It's a game of two halves

Swindon Advertiser: Swindon Supermarine boss Dave Webb Swindon Supermarine boss Dave Webb

THE non-league football season has reached its halfway point and our 10 local sides in the Southern League and Hellenic League are continuing to scrap away.

Whether it’s about winning titles, reaching the play-offs, avoiding relegation or simply just making it through until the end of the season, every team’s story is developing.

We’ve all heard the talk. We’ve got the squad to win the title. We’ll be in the mix come April. We’re too good to go down. But what’s the reality?

In a special report, Adver non-league writer NED PAYNE rounds up the season so far of each of our local clubs and assesses their chances in the second half of the campaign.

CHIPPENHAM TOWN

League position: 18th (Southern League Premier Division)

FA Cup: Out in first qualifying round - lost 3-2 at Yate

FA Trophy: Out in second qualifying round - lost 4-1 at Bognor Regis

Red Insure Cup: Out in second round - drew 2-2 at Merthyr and lost 6-5 on penalties

Half-term grade: C

Verdict: Colourful is probably the most generous word to describe Chippenham’s season to date.

The Bluebirds were on their third manager by the start of November after Nathan Rudge and Steve Winter came and went, the latter within six weeks of his appointment.

Rudge tendered his shock resignation just two games into the season and assistant Winter was appointed as his successor.

But despite a positive start, matters swiftly went downhill, culminating in a 9-0 defeat to Stourbridge that Winter missed due to being on a surprise holiday for his 40th birthday, but he was nonetheless relieved of his duties.

With a season-long relegation battle looking increasingly likely, the Hardenhuish Park side turned to Mark Collier to step in.

Chippenham took seven points from their first three league games under the ex-Supermarine manager - who recruited heavily after assuming the hotseat - but have now not won since November 19.

Survival appears to be the number one target for the Bluebirds.

CIRENCESTER TOWN

League position: Second (Southern League Division One South & West)

FA Cup: Out in third qualifying round - lost 2-1 at home to Weymouth

FA Trophy: Out in first qualifying round - lost 3-2 at Egham

Red Insure Cup: Home to Hungerford in third round (last 16)

Half-term grade: A+

Verdict: Season after season, Brian Hughes seems to put together a competitive Cirencester side.

And he’s done it again this campaign with a squad that could go very close to winning the Southern League Division One South & West title.

Ciren had major injury problems early on in the season and wobbles against Bridgwater and Supermarine in August had some questioning their credentials.

But the Corinium side answered their critics emphatically. They have only lost twice in the league since the end of August and are a point behind Merthyr at the summit.

The free-scoring Lee Smith has been a revelation while ex-Marine centre-back Leigh Henry has played his part in a determined rearguard effort.

A financially-useful run in the FA Cup aided matters as Slough, Banbury and Portchester were dumped out, signifying Ciren’s considerable potential.

And the Gloucestershire side will view the play-offs as the minimum requirement come the end of the season, given their current position.

SWINDON SUPERMARINE

League position: Eighth (Southern League Division One South & West)

FA Cup: Out in preliminary round - lost 3-0 at Winchester

FA Trophy: Out in first qualifying round - lost 3-2 at home to Bideford

Red Insure Cup: Out in second round - lost 3-0 at home to Cirencester

Half-term grade: B

Verdict: Manager Dave Webb has done well to keep the ship steady at Supermarine following his most testing couple of months to date.

Marine started the season like a train and the loan signing of Swindon Town’s Kayden Jackson for two months was a massive boost to the South Marston side.

The young striker’s goals helped fire them to the top of the league in September, only for the boys in blue and white to veer off course at the end of October and throughout November.

That was not helped by a spate of player departures including that of Jackson and stalwart left-back Danny Allen, who decided to retire.

However, with Ash Edenborough, Chris Taylor and Josh Parsons now all returned following summer moves to Hungerford, Marine picked up again.

The injury problems that dogged the squad for a time, and defenders Craig Curtis and Kyle Lapham in particular, cleared up and Marine remain in with a shout of a play-off spot.

Top-five from this point would be an impressive achievement given the increasingly competitive nature of the league.

