Aldershot Town officially begin their 2015-16 pre-season campaign on Saturday at 3pm, with a first visit to The Beveree in 12 years.
The Shots face Alan Dowson’s Ryman Premier Division side Hampton and Richmond Borough following last weekend’s behind-closed-doors training game against a Fulham Academy side, which Barry Smith declared a successful venture for both the fitness and shape of his squad.
The Beavers have already played three pre-season matches, with a 2-1 home loss against the Brentford Development squad, and – having beaten hosts Corinthian Casuals in the semi-final of their own four-team tournament on Saturday – a thrilling 3-3 draw followed by penalty shoot-out defeat in the final against Tooting and Mitcham on Sunday.
Dowson this week told the Club’s official website, HamptonFC.net, that he is satisfied with his team’s progress: “I’m happy enough with where we’re at. These first few matches are useful as a fitness exercise as well as a chance for players to show that they deserve to be with us,” said the former Millwall and Darlington defender. “I’m not someone who demands players play at 100 miles an hour in the first half of pre-season. In fact I actively tell them not to. At 65 per cent is fine with three-and-a-half weeks to go. The message has been not to burn yourselves out. I think this is the way to handle the summer.
“The excitement is building. Aldershot’s visit will be a great test for the team and we’re looking to step things up a little now.”
Hampton and Richmond Borough finished 15th in the Ryman Premier Division last season, winning 16 and drawing nine of their 46 matches but only pulling clear of a relegation scrap in the final month of the season. 11 of those wins, and 36 of their 57 points, came at home.
Now, Chairman Steve McPherson has overseen a summer of pitch renovation as they look to move from avoiding the drop to challenging for promotion to National League South.
Crucially, top scorer Charlie Moone – who has scored 59 goals in the last two seasons – has recently signed a new contract to extend his stay into a fifth season, after Dowson himself and Club captain and defensive lynchpin Kieran Murphy both extended deals into 2017. Also committing himself to The Beavers is former Shots Academy player Josh Casey, alongside ex-AFC Wimbledon goalkeeper Seb Brown and former Brentford and Oxford United midfielder Eddie Hutchinson.
The Shots last visited The Beveree in July 2003, for another pre-season friendly, just months after having done the double over The Beavers in winning the Ryman Premier Division title, including a 3-1 victory at The Beveree in October 2002 thanks to goals from Martin Kuhl, Jamie Taylor and Adam Parker.