CHIPPENHAM Town had a return to action to forget as they slipped to a disappointing defeat at home to Banbury United today.
The Bluebirds began brightly but the opening half-hour was soon long forgotten as the visitors took advantage of an uncharacteristic mix-up to take a healthy lead into half-time, before killing the game in the second period to take all three points from Hardenhuish Park.
The first chance of the match fell to the visitors, with Kynan Isaac shooting tamely at Ben John, and then with eight minutes on the clock, Banbury's debutant keeper Warren Carter had to be at his most resourceful to deny Chippenham the opener.
Tom Knighton flicked the ball over his head, playing in Toby Osman, and his close-range drive was bravely deflected to safety by Carter, by way of his face.
Osman dragged a shot across the face of goal and soon afterwards, an exceptional first touch from Tom Knighton saw him race on to Jim Rollo's ball but Carter was equal to his strike.
On 23 minutes, Ashley Williams almost carved out a brilliant opener.
The Chippenham defender won the ball with a strong, diving challenge, played a one-two with Knighton, and then smacked a powerful effort that flew just past the upright from the edge of the area.
Despite all of the early pressure coming from the hosts, they were hit with a suckerpunch in the 29th minute as Banbury took the lead.
A deft, chipped pass from Chris Lait found Joseph N'Guessan unmarked in the area and the young United man brought the ball down with a neat piece of control before sliding the ball under the advancing John to make it 1-0.
N'Guessan threatened the Bluebirds again shortly afterwards when he got in on goal and when his shot was palmed away by John, the Bluebirds keeper bravely gathered the ball with Isaac looking to blast it home from point-blank range.
With three minutes of the half remaining, the visitors almost netted a fortunate second goal when Steve Casey's backpass bobbled up off the foot of John.
Banbury's Isaac charged it down but a wicked deflection saw the ball loop just wide of the post.
Unfortunately for the home side, that close shave didn't prevent them falling foul of another horror moment just before half-time, with United taking advantage of a mix-up between two of the most reliable members of Chippenham's back line to make it 2-0.
Casey had the ball on the edge of the area, opting not to clear and hoping for John to rush off his line to collect but whilst the pair waited for each other to act, Banbury's Isaac stole in and slid the ball into the bottom corner with ease.
Keeper John was furious and he directed his rage at Casey, removing one of his gloves and hurling it into the defender's face as the inquest began.
But referee Pater Lavelle chose not to take any action against the Bluebirds keeper, as his side went into half-time with a mountain to climb in the second period.
Nathan Rudge responded by swinging the axe at half-time, making three substitutions and revamping Chippenham's shape.
But the second period began quietly, with the two sides cancelling each other out in midfield.
With 64 minutes on the clock, Banbury's Albi Skendi danced past a host of challenges before poking a shot goalwards but his effort was off-target.
On the 70 minute mark, Chippenham's afternoon took another turn for the worse as they were reduced to ten men.
Alex Kite flung himself in to a hefty challenge on Isaac, injuring himself in the process and limping off the pitch.
Shortly afterwards, substitute Lee Phillips battled to keep hold of the ball on the right flank and lofted a cross in for Knighton to head goalwards but the effort was straight at the United keeper.
The half petered out into something of a non-affair, with no sign of a Bluebirds comeback.
With around five minutes to go, keeper John got down well to palm Michael Hopkins' dangerous cross away from the path of Wayne Blossom.
And with time running out, Knighton had one last chance when he flicked an effort towards goal but it was easily gathered by Carter.
CHIPPENHAM TOWN: Ben John, Iain Harvey (Adie Harris 45), Jim Rollo, Ashley Williams, Steve Casey (c), Alex Kite, Toby Osman (Dean Griffiths 45), Scott Lye, Alan Griffin (Lee Phillips 45), Tom Knighton, Brandon Barnes.
Sub not used: Nathan Rudge.