Aldershot Town bounced back from their dreadful display at Dover Athletic with a restorative 2-0 victory against Alfreton Town on Saturday. It was a result that gave the Shots their second win in four games and moved them back to 14th in the table, but they face another long trip on Tuesday as they travel to Chester. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
It was certainly the case that the result was more important than the performance on Saturday afternoon, although the latter also gave plenty of positivity to the home fans in attendance. The Shots got the all-important first goal through Sam Hatton’s sweetly struck free-kick in the 33rd minute, but Alfreton Town had chances to get back on level terms. The visitors hit the post three minutes into the second half and had two other good opportunities to tie the game before Jaydon Gibbs’ excellent finish (his first goal in eleven months, and his first league goal at home since last season’s game against the same opposition) just after the hour. After that, the hosts effectively closed the game out to secure the win.
The win means Andy Scott’s team have picked up seven points from their last four outings, which should hopefully make the Dover Athletic game an aberration. Overall on their travels, Aldershot Town have been solid, picking up six points from seven games, including excellent draws at Torquay United and Gateshead, as well as narrow defeats at Eastleigh and FC Halifax Town. One worrying trait, however, is that the Shots have lost all four midweek evening league games this season (against Eastleigh, Woking, Braintree Town and Dover Athletic), whilst they’ve only played well in the first of those fixtures. The travelling support will hope for better this week.
The story of Chester FC has been a brief and, mostly, very successful one. The supporters-run club was founded four years ago following the demise of their precursors Chester City, who were wound-up in March 2010 after a string of financial problems, points deductions and on-pitch struggles. Continuing to play at the Deva Stadium, the Blues secured three straight promotions, winning the Northern League Division One North, the Northern League Premier Division, and then the Conference North in 2012-13. However, last season was one of struggle, with the Blues finishing the season in the relegation zone before their reprieve due to Hereford United’s expulsion from the Conference.
Chester are currently 16th in the league table, with seventeen points from fourteen games, with their improved form at the Deva Stadium being one reason for their solid start. In 2013-14 only relegated Tamworth and Hyde had worse home records than the Blues, but the Cheshire side are currently on a three-game unbeaten streak at the Deva Stadium, which includes win against Southport and Wrexham. Chester have struggled to score goals though, and have netted just fifteen times in the Conference this season. Only six of those have come in their seven home outings, which is the second-worst tally in the division.
Prior to Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Welling United, the Blues had been on an excellent run of form, picking up nine points from four games. It completed a good September for the club, with first-team coach Jon McCarthy telling the Chester Chronicle before the weekend’s fixture: “It’s been a massive month for us. We feel like, without carried away because we’re only a bit into the season, we’ve beat all those teams that are below us. When we’ve had to come and do that, we’ve done that and some of those teams are having odd results, but we’re consistently beating those teams, which is significant for us. Now there’s a little run with two home games where there’s a team that’s just below and one that’s just above us and that’s our next little target.”
Andy Scott made three changes for the visit of Alfreton Town at the weekend, with the newly-introduced trio all playing their part in the victory. After his loan signing on Friday from AFC Wimbledon, Mark Phillips’ second debut for the club (after a month-long loan spell at the end of the last campaign) saw him quietly command the back four in Glenn Wilson’s absence. Sam Hatton replaced Damon Lathrope in the centre of midfield and, apart from the goal, made a number of attacking forays into the opposition penalty area, whilst Tom Derry marked his full Shots debut with plenty of intelligent running and hard work.
Phillips’ arrival was especially welcome as the Aldershot Town manager was without Wilson due to a hamstring injury that was sustained in the loss at Dover. On top of that Anthony Tonkin picked up a knock to his calf in the first half on Saturday and had to be replaced, so both must be doubts for the trip to Chester. Chris Barker (missed ten games with a calf injury) and Mark Molesley (unavailable for the last eight games with tendonitis) are both back in training, but Tuesday’s game may be too soon for them. However, there were two positives on the injury front from the weekend, with both Tristan Plummer and Josh Scott coming off the bench after missing time with hamstring and groin injuries respectively.
