Aldershot Town v Dover Athletic match preview – Monday 17 April 2017
Aldershot Town gave an excellent account of themselves in front of the BT Sport cameras on Good Friday, playing their part in a particularly entertaining 2-2 draw with title-chasing Tranmere Rovers. However, whilst widely accepted as a decent point for Gary Waddock’s side, Monday’s opponents Dover Athletic secured all three at home to Southport and, in doing so, moved ahead of The Shots into fifth place in the National League table.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Waddock’s young charges showed no fear playing in front of 6,324 spectators at Prenton Park and took an early lead when Matt McClure got on the end of Jim Kellermann’s lobbed pass and shrugged off the challenge of two defenders before poking past Rovers’ keeper Scott Davies. The home side responded with 14th and 25th minute goals, from Cole Stockton and Connor Jennings respectively, but in a breathless first half, there was still time for Bernard Mensah to latch on to McClure’s flick-on and strike a half-volley across Davies and into the net to make it 2-2.
The Shots may even have led at half-time had they been awarded a spot-kick – TV replays suggesting that Idris Kanu was fouled inside the penalty area – but referee Peter Wright disagreed and waved play on.
It was a much tighter affair after the break, until the final fifteen minutes when both teams threw caution to the wind, pushing forward in desperate search of the win they both craved so badly. However, neither side could find one and had to settle for a point apiece.
Goalkeeper Jake Cole was passed fit to play after sustaining a nasty gash to his shin against Torquay United just six days earlier, but manager Waddock still made three changes for the Rovers match. Defender Will Evans returned to the centre of defence (in place of Dom Hyam) following the birth of his first child. Anthony Straker came in for Cheye Alexander, with Nick Arnold switching to right-back, whilst up front McClure was given a start, with top scorer Scott Rendell rested to the bench.
Dover Athletic were formed in 1983, following the demise of Dover FC, and they have had a rollercoaster history thus far. Two Southern League promotions (1987-88 and 1992-93) saw the start of nine seasons in the non-league top-flight, with a best finish of 6th in 1999-2000. However, financial difficulties saw three relegations in four seasons, which left the club in Ryman League Division One. Consecutive promotions in 2007-08 and 2008-09 then saw the Whites climb into Conference South. Promotion via the Play-Offs in 2013-14 preceded an 8th place finish in 2014-15. Last season saw the Kent side finish 5th in the National League, but their promotion hopes were ended by Forest Green Rivers in the Play-Off semi-finals.
There was to be no Play-Off hangover for Dover, though – they began this season strongly and, much like The Shots, have been in the Top 10 for the vast majority of the campaign. After a season-opening draw at Wrexham, they then went on a 22-match National League run without defeat, winning 14 and drawing 8 of those matches. They are the league’s second-highest scorers, with 79 goals to their name – only Forest Green Rovers (84) have scored more. Their record away from The Crabble has brought them 10 wins and two draws from 21 matches. The 32 points they have picked up is the sixth-best in the National League, and they come to Aldershot in great form too, having won five of their last six league matches.
Kent Online reported that manager Chris Kinnear says Dover will look to be positive in their four remaining Vanarama National League games, because he doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. Good Friday’s 3-0 home win over Southport – courtesy of goals from Ricky Modeste (2) and Ricky Miller – ensured that the Whites lead the Shots by two points and also have a game in hand, but Kinnear says that won’t change the way he and his players approach the game.
“We’re not letting many goals in and we’re always going to score. We always try to play attacking football which is why we’re the second highest scorers in the league. Aldershot are a very good side there’s no doubt about that. Why would you try and get a draw? (at Aldershot). We try to win every game, you don’t always but you’ve got to try. If it doesn’t work out and you end up with a draw you have to accept that.”
Defender Richard Orlu limped out of the Southport game after suffering a dead leg but he is expected to be fit for Monday.
Most Apps: Defender Jamie Grimes is Dover’s only ever-present player, having taken part in all 42 league games to date this season.
Most Goals: Ricky Miller is both the Whites and the National League’s top scorer, with 38 goals in all competitions.
Key Player: Whilst Miller is the obvious threat, midfielder Ricky Modeste is also coming into form, with 3 goals in his last five games.
Aldershot Town’s 2-1 victory at The Crabble back in August saw them end a wretched run at the ground. First-half goals saw Shamir Fenelon and Liam Bellamy (against his previous club) give The Shots a 2-0 lead, before ex-Shots loanee Ross Lafayette pulled one back. In a frantic, high tempo second period, with the home side inspired by the half time introduction of Miller, Town dug in and held on to claim all three points and very nearly scored a third when McClure headed against the bar.
Monday will see the ninth meeting between the two sides, and the sixth in the league. Last season, the Shots were demolished 5-2 at The Crabble, with all five goals coming from set pieces. Goals from Sam Hatton and Charlie Walker had got the visitors back on level terms shortly after half-time before defensive errors sunk any hopes of a positive result. Earlier in the season, Stefan Payne had given the Kent side an early advantage at the EBB Stadium, before Richard Brodie’s first goal for Town ensured both teams finished with a point. In September 2014, the Shots trip to Crabble was another horror show, with the visitors going down to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat. The reverse game in March 2015 finished 3-1 to the home side, thanks to goals from Andre McCollin and a Jim Stevenson brace.
The three previous occasions saw the sides face off in the FA Cup. The most recent one of those saw two Adam Birchall goals give the Whites (then of Conference South) a 2-0 home win against Kevin Dillon’s team in a second round tie in November 2010. The Kent side also won by the same score in the only other meeting at The Crabble, which was a second qualifying round fixture in September 1996. Aldershot Town’s sole victory came courtesy of a Gary Abbott goal in a fourth qualifying round game on 31 October 2000.
Bank Holiday Monday’s match referee is Neil Hair, who has taken charge of 25 National League matches this season, issuing 72 yellow cards and 3 reds. He has previously refereed Aldershot Town on three occasions this season, the home wins against Maidstone United (1-0) and Sutton United (2-0) and the away match at Boreham Wood (1-1). Dover have won all three games that Hair has refereed them in, scoring 12 goals in those games and conceding just 2.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and ex-Shots Goalkeeper Nikki Bull will be covering the game on Monday afternoon. Tune in to the BBC Sport website from 2.50pm 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