Posted by sean on January 2, 2012 at 12:32 am in Non League with No Comments

Chippenham Town 2-1 AFC Totton
Southern Premier Division
Saturday 31st December 2011 – 15:00

As a Bath City fan, I should naturally dislike Chippenham Town. It is not uncommon to hear the chant “We hate Chipnumb, oh we hate Chipnumb!” echo through the Twerton Park terraces. Prior to Bath City’s promotion from the Southern League in 2007, both sides would meet on a regular basis. The rivalry was so intense it would make the Old Firm look like a playground scrap. However, since we have been separated by two divisions on the non-league pyramid, I have started to miss our friends down the road. Sure, the visits of Luton Town and Wrexham to Twerton are fun, but sometimes all you want is the sight of a ‘Chipnumb’ defender, trailing his arms along the ground and offering a 16 year old City fan out into the car park for a fight. If the worst happens and Bath City are relegated, I hope the Bluebirds win promotion from their league, therefore allowing the rivalry to reignite.

When I received an invite to watch Chippenham Town play AFC Totton on New Years Eve, I jumped at the chance. I would even secretly cheer on ‘Chipp’. Therefore, armed with my copy of Shit Ground, No Fans (an excellent Christmas present), I made the trip to Hardenhuish Park.

The opposition, AFC Totton are one of these clubs bankrolled by an eccentric and stupidly wealthy businessman, who has had a midlife crisis and instead of buying a fast car, gets himself a football club*. Totton are regarded by many** as the Manchester City of the Southern League. Only none of their players have set off fireworks in their bathroom and given money to tramps (sadly). AFC Totton will be known to many, including those outside the non-league world, for their FA Cup tie against Bristol Rovers, recently televised on ITV. The Manchester City of non-league did themselves proud, losing 6-1 to the self-proclaimed Barcelona of League Two.

* For legal reasons, I must state “allegedly”. I know nothing of their chairman. He may indeed own lots of fast cars as well.
**replace the word “many” with “me, for the purpose of this blog”

I arrived at a rather wet Hardenhuish Park. I hadn’t been for four years and nothing much had changed. The muddy bank which supporters would climb to reach the ground was still there. I was greeted by a supporter wearing a Manchester United hat. I wished him a Happy New Year, before sending my condolences to Sir Alex Ferguson for his side’s hilarious devastating defeat to Blackburn Rovers earlier in the day.

The team sheet was pinned to one of the many huts dotted around the ground – a nice touch, which is sadly lacking at places like Kenilworth Road. I’m proud to say that Bath City still do it. Various names on the team sheet brought back memories of past seasons. Will Puddy – the goalkeeper who let in four goals in 20 minutes on the first day of the 2009/10 season for Bath City. I still have nightmares to this day. Nathan Rudge – regarded by some as a non-league warhorse, although by most as a non-league donkey. Dave Gilroy – who I would still have back at Bath City. Andy Sandell – the boy who flirted with the football league, before returning to his roots.

Does not give the wearer a licence to invade and pillage

I made my way to the far end of the ground, where an old, portable tea hut stood. Any supporter hoping to get a halftime pie or doughnut would be left disappointed. Not even a cup of coffee from a Halloween mug would be served here.

No tea or coffee here, mate. Vikings stole it.

Kick off was preceded by the usual announcement of the teams, followed by a warning that foul and abusive language would not be tolerated. Obviously this caution was brought in following the sacking of ex-Bluebirds manager, Darren Perrin, renowned for his colourful language. It was actually Perrin who invented the word c**t, during a Wiltshire Senior Cup tie against Corsham Town. No legal note needed there, that was a fact.

The crowd were vocal, although the chants uninspired. “Come on Chipnumb! Come on Chipnumb!” the home support would sing, before the travelling army of Totton fans piped up with a solitary shout of “Yellows! Yellows! Yellows!” Such an imaginative song lead me to quickly checked my match day programme to make sure I wasn’t watching Southport.

A fat blue tit wearing football boots. One of the better mascots I've seen

There were little highlights during the first half. Chippenham’s Alan Griffin (brother of Charlie) making a late bid for the Team GB diving squad in the penalty box, while Totton’s Nathaniel Sherborne volunteered himself for a place in the Winter Olympics by, as if on ice, slipping over in Chippenham’s penalty area after finding himself one-on-one with safe butter handed goalkeeper, Will Puddy. Chippenham’s Ross Stearn was by far the greatest player the world had ever seen on the pitch that day. In fact, when I order Dave Gilroy’s taxi to Twerton Park, I’ll make sure they take ‘Stearny’ with them.

