MATCH PREVIEW: Dulwich Hamlet vs Chippenham Town | National League South | Saturday 29th April 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our last game of the season away at Dulwich Hamlet
The curtain comes down on the Vanarama National League South campaign for 2022/23 this Saturday and the Bluebirds end their season on the road with a visit to Champion Hill, home of Dulwich Hamlet FC for what could be a decisive game at the bottom end of the table.
Last Time Out
After playing almost every Tuesday night for the last 3 months, it seems strange to have had a week off from action for Gary Horgan and his troops. Last time out for the Bluebirds it was a 2-2 draw against Tonbridge Angels that ended the faint playoff ambitions of the Angels who following the draw, can no longer sneak into the end of season show. It was Tonbridge that opened the scoring following smart work down the left from Joe Turner. A quick turn away from Joe Hanks before outpacing Will Richards saw Turner one on one before slotting past the returning Will Henry in the Chippenham net. The Bluebirds didn’t have to wait long for the equaliser, as only 3 minutes later a pinpoint ball from Hanks saw Ed Williams going through down the left side. His left-footed cross evaded the crowded area and found Owen Windsor at the back post with the easiest of jobs to tap the ball home. Chippenham took the lead in the second half with a sublime free kick from Caine Bradbury after Craig Fasanmade had been fouled on the edge of the 18-yard box. Caine lifted the ball up and over the 3-man wall of Tonbridge and fired past a rooted Jonathan Henly in the Tonbridge net to give the Chippenham faithful a real moment of celebration on their final home game of the season. Sadly for the Bluebirds, the points were to be shared courtesy of a well executed corner for the Angels. Whipped in at the front post, the ball was flicked toward goal by Jamie Fielding who had enough power in the header to get it past Will Henry and into the back of the net. The game pretty much filtered out to the draw from then on, with 15 minutes left to play and not much in the tank left for either side after a long season. However, Chippenham manager Gary Horgan decided there was one more story to tell in this game and sent the TS Stadium crowd into equal parts rapturous applause and tears in the eyes with his third and final substitution of the afternoon. In the 90th minute, Andy held the board aloft and Chippenham witnessed a special moment. With Joe Hanks leaving the field and replacing him, the returning Pablo Martinez. 252 days since Pablo suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch against Chelmsford, the emotions were running wild as he stepped back onto the surface to play out the last two minutes of the game. It cannot be understated the achievement of Pablo to get back not only physically to this point but also emotionally and the TS Stadium crowd rose as one to welcome back a very special young man with his family watching on and 779 people clapping until their hands were raw.
So, this is it! The final game of what has been a long and memorable season. FA Cup exploits, FA Trophy records for the Bluebirds, an unprecedented 15 game unbeaten run that turned Chippenham Town into the team at the top of the form guide for most of the second half of this league campaign, and it all ends on Saturday when Chippenham travel to Dulwich Hamlet.
The Hamlet are perhaps the biggest club in the National League South boasting an average attendance of 2,424 this season, they are by far and away the best supported club in the division with this season’s Champions Ebbsfleet United averaging almost a full thousand people less than the club currently flirting with relegation.
With a sell-out crowd expected to pack out Champion Hill on Saturday as well, that number could go higher still! However, on the pitch, the Hamlet have suffered another difficult season. They find themselves currently in the last “safe spot” in the National League but with Weymouth and Concord both poised to strike, Dulwich will be needing something from the game. If Concord fails to beat Havant midweek, Hamlet will be safe with a point. However, if Rangers turn over the out of sorts Havant & Waterlooville side, Dulwich will need to find all 3 against the Bluebirds to ensure it doesn’t go down to goal difference and with Weymouth playing Dover (the team just above Dulwich) the final day will start with a minimum of 3 teams that could potentially hit the trap door and perhaps 4 with the aforementioned Concord Rangers win against Havant & Waterlooville.
On paper, this should be as straightforward as they come for those who fancy a flutter. With Chippenham Town currently sat in 14th position and Dulwich in 20th but with everything potentially on the line for the home side, it could give them that extra boost they need to take it to the Bluebirds. If Chippenham were looking for a boost themselves, their form against Dulwich would be the first place to start. Unbeaten in SIX games against the London side, Chippenham have claimed 4 victories and drawn twice with Hamlet with both of those 1-1 stalemates coming at Champion Hill. Earlier in the season a stunning effort from Caine Bradbury was cancelled out by George Porter for Dulwich before Joe Parker headed home an 89th minute cross from Joe Hanks to give the Bluebirds all 3 points.
In a strange season for Dulwich with long term manager Gavin Rose departing, Paul Barnes taking over before former Maidstone manager Hakan Heyrettin took over the dugout we have seen a lot of players this season at Champion Hill. We have however picked out the one to watch that coincidentally you cannot miss! 6ft 4in striker, Danny Mills has been with Dulwich for a little while now and whilst he has a great eye for goal, his height coupled with their danger from set pieces and of course their long throw. Also Sanchez Ming who has been a solid player at this level for many years with spells across Dartford, Hemel and of course Dulwich Hamlet will be one to keep an eye on as he likes to get up from full back and put dangerous crosses.
So here we are. The end of the season, a brilliant season in context and one I am sure we can all look back on with pride. It’s not over yet, we still have this one to go and it could be a massive one particularly the home side. For Chippenham manager Gary Horgan this could be a chance for one last time to see his side go out and give him a big performance fitting of the side that he is looking to build for next season. Also it could be a chance to give exposure to the younger players in a situation where Chippenham are safe and secure in the mid-table spots and show them a glimpse into life in the National League South following the 15th debut from the academy at the weekend in Marcel Lewis.
Online tickets from via our host’s ticket portal have sold out for Saturday’s game however tickets will still be available on the turnstiles for fans who arrive early.
Supporters travelling on the coach, please be aware that the coach is departing at 10:30 but please make sure you have arranged to be at the ground for 10:15 to ensure a quick getaway. Additionally, please remember in the evening at the Bluebirds Bar, we have the end of season awards evening with the management, staff and players of CTFC with a buffet and a little boogie afterwards. Entrance is £5 and of course the bar is open so come on down, have a drink with us and celebrate the season we have just had together as we look ahead with excitement to the next one!