MATCH PREVIEW: Welling United vs Chippenham Town | National League South | Saturday 28th October 2023
Simon Lawrence previews our National League South game against Welling United.
The Bluebirds are back to the road this weekend in the Vanarama National League South as they head to the capital to take on Welling United FC.
Last Time Out
Last time out for the Bluebirds was a disappointing 2-1 loss to St Albans in a game where the Bluebirds could conceivably have been out of sight within the first 45 minutes. Starting the game much the brighter of the two sides, Chippenham bounced the ball around the Thornbury Surfacing Stadium with a swagger and confidence that looked nothing like a side that was struggling for form at their own ground. Slick passing movement across the pitch was on full display and against the side that finished in the VNLS Play-Off Final last season, deservedly took the lead when an excellent constructed move culminated in Jake Evans chipping in behind the St Albans back line for Matt McClure to round Michael Johnson and tap home starting and finishing the 8 pass sequence as the Bluebirds incisively cut through the Saints. Another slick Chippenham move saw Caine Bradbury and Matt McClure combine in the box to set the homegrown talent through on goal.
A mistimed challenge from Ben Wyatt saw the referee Abigail Byrne point to the spot and McClure had a chance to double his tally from 12 yards. However, this was to be somewhat of a turning point in the game when McClure’s well struck penalty was met with the strong hands of Michael Johnson and turned away. Minutes later following more Chippenham interplay, McClure nearly made the entire stadium forget about the penalty by striking on the volley from the edge of the box but his looping effort agonisingly came back off the crossbar and St Albans were again able to clear. The Bluebirds would be made to pay just before the half time whistle when Gio Rasulo struck towards the goal of Will Henry from the angle, Henry parried the ball away but only as far as Mitchell Weiss who thundered home the rebound to send the Saints in level at the break.
Chippenham again started lively and were unlucky not to be handed a second spot kick when Tyreke Johnson got inside his defender and a lazy challenge on another day could have been given but the Saints escaped. Another chance for the Bluebirds followed when Caine Bradbury burst through the middle only to be crowded out by the St Albans defence and his effort went into the hands of Johnson who in a coming together with the returning Craig Fasanmade, needed a little medical attention. Sadly for Chippenham, it was St Albans who would go on to find the much needed winning goal when Ben Wyatt the ball in a contest with Luke Spokes the ball ran to substitute George Morall who allowed it to run across himself before unleashing a brilliant effort into Will Henry’s top left hand corner. Chippenham would press right to the end for the equaliser that many would have felt fair. Chippenham almost snatched it at the death when McClure rose highest to a corner but his header was blocked before it could reach the net and the whistle blew with the Bluebirds no doubt rueing earlier misses that could have wrapped the game up for it really got started.
Afterwards, Gary Horgan stated that whilst disappointed in the result, there was plenty of positives for his young side and plenty of opportunity to work on things in the week ahead of a game at Welling where Horgs will no doubt be looking for a response from his charges when they take on Welling United FC.
Welling United nicknamed the Wings, play in the London Borough of Bexley and call Park View Road in Welling their home.
Formed in 1963, Welling had a fantastic rise through the pyramid in 1985/86, the Wings found themselves in the Southern Premier League following a restructure and romped the league by 25 points to gain promotion to the Football Conference. In 1999 Welling would return to the Southern Premier League and would cross paths with the Bluebirds during the 2003/04 season where the league was famously split into the Conference North and South where under former Manchester United defender, Paul Parker, Welling would secure their spot in the Conference South and Chippenham would fail to do so.
The Wings would head back to the top level of non-League football in 2012 following their title winning season however, after a short lived stay, in 2015/16 they would be relegated to the Conference South (Now the National League South) and have remained there ever since. Now managed by former Eastbourne manager Danny Bloor, Welling have made a slow start to the season and find themselves currently sitting in 23rd position, only one place above Havant & Waterlooville at the very bottom of the pile. Losing their first 4 games in the league before picking up wins against Havant and Tonbridge, Welling are now winless in 7 games with 4 draws and 3 defeats.
With their last win at Park View Road coming on the 26th of August it has been over 2 months since the home fans saw a league win at Park View Road. Danny will no doubt be looking to change this when Chippenham arrive in Welling themselves searching for their first league win since a 2-0 away victory over Truro City.
Countdown to kick-off
One 2 Watch
This week we have decided to make 24 year old striker Tristan Abrahams our one to watch. Starting his career at Leyton Orient, Abrahams caught the attention of the football world netting twice against Premier League Newcastle in the EFL Trophy. This prompted Norwich City to take a punt on the young Londoner. However, following loan moves to Exeter and Yeovil respectively, Norwich agreed to sell Tristan to Newport County where he would make 80 appearances over two seasons and score 18 goals in the EFL.
Upon leaving Newport he would play for Carlisle and Grimsby before signing for his first non-League side in Eastleigh in 2022. A lightning start to the season for Abrahams prompted Gillingham to come in for his services and his return to the EFL was confirmed albeit short lived. He would make 12 appearances for Gillingham before being released and arriving at Welling as a free agent. All in all, Tristan has played 164 games in the Football League scoring 25 league goals and will no doubt be a threat that Chippenham will need to contend with if they are to take anything from the game at Park View Road.
