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MATCH PREVIEW: Hemel Hempstead Town vs Chippenham Town | National League South | Tuesday 21st February 2023

Published: at 7:10pm

Simon Lawrence previews our away game against Hemel Hempstead Town.


It’s back to the road for the Bluebirds this weekend following two valuable points in two home fixtures, Chippenham are now looking to continue their good form in a trip to Vauxhall Road, home of the Tudors, Hemel Hempstead Town in the Vanarama National League South.

Last Time Out

Following a resilient defensive performance against Ebbsfleet on Tuesday night which saw the Bluebirds secure a valuable and unexpected point against the runaway league leaders, Chippenham were preparing for a different task with the arrival of Cheshunt FC. Coming into the game, Cheshunt were only a point above the Bluebirds and given both sides precarious positions in the table, this would have been marked by both clubs as a huge chance to gain three points. Manager Gary Horgan would ring the changes from Tuesday night with Matt McClure, Owen Windsor and Joe Hanks returning to the starting line-up as well as club captain Spencer Hamilton.

Chippenham started the brighter of the two sides and forced a corner after good work from Matt McClure. A short routine saw Alefe Santos exchange passes with Tom Mehew and Luke Russe before a tackle came in and a long hoof up the field left Obieri in behind Eddie Jones, his pass through the legs of Will King ended up at the feet of Tyrelle Newton who slotted past Will Henry to give Cheshunt an early lead. The second goal was an exact replica of the first. Another long ball over the top found Eddie Jones wanting. This time it was Ken Charles who took advantage and got in to face up Will King on the cover, quick feet saw Charles go around Will King and his ball across the face of goal evaded both Will King and Eddie Jones as it trickled across the box and found Zach Newton who swivelled and shot into the empty net to double the Cheshunt lead.

Chippenham needed to get a grip on the game and show some character and we got exactly the kind of response we needed when a ball into McClure was held up expertly before playing in the on-rushing Luke Russe. His ball through the legs of a Cheshunt defender ended up at the feet of Joe Hanks before his ‘rasping left foot strike’ (Hanks’s words not mine) beat Preston Edwards in the Cheshunt goal. Minutes later, it was that man again as once again the instrumental McClure received the ball in the penalty area and following a clever lay off, Joe Hanks once again was on hand to slot home from close range with his left.

A sense of relief fell over the ground that Chippenham had got themselves back level after such a poor start however, it wasn’t to be for long. A ball down the left looked suspiciously offside however, the linesman deemed Ken Charles to be on and his run forced a corner. The resulting delivery saw a mix-up between Will Richards and Will Henry and the ball fell to Lewis Hobbs who shot through the bodies to hit the back of the net and make it 3-2 to Cheshunt. Into first half injury time, Chippenham had yet another siege on Cheshunt’s goal. Once again it was that man Matt McClure who was pivotal in the attack, his expert hold up play with his back to goal saw him lay the ball off to Santos who struck towards goal, Edwards got a hand to the effort, and it rebounded back to the middle where waiting to tap home was that man again, Joe Hanks to complete a first half hat-trick. The equalising goal saw Chippenham go into the break level at 3-3 and for the first time since Andy Sandell struck in a 4-4 draw with Wealdstone a Bluebird was going home with the match ball.

Going down the slope in the second half, renewed confidence was there that Chippenham would come out in the second half and take advantage. However, in the 69th minute, Will King attempted to pass a ball back to Will Henry and Ken Charles latched on to the loose pass. Despite the best effort of Spencer Hamilton to recover and get in the challenge, Ken Charles slotted past Will Henry to give Cheshunt a 4-3 lead and arguably save the captain from a 3-game suspension.

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As Chippenham endeavoured to get the equalising goal, the referee found himself having some decisions to make. Second half substitute Alex Bray was first to appeal with the Cheshunt full back jostling with him at the back post and the shouts went up. In my opinion this one was the right call however, moments later, a corner came in for the Bluebirds and following a melee, Will Richards got a toe to the ball and in my humble opinion was evidently bundled over by the Cheshunt defender with two penalty shouts turned down, the game ending, a long ball from Spencer Hamilton found Alex Bray in behind his man and this time after being pulled down once more, Ross Martin pointed to the spot and Chippenham had a chance to grab a point. Matt McClure assumed the responsibility of the spot kick and, to the delight of the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium crowd, dispatched his kick beyond Preston Edwards to level the score at 4-4. Just before the final whistle blew, McClure would find himself with one more chance to win the game however, his shot didn’t quite have enough purchase and Preston Edwards could clear long and the whistle signified the end of a thrilling encounter between the two sides.

