MATCH PREVIEW: Chippenham Town vs Weymouth | National League South | Saturday 14th January 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our home tie against Weymouth.
Looking to build on a stunning Christmas period, Chippenham Town return to the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium for an extended run of matches in the Vanarama National League South and who better to kick start against than Weymouth FC, a club that will need little to no introduction to Chippenham supporters.
For the Bluebirds, they come into the game after a fantastic festive period was added too by a massive three points at Chelmsford last weekend. A solitary strike from Joe Hanks gave Chippenham a memorable day in Essex and more importantly, climbing out of the relegation zone. Although Hanks’ goal was good enough to win any game, for the supporters in attendance the real plaudits went to the team performance that enabled the result with every player putting in a solid shift particularly with captain Spencer Hamilton scooping a Man of the Match award for a superb game after being injured in the second minute of the match, to carry on to minute 95 and be an integral part of a clean sheet and a winning performance was a testament to character within the squad.
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Last Time Out
A brief break from league competition came on Tuesday in the form of the Wiltshire Premier Shield and the visit of Swindon Town FC. For manager Gary Horgan, this provided a perfect chance to have a look at players in the academy, manage minutes into some players that are coming back from injury and continue their rehab.
The team selection reflected that on a night where most of the squad were made up of academy talent with a sprinkling of first team players in amongst them. With James Walker, Toba Obitayo, Ethan Witchell, Zak Mitchell, Dan Ellison and Dan Warre from the academy joining Callum Gunner, Owen Windsor, Twariq Yusuf, Caine Bradbury and Joe Parker in the starting XI for the Bluebirds. Swindon made a very bright start as you would expect from younger players and the opening goal came from the visitors as an incisive through ball caught Chippenham as they were committed forward, and Oscar Massey gave the Robins the lead inside 3 minutes. A lapse in concentration at the back mere seconds later doubled the advantage as Tomi Adeloye dispossessed young goalkeeper James Walker to tap home from close range. Chippenham responded quickly with their own goal as Dan Warre slotted home well across the goalkeeper following good work down the right-hand side. Pressure from the home side came constantly with efforts from Warre, Windsor and Yusuf all going close. In the end the game was killed late in the second half when the referee Sam Read controversially pointed to the spot when Zak Mitchell appeared to play the ball however, Read decided it was done so illegally and Tomi Adeloye dispatched the penalty to put the tie to bed and send Swindon to the Semi-Final of the Wiltshire Premier Shield.
So, with the very last cup competition put to bed for the Bluebirds, it really is nothing but the Vanarama National League South now and their sole focus can be on climbing up the division. One side that will be keen to stand in their way are another side that have found themselves almost inexplicably at the wrong end of the table, Weymouth FC.
Coming down from the National League last season, the Terras have had a season to forget so far that has resulted in the Dorset club languishing in 23rd place only 2 points in front of Hungerford in the bottom spot. A season that started under the management of David Oldfield, results were key as Oldfield was replaced by former Hungerford, Wealdstone and Bracknell manager Bobby Wilkinson. Under Wilkinson they have seen slight improvement with the club reaching the 1st Round Proper of the FA Cup where they succumbed after a replay to EFL club, AFC Wimbledon. And picking up a few wins in the league, it looked as if Weymouth would start to pull themselves out of the drop zone and away from the danger. The last five fixtures have been a total mixed bag for the Terras with a draw against Cheshunt followed by emphatic wins against Tonbridge and Worthing before slipping to back-to-back defeats against Dulwich and Taunton. This coupled with Weymouth in the position they are in currently makes them one of the hardest teams to predict results for in the division, however, Chippenham will be hoping to step on the necks of their former Southern Premier League foes and compound the difficulties for Wilkinson and his men. Weymouth play their football out of the Bob Lucas Stadium in Weymouth and the 6000-capacity ground has played host to many great games between the two sides in recent history as well as countless big games for the Terras, make no mistake, they are a big club for this level regardless of their standing in the division this year.