HIGHWORTH TOWN

League position: Fourth (Hellenic League Premier Division)

FA Cup: Out in extra preliminary round - lost 3-1 at Bournemouth Poppies

FA Vase: Out in first qualifying round - lost 3-1 at home to Camberley

Wiltshire FA Senior Cup: Away to Melksham in quarter-final

Hellenic League Challenge Cup: Away to Flackwell Heath in third round (last 16)

Hellenic League Supplementary Cup: N/A

Hellenic League Floodlit Cup: Away to Wantage in third round (last 16)

Half-term grade: A

Verdict: It’s been quite a turnaround at Highworth.

A sixteenth-placed finish last season wasn’t exactly the heights anyone had been hoping to hit at the Elms and boss John Fisher warned in the summer that he would be forced to consider his future if he couldn’t work with the same budget in 2013/14.

However, those behind the scenes ensured that Fisher - who won the title with the Worthians in 2004/05 - got his wish.

The boss then pulled off a masterstroke by bringing back TJ Bohane to the Elms and the striker has been banging in the goals Highworth were desperately missing ever since the start of the campaign.

Riding high in the league alongside others with plenty of financial clout, Highworth have seriously impressed.

OK, so maybe they should have done better in the national FA competitions, but they are still in three cup competitions including the Wiltshire Senior Cup.

There’s every chance at least one trophy could be in the cabinet by the end of the season.

SHRIVENHAM

League position: 16th (Hellenic League Premier Division)

FA Cup: Out in extra preliminary round - lost 2-1 at Westfield

FA Vase: Out in second qualifying round - lost 3-0 at Brimscombe & Thrupp

Berks & Bucks FA Senior Trophy: Out in quarter-final - lost 7-1 to Windsor

Hellenic League Challenge Cup: Home to Wantage in third round (last 16)

Hellenic League Supplementary Cup: N/A

Hellenic League Floodlit Cup: Home to Tuffley in third round (last 16)

Half-term grade: B-

Verdict: After joining up with Shrivenham in May following his exit from Wootton Bassett, Dave Turner warned not to expect miracles.

He wasn’t wrong.

Shrivvy have found it tough going in the league yet again this term but under Turner’s leadership, it is undeniable that chinks of light are beginning to shine through.

Under three different managers last season, the Barrington Park side managed 12 points in 36 games. This campaign they have 21 points in 23 games, nearly double last season’s total with 15 games to go.

Perhaps improbably, the cups have proved a sanctuary. Shrivvy made it one round further than Highworth in the FA Vase after a kind draw against Malmesbury and are still up and running in two Hellenic League cup competitions.

Boss Turner will hope that extra knockout fixtures will not throw his side’s league campaign off the rails, but as it stands, Shrivvy look likely to keep their head just above water.

WOOTTON BASSETT

League position: 13th (Hellenic League Premier Division)

FA Cup: Out in extra preliminary round - lost 2-0 at home to Totton & Eling

FA Vase: Out in second qualifying round - lost 7-0 at Odd Down

Wiltshire FA Senior Cup: Out in second round (last 16) - lost 3-2 at home to Bemerton Heath

Hellenic League Challenge Cup: Out in first round - lost 5-2 at Lydney

Hellenic League Supplementary Cup: In third round (last 16) - draw yet to take place

Hellenic League Floodlit Cup: Out in first round - lost 3-1 at home to Tytherington

Half-term grade: C+

Verdict: Former Calne boss Jeff Roberts arrived at promoted Wootton Bassett with big plans in the summer.

The club elected to run with a budget for the first time and Roberts was hopeful of a top-six finish and a Wilts Senior Cup triumph.

The reality has proved somewhat different.

The new manager brought in plenty of new players when he arrived – including midfielder son Jordan who was courted by Swindon Supermarine - and has continued to do so in the first half of the season.

Roberts has openly admitted that this was part of the reason why his team had struggled to gel.

The Wilts Senior Cup dream was dashed by Bemerton early on and Bassett are currently 19 points adrift of the top six.

With a season and a half left of their tenancy at Cirencester Town’s Corinium Stadium before they move into a new home at Ballards Ash, 2013/14 remains a building season both on and off the pitch.

FAIRFORD TOWN

League position: Fourth (Hellenic League Division One West)

FA Cup: Out in extra preliminary round - lost 2-1 at Bracknell

FA Vase: Out in second qualifying round - lost 4-0 at home to Kidlington

Gloucestershire FA Challenge Trophy: Out in third round (last 16) - lost 2-0 at home to Slimbridge

Hellenic League Challenge Cup: Out in first round - lost 4-2 at Wantage

Hellenic League Supplementary Cup: Home to Oxford City Nomads in second round (last 32)

Hellenic League Floodlit Cup: In quarter-final - draw yet to take place

Half-term grade: B+

Verdict: Manager Paul Braithwaite wanted to have a good crack at the Hellenic League Division One West title this season, but barring a miracle, those hopes look done and dusted.