After the game, Chippenham manager Gary Horgan cut a disappointed figure despite the result taking Chippenham out of the relegation zone. When we spoke to Gary, he claimed a “big chance to move further away from the drop zone had been wasted” with “sloppy decision-making” and “individual mistakes” costing the Bluebirds on the day. However, with two games at home and two points in the bag, we can now look forward to a couple of games on the road starting with a trip to Hemel Hempstead on Tuesday evening.

The Opposition

Hemel Hempstead Town, the Tudors, play out of Vauxhall Road and were formed in 1885. Managed by Brad Quinton, the Tudors have been an ever present in the National League South since their promotion from the Southern Premier League in 2013/14 after winning the title.

For Hemel this year, it has been a bit of an up and down sort of season with a good start to the season seemingly showing the league that Hemel were going to be a different proposition from the year before where they spent most of their time, struggling at the bottom end of the table before a late surge up the league coupled with the fact only one side were going down at the end of the term saw them comfortably retain their status as a National League South club.

They come into the game against Chippenham in 13th place and despite a loss last game to Hungerford, in fantastic form with 3 wins against Dartford, Farnborough and Weymouth all coming by a scoreline of 2-1 alongside two draws Dover and Cheshunt giving the Tudors an impressive 11 points from a possible 18 in the last 6 games. Of course, Hemel have already played the Bluebirds this season at the TS Stadium in a game that ended in bitter disappointment for the home side when Hemel who had barely threatened all game, popped up with a winner in the 95th minute of the game following Chippenham’s failure to clear from a corner. In fact, this is a theme that has occurred often down the years with Chippenham going toe to toe with Hemel 14 times across the SPL and NLS, the Tudors coming out on top 9 times with the Bluebirds claiming victory in 3 and the points being shared twice. However, if we are looking for a little good omen, Chippenham have won their last two games against Hemel at Vauxhall Road winning 2-1 last time with goals from Alefe Santos and Dan Griffiths.

Ones to Watch

The One to Watch this weekend we have decided to highlight Josh Castiglione. The Tudor has 5 goals to his name this season and his movement at the top of the park is sure to cause problems for Chippenham if they aren’t on top of their game.

Also be sure to keep an eye out for former Woking and Havant & Waterlooville midfielder, Godfrey Poku who will be sure to provide a stern test in the middle for Luke Russe and Tom Mehew.

Familiar Faces

Familiar faces is an easy one this week (finally) with Craig Fasanmade once again coming off the bench to have a great impact last time out and of course a stellar performance against Ebbsfleet since his return from injury, Chippenham fans will be glad that we took the young winger in following his departure from Hemel Hempstead earlier in the season. Other Chippenham players that have spent time with the Tudors are Will Henry who spent a short spell with Hemel when at Swindon and of course Aaron Simpson who played many games for the Tudors before sustaining an injury that would see him out of action for a long time. Of course, Aaron now spends his time bombing up and down the flanks for Chippenham and all these lads will no doubt have fond memories of their time at Vauxhall Road and be looking forward to returning.

Famous Faces

Famous faces this week is a good one. With clubs like Portsmouth, Wigan, QPR, Swansea and Bournemouth on his CV, Premier League player Jamal Lowe has had a cracking career so far after being picked up from the non-League scene. After joining the Tudors on loan from Barnet, Jamal joined the club in 2015 on a permanent basis playing 11 games for Hemel before joining Hampton & Richmond. Of course, it was from the Beveree Stadium that Jamal and teammate Nicke Kabamba were picked up by Portsmouth in 2017.

Also, still on the staff at Hemel is former Premier League goalkeeper for Chelsea, Dmitri Kharine. The Russian stopper is the current goalkeeping coach for the Tudors but after an incredible career with over 100 games for Chelsea including a UEFA Cup Winners Cup final and a FA Cup Final! He has also represented Russia in 3 different guides as the Soviet Union, CIS and finally Russia!

Bluebirds News

Chippenham come into this game with no new injury concerns coming away unscathed from the games against Ebbsfleet and Cheshunt however, the fixtures did claim one victim and following the red card of Eddie Jones against the Fleet, he will now begin a 3-match suspension and miss out this weekend assuming his ban has come through. Chippenham also come into this game after scoring 4 goals in a game for the first time this season and will no doubt be looking to build on this whilst keeping it tight at the back.

We are hoping to see as many of you make the trip as possible however, given it is a Tuesday night and a bit of a trip, we are also planning on providing commentary for the match via our Mixlr channel. Simon Lawrence will be on hand to provide commentary for the full 90 minutes and fingers crossed, he will be delivering good news for the 3rd time in a row from Vauxhall Road!

COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!

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