MATCH PREVIEW: Hemel Hempstead Town vs Chippenham Town | National League South | Tuesday 5th December 2023
The Bluebirds continue their Vanarama National League South campaign with another road trip this Tuesday as Gary Horgan and his men seek a return to winning ways when they take on Hemel Hempstead Town FC at Vauxhall Road.
Last Time Out
Last time out for Chippenham was arguably one of the toughest tests in the National League South in Worthing FC.
In games like this, you need everything to go with you, all of the fine margins and despite a very solid performance by the Bluebirds, it was the hosts who took the three points at Woodside Road. The opening exchanges in the game made it very clear what kind of game we would be watching today with Worthing more than happy to sit in possession and move the ball around and Chippenham more than happy to restrict them to nothing more than possession.
Despite Worthing dominating the ball, it was the Bluebirds who had the first real chance of the game when following their own flowing move, Caine Bradbury eventually stabbed the ball behind the Worthing back line for Craig Fasanmade. His shot took a hefty deflection off of the recovering defender and Rocco Rees needed every inch of his fingers to tip the ball away as it looped towards the net. A couple of half chances for Worthing followed, getting into good positions but the final/killer ball was just never there with solid defending from the Bluebirds in particular the returning Aaron Amadi-Holloway who was showing no signs of rust after a long period on the sidelines with injury. Just as the game seemed to be heading to half time level, another brilliant Chippenham Town move saw Ed Williams get free down the right hand side, he appeared to lose the ball but his tenacity saw him come through multiple challenges and bodies to cut the ball back to Luke Spokes who shot from just inside the 18-yard box. As the ball hurtled towards goal, a great block on the line from a Worthing defender saw the ball strike Matt McClure who stabbed the ball home on the line to give the Bluebirds a 1-0 lead.
The referee who had been a little inconsistent in the first 45 minutes missing a few for the Bluebirds and seemingly being very lenient with the hosts, was centre stage just after the half time whistle when Ed Williams appeared to be fouled by Ricky Aguiar. Play on was waved despite the obvious rake down the achilles and the inevitable happened when after Chippenham failed to clear in the box, Ollie Pearce tapped home and left the Chippenham players and bench furious at the lack of decision. It went back to being even again after the goal with both sides swapping chances first through Caine Bradbury who’s drive was blocked and then Greg Luer who’s shot was tipped around the post by Henry but it was Worthing who would take the lead following a Chippenham throw in that just never really got under control. The throw intended for Spokes was picked off by Worthing and despite a half challenge from Spokes, Danny Cashman managed to cut the ball back across the box for Pearce to claim his second of the afternoon. Chippenham then went looking for the equaliser and another big save from Rocco Rees denied Matt McClure his second of the afternoon when his long range effort appeared to be heading for the top corner with Rees wrongfooted by a good recovery save saw him tip over.
Tom Mehew had a couple of half chances as well firstly with a driving run across the Worthing box and his left footed effort deflecting behind for a corner, from which he received the ball on the edge but didn’t connect with the cross. He then tried to tee up McClure but an important touch from a Worthing defender saw the ball deviate out of Matt’s path and away from danger. As Chippenham pushed, gaps would open and of course, space would be left such is always the danger and Worthing wrapped up all three points when they got down the right hand side and Ricky Aguiar crossed for Ollie Pearce to head home his 3rd of the afternoon and give the Rebels all 3 points in Sussex.
After the game, Gary told our cameras “It didn’t feel like a 3-1 loss” and he was right. The performance was far more encouraging than the scoreline would suggest and strong performances across the pitch would suggest this is merely a very good Worthing side and that little bit of luck went with them today. Horgan put the exclamation point on that with his summary of the Worthing goals “The first has come from what we believe to be a foul of Ed, the second has come from our mistake at the throw in and the third comes as we are pushing for the equaliser and leave gaps” With Horgan and the travelling Bluebirds happy with the performance, Gary is now tasked with dusting the boys down and getting ready to go again on Tuesday night when it’s another away game, another 4G surface and another tricky opponent going well in the form of Hemel Hempstead Town.
Hemel Hempstead Town, the Tudors were formed in 1885 and play out of the 3,152 capacity Vauxhall Road Stadium in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Managed now by Brad Quinton, the Tudors have been in the National League South since their 2014/15 Southern Premier League success gaining promotion to the Conference South (National League South) as Champions after years of banging on the door via the playoffs.
They have gained a reputation of being a steady side at this level since then however, did qualify for the playoffs in 2017/18 (Chippenhams first at the National League South level) but were eliminated by Braintree on penalties. This season, the Tudors are experiencing the kind of season they have become accustomed to sitting pretty much smack bang in the middle of the division in 13th having gained 28 points. Perhaps most notable about the Tudors is they seem to do well in the bigger games with victories this season over both Yeovil and Torquay, I cannot imagine many will be on that list when push comes to shove and respectable draws against the likes of Worthing and in particular National League Woking in the FA Cup.
With the Bluebirds sitting below the Tudors in 16th place, this game gives Gary Horgan and his men the chance to leapfrog Hemel but only with a victory and by a margin of 2 or more goals. Coming into this game, the two sides couldn’t be more even over the last 6 having the same results of 2 WINS, 2 DRAWS and 2 DEFEATS.
