Aldershot Town v Braintree Town match preview – Saturday 27 April 2017
In brushing aside an already-relegated North Ferriby United side with a thoroughly professional 3-0 away victory last Saturday, Aldershot Town opened up a four point lead in their two-horse race with Dover Athletic for the fourth and final National League play-off place.
With the Kent outfit then dropping a further two points at home to Macclesfield Town on Tuesday evening, The Shots’ destiny is now entirely in their own hands. A point or more from their 46th and final league match of the season at home to Braintree Town will secure a play-off berth that Shots fans could barely have dreamt of 12 months ago.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Ultimately, Town made light work of their first ever visit to Grange Lane but, despite their now customary lively start, had to wait until the 31st minute to break the deadlock. Bernard Mensah ghosted into the area with a perfectly timed run to meet Nick Arnold’s cross and flick a header beyond the outstretched arms of home keeper Evans. The Villagers put in a spirited performance themselves and it wasn’t until the second-half introduction of Shots’ top scorer Scott Rendell that the visitors really took control. With his first – and rather deft – touch, Rendell set up Mensah for his second strike of the afternoon on the hour. Rendell was to have the last word too, glancing home an 82nd minute header from Mensah’s corner to complete the scoring.
At the other end, Jake Cole once again pulled off a couple of outstanding saves to deny North Ferriby one last National League goal and in doing so, helped Town to their 20th clean sheet of the season.
Waddock made just the one change for the North Ferriby match, with Matt McClure rewarded for his recent goal-scoring form with a place in the starting eleven. Rendell had to be content with a place on the bench, but came on to play a key role in the win.
Most of Braintree Town’s 116-year history had been spent in regional and local leagues before four Ryman League promotions in ten years between 1996 and 2006 took the Essex club up to Conference South. Five years at that level ended with the Iron’s promotion as Champions in 2010-11, with their first two Conference Premier campaigns bringing finishes of 12th and 9th; they finished sixth, just three points from a Play-Off place, in 2013-14. An extraordinary 2015-16 campaign under first-year manager Danny Cowley saw the Iron finish 3rd in the National League table, but a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Grimsby Town in the Play-Off semi-finals dashed their Football League promotion hopes.
Cowley was tempted away from Cressing Road over the summer, moving to Lincoln City, with whom he would go on to win the National League title. In his place came Jamie Day, the former Welling United and Ebbsfleet United manager, who spent last season as the assistant manager at Forest Green Rovers. However, Day’s tenure was to be a short one, and by the end of September the reigns were passed on to Hakan Hayrettin. Braintree rallied – albeit briefly – mid-season under Hayrettin’s leadership, but have fallen away in recent months and come into the game at Aldershot with six defeats in their last seven matches. They require a win at the EBB Stadium and at least two other results to go their way if they are to retain their National League status for 2017-18.
Most Apps: Defender Jerome Okimo is Braintree’s only ever-present this season, having started all 45 National League matches.
Most Goals: Michael Cheek is Town’s top goalscorer this season, with 19 goals from his 43 appearances.
Key Player: Cheek has been prolific this season, scoring 40% of Braintree’s goals.
Aldershot Town and Braintree Town have met on thirteen previous occasions, with The Shots winning seven, losing four and drawing two of the meetings. At Cressing Road, back in August, the home side prevailed thanks to two late strikes, from Simeon Akinola and former Shots loanee Jake Goodman. In hindsight, The Shots’ pair of 2-1 wins against the Essex side were two of their best wins of the 2015-16 season, which is especially true when you factor in that the Shots trailed 1-0 in both games.
On August Bank Holiday Monday, goals from debutant Charlie Harris and Richard Brodie in the final twenty minutes gave the visitors all three points at Cressing Road. On Easter Monday, it was Omar Beckles and Nathan Ralph who helped Aldershot Town to an impressive victory in front of their home fans after Simeon Akinola had given the Iron another lead.
Prior to last season, The Shots had failed to win any of their four previous trips to Braintree, with two draws and two defeats. In April 2015, Sam Hatton gave the visitors the lead before Dan Sparkes equalised just before the hour mark, whilst former Aldershot Town loanee Dan Holman’s third-minute goal gave Braintree Town a 1-0 win in March 2014. Aldershot Town also managed a 0-0 draw when the two teams faced off in a Ryman Premier Division fixture in April 2002, whilst they lost 2-1 in a game in the same division eight months later.
Saturday’s match referee is Antony Coggins, who has taken charge of 21 National League matches this season, issuing 71 yellow cards and six reds to date. He has previously refereed Aldershot Town on just one occasion this season, the 0-0 home draw with Chester.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and ex-Shots Goalkeeper Nikki Bull will be covering the game on Saturday afternoon. Tune in to the BBC Sport website from 12 noon for full match commentary.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @RobShot66 and @BullWorldTrip