A strong Aldershot Town XI ran out comfortable winners against Rushmoor’s Nepalese side Sahara UK in a hugely entertaining and competitive challenge match at the Electrical Services Stadium.
Trialists Jake Kempton and Lewis Scott both scored hat-tricks, with Matt Saunders and Academy player Harrison Shade also on the scoresheet. The Shots always exerted a degree of control on the game, but when Arpan Gurung’s strike pulled the score back to 2-1 just before half-time, the confidence of the Sahara team appeared more than justified.
Kempton immediately started making up for lost time, after his pre-season trial with The Shots was cruelly ended by serious injury at Staines Town. The opening exchanges were relatively even but suddenly, on 15 minutes, the hosts began to dominate.
Adam Francis had a shot cleared off the line, and Diallo’s driving run drew the goalkeeper off the line, leaving Kempton with a tap-in from his square pass. The former Wolves striker then stabbed in his second on 22 minutes, and thought that he had poached a seven-minute hat-trick, only for another neat finish to be ruled out for offside.
Sahara were always a lively threat on the counter-attack, and when Gopal Thapa’s low cross was allowed to run through the six-yard box, Gurung’s tap-in gave them hope.
The second-half, though, saw The Shots run riot. Shade converted another Diallo cross at the far-post on 54 minutes, and just after the hour it was 4-1: a neat interchange of passes on the edge of the box ended with Saunders skipping past two challenges and around the goalkeeper to score.
Lewis Scott’s first was perhaps the best of the lot, as The Shots scored a fifth: Kempton’s low cross towards the corner of the six-yard box saw Scott improvise with a delightful chip which spun over substitute goalkeeper Shresth and dropped in at the far-post.
Scott fired his second from an acute angle, from a cross driven through the goalmouth, and Kempton hit a spectacular seventh, on 71 minutes, with a swerving 25-yard shot into the roof of the net. Aldershot Town’s own Nepalese player, Academy midfielder Rosan Rai, created the afternoon’s final goal, on 89 minutes, with an extravagant flick over his marker and a pass to Scott, whose shot caught the goalkeeper wrong-footed.
This may have been a comfortable victory, but The Shots Academy will face a much sterner test in January, when they travel to Nepal’s Pokhara region to compete in the annual international Aaha Gold Cup.