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Preview: Aldershot Town v Gateshead

Aldershot Town had a successful break from league action last weekend with a 2-0 home FA Cup victory over Torquay United, a win which took them to a much-anticipated First Round tie against League Two side Portsmouth. However, the more immediate focus will be on the league visit of high-flyers Gateshead this weekend. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.

Form

In the end, Aldershot Town played out a relatively comfortable victory against the Gulls, who never consistently threatened the Shots goal. Dan Holman could have had a debut goal, but his close-range effort was brilliantly pushed behind by visiting goalkeeper Jordan Seabright. However, Josh Scott bundled in the resulting corner from Jordan Roberts to get the home team off to a flying start. Holman was denied again by Seabright in the 40th minute, but Scott doubled the Shots lead nine minutes into the second half after Holman’s angled drive had been parried into his path. Phil Smith made two fine saves in the second period, including a stunning effort in the 73rd-minute to deny Ashley Yeoman, to preserve, not only the win, but also a hard-earned clean sheet.

The draw meant Aldershot Town have now lost just one of their last five games, plus their home form has improved after the two defeats in September against Woking and Braintree Town. Since those games, the Shots have won three and drawn one of their last four outings at the Electrical Services Stadium, keeping three clean sheets to boot. Overall, Andy Scott’s team have the ninth-best defensive record in the Conference, conceding just ninteen goals in their seventeen league fixtures. However, ten of those nineteen have come after the 66th minute. It means the Shots have already dropped eight points from winning positions this season, with only eight Conference teams dropping more in this campaign so far.

Football has been played in Gateshead since 1889, but the original Gateshead AFC was formed in 1930 when neighbours South Shields FC moved to Gateshead because of financial difficulties. Despite being members of the Football League until 1960, that club folded in 1973, with new club Gateshead United suffering the same fate four years later. The current club, Gateshead FC, took their place, and are in their sixth campaign in the top-flight of non-league football after promotion from Conference North in 2009. The Heed came agonisingly close to promotion last season, finishing 3rd in the table and beating Grimsby Town in the Play-Off semi-finals, before losing 2-1 to Cambridge United at Wembley.

Gateshead have continued the 2014-15 campaign in a similar vein, sitting fourth in the Conference table with 30 points from seventeen games thus far. The North-East side had a nine-game league unbeaten streak ended against leaders Barnet on 18 October, whilst they’re winless in their last five away games, although the last four have all finished 1-1. In fact, only Kidderminster Harriers have won at home against the Heed this season. One notable statistic from the 2014-15 campaign thus far is that Gateshead have the second-best second half record in the division, with their record of fifteen points gained from losing positions being the best in the Conference.

Gary Mills, who helped York City to a promotion and FA Trophy double in 2012, took charge of the Heed last September. He was pleased with last weekend’s 4-0 FA Cup win over Gainsborough Trinity, telling the club’s official website: “It was all about getting into the draw on Monday, and we’ve done that. Everybody expected a win, and that can be very dangerous – you’ve seen many a shock in the FA Cup. My job is to make sure the players are switched on mentally for any type of game, but certainly when you’re playing a team from a lower league… We had to be patient. They made it a little bit difficult for us to begin with, but we came through it in the end… We kept the ball, and they tired as the game went on.”

Squad

Andy Scott made two changes for the visit of Torquay United, with Dan Holman coming in for a Shots debut after signing on a months loan from Colchester United on Thursday. The 24-year-old striker, who replaced the cup-tied Andre McCollin, had a lovely and assured debut and played his part in both goals. The other change saw Jordan Roberts return from suspension to replace the injured Manny Oyeleke, with Mark Molesley moving into his preferred central midfield role. After twelve games without a goal, Josh Scott’s brace gives him three goals in two games, so he should continue in a wide-midfield role.

Scott could be without as many as eight players this weekend, meaning personnel could, once again, be forced to play in unfamiliar positions. Damon Lathrope (groin), Mark Phillips (broken toe), Sam Hatton (knee), Manny Oyeleke and Anthony Tonkin (both calf) were all on the Aldershot Town injury list, with all but Oyeleke expected to be out until mid-November at the earliest. On top of that, captain and former Gateshead defender Glenn Wilson went off after 27 minutes of last weekend’s FA Cup game, while Tom Derry was replaced at half-time after picking up a nasty-looking facial injury. Andre McCollin suffered a similar fate at Dartford in the club’s last Conference game, but after being unavailable to face the Gulls, he should be an option for a Shots’ home debut on Saturday.