Famous and familiar faces
Famous and familiar faces is good one this week. With the two clubs spending a lot of time in the leagues together and with Weymouth not being a million miles away from Chippenham, the link between the two sides was not the most difficult one to untangle. Starting with familiar faces, an obvious one given that most supporters will remember this young man. One of the first signings of the Mike Cook era at Chippenham was a hard-working striker called Brad Ash. Most supporters of the Bluebirds would agree that the summer signing from Hereford was one of, if not the best player in a Chippenham shirt that season with his goals and more importantly his hard work off the ball giving Chippenham a real threat in the final third. When his time came to an end, Chippenham would love to have kept hold of the striker but Weymouth (now promoted to the National League) wanted to take the youngster down to Dorset and a good season albeit a season where Weymouth were consigned to relegation from the National League has left him a very highly thought of player at the Bob Lucas.
Another familiar face for the Bluebirds faithful to spot will be Weymouth coach, GK coach and no doubt still registered stopper, Jason Matthews. Jase spent time with the Bluebirds as a player many years ago and rolled back the years during Covid to come and help his old friends at Chippenham when they entertained Slough at home. With no goalkeeper available following the suspension of Will Puddy, Matthews at some 40 odd years old came and stood custodian in the Chippenham net making a string of good saves and a commanding display in his 18-yard box seeing Chippenham over the line for a 2-2 draw with nothing Matthews could do about the last kick of the game equaliser. Jason also managed Weymouth between 2014 and 2017 making that comeback even more memorable for the Terras legend.
Another man who managed Weymouth was manager of Chippenham’s big local rivals Jerry Gill! Unknown to some I am sure, Gill took the reins at Weymouth in 2010. Then chairman George Rolls applied for a CVA to tend to the near million pounds of debt at the club, Gill resigned 11 days later meaning he only lasted some 44 days in the job before resigning with the Dorset club. Of course, nowadays Jerry is tasked with plotting the downfall of Chippenham for our local rivals Bath City although certainly this season, Chippenham just proved themselves to be too much of an ask to brush aside.
Chippenham come into this game in fine fettle with a much spoken about festive period yielding two draws and two wins, both victories coming away from home. Taking 8 points from a possible 12 over that time period is even more impressive given that we are unbeaten and have played Bath twice, Braintree away and Chelmsford away!
Gary Horgan has spoken for months about the performances not quite reflecting the results and little mistakes and bad luck won’t hang around forever, and it would seem he was right and hopefully the corner is turned. Only conceding two goals in the four games is likely a big factor for a side that reached the playoffs last season by predominantly being incredibly hard to break down and score against. With Horgs putting the academy under the microscope on Tuesday he will have been given food for thought as to some of the lads that can contribute but perhaps more importantly, he has seen Callum Gunner come through 90 minutes following a concussion, Craig Fasanmade returning from his ankle injury to contribute minutes and Caine Bradbury and Joe Parker getting vital time after finding game time short in recent weeks. Gary will have to sweat out a few more days however on the fitness of Jordan Young, Young has been missing for a couple of games now following his quad injury in the home leg of the A4 derby against Bath and will no doubt be pushing to be in contention for his hometown club.
With all of this going on and the potential to be a big month for the club, we must call upon you our supporters to help make the TS Stadium at Hardenhuish Park a real fortress this month. Last season a good December gave us a platform for a big push in the second half of the season and this one kicks off with FOUR CONSECUTIVE GAMES at home. Every single week when we speak to the manager and the players, they stress the importance of the Blue Army and the following both vocal and otherwise they receive. We have had big moments at this club in the last few months given to us by the hard work and dedication of the players, management and board of this fine football club such as big days away at Havant, Dartford, Ebbsfleet in the latter stages of last season and who could forget the FA Cup exploits of this season with a bumper crowd packed in for the home tie against Lincoln and our biggest away following since Wembley in 1999/2000 against Burton in the following round.
Now is the time we can massively repay them by packing ourselves in like sardines at the TSS, cheering the boys on and showing them the love and support that their performances of late have deserved! Now, then and always,
COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!!