The former Kidderminster Harriers boss Steve Burr, who took over on 18 January 2014, has overhauled the Chester squad after last season’s escape from relegation, with sixteen players signing permanent deals over the summer. Jon Worsnop arrived from Alfreton Town and is the first-choice goalkeeper (fellow new arrival, Freddie Hall, left just three weeks into the new campaign), whilst Connor Roberts (Cheltenham Town) is his back-up. Kiernan Charnock (Stockport County), Ben Heneghan (Stoke City), Matty Brown (Chesterfield) and Gareth Roberts (Notts County) have all featured prominently in the Blues’ defence, whilst Ibou Touray (Everton), Danny Taylor (Colwyn Bay) and John Disney (Hednesford Town) have also added depth to the squad. Kingsley James (Hereford United) and Peter Winn (Macclesfield Town) have been regular starters in midfield, whilst Wayne Riley (Hednesford Town) and Callum Morris (Tranmere Rovers) have been back-ups so far this season. Upfront, former Wolves, Burnley and Scotland striker Chris Iwelumo, Sean McConville (Stalybridge Celtic), plus loanees Jadan Hall (Burnley) and Matty Hughes (Fleetwood Town), have added striking options to Burr’s squad.
There have also been a considerable amount of departures from the Deva Stadium since the end of the 2013-14 campaign, including goalkeepers John Danby and Martin Fearon; defenders Paul Linwood, George Horan and Joe Heath; midfielders Andy Bond (who moved to League Two side Stevenage), Jason Jarrett and Kevin McIntyre; strikers Gareth Seddon (last season’s top scorer with eight goals) and Craig Lindfield, plus long-term Leeds United loanees Nathan and Ben Turner. Amongst those players who remained with the club are defender Michael Kay, experienced midfielders Craig Mahon, Jamie Menagh and Danny Harrison, plus strikers Craig Hobson (four goals so far this season to lead the Blues) and John Rooney.
Burr will have a largely fully-fit squad to choose from on Tuesday, with Hobson (hamstring) and Matty Brown returning from injury to be named amongst the substitutes at the weekend.
The only two previous meetings between these clubs occurred last season, with Jaydon Gibbs’ 90th-minute goal securing a point for the Shots in the corresponding fixture last November after Conor Wilkinson had given the hosts the lead. Meanwhile, in March of this year, a Brett Williams brace gave the Shots a 2-0 win at the Electrical Services Stadium. Aldershot Town previously played four league games against Chester City, with a record of one win, one defeat and two draws. Both sides won a game apiece at the Deva Stadium, with the Shots’ Marvin Morgan scoring the only goal of the game in November 2008. Four-and-a-half years earlier, the Cheshire club had won 4-2 in a game that saw both teams reduced to ten men.
Chester City (confusingly also previously known as Chester) also had 45 games against Aldershot FC between 1948 and 1989. The Shots‘ record at the club’s old Sealand Road ground was poor, winning five, losing eleven and drawing six of their 22 visits. However, their overall record against the Blues was very much in their favour thanks to a string of excellent results at home. Of those 45 games, Aldershot FC won nineteen, drew thirteen and lost thirteen.
If they play on Tuesday, Glenn Wilson will make his 250th appearance in the non-league top-flight, whilst Joe N’Guessan will make his 50th senior appearance.
Tuesday evening’s referee is Ryan Johnson from Bolton, who is in his first season as a Conference referee. So far this season, he’s taken charge of three league games, showing ten yellow cards and one red card.
BBC Radio Manchester’s Phil Kinsella and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Tuesday evening. Tune into the BBC Surrey website at around 7.35pm for full match commentary.
You can also contact us throughout the game via our Twitter feed: @bbcsurreysport