MATCH PREVIEW: Dover Athletic vs Chippenham Town | National League South | Saturday 2nd September 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our trip to the south-east coast.
After a busy Bank Holiday weekend, the Bluebirds head off on their travels again for another long trip down to the Crabble, home of Dover Athletic FC.
Chippenham will be looking to build on not just a fantastic start to the season, but a brilliant weekend of results taking FOUR points from a possible SIX with a goaless draw at Braintree being followed up with a 2-1 win against Slough at the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium on Monday.
Last Time Out
Gary Horgan stressed the importance of backing up good points on the road by winning our games at home after Braintree and following an away performance where everything was there apart from a goal to win the game, he got the perfect response from his side when the Bluebirds started bright against the Rebels with fast flowing football on display almost seeing Luke Spokes put Chippenham in the lead early on. Eddie Jones’ cross-come-shot came back off the bar following a fantastic move down the right-hand side before Chippenham rightly took the lead.
Freddie Grant was exemplary in his ability to switch play all afternoon and a long, diagonal ball to Craig Fasanmade was rewarded when Fas controlled a long pass from Freddie and headed to the box. A quick turn from the Chippenham forward saw substitute Gabe George bring Fasanmade down and the referee pointed to the spot. With no Matt McClure on the pitch, duties for the spot kick fell to Owen Windsor making his first start for the Bluebirds in the National League South this season. Windsor saw his penalty repelled by Luthra in the Slough Town goal however, he was quick off the mark to tap home the rebound and open the scoring. Slough came back into the game controversially before the half. With 3 minutes added on shown by the referee, a Slough free kick on 48 minutes should have brought the half to a close however, the referee allowed time for the corner to be taken after the shot cannoned up off the wall. Now in the 5th minute of the allotted 3, the corner came in and eventually a shot was stabbed towards goal. With George Alexander standing in front of Will Henry, motioning towards the ball and evidently the only person in the 6 yard box, how the linesman didn’t put his flag up is a mystery that baffles still.
Chippenham vs Slough Town Match Center
However, the goal stood and Slough were level. In the end, it didn’t matter too much as Matt McClure stepped off the bench to score with his first touch of the game, 18 seconds after being introduced finishing a sweeping move down the right-hand side which culminated in Luke Spokes crossing for Matty to tap home and give Chippenham all three points.
After the game, Gary Horgan praised his squad for having the quality to overcome a stern opponent in Slough and heaped praise on youngsters Nat Williams and LIT FIBRE Man of the Match, Mal Nicholls before looking forward to the challenge that our next opponents, Dover Athletic will present.
Dover Athletic, a side that only came into the National League South in 2022/23 following their relegation from the National League after well documented issues during the COVID period currently play at the Crabble Athletic Ground in Dover and can hold 5,745 people. A poor season last time out from Dover almost saw them slip even further down the pyramid, with a final day defeat for the Whites potentially condemning them to relegation to the Southern Premier League. However, they needed Dulwich Hamlet to be defeated and defeated they were by the very team that Dover face this weekend, Chippenham Town.
This won’t however mean Dover will be offering Chippenham any kudos as they are desperate to kick-start their season after a slow start to avoid a repeat of last year’s dramatics. After 6 games this term, Dover found themselves with 3 defeats, 2 draws and only the 1 victory coming against bottom placed side Slough. However, with Dover playing Torquay, Dartford and Worthing already, manager Mitch Brundle will no doubt be highlighting the importance of games like this that in the eyes of the neutral, could go either way.
Dover currently sit in 20th position in the National League South whilst contrastingly Chippenham sit in 8th position with only a goal difference of ONE separating them from Yeovil in the 7th playoff spot. A win for the Bluebirds could take them as high as 3rd in the league and despite the season’s infancy, that’s never a bad place to be!
In order to do so Chippenham will have to find their way past Dover and if history is anything to go by, they have a good chance of doing so. Last season Chippenham were denied a victory at the Crabble through an Alfie Pavey goal after an early dismissal for Lee Martin and a goal from on loan defender Will Tizzard sent Chippenham on their way. Right at the death, Harry Parsons played in Joe Parker who had only to roll the ball into the Dover net and take all three points, sadly he struck the ball at Stuart Nelson and the chance to take all 3 points went begging. Chippenham however, did right this wrong at the TS Stadium where goals from Parker, Windsor and Fasanmade gave Chippenham all 3 points and remained unbeaten against Dover in the National League South.
One 2 Watch
One 2 Watch. For this one, we have gone for the eye-catching, Zidan Sutherland. Not only having one of the coolest names in the league, the 24-year-old also knows his way to goal as well-being a rare bright spark in the Dover season so far with 2 goals in 5 games. A young lad that has worked hard coming up through the non-League pyramid, Sutherland signed for Dover following a successful trial this pre-season and is rewarding his manager’s faith with goals and good performances. Dover also boast former EFL player James Dunne in their ranks with time at Swindon, Portsmouth, and Cambridge as well as a century of appearances in his younger years at Exeter City and his quality will no doubt need to be called upon in the centre of midfield, a place where Chippenham are thriving at the moment!
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For Chippenham, the Bank Holiday weekend provided us with 4 points and a jump up the table however, for Chippenham manager Gary Horgan he might well consider the real victory of the weekend his own management of his squad in terms of bringing in others, resting a couple and allowing people to get to exactly where they need to be in terms of fitness. And doing all of this without detriment to the performances or results of the club is almost vindication in the squad that Horgs has put together this season.
For the Bluebirds, Tom-Owen Evans is still absent with an ankle injury and Caine Bradbury missed the game on Monday with a slight strain in his Hamstring. He did however, make the bench and should be in contention for Saturday. Also in contention for Saturday is Aaron Amadi-Holloway following his return from injury. Horgan did state in his interview against Braintree that Aaron could feature on Monday at a push but with no need to force people back in due to the quality in the squad, Aaron is now fully rested and ready to rock down in Dover! Jake Evans and Matt McClure were rested on Monday despite coming on late in the game to huge effect and will be knocking the door for a starting space after being ever present so far this season.
So with it all to play for in the Vanarama National League South before the FA Cup and all its excitement comes around, it might well be vital to put points on the board before that all kicks off. The league season so far has thrown up some strange results and in a league dubbed preseason as “the hardest National League South there has ever been” to find ourselves amongst the early playoff challengers is an effort that is going to take a community to keep going.
After Dover, we have two MASSIVE home fixtures against Taunton on Tuesday 5th September and Maidstone on Saturday 9th September where your support will be invaluable as we seek to build on and off the pitch here at Chippenham. I beamed with PRIDE as we announced our attendance of 761 on Bank Holiday Monday, with that being a big increase on the previous weekend. Your support will always be our biggest asset so please, keep on coming, keep enjoying the exciting brand of football and bring your friends, your family, your neighbours, anybody to come and see what we are cooking here at Chippenham Town FC. But before all that, see you down at Dover!
COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!