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Chippenham Town 0-0 Fleet

Chippenham goalkeeper Will Henry was the hero as far as the home side were concerned as he saved Luke O’Neill’s second-half penalty to help earn the 10-man Bluebirds a point.

Fleet were held to only their fourth draw of the campaign and just couldn’t find a way past Chippenham, whose dogged defending after being reduced to 10 men in the first-half frustrated the travelling party. That said, Fleet earned a further point to extend their lead at the table to nine points – and effectively 10 given the superiority in goal difference as things stand.

Dennis Kutrieb made four changes from the side that won at Bath, with Sido Jombati back from suspension and with him came Josh Wright, Darren McQueen and Shaq Coulthirst. Chippenham left new signing Matt McClure on the bench, as well as Joe Hanks who had found the net against the Fleet a couple of times previously.

Without Billy Clifford, O’Neill stepped up to set-piece duties and warmed Henry’s hands with an early free-kick but Chippenham had a gameplan and stuck gamely to it as they kept the red shirts from finding much rhythm. The home side succeeded in narrowing the play with Fleet forced to play through a tight midfield, unable to really draw McQueen and Greg Cundle into the game.

The result of that was a lack of fluidity and ball retention and both sides were guilty of losing possession. McQueen almost linked up with Bingham but he was unable to get an effort away on goal before Will Tizzard almost released Alefe Santos at the other end. “Almost” was the buzzword of the evening as neither side could really fashion a solid opportunity. Chippenham showed good forward movement when they got away on the break but their finishing was wayward.

Fleet were inches from breaking the deadlock on 22 minutes when Bingham met Cundle’s pass inside and sent a shot pinging off the post as Henry got a hand to it. The ball somehow rolled along and away from the goal with Dominic Poleon agonisingly short of converting.

It seemed Fleet were turning the screw a little as Wright began to apply some finesse in the middle – he helped a delivery on to Coulthirst who got a shot away on target that was diverted for a corner by Henry.

The talking point of the game came seven minutes from the break – Jombati and Eddie Jones tangled 25 yards out. As the pair wrestled for the ball, Jombati got away and Jones felled him with a late challenge that produced a red card from referee Steven Hughes.

Immediately the nature of the game changed as Chippenham withdrew into their own half, pulling all 10 men behind the ball. And they saw the remainder of the half out without too much danger, Coulthirst’s back heel into Poleon’s path the only moment that suggested a threat before the break.

Will Henry gets across to Luke O’Neill’s penalty

The visitors began the second-half determined to make the breakthrough, Kutrieb introducing Franklin Domi and Toby Edser. There was more width apparent from the restart as Cundle produced a number of runs and deliveries in the opening five minutes. Chippenham were content to catch the Fleet on the break and once or twice eased the pressure on themselves with a couple of ventures forward that kept the red defence concentrating.

Otherwise, it was all Fleet. Chris Solly and Christian N’Guessan hovered around the 40-yard mark to pick up Chippenham’s clearances and spray them back into the mix, where Cundle and Edser sniffed around the box trying to pick the lock.

Domi had the ball over the line on 54 minutes after some neat play by Cundle and Bingham on the edge of the box but that was pulled back for a supposed Wright foul in the build-up – and that summed up the evening, as Fleet retained the ball for minutes at a time but found nothing but blue shirts in the way every time they got into the box or got a shot away.

A golden opportunity finally presented itself 20 minutes from the end when Wright’s clever reverse pass to Domi after a corner caught the Chippenham defence expecting a pass in the opposite direction. Domi tried to skip around his man but was tripped in the process and the referee pointed to the spot straight away.

It was clearly not going to be Fleet’s night, however, as Henry pushed away O’Neill’s kick and that galvanised Chippenham further who fought tooth and nail to preserve their point. In the minutes remaining, Fleet huffed and puffed but just couldn’t blow the house down and Chippenham even fashioned a couple of late free-kicks to ease the near-constant pressure on their defensive ranks and they held out to greet the point and the clean sheet warmly.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Jombati (Domi 46), Solly, Wright (Romain 82), N’Guessan, Cundle, McQueen, Bingham, Coulthirst (Edser 46), Poleon. Subs: Clifford, Chapman
CTFC: Henry, Jones, Richards, Santos (Hanks 80), Fasanmade, Bray (Simpson 61), Mehew, Tizzard, Bradbury (McClure 73), Russe, King. Subs: Windsor, Parker
Attendance: 458

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