon Barzey had closed him down and to sum up the kind of day the Bluebirds were having, 99 times out 100 it flies off Barzey’s foot into the stands but of course, this time it landed perfectly inside the 6-yard box and Barzey had the simplest of jobs to tap home and make it 3-0 to Dartford before half time!
Chippenham set about getting back into the game and started the second half with the same vibrancy they did the first and on 52 minutes, Owen Windsor headed past Mitch Beeney to give a little hope for the Bluebirds. Chippenham were getting joy particularly down the right hand side where Eddie Jones was playing a little higher than usual and his teasing cross arguably should have seen Matt McClure reduce the deficit further but the Chippenham captain just couldn’t connect with his header and it was too much for Tyreke Johnson to anticipate at the back post and the chance went begging. The game was then put out of sight when Josh Johnson ran through on goal and his excellent strike flew past Henry to make it 4-1 to Dartford. Chippenham didn’t throw in the towel however and kept pushing forward and a slight glimmer of hope was offered when Maxwell Statham was dismissed for taking a little too long over a throw in but in truth, it was always going to be the hope that killed as Dartford packed out the box and made it impossible for Chippenham to make inroads and the Darts saw out the final 10-15 minutes with relative ease and took all 3 points with them back to Princes Park.
Due to Hemel Hempstead and their continued run in the FA Cup, Chippenham will have had 14 days pass since this game and I am sure Gary and his team would have been working hard during that time to prepare the Bluebirds for what should prove to be another very tough test when last season’s losing playoff finalists, St Albans City FC arrive at the TS Stadium.
St Albans City FC, ‘the Saints’ were formed in 1908 and play their fixtures out of Clarence Park, a 5,000 capacity stadium only 800 yards from the city centre making it a prime location for big attendances and makes the Saints one of the better supported teams in the division. Managed by David Noble, St Albans started this season as one of the favourites to be in the playoff picture once again after last season falling only one game short, eventually losing out to Oxford City FC at their place in a 4-0 drubbing in one of the best performances by any side in the league all season long!
A regular fixture in and around the top ten and with a good deal of experience in the earlier round of the FA Cup, it will come as a shock to the majority of the league that they haven’t started quite the way they would expect this season. Out of the cup in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup to lower league opposition in Billericay Town and sitting 11th in the Vanarama National League. They have the same amount of points as the Bluebirds who come into the game in 12th however, a slightly better goal difference for the Saints give them the slight advantage in both sides’ quest for the summit of the NLS table.
One 2 Watch
With the quality that St Albans have on display it’s very difficult to pick ONE to watch. In recent years it would have been very simple with goal machine Shaun Jeffers knocking 20+ goals away for the Saints consistently however, despite being signed to the Saints for this season, we haven’t seen much of Jeffers this season. With a plethora of attacking talent, we could chose his replacement, Mitchell Weiss, a tall striker with great pace and power, we could go for former Banbury man Giorgio Rasulo who has a great eye for goal and will be looking at anything within 30 yards of the Chippenham goal from set pieces.
However, we have gone for a man who for me has been the standout performer in any St Albans game I have watched this season, the French winger, Dylan Fage. Born in Paris, Fage is a former Auxerre player coming through the same academy as players such as ex-Liverpool and QPR striker Djbril Cisse, former Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna and even the King of Old Trafford himself, Eric Cantona! Fage would make 22 starts for Auxerre 2 in Le Championnat before moving to England and spending 3 seasons in League 2 with Oldham Athletic. After his release a short stay at Macclesfield saw him move to St Albans City in July 2023 and at only 24 years old, will fancy himself to make the move back up the league system either with St Albans or otherwise. Predominantly deployed off the left hand side, Fage is equally capable of taking his man to the line and crossing into the danger area or cutting inside to create the chance for himself. His pace also allows for St Albans to ping balls into the channel for him to chase and Chippenham will have to be at their very best to keep Fage quiet for 90 minutes on Saturday.
