BLUEBIRDS winger Luke Ballinger is relishing the fresh start at Chippenham Town that has seen him get among the goals at the start of this season.
Ballinger, who came to Hardenhuish Park from local rivals Frome Town in the summer, has been a mainstay in the Chippenham line-up under Nathan Rudge so far this season and he netted his fifth goal of the campaign in last weekend’s FA Cup first qualifying round victory over former club Mangotsfield United.
“I spoke to Rudgey at the start of the season because I felt I needed a new challenge and a new start,” he said.
“It’s gone well for me and I’ve played every minute in the league – I’ve chipped in with a few goals, which is good.
“The boys are great and it’s a good club to be at so I’ve enjoyed every minute.”
The Bluebirds have been drawn away to Bishop’s Cleeve in the second qualifying round and Ballinger says that being a part of the country’s most famous competition, even in the early rounds, is still a special feeling for players.
He added: “You wake up and you’re excited on FA Cup day and you want to try and get to the first round.
“That’s the aim and there are always one or two sides from this level that are going to get there so you want to try and make sure it’s you.
“It’s always good to get into the next round of the cup and at home, we fancy ourselves and think we can beat anyone on our day if we turn up with the right attitude.
“We’ve had an indifferent start in the league but a good result last week (against Gosport) and we want to get some wins under our belt.
“It was always going to be a tough game (against Mangotsfield) because it was their cup final but I thought we played really well, apart from the last 10 minutes.”
The Bluebirds ran out comfortable winners but they did end their afternoon with 10 men after Ashley Williams was sent off late in the second half.
James Guthrie and Lee Phillips had early efforts, while Shaun Lamb volleyed inches wide from a Scott Lye corner on 27 minutes.
Then, with seven minutes of the first period remaining, the Bluebirds finally made the breakthrough when Lye picked up the ball on the left flank and whipped a perfectly-weighted cross into the area for Scott Rogers to rise and nod home his first goal for the club.
The Bluebirds almost doubled their lead shortly afterwards when Rogers smartly played in Guthrie but his effort was saved at point-blank range by Danny Greaves.
Nathan Rudge’s side burst out of the traps after half time, Phillips having a shot saved in the first minute but Mangotsfield came close to levelling when Matt Thorne curled a free-kick onto the crossbar from the left flank.
At the other end, Iain Harvey flashed a shot wide before, in the 51st minute, Phillips chased down a clearance and, after nodding the ball against Greaves, rolled the ball into an empty net.
In the 67th minute, the Bluebirds got their third when Lye put Ballinger in with a fantastic through ball and the winger fired home.
The visitors pulled a goal back through winger Charlie Rich on 75 minutes, curling a low shot past a sprawling Conor Thomspon before Kyle Thomas’ angled effort struck the outside of a post.
Williams, who had impressed in the centre of defence, saw red with four minutes to go, penalised after sticking out an arm to challenge Mangotsfield’s Ryan Bath as he raced towards goal.