Still, I had more interesting football fare to attend. My first trip to Bulpit Lane for the A4 derby between Hungerford Town and Chippenham Town. The last time I saw Chippenham they had 2 sent off and lost 0-9 to Stourbridge. I wasn't expecting anything similar on this trip. Hungerford, playing at this level for the first time in their history, have been having a great season and currently sit just below the play-off spots. Chippenham, on the other hand, have had a rather tumultuous season, changing managers and languishing near the foot of the table.
Bulpit Lane is pretty close to the town centre. In fact, approaching from the M4 you have to drive through the main street to get there. The car park is fairly small but parking is readily available in the streets around the stadium. The club was founded in 1886 and have played at their current ground for almost all of their history.
First impressions of Bulpit Lane were good. There are two seating areas, one on either side of the ground. A small covered standing area on the town side of the ground and a covered standing area behind the goals opposite the clubhouse. At the car park end, behind the goals, there is a clubhouse, tea bar and, in the far corner, the changing rooms.
The pitch has a small slope down to the car park end and looked to be in decent condition.
To be fair, the way they started the game, they didn't look like a team at the wrong end of the league. Chippenham took the game to Hungerford from the kick-off and, even playing up the slope, were easily the better side early on.
Hungerford responded with some, shall we say, robust challenges. At this point I commented to the Chip fans that the referee needed to take hold of the game or it could get out of hand. From very early on the game seemed to have an undercurrent. I'm not aware of any animosity between the two teams and the Chip fanes didn't mention any tension but some of the players certainly seemed to have an extra agenda. Maybe, in the light of what was to come, I am reading too much into the early exchanges, but those were my thoughts at the time.
Sure enough, 26 minutes in, a very strongly contested 50-50 in midfield resulted in that sickening crunching sound. The Chippenham player, Rob Dean, was obviously in trouble. The referee didn't actually seem to blow his whistle initially but that was maybe because he was trying to separate the players as some scuffling ensued. The medical staff immediately ran on to assist the stricken player.
My neighbours in the stand, all away supporters, were sure that it was a late tackle and, to be fair to them, the referee seemed to agree and brandished a red card. Not wanting to sound like Arsene Wenger but my view wasn't the best. The tackle was a fair distance away and I honestly thought it looked like a 50-50. Having said that, I couldn't see if either of the players had gone over the top of the ball or raised their studs. The referee had a much better view of it and he saw it as a red card offence.
The injury was clearly a serious one and, with the exception of one player, the Chippenham team left the pitch (possibly under orders of their manager).
Shortly afterwards rumour circulated that game had been abandoned and, sure enough, an announcement was made a few minutes later.
Initial reports from both clubs websites say that Rob Dean suffered a serious leg injury. Fingers crossed that it is not a break and that a full and speedy recovery is made.
I have retained my ticket and hope to see the match when it is replayed. Chippenham may hope that I don't make it. Having seen less than a game and a half of theirs this season I have seen them ship 9, seen 3 red cards and one of their players sustain a serious injury. I hope I bring them some better luck next time I attend one of their games. On a plus point, Hardenhuish Park is definitely my favourite ground visited this season so far.
Hungerford Town FC - @HungerfordTown
Chippenham Town FC - @ChipTownFC