FA Cup 1st Round: Who Are Chippenham Town?

For the second season in a row, City will face off against a non-league team in the FA Cup 1st Round.

We’ve had a good run against non-league teams in terms of wins, beating Bowers & Pitsea, Nuneaton Town, Telford Utd, and Northwich since our last defeat (Kettering Town under Mark Cooper in 2008). We were drawn against either Chippenham Town or Hendon, with the former winning 1-0 last night to set up a visit from us.

Who are Chippenham Town? They play in the National League South, which is the equivalent level of Boston United. At the time of writing, they’re 15th, with four wins, three draws and four defeats this season. They’ve made the 1st Round Proper on three occasions before this season; in 1951/52, 2005–06 and 2019–20. On the first occasion, they battled through five qualifying matches before losing to fellow non-league side Leyton, a feat repeated in 2005-06. On that occasion, they beat Falmouth Town, Newport County, Sutton United and Basingstoke on their way to the first round, an impressive run for them at the time. Sadly, they drew fellow non-league side Worcester City in the first round, and despite a good chance of progression, they drew 1-1, before losing in a replay.

In 2019/20, they qualified for the first round with replay wins against Cirencester and Slough, as well as a 3-0 win at Whyteleafe. That earned them a tie against Northampton Town, which they lost 3-0, with former Imp Vadaine Oliver scoring twice. I tell you that because, in terms of stature, it makes Lincoln City one of the biggest matches they will have hosted (I don’t mean that in an arrogant way).

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It feels odd; just six years ago, it was us making the headlines and being the romance story, and now the boot is on the other foot. It’s why I love getting teams such as Chippenham in the 1st round because we know what it means for a club of a certain level to be at this stage. It’s humbling, I think, and helps ground our fans when we get lost in games against Charlton, Sheff Weds and Ipswich.

They play at Hardenhuish Park, a 3,000-capacity stadium with 300 seats. It’s unlikely there will be many tickets for Imps supporters to make the trip, which is a shame, although I personally will be in Germany watching St Pauli that afternoon (and am therefore grateful for an away game with a ticket scramble as I won’t be a part of it!). In terms of their history, they’re as good now as they’ve ever been; they were promoted to the National League South in 2017 and finished last season in seventh place, their highest-ever placing.

It’s a good time to be a Bluebirds fan, and they’ll be confident of causing some sort of upset when we go there. What’s really nice is we’re not dealing with a new club or an amalgamation of clubs which have been forced to fold; there’s been a football club called Chippenham Town since 1873, and they’ve played at the same ground since 1919. This is, dare I say it, a proper club with a deep history, which makes their recent exploits even more impressive.

They’re managed by Gary Horgan, a non-league stalwart with spells at Hungerford Town, Swindon Supermarine, Mangotsfield United, Salisbury City, Cirencester Town and Bath City. They have a couple of players in on loan from ‘local’ bigger clubs, namely Will Tizzard  (Southampton) and Harvey Greenslade (Bristol Rovers). Other notable players include Alex Bray (who played 11 times for Forest Green in 2017/18), Joe Hanks (with 33 appearances for Cheltenham in League Two in 2014/15), Pablo Martinez (former Wales U17 and U19 international) and Alefe Santos who impressed for Bristol Rovers in League Two and earned a move to Derby in his younger days.

They do have some famous alumni – Scott Twine (now of Burnley) spent time on loan twice with the Bluebirds early in his career, whilst Tyrone Mings also played for the club whilst working as a barman. I have also uncovered a link between them and us (and it took some serious digging). Remember Marlon Jackson? No? Oh. Well, Marlon Jackson played for us in 2013 on loan from Bury. He played ten times in total, four times in the league, four times in the FA Cup and twice in the FA Trophy. Oddly, he appeared as we beat Worcester after a replay in the FA Cup qualifying round (given they had beaten Chippenham in the first round before) and then twice against Plymouth (0-0 in my last game as Poacher). He bagged against Stalybridge Celtic in the FA Trophy but returned to Bury once his loan finished. After us, he played for FC Halifax Town, Oxford City (twice), Tranmere Rovers, Newport County, Hereford, Weston-super-Mare (twice), Gloucester City and (you guessed it) Chippenham Town. He was released by the club due to the Covid crisis in November last year.

That brings your handy guide to Chippenham Town to an end.

Marlon Jackson v Worcester City – Credit Graham Burrell