Despite his team’s excellent 2013-14 campaign, Mills has made plenty of changes to his squad since the end of last season, with twelve permanent arrivals and fifteen players leaving the Heed. Most of the departures from the club’s striking ranks, including last season’s fourteen-goal top scorer James Marwood, who moved to St Mirren. Fellow strikers Colin Larkin, Jack Lester, Adam Boyes, Liam Hatch and Richard Brodie have all moved on, as have defender Carl Magnay and midfielder Josh Walker. Gateshead also lost winger Marcus Maddison, who joined Peterborough United last month for an initial fee of £250,000, after he’d notched four goals in the club’s opening five league games. Several first-teamers have remained at the Gateshead International Stadium, however, including goalkeeper Adam Bartlett, defenders Craig Baxter, Ben Clark and James Curtis; midfielders Rob Ramshaw, Jamie Chandler, John Oster and Phil Turnbull, plus striker James Brown.

Mills has spread his net far and wide to securing striking reinforcements, bringing onboard Jon Shaw (Luton Town, top scorer with seven goals), Danny Wright (Forest Green Rovers, six goals this season), Lewis Guy (Carlisle United), Carl Finnigan (South African side Chippa United) and former Aldershot Town striker Michael Rankine (seven goals in 58 games between 2011 and 2013) after he was released by Hereford United. Another ex-Shot, winger Alex Rodman (eight goals in 53 games from January 2011 until May 2013) was snapped up from Grimsby Town, while fellow midfielder Matty Pattison signed last month from Bidvest Wits of the South African Premier League. At the other end of the pitch, Andrai Jones (Barnsley) and JJ O’Donnell (signed from Luton Town after a successful loan spell from the Hatters last season) have been the first-choice full-backs, whilst Tom Allan (York City) and Ryan Wilson (Ilkeston Town) add depth to the squad. Scunthorpe United centre-back Callum Howe joined last month on a one-month loan deal, whilst Preston North End left-back Nick Anderson arrived on a similar deal on Thursday.

The Gateshead manager has some injury concerns ahead of this weekend’s game, especially with centre-back James Curtis unavailable thanks to a hamstring problem. Jamie Chandler and JJ O’Donnell have also missed recent games through injury, but the former is scheduled to return to training this week.

Head-to-Head

The only previous meetings between Aldershot Town and Gateshead have happened in 2014, with the Shots yet to register a victory. This game last season occurred on 25 March, with the home team leading at the break thanks to a Josh Scott goal, but Brett Williams’ 53rd-minute red card changed the game. Jack Lester and JJ O’Donnell scored afterwards to secure three points for the visitors. Earlier this season, an impressive away performance by Andy Scott’s side saw them lead through a Joe N’Guessan goal, but Danny Wright headed home an 88th-minute equaliser to ensure the spoils were shared. Back in January, the home side came closest to scoring in a dour 0-0 draw, with Heed substitute Colin Larkin having a 93rd-minute penalty saved by Glenn Morris, as well as hitting the woodwork ten minutes earlier.

There were also five meetings between the North-East club and Aldershot FC. All five games were won by the home side, which included an 8-1 win for the Shots in the old Division 4 in September 1958 (the club’s record Football League victory) and a 3-2 victory twelve months later. The Tynesiders won 1-0 and 4-1 in a pair of league fixtures in January 1959 and September 1959 respectively, while also defeating the Shots 3-1 in an FA Cup Third Round tie at their old Redheugh Park ground in January 1949.

Referee

Saturday afternoon’s referee is Richard Martin from Somerset, who took charge of two Aldershot Town home games last season – the 6-0 win over Tamworth in December 2013 and the 2-2 draw against Nuneaton Town in March. So far this season, he’s officiated in five Conference fixtures, showing fourteen yellow cards and one red card.

Coverage

BBC Surrey’s Jon Howick and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 2pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website at 2.55pm.

We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against the Heed. Let us know on the day via the following methods:

Twitter: @bbcsurreysport
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)
Email: surreysport@bbc.co.uk

Plus, we want your reaction to the game between 5pm and 6pm on Saturday in ‘The Final Whistle’. Win, lose or draw, we want to hear from you throughout this season. Call us on 03459 57 00 57 and let your voice be heard.

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