Countdown to kick-off
One 2 Watch
A few names stand out in the Hemel Hempstead side for Bluebirds fans to look out for. Myles Judd signed for the Tudors from Dover in Pre-Season and was arguably the best player last season in a Dover side that almost fell out of the National League but it did leave Judd in high demand, his marauding runs down the right hand side will surely be one to look out for but we have gone for a player that always takes the attention when he is on the team sheet, if nothing else because no one apart from his mother knows how to pronounce his name correctly! Joe Iaciofano is now leading the line for the Tudors and already has 6 goals to his name this season. An integral part of the Oxford City side that gained promotion last season he also has been a frequent scorer of goals at his previous sides which include St Albans City and Havant & Waterlooville. One thing that is guaranteed when you see Iaciafano’s name on the team sheet is a threat of goals and you certainly don’t want to give him an opportunity from the spot as he has perfected that weird Jorginho penalty involving a hop, skip and a jump before sending the keeper the wrong way most of the time.
A couple of Chippenham Town players will be heading back to the familiar surroundings of Vauxhall Road this Tuesday and will no doubt be looking forward to seeing old faces at their former club. Jake Evans was back in training on Saturday and although didn’t feature in the squad, will be hoping to continue his rehab ahead of his return. But first he must return to Vauxhall Road where Evans spent 7 games on loan from Cardiff before signing permanently with the Tudors and playing 11 times before joining Hungerford from of course whom he joined up with the Bluebirds!
Craig Fasanmade will also be relishing the chance to go back to Vauxhall Road where he too enjoyed two spells first on loan from Wealdstone proving a popular figure with the Tudor faithful and then permanently before joining the Bluebirds from Hemel in October 2022.
Also former Chippenham defender Arron Simpson played for the Tudors as well of course now Simpson is plying his trade at Salisbury in the Southern Premier League and looking very good atop that division.
Another club where a lot of EFL players have made their way through Hemel such as Jamal Lowe, Nicke Kabamba and non-League royalty such as Jack Midson and Samir Carruthers but we have decided to go this week for a former Tudor player that came through the famed Arsenal sides of the late 90’s and even claimed a Charity Shield winners medal in 1999 with the Gunners!
Paolo Vernazza came through the academy at Arsenal and his performances for the reserve side saw him make 4 first team appearances and be called up to the England Squad for the FIFA World Youth Championship! Vernazza’s early career was initially hampered by injury and a dreadful incident where he and fellow Arsenal trainee Andrew Douglas were stabbed by a burglar at their home! Vernazza recovered and made his debut in a league cup game against Birmingham City and his league debut in 1997/1998. This year, Arsenal won the FA Premier League however he didn’t qualify for a medal, only playing one game in the campaign. Vernazza went on to make over 100 appearances for Watford in the English Football League before spells at Rotherham and several National League/Conference clubs such as Dagenham, Woking, Barnet, Weymouth and Grays. Vernazza signed for Hemel in 2010 and called time on his career shortly after with only an appearance at Bishops Stortford credited between his time with the Tudors and retirement.
Head to Head
Due to the two sides spending a long time together in both the National League South and the Southern Premier League the Head to Head on this fixture reads as one of the most common fixtures for the Bluebirds in their recent history with a whopping 27 meetings between the two sides!
The breakdown of those meetings gives the Tudors a slight edge over the Bluebirds with Chippenham winning 9, Hemel winning 11 and the other 7 ending in a draw. Giving Chippenham a 33.3 win percentage against the Tudors. Chippenham however do have a very slight edge in goals scored over those 27 fixtures scoring 41 goals against Hemel and conceding 40 in response giving Chippenham a GPG of 1.52 against Hemels 1.48 GPG. The biggest win for either side during that time came back in 2009 when Chippenham ran out 6-1 winners against the Tudors in the Southern Premier League with goals from Lewis Powell (2), Shaun Lamb (2), Ross Adams and Jon Davies.
Last season, Chippenham struggled against Hemel Hempstead taking only ONE point from a possible SIX, a 1-1 draw at the TS Stadium was coupled with a 1-0 defeat at Vauxhall Road. Chippenham have won 3 times in 13 attempts at Vauxhall Road making it one of the most difficult places for the Bluebirds to pick up the W but with a 4G surface installed and a good footballing side under Horgan’s tutelage, they will be hoping to make that 4 on Tuesday night!
Luke Haines picked up an injury that forced him out of the game against Worthing on Saturday, after speaking with Hainer, it’s a niggle in his groin and with the amount of games coming thick and fast, it makes sense to look after it with a hectic schedule on the horizon.
Alex Bray is a long term one with his hamstring and Jake Evans continues to return from his own hamstring injury and isn’t far away.
Tyreke Johnson didn’t travel with the squad on Saturday presumably still carrying his injury so we hope to get an update on him as soon as we can.
Another positive from Saturday is we didn’t seem to have any fresh injury concerns although a lot of fatigue and little niggles will have to be cleverly managed as Chippenham play the second of three games in only seven days!
So, purely looking at the result of the last two games, it hasn’t been great. A 2-1 and a 3-1 loss to Hampton and Worthing respectively is no shame with both sides sitting in the playoff spots however, the performance in both games, creating enough chances to win them and with a little luck and slightly better quality in the final third we could arguably have reversed those results. It’s in these situations that our supporters are more vital than ever. That extra little push, that bit of encouragement can be the difference, we are the 12th man here at Chippenham and when your back is against the ropes, another long Tuesday night trip and looking to grab a result to propel you up the league, your support is invaluable and we hope to see as many of you up at Hemel Hempstead as possible.
If you cannot make the game, we are covering the fixture LIVE on our MIXLR Radio Channel with Dan Blake taking you through every kick at Vauxhall Road!
COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!