Whyteleafe FC

Whyteleafe 0-3 Chippenham Town

A huge day for Whyteleafe FC on Saturday – a little matter of an FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie and the club’s biggest gate for over twenty years. A quick word for general manager Clive Davis and his admin and coaching team and all the eager volunteers who worked tirelessly to make sure that the club – and ground - was ready for such a big day and the visit of a National League South side. Great effort. Let’s not forget either the bar staff in the club-house and kitchen who were run off their feet, but also did a fantastic job all with a smile.

Certainly, standing in the Leafe car park at about 1pm as the two coach-loads of fans from Chippenham arrived, it was quite a sight watching them all troop in to our club-house, including the chap with the sizeable bass drum hung around his neck. If he’d been banging that on the coach up from Wiltshire no wonder some of those fans looked in need of a drink!

Fair play to Chippenham Town’s fans though. A sea of blue and white, a nice line in songs and that drummer! They were friendly, well-behaved and like Leafe fans genuinely looking forward to the game. For both sides, a place in the first-round proper of the Emirates FA Cup awaited.

We knew it was a big day. We had the sight of four rather than three officials turning up. Bigger clubs get a fourth official for their matches rather our normal ref and two linos. Oh, and we had two turnstiles open rather than the usual one. Those old ‘stiles have seen such action before of course, as they used to earn their keep at Stoke City’s old Victoria Ground.

By the time the game kicked off you could cut the excitement with a knife and a crowd of 512 were ready to enjoy the game. It was brilliant to see Church Road with such an attendance.

Chippenham Town looked big and strong from front to back with four loanees from Swindon Town and a left-back from Newport County among their squad and sitting two divisions above us in the football pyramid, this would be a tough ask for Harry Hudson’s young side, but they were up for it and determined to enjoy their big day.

Harry was able to pick from an almost full-strength side with Jordan Clarke unfortunately still suffering from an injury and it was lovely - and heartwarming - to see Antonio Walker-Barth back and available for selection again.

Talking of hearts, Leafe fans had theirs in the mouths within 45-seconds as right-winger, Corie Andrews made a superb run and looked certain to open the scoring only for the Chippenham keeper to make a decent save. Would that miss prove to be costly or the sign of things to come?

It has to be said that Whyteleafe dominated the game for the first thirty-minutes. Fair and square. At times, Chippenham were hanging on and although maybe not on the ropes, looked close to conceding. Matt O’Donoghue fired over the bar from eight yards in the 26th minute, while outstanding centre back Ricardo Thompson also had a great effort saved. Then, of course, the ever-present danger to any opposing team, Ronnie Sobowale had several chances.

Chippenham had their moments, as you’d expect, although the Leafe defence coped admirably. However, with the likes of ex-Millwall winger, Chris Zebroski in their ranks, the visitor’s forwards looked dangerous. As least they didn’t have another of their old boys, new England international, Tyrone Mings in their side!

So it proved in the 34th minute when a fast move saw the dangerous Karnell Chambers open the scoring for Chippenham. Rather than buckle however, Leafe went looking for an equaliser, which lifted the home fans spirits.

Sadly however, we were two down within six minutes. This time the impressive Chippenham captain, Kieran Parselle grabbing the goal stemming from a set piece.

Undaunted, Harry and assistant Calum, went for broke in the second half. Taking off centre-back Jamie McGeoghegan and throwing on striker Junior Aikhionbare. A definite case of hope favouring the brave.

Leafe fans were delighted at the attitude of our team who tried everything they could to get back in the game. With the FA Cup anything can happen, as we all know, but in the end the two-division gap proved too much and Chippenham made sure of the victory in the sixtieth minute through Rhys Tyler.

Thing is, 3-0 sounds like we were well-beaten but the fact is we weren’t. Chippenham officials and fans were extremely complimentary after the game and it was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests. Some lovely memories from the day, perhaps my favourite was a fantastic piece of skill from our colossus of a centre-back, Corey Holder, who, already on a booking, made a pinpoint sliding block tackle on a Chippenham attacker out on the left touchline and not only didn’t foul him but kept the ball in play and set up an attack. If he hadn’t have been so accurate then Chippenham would have been away and of course, he may have been sent off! Brilliant demonstration of defending at its very best.

Picking a star man for Leafe is irrelevant as frankly every single player worked their socks off and all of them put in man of the match perforrmances and Leafe fans are delighted that they took us on our romantic FA Cup journey this season. We enjoyed it every bit as much as they did and look forward to many more such happy days …didn’t we all have a lovely time, eh?

Moving forwards, Leafe can now focus fully on the league and we have the little matter of five games in hand on most teams to catch up on kicking off with a tough trip to the South Circular Road on Tuesday evening to face Cray Valley Paper Mills.

One final word on the FA Cup run, a big ‘THANKS’ to Harry and the boys for taking us on our FA Cup journey to the fourth qualifying round. Sure, it would have been fantastic to entertain a league side at Church Road in the first round, but it wasn’t to be and good luck to Chippenham Town FC.

1 Tyler McCarthy 2 Matt O’Donoghue 3 Ricardo Thompson 4 Nathan Campbell 5 Jamie McGeoghegan (sub 45’ 16 Junior Aikhionbare) 6 Corey Holder 7 Corie Andrews (sub 65’ 17 Adam Aziz) 8 Bentley Graham 9 Ronald Sobowale 10 Mannie Mensah 11 Martin Sontan (sub 68’ 15 Mason Saunders-Henry)

Subs not used: 12 Dami Olurunnisome 13 Jack Fuell 14 Antonio Walker-Barth 18 Tre Daley

Match Report: Steve Hole 

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