Tuesday 20th July 2021 – Pre-Season Friendly – Hardenhuish Park, Chippenham
The first rule of Pre-Season friendliest is that you can do what you want if both teams and the referee agree. So whilst there would have been mild outrage and pens sharpened to write angry letters to all and sundry from some quarters, Newport County’s decision to wear shirts so new they didn’t have a chance to name or number them hardly raised an eyebrow for most.
It did solve one of the traditions of Pre-Season though – the guessing of who A.Trialist actually is. By simply having no names or numbers on shirts you could announce any set of player names and most watchers would be none the wiser on who was who, or spend the first 30 minutes of the game trying to figure it out.
It was fortuitous that Chippenham were playing on the same day as my planned trip to Taunton for the cricket, and even more lucky that the cricket ended in time for me to get back to Wiltshire for the 7pm kick off. After struggling in the National League South in the aborted 2019/20 season, last season was looking much better for the Bluebirds as they sat in the play-offs when the season was first halted and then curtailed.
Covid caused a few issues for the clubs before Christmas, with the club forced to stop playing, which saw them ultimately fined by the National League. Six months later and Covid again was an issue, causing the home side to field an understrength side against last season’s League Two Play-off runners up who had the majority of their first team squad on display, even if most fans had no idea of their line up.
Naturally, it was A. Trialist who opened the scoring for the Exiles after twenty minutes, and they should have doubled their lead a few minutes later when X controlled the ball in the six-yards area and smashed it wide.
The half-time break gave both sides an opportunity to cool down from the oppressive heat. Chippenham got back into the game just after the break when Griffiths was fouled and he converted the spot-kick. Friendlies are about the performance rather than the result, and of course the goal-scoring exploits of A.Trialist who must hold all of the goal-scoring results in the country and sure enough he scored from just inside the area to put the visitors back in the lead.
The raft of substitutions was my cue to depart. The National League side had looked comfortable in possession but may need to beef up their attack going into what promises to be another hard season. The Bluebirds will be hoping to take the 2020/21 season form rather than the 2019/20 one into the next season. With uncertainty still hanging in the air, especially with the fractious relationship between the clubs and the National League, the future isn’t quite bright, but there are brief glimpses of sunshine on the horizon that Chippenham Town will be hoping to bathe in.