Captain Callum Reynolds hailed the ‘application and attitude’ which has seen The Shots earn two away wins in five days, and feels that his team have learned from last weekend’s disappointment against Dover Athletic.
In doing so, Aldershot Town ended the unbeaten home runs of both Ebbsfleet United and The Heed, as Fabien Robert’s 83rd minute strike sealed a first-ever victory in Gateshead.
“They were two different performances, but the application and attitude shown by the boys was first class in both of them,” he admitted after leading the team across almost 750 miles on the road this week. “I think we might have got a little bit lucky today at times, but you can’t always play well, especially the way we had our backs to the wall a bit in the second-half.”
Was it luck? “I think Fabien’s goal was one of our only shots on target, and sometimes you can say that’s lucky, or you could say it’s clinical and ruthless,” he says, modifying his assessment slightly. “We dominated a lot of the first-half and didn’t really work their keeper enough. They could have come in 1-0 up at the break and I think we made a few good blocks in the second-half, and a few shots could have gone a different way.
“But we worked our socks off and sometimes when you work that hard you earn the bit of luck that you deserve.”
Both wins were topped off with clean sheets, and Reynolds knew that such a solid defensive platform would always give his side a chance of snatching victory at the International Stadium, even with relatively few clear opportunities. “I always had a feeling that we’d get a chance to win the game, because we defended so well. The last couple of times I’ve played there they’ve scored from crosses, so we knew that was one of their strengths, and I think we nullified that. I can’t remember them getting a clear header on goal from crosses or set-pieces.”
Facing Gateshead’s three centre-backs – in a similar formation to that utilized by Ebbsfleet – Reynolds saw potential echoes of the frustration felt by all in defeat to Dover Athletic, but stresses: “I guess you could say that we’ve learnt from Dover – as much as we’ve dominated possession we came away with nothing then, but today we’ve got the three points.
“Gateshead made it hard for us. With the way they sat back it was always going to be hard to play through them, and it was almost similar to Dover at times, especially in the first-half.”
Yet Robert’s opportunist finish earned the three points, and the experienced skipper was soon espousing the old adage of accepting victory and defeat in the same gracious, level-headed manner.
“We never get too high when we’re winning, or too low when we’re losing. It wasn’t a crisis then, in the same way that it’s not especially important that we’re top now. It’s where we finish the season that counts, but with some of the hands that we’ve been dealt it’s pleasing that we’ve managed to grind out these two results.
“We’ve showed great character to bounce back, but we need to keep our feet firmly on the ground. There are a lot of points being dropped in the league this season and there are still a lot to play for. As a group we have to stay focused and try to win the next game.”
Five points separate first from 15th in a congested National League table, and Callum proves his own point: “Gateshead had a late winner on Tuesday (against Chester), and if they’d won today they would have gone above us and got a bit of momentum themselves – it’s a really tight division. Nobody has taken advantage of other teams dropping points so it’s more open, but that makes it tighter as well.”
Reynolds’ thoughts immediately turned to that next game, against Leyton Orient at the EBB Stadium next Saturday, knowing that the squad’s recent strength in the adversity of a lengthy injury list will continue to stand them in good stead.
“Orient have had some big wins and some big losses already, but I’m not sure how much you can read into it – they’ve got a lot of new players in, but they’ve come down from the Football League so they will have some quality in their team.
“We’ve shown great character and mental strength. We could have easily folded and made our excuses, but the boys that have come in have been different class, especially the loan lads. They’ve had to hit the ground running, because there’s been so many games.
“It will be good to have even more options from the bench, when we get boys back,” he admits, after seeing Manny Oyeleke and Kodi Lyons-Foster return from injury and suspension respectively on Saturday. “When we get back to a full squad we’re not only going to have a good starting XI we’re also going to have some great players coming off the bench as well.”