Due to a spell of good weather from the start of the season until early-December combined with a league that features only 15 teams, Fairford ripped through their fixtures.

At what many consider to be the season’s half way point, the Reds have just nine league games to play and are 14 points behind leaders Tytherington, over whom they have just one game in hand.

Fairford enjoyed a strong run in the latter part of 2012/13 and they will crave something similar this round, with boss Braithwaite believing his team are now ‘settled’ following player departures earlier this campaign.

Trophy-wise they are three games away from silverware in the Floodlit Cup and a victory in that would certainly put a substantial layer of gloss on their season.

PURTON

League position: Sixth (Hellenic League Division One West)

FA Cup: N/A

FA Vase: N/A

Wiltshire FA Senior Cup: Away to Corsham in quarter-final

Hellenic League Challenge Cup: Home to Ascot in third round (last 16)

Hellenic League Supplementary Cup: N/A

Hellenic League Floodlit Cup: N/A

Half-term grade: B+

Verdict: By their standards, Purton endured an abject 2012/13 as they finished 13 th in Division One West, and boss Chris Pethick admitted that after around a decade in charge, he was considering stepping aside.

Thank goodness he didn’t.

Not wanting to leave the club in the more, Pethick immediately set about rebuilding his Purton mini-empire and did so with some success.

Keeper Gary Stevens was one of a number of notable summer signings and the retention of key players such as midfield talisman Marcus Hall kept things moving along nicely.

The Red House boys have made a habit of bouncing back swiftly from defeat and despite two tricky away draws in the Wilts Senior Cup, are through to the quarter-finals.

Stevens’ recent departure for Highworth may not be ideal but Purton could be a dark horse to win a trophy this season.

NEW COLLEGE

League position: 11th (Hellenic League Division One West)

FA Cup: N/A

FA Vase: Out in second qualifying round - lost 2-0 at home to Staines Lammas

Wiltshire FA Senior Cup: Out in second round (last 16) - lost 8-1 at home to Pewsey Vale

Hellenic League Challenge Cup: Out in second round (last 32) - lost 3-1 at home to Rayners Lane

Hellenic League Supplementary Cup: Away to Carterton in second round (last 32)

Hellenic League Floodlit Cup: Out in first round - lost 4-0 at Malmesbury

Half-term grade: C+

Verdict: It’s the nature of things at New College that they will never be able to build a settled side.

Whatever young talent comes through the Academy in any given year is what boss Rob Hopkins has to work with. And this season it appears that crop is decent.

It seems inevitable that by the end of 2013/14, College will have surpassed their 19-point total of the last campaign, being just four points behind that at the moment.

It’s unrealistic to expect young players to come in and boss games in adult football, especially in a physical league such as Division One West, and Hopkins has stated that he would be more than happy to be top of the bottom half of the table.

That’s not an unfeasible target at this stage, but it’s equally possible that the students could get dragged lower down if they take their foot off the gas.

MALMESBURY VICTORIA

League position: 12th (Hellenic League Division One West)

FA Cup: N/A

FA Vase: Out in first qualifying round - lost 4-2 at Shrivenham

Wiltshire FA Senior Cup: Out in first round - lost 8-0 at Highworth

Hellenic League Challenge Cup: Out in first round - lost 8-0 at Ardley

Hellenic League Supplementary Cup: Out in second round (last 32) - lost 5-4 at North Leigh United

Hellenic League Floodlit Cup: Out in second round (last 32) - lost 10-1 at home to Wantage

Half-term grade: C

Verdict: It’s a credit to Gareth Davies and his management team at Malmesbury that they are keeping their chins up.

It would have been easy to give up in a season that looked like it would be extremely difficult and delivered exactly what it promised.

Malmesbury have won just one of their last 12 games and have taken some almighty beatings along the way, even conceding 10 in a Floodlit Cup thrashing by Wantage.

Battling down at the wrong end of Hellenic League Division One West, Vics’ young side know it’s a long road to the end of the season.

Everyone at the club will be hoping that the Flying Monk pitch - flooded by the River Avon over Christmas - will keep out of trouble over the rest of winter.

No one has played less games in the league than Malmesbury and getting further behind on their fixtures could result in major problems.

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