BBC cutbacks mean the new Dr. Who will receive a low budget Tardis

Half time came, with the score line at 0-0. A Bristol City fan behind me took great delight in informing everyone that Bristol Rovers were losing 4-1 to Crewe “They’ll go non-league, where they belong” he chortled, clearly taking far more pleasure in his rival’s demise than the excellent win over Southampton his own team had the previous evening. Typical football fan really. Well done, Sir.

Pay your fee, or we'll send The Vikings round

The second half started and the home fans began with a new song – “There’s only one Nathan Rudge” I am sure I speak for all non-league fans when I say that I am glad of this fact. If Rudge was to ever clone himself, football-related injuries would go up by 5000%, although Pedigree Chum would never be short of ingredients for its dog food meat.

Selling helmets, mead wine and various other viking paraphernalia

While walking along the terraces, I couldn’t help but notice the number of supporters playing with portable games consoles and iPods during the game. Clearly Santa had been very generous in the Wiltshire suburbs. Although, Jolly Old Saint Nick should better watch his back next year when coming down my chimney. The old fat git, a reader of my blog, was clearly doing his upmost to piss me off, by giving a home fan a drum for Christmas – an instrument the supporter was not afraid to show off, while singing “What’s it like to hear a drum?” I’ll tell you what it’s like – very, very annoying.

Annoying drums but excellent corner flags

With the game still goalless, Nathaniel Sherborne, still embarrassed after his ‘Bambi on ice’ exploits from the first half, fell to the ground after a challenge from a Chippenham player. He lay on then cold, wet pitch for what seemed like ages. The home supporters, rabid and full of rage at the sheer audacity a player should become injured, shouted various excerpts from The Darren Perrin Book of Swearing. Never mind the fact the player could be injured – in Darren’s day, a footballer would play on even if he was dead. A member of the Totton coaching staff clearly took offence to the fans’ abuse and intervened – probably offering a supporter out for a fight in the car park. Classic Southern League violence. Love it.

To be fair to the Chippenham fans, Totton were a horrible team to play against. While Sherborne  may have been genuinely hurt from one tackle, the number 9 spent the earlier stages of the game diving and cheating.

With the game looking as if it would be heading for a 0-0 bore-fest, the linesman gave Totton a penalty. Why? I have no idea. I don’t think anybody in the ground did either. I suspect the Totton chairman promised him a free sports car (Legal notice: see disclaimer above). After discussing with the referee for what seemed like ten hours, a spot kick was eventually awarded. The penalty was scored. 1-0 to Totton. New BMW for the lino. Mercedes for the ref.

It isn’t very often I watch football games which don’t involve Bath City. However when I do, it often amuses me how furious fans can get when their team are wronged for whatever reason. A very, very angry fan in a leather jacket had been shouting throughout the game. When the penalty was given, I genuinely thought the supporter was going to die of rage. Can you die of rage? I’m not sure. This fan almost did though. He immediately got out his mobile phone, to tell his mate what had just happened, again using language learnt from Darren Perrin’s best-selling book.

It's fucking unbelievable, Jeff!

While the penalty was somewhat unjust, I was pleased there had been a goal as both teams decided that they would start playing football. The angry man next to me started swearing even more – “Nobody’s there for fucks sake!” he yelled after a donkey (probably Nathan Rudge), hoofed a ball into an empty penalty area. “Get some fucking bodies in the box!” he barked, before turning his anger to the referee “Fuck off back to Yate, you bastard!” The anger levels were reduced slightly when a Chippenham Town player flew into a Totton forward “Splatter the little bastard!” he shouted with joy, clearly hungry for blood. Typical Viking.

Chippenham Town then scored. Seconds after missing an open goal. The crowd went wild. Then, deep into injury time, they got another. A cross from my new favourite player, Ross Stearn. Somebody call Abbey Taxi’s – I need a cab from Hardenhuish Park to Twerton. Don’t worry about Gilroy, Stearny will win us the league single-handed.

The game finished 2-1 to Chippenham Town. A fair result and one that proved that moneybag cheaters never prosper and if you have fans that swear a lot, you can inspire your team to victory.

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