MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs Taunton Town | National League South | Tuesday 5th September 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our home game against Taunton Town.
The Bluebirds return to the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium this Tuesday in the Vanarama National League South when they entertain perhaps one of the oldest rivals throughout modern history, Taunton Town.
Last Time Out
Gary Horgan’s men come into the game currently sat in 10th position after spending large parts of the last game flirting with the playoff spots before eventually having to settle for a point against Dover Athletic. The game started brightly for the Bluebirds with slick passing movement resulting in a good amount of chances to deliver from dangerous positions including a controversial moment where Eddie Jones crossed and appeared to strike the arm of a Dover defender. However, the referee disagreed with the protests and waved the game on. Dover had spells of pressure to end the first half but routine stops for Will Henry in the Chippenham net kept the Whites at bay.
Into the second half, the Bluebirds started well and got their just desserts for that effort when Luke Spokes picked up the ball and appeared to shoot to the far side of the Dover goal, as Craig Fasanmade ran across the face of goal, the ball struck the face of Fasanmade who despite knowing very little about it, took the plaudits and claimed his 3rd goal of the campaign much to the delight of the travelling Blue Army. Dover hit back when Zidan Sutherland crossed the ball and Luke Haines’ clearance skewed past Will Henry in the Chippenham net on a day where the stopper looked almost unbeatable, the irony of it being one of his own team wasn’t lost on the home crowd.
Chippenham ended strong as they looked to take all 3 points and with two golden chances at the death may have seen them do so. Marcel Lewis off the bench found himself ‘Johnny on the spot’ when Fasamade squared to the young academy starlet. However, his tame shot was straight at Terrell in the Dover goal and the follow up was disrupted with a heavy challenge from behind that went unpunished. Jake Evans thought he had given Chippenham the joyous moment when his volley from the edge of the box looked goalbound right until it smacked the bar and fortunately for Dover, it bounced away to safety and the referee brought a close to an entertaining game which ultimately resulted in a point shared between the two sides.
It was a point that Gary Horgan will be happy to take into the month of September as he previously stated, this is an important time to have points in the bag more than games in hand when the FA Cup once again rears its head. At the time of writing, Chippenham supporters will have already learned their fate in the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round as we have been drawn at the TS Stadium against our former National League South counterparts and local rivals, Hungerford Town. This is a game that I am sure many will be anticipating however, before that we have a couple of very tricky games to navigate in the National League South starting with the return of the original rival from the days of the Western League, Taunton Town.
Since then of course, both Chippenham Town and Taunton Town have had good fortune on the pitch winning promotion to the National League South in 2016/2017 and 2021/2022 respectively. Taunton Town also known as the Peacocks were formed in 1947 and in 1953 moved to their Wordsworth Drive home which they still play at to this day. With a capacity of 2500, they have seen that number reached many times with a fantastic home following coupled with some big games over the years. Both clubs have also arguably played in the ‘biggest’ game that you could play in the years gone by with both Chippenham and Taunton both taking part in the FA Vase final. Taunton were there as losing finalists 1993/94 losing 2-1 to Diss Town before in 1999/00, Chippenham suffered the same fate as the Peacocks becoming losing Wembley finalists by a slender 1-0 scoreline to Deal Town. Taunton however, did go on to avenge this defeat by going to Villa Park the following season and beating Berkhamsted by a score of 2-1 and lifting the FA Vase.
Taunton come into this game in a rich vein of form which has surprised most of the pre-season naysayers that pegged Rob Dray’s men as arguably one of the teams that might struggle in a league dubbed the most competitive the South has ever been. Sitting in 5th place at the moment, Taunton have only lost one game this season to high flying Aveley FC who have not only adapted to the National League South but are taking it by storm. Taunton have drawn twice against Weymouth and Maidstone and have impressively picked up 4 wins against Braintree, Welling, St Albans and Dartford.
Games between these two sides in the Western League were always memorable and the highlight of either club’s season. Not many fans could forget the Les Phillips Cup win over Taunton after the disappointment of losing at Wembley or thrilling games such as the 5-3 Taunton win at Wordsworth Drive. Last season in Taunton’s first year in the National League South, it seemed not much had changed with a 3-1 win for the Peacocks at their place giving Taunton bragging rights. In the return fixture, Chippenham (in the midst of a high flying run that culminated in going 15 unbeaten in the National League South), ran out winners by the same scoreline with goals from Will Richards, Matt McClure and Craig Fasamade. Chippenham would go on to comfortably finish just outside the playoff spots whilst Taunton would fight tooth and nail to stay in the division and succeeded with a couple of games to spare.
One 2 Watch – Ross Stearn
One 2 Watch for this one we have decided to go with one of our former players, particularly one that has been the tormentor of the Bluebirds on many occasions when he returns to the club in opposition colours. Ross Stearn. Stearny has represented the Bluebirds on 2 separate occasions first in 2011 before he departed for Weston Super Mare. Ross would go on to play for Sutton, Eastleigh and Bath City before coming back to the club in 2020 under new manager, Mike Cook. Stearn left the Bluebirds for the Peacocks in 2022 and has become a hugely popular member of their squad. He finished the second highest scorer for the Peacocks last season including scoring their first ever NLS hat-trick and has already emerged as the front runner for that accolade this season with 3 goals in 7 games to his name this term.
Familiar Faces is going to be a very simple one this time with the aforementioned Stearn plying his trade at Wordsworth Drive, he is also joined by former Bluebirds such as Jay Foulston who spent a year on loan to the club from Newport County before his release and subsequent signing for Taunton.
Former CTFC strike partnership Nat Jarvis and Nick McCootie are also now playing in the Claret with Jarvis particularly remembered for his goal scoring feats for Chippenham scoring a handful of goals on his way to being a strong favourite with the fans and his teammates. Nick McCootie was another hugely popular lad (not just for his amazing song) but scoring twice against Bath City will never do you any harm either. We are looking forward to seeing all of our old players and wish them all the best (although not too much for this game).
Two of our current squad will also be gearing up to face their old employers in Luke Spokes and Owen Windsor, with Spokes playing for the club in 2020 and Owen Windsor playing there on loan in 2020 whilst contracted to West Brom of the Championship!
For Chippenham and their manager Gary Horgan, despite a rigorous schedule of late that has seen the Bluebirds play 4 games in less than a fortnight. There are no fresh concerns after the game against Dover as far as injuries are concerned. Craig Fasanmade came through 90 minutes unscathed against Dover and Aaron Amadi-Holloway returned to action against the Whites.
Caine Bradbury, Tom Owen Evans and Alex Bray all sat out through injury and whilst it’s likely that TOE won’t feature for a couple more weeks, Bradbury and Bray will no doubt be itching to get involved following minor knocks.
So, with the news that Chippenham have been drawn at home in the FA Cup, coupled with 2 home fixtures in the National League South at the TS Stadium. There has never been a better time to get behind the lads and pack the park with as many bodies as we can to give as much support as these guys deserve! A local derby against Taunton, a big game against Maidstone and an FA Cup tie which will no doubt spark fond memories of last year’s triumph in that particular tournament. It doesn’t get much better than that!
COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!