The Playoff Push – A Chippenham Town Story
Simon Lawrence previews the National League South playoff picture.
So as we head into the final three games of the Vanarama National League South season arguably needed 3 positive results from our remaining 3 fixtures. The tendency to sit and dwell on dropped points, late goals, substandard performances and bad luck is all too strong… So instead, we decided to give a detailed breakdown of the run in and where results elsewhere could affect the Bluebirds as they bid for their highest ever finish in club history.
So, this Saturday we take the Bluebirds on the road to The Kuflink Stadium and Ebbsfleet United.
Long and short of it, many people are expecting this to be our toughest game of the season so far. Ebbsfleet play an expansive style of football, strong in attack and equally as physical at the back. Rakish Bingham, Dominic Poleon and their Fleet teammates will be looking to continue their fine form of late by winning their 5th successive match and all but confirming their spot in the playoffs without the need for an eliminator.
Ebbsfleet currently sit in 3rd place behind Maidstone United and Dorking who are now almost guaranteed to contest the League between themselves leaving home advantage in the playoffs really all Ebbsfleet have to play for against Chippenham Town.
The Bluebirds sit just one point outside of the playoff spots in the 8th after reaching the 7th spot for all of 36 minutes last week with a 2-0 victory against Dulwich Hamlet. Sadly in Welling, former CTFC winger Jake Andrews was ripping up our script and firing in a 96th minute equaliser for Havant & Waterlooville against the relegation threatened Wings.
With Havant maintaining a 1 point lead over Chippenham heading into their home fixture against Hampton & Richmond Borough, they will no doubt be hoping that Ebbsfleet can silence the Chippenham Town push because the Beavers will surely provide a strong test for Paul Doswell and his side.
So this weekends fixtures look as follows:
- Bath City (16th) vs Tonbridge Angels (18th)
- Braintree (19th) vs Hemel Hempstead (14th)
- Concord Rangers (15th) vs Oxford City (5th)
- Eastbourne Borough (6th) vs Billericay (21st)
- Ebbsfleet United (3rd) vs Chippenham Town (8th)
- Havant & Waterlooville (7th) vs Hampton & Richmond (12th)
- Hungerford (13th) vs Welling United (20th)
- Maidstone United (1st) vs Chelmsford City (17th)
- Slough Town (10th) vs Dartford (4th)
- St Albans City (9th) vs Dorking Wanderers (2nd)
Recent form would suggest that our neighbours Bath City will continue their late resurgence and pull further away from the foot of the table with a home win against Tonbridge Angels who have only managed 3 points in their last 5 games.
Braintree are by no means a sure thing at home but with Hemel suffering back to back defeats coming into the game and Braintree’s form equally as poor, a draw would be a smart money bet for the fixture at Cressing Road.
15th place Concord Rangers entertain Oxford City who themselves are looking to bounce back from a defeat to the Bluebirds and a late equaliser against a 10 man Braintree gave them a point last week. Oxford have secured their place in the National League South playoffs already, points will be required to secure a home tie in the eliminator. They should have enough for a Concord side who themselves haven’t won in 3 matches.
Eastbourne Borough play host to bottom of the league Billericay whose chances are running out to save themselves from relegation from the National League South. Eastbourne like Oxford are secure in the playoffs and only the faint chance of a home tie against, ironically, Oxford is likely to inspire the Sports.
Billericay are scrapping for survival at the moment and following Welling’s point last weekend, will be in need more than ever of a result to add to the points tally.
Ebbsfleet vs Chippenham, my head tells me it should be a comfortable home win and leave Chippenham condemned to needing favours elsewhere to stay in the hunt but, my heart tells me there is something about this squad, this group and ultimately this great club that can go to Ebbsfleet and cause a little upset. We have historically done well at their stadium drawing twice in two seperate cup competitions however, Ebbsfleet did wallop CTFC 5-2 at the TSS earlier in the season and will no doubt be the strongest test for Gary and the lads heading down the stretch.
Havant & Waterlooville (arguably the side we are now locked in battle with for the 7th spot) entertain Hampton & Richmond Borough where anything other than a home win will leave Chippenham able to go to Havant on the final day of the season and secure the playoff spot!
Pressure all over the league at this stage, the formbook suggests Havant but Hampton are capable of scalping anyone on their day, a fantastic side under a great manager, we will certainly be hoping they bring their A game on Saturday.
Our Bank Holiday Monday opponents Hungerford Town will host Welling in what should be a straight forward victory according to the table but with Welling fighting tooth and nail and Hungerford with 4 defeats in 4 games, the formbook could literally be out of the window and it’s a hard one to call between two sides that seem to be fading in the fatigue of a long season.
Race for the title
Maidstone host Chelmsford knowing that with Welling and Hampton their remaining fixtures, a win will leave them with one and a half hands on the National League South Championship.
Chelmsford are now safe from the drop and with nothing but pride to play for it’s hard to imagine anyone let alone themselves stopping the Maidstone promotion tour.
Their Kent rivals Dartford head to Slough Town in a game that could see Dartford usurp Ebbsfleet if Fleet fail to beat Chippenham. Dartford however will face a resurgent Slough Town side who are unbeaten in their last five fixtures and making Arbour Park a very tricky place to go. Again, a draw looks like a good bet.
St. Albans City face Dorking Wanderers with both sides knowing that a defeat will end their ambitions for the season. A loss for St. Albans will likely extinguish faint playoff hopes already 3 points behind Chippenham and 4 behind Havant. Defeat for Dorking and a win for Maidstone would send the title to Kent 2 games early. Even a draw for Dorking will likely not prove enough should they wish to take the title race down to the final day. Should Maidstone win against Chelmsford, Dorking would need both wins and Maidstone would need to lose both games against Welling and Hampton to send the league to Surrey.
So an exciting weekend ahead for the Vanarama National League South and particularly for the Bluebirds. The players and staff at CTFC truly do appreciate the support of the travelling Chippenham supporters and will no doubt see a good few of us down at Ebbsfleet for this all important clash.
For Match Information this weekend at Ebbsfleet, please follow this link below and I wish you a safe trip and hopefully, a big result for Chippenham to take home.