As you can imagine, there are not many that have shared the kits of these two sides however, St Albans have had their fair share of Famous Faces put on the kit. Speaking of kit, their current kit sponsor is rock band Enter Shikari who were formed in the City and have sponsored the club kit since 2020! Many an ex-player could have laid claim to this with players like serial scorer Jamie Cureton or former Premier League striker Barry Hayles. Maybe former Scottish International Craig Mackail-Smith or even Bournemouth forward Jamal Lowe! No? They have even had a former rapper MC Harvey from the So Solid Crew play for them in the Conference South in 2007 but we had to go for the man who is ‘Larger than Life’ in the game of football. Mr Barry Fry! Ending his playing career with the Saints, current Peterborough director of football Fry started his career at Manchester United! Perhaps in management is where Barry made his name however being given the job of Dunstable Town in 1974. A huge job at the time where Fry himself was quoted as being able to “write blank cheques” for any player he desired when terms could be agreed. He even managed legends Jeff Astle and George Best! When they played a couple of games in preseason for Dunstable to create hype around the new project. Upon leaving Dunstable, spells with Hillingdon and Bedford followed before a couple of spells at Barnet either side of a year at Maidstone. Fry then moved to Southend and Birmingham before arriving at Peterborough in 2006 and he has called it home ever since holding almost every job at the club in his time there! A true footballing legend and his last kick of a football in his playing career was in a St Albans City FC shirt!
Head to Head
Despite St Albans having spent a good amount of time in the top tier of non-League football and also being one of the better teams in the NLS during our time at this level, the record against the Saints is another strong one for the Bluebirds.
Last season, the two sides shared the points on both occasions with a late equaliser from Will King securing a 1-1 draw at Clarence Park and amidst that incredible 15 game unbeaten run towards the end of the campaign, it was another 1-1 draw at the TS Stadium after Saints forward Zane Banton cancelled out Joe Hanks’ opener. The Bluebirds and the Saints have quite a hearty history in H2H after spending time together in not only the National League South but also the Southern Premier League where Chippenham won 2 of the 4 contests, drawing one and only tasting defeat once.
Overall, despite St Albans being a regular playoff participant, Chippenham have dominated this fixture over time with 17 games being played between the two sides, 7 WINS for the Bluebirds and 7 draws leaving St Albans the victor in only 3 matches. Over the 17 games Chippenham have scored 29 goals with St Albans scoring 21 giving an average per game of CTFC 1.71 and SACFC 1.24. With all this in mind, Chippenham should be optimistic about returning to winning ways against the Saints this weekend with St Albans only ever having NEVER won at the TS Stadium.
For the Bluebirds, only Tom Owen-Evans remains a long term injury concern. Chippenham should be buoyed by the return of Alex Bray after he and his partner Alice welcomed baby Freddie Alexander Bray into the world and all of us at Chippenham cannot wait to welcome him to the TS Stadium (and it’s good to have his Dad back as well). Gary Horgan should have a full complement of players to choose from and all will be vying to show their gaffer they are integral as we head into the busy and vital winter period with huge games coming thick and fast over the colder months!
So that’s the tale of the tape! Come and watch your Bluebirds take on their next challenge in the National League South. Every game we call on you to be the 12th man and I think it is vital to understand our players are human beings. By this I mean. They hear it all, they take it in, the stuff we say around the terraces makes a difference. This I feel is the beauty of non-League football. Our opinion more often than not gets heard directly by the person/persons we are talking about and the impact of that can be directly down to us as supporters! Positivity breeds positive results, stick together, stick behind our project, our management, our team and our club and I am confident that Chippenham Town FC have a brand of football and a product to be proud of. Be the kind of supporter you would want in life and encourage the lads on to their goals! Being the 12th man is a huge responsibility and you can play a bigger part than you ever thought possible in the success of Chippenham Town FC!
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.