In their short 60 years as a club, Welling have had their fair share of Famous Faces come through at Park View Road in both the dugout and on the pitch. Of course, Warren Feeney managed the side last year and before that, former England manager and the man who handed Beckham the armband, Peter Taylor was in charge at the Wings. Some Premier League talent has taken to the pitch as well with Marek Rodek of Fulham and Slovenia, Darren Randolph of Middlesbrough and Ireland and former Swansea defender Alfie Mawson all spending time with the Wings on loan but we have gone for perhaps their most famous son as the feature this week.
One of the voices synonymous with football over the last decade, Andy Townsend. One hell of a career that saw Townsend make over 500 Premier League appearances for the likes of Aston Villa, Southampton, Chelsea, Norwich, Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion as well as for the Republic of Ireland where he made 70 caps including appearing at 2 World Cups and even captaining the side in the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Townsend would go on to have a hugely successful career as a pundit and commentator for ITV Sport, BT Sport and several Radio channels including TalkSport and BBC 5 Live. And where did it all start? It started with 105 appearances for Welling United between 1980-1984. A lot of these where they started sections are a handful of youth games before moving on but making over a century of starts for Welling in the 80’s and going on to have the career he did, there is no doubt that Andy Townsend is definitely Welling’s most famous son!
Familiar Faces was a nice easy one this week. After extensive research on Wikipedia, a quick read of Town United (Available in the Club Shop) and several phone calls just to make sure. We cannot find a single player that has played for both Welling and Chippenham…. BUT THERE’S AN UPDATE…
I actually did find a familiar face. Danny Bailey who played for Chippenham between 2003-2005 and also played 22 games in 1999-2000 for Welling whilst Chippenham were plotting their path to Wembley Stadium in the FA Vase. The midfielder also made over 200 appearances for Exeter City and also had spells at our local rivals Bath City as well as Forest Green Rovers and Weymouth. Upon his departure from Chippenham in 2005, Bailey would play a handful of games for Chesham, Stansted and finally Ware before hanging up his boots in 2006! Sorry for forgetting you Danny!
Head to Head
The Head to Head against Welling United reads pretty miserably for Chippenham with the Wings winning 6 of the last 11 meetings between the two sides with it ending level twice. This means Chippenham have only won 3 of the games between the two teams however, if you are looking at more recent history, Chippenham took 4 points last season against Welling courtesy of a 3-2 at home and a 1-1 draw at Park View Road with a goal from Alex Bray being cancelled out late on by Kodi Lyons-Foster. One thing in particular that is pretty interesting however is the lack of goals in this fixture aside from a few anomalies, most of these fixtures have been pretty low scoring affairs with Chippenham only scoring 9 times in 11 games against the Wings and Welling notching 18 times in the same time frame giving an average of 0.84 goals for the Bluebirds and 1.64 for the Wings.
If you are looking for good omens however, the last Bluebird to score against Welling was one Mr Ed Williams who struck the winning goal at the TS Stadium last season and after his return to the club on Saturday, will be hoping to feature and add to his personal tally at Chippenham.
For the Bluebirds, they will be looking to add some points to the tally here without a doubt and whilst we are far too early in the season to be throwing around phrases like “must win”, the Bluebirds will surely be looking at this game as one they could walk away with a big three points in. Gary Horgan will have to navigate this game without the likes of Aaron Amadi-Holloway, Tom Owen-Evans, Will King, Sam Heal and Leighton Tuodolo who are all missing through injury. But the return to fitness of Craig Fasanmade and Tyreke Johnson following knocks will be music to Horgans ears after they both came through Saturday unscathed. The signing of Ed Williams ahead of last Saturday’s game was also a welcome one and no doubt will add competition further up the field as Chippenham look to propel themselves back toward the Play-Off conversation.
If you are making the trip to Welling on Saturday, please drive safely, travel well and remember, we are the 12th man here. We are a young squad and playing some very exciting football at times with a bit more of an identity and purpose. Will we win every game? Of course not, nobody does but it is so important that as a fanbase, we unite behind these lads and dare I say, away from home, we always tend to have that tribal, on the road together mentality and more often than not, we have great days out with the Bluebirds.
Never forget as supporters the role you play in a game of football and it’s not just singing and chanting, sometimes it’s as simple as encouraging a player, forgiving a misplaced pass, being as patient as they have to be when moving the ball around to create an opening. The beauty of non-League is we can be heard as fans, as individuals, we can speak to our captain in the bar, sit next to our manager on the bus, we can be heard. If your voice can be heard by our players during the game, ask yourself, what would you like to hear in this situation? Your passion, your support, your voice could be the important factor that drives a player on that extra yard or gives that player the little boost in confidence to score that screamer. So Chippenham Town, let’s be proud, let’s be loud and let’s be positive and really unite behind our club and be the driving force we all know this fanbase can be, it starts with you!
COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!