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CHIPPENHAM TOWN: Hemel Hempstead Town 2 Chippenham Town 1
The new season began with disappointment for Chippenham Town as they suffered defeat at Hemel Hempstead Town this afternoon.
The Bluebirds had to play the majority of the second half with ten men after player-manager Nathan Rudge was sent off and the decisive goal came from a speculative wonderstrike from the hosts’ Alex Campana.
Hemel started brightly and took the lead after just six minutes when a slick passing move saw Matt Nolan pick the ball up on the left wing and cross to the feet of Dave Pearce, who arrowed a low finish into the bottom right-hand corner to make it 1-0.
Rudge’s men struggled to get started and on the 25 minute mark, only a brave close-range save by Josh Dempsey denied the hosts’ Victor Osubu having the goal at his mercy.
Shortly afterwards, Chippenham finally found their feet at Vauxhall Road, with James Guthrie having a powerful effort deflected narrowly wide of the post.
Then, with five minutes of the half remaining, Luke Ballinger saw a free-kick take a wicked deflection off the wall of defenders, leaving Hemel keeper Mark Osborn flat-footed, before agonisingly looping onto the crossbar.
But a minute later, the Bluebirds did level the scores when Dempsey lofted a kick right up to the edge of the hosts’ penalty area, with Alan Griffin superbly bringing the ball down.
The striker then fired a low shot towards goal, which took a deflection before beating the diving Osborn to make it 1-1.
Chippenham looked in a prime position to go on and take the game to their opponents in the second half but five minutes after the break, they were behind again to a moment of magic.
Dempsey came rushing out of his goal to challenge the onrushing Nolan and his clearance fell at the feet of substitute Campana on the left wing.
The Hemel winger lofted an audacious effort towards goal but his lob was perfectly-weighted and despite the Bluebirds keeper’s best efforts, he could only watch the ball nestle calmly in the net.
The home side then could and maybe should have made it 3-1 minutes later when Stephen O’Leary wasted an effort when he was unmarked in the area.
On 58 minutes, Chippenham’s afternoon took another turn for the worse when Rudge was adjudged to have stamped on Hemel’s Nolan after they challenged for a high ball, with the Bluebirds chief shown a straight red.
But despite their man disadvantage, it was the visitors who went on the front foot for the remainder of the second period, with Griffin coming closest to finding a second equaliser when he headed wide from Ballinger’s delicious curling cross.
Sub Dean Griffiths just failed to put the finishing touch on a Griffin pass and Scott Lye looked certain to score, but for a late block in the area.
Then in the closing stages, the ball broke to Toby Osman on the edge of the area but his shot could only find the side netting.
CHIPPENHAM TOWN: Josh Dempsey, Iain Harvey (Dean Griffiths 69), Shaun Lamb, Ashley Williams, Steve Casey, Nathan Rudge, Luke Ballinger, Scott Rogers, Alan Griffin, James Guthrie (Scott Lye 76), Lee Phillips (Toby Osman 60).
Subs not used : Dave Gilroy, Brandon Barnes.