Shots v Dover Athletic match preview – 29 August 2016
Aldershot Town got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home win against newly-promoted North Ferriby United on Saturday, a win that lifts them to seventh in the National League table. However, they’re back in action just 48 hours later as they make the trip to Dover Athletic on Bank Holiday Monday. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Gary Waddock had differing emotions after the game on Saturday, with the hosts’ first half being particularly outstanding. Bernard Mensah headed in Cheye Alexander’s cross after fifteen minutes and Liam Bellamy repeated the feat from a Josh Wakefield centre eleven minutes later for his first goal since January 2015. Later in the opening period, Matt McClure was denied by a Rory Watson save and a Ben Middleton goal line clearance, with Middleton denying him again just after the hour game. However, North Ferriby United finished strongly, with Mark Smith saving well from substitutes Vinny Mukendi and Ryan Kendall, whilst the latter shot wide when clean through twelve minutes from time. The Shots always looked dangerous though and Cheye Alexander’s 83rd-minute drive was brilliantly stopped by Watson.
Despite his slight misgivings about the performance, the Aldershot Town boss couldn’t have been any happier with his players maintaining their 100% home record, whilst also keeping a third consecutive clean sheet at the EBB Stadium. This marks the first time in the club’s history that they’ve achieved this particular landmark. However, the Shots are still looking for their first win on the road in 2016-17, having picked up just one point thus far. The performances have largely been better than that, although the most recent away game at Braintree Town saw their most disappointing display of the campaign. Defensively, Waddock’s side are still strong, with only the division’s top three having conceded fewer goals.
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.
Like the Shots, the Kent side have started their campaign with three wins, one draw and two defeats. However, they sit in 6th, a place above their opponents on Monday, having scored more goals. Prior to Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Torquay United, the Whites had won three on the spin against North Ferriby United, Eastleigh and Barrow, scoring nine goals in the process. Only three sides have bettered their tally of eleven goals so far in 2016-17, which follows in the steps of the previous season where their 75 goals was good for third-best in the National League. Dover Athletic have also won their last two home games, beating North Ferriby United 2-0 and Barrow 3-1, after losing their home opener to Boreham Wood.
Despite the disappointment of last season’s near-miss, the feeling from the Kent side is that they can go one better. Speaking to the Dover Express earlier this month, winger Ricky Modeste said: “Sure we have lost players the calibre of Stefan (Payne), Nicky (Deverdics) and Sean (Raggett), but that doesn’t mean we cannot build on what we achieved last season. We’re certainly looking to push on and go one or two steps further… I hear people say that a mid-table finish would be a good result this season. Well, it may be for them, but not as far as we are concerned. There is no point playing if you want to settle for that sort of finish – we are determined to put that play-off semi-final defeat behind us.”
For the second game in a row, Gary Waddock made four changes to his starting eleven. Following the previous weekend’s defeat at Braintree Town, Nick Arnold and Iffy Allen dropped to the bench, whilst Jake Gallagher and Jack Saville both missed out through injury. That meant Anthony Straker started at left-back (his 200th league appearance for the Shots), Will Evans came into the centre of defence alongside skipper Callum Reynolds, Liam Bellamy replaced Gallagher in central midfield after missing the previous game with a foot problem and Shamir Fenelon came in for Allen after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Jake Cole, who’d missed three games after suffering back spasms before the home win over Wrexham earlier this month, was fit enough for the bench, but couldn’t displace Mark Smith in goal.
Gallagher should be available for the trip to Dover after missing the win over North Ferriby United with a slight back problem, but Saville will miss out due to a hamstring injury. He’s aiming to be back for the Tranmere Rovers fixture next Saturday. The only other definite absentee will be last season’s top scorer Charlie Walker. Whilst he hasn’t needed surgery after damaging his ankle ligaments in pre-season, he will be unable to take part in any footballing activity for at least a month, meaning it’s looking unlikely that he’ll feature for the first team until the start of October at the earliest.
Manager Chris Kinnear, who’s started his second spell in charge of the club in January 2013, lost two of his most important players over the summer as they try to repeat last season’s success. 23-goal top scorer Stefan Payne has moved to Barnsley, whilst midfielder Nicky Deverdics, who tallied fourteen league goals and eighteen league assists in 2015-16, has moved to League Two side Hartlepool United. As well as midfielder Liam Bellamy, who moved to the Shots after scoring seven goals in 86 games in three seasons with the Whites, several others have left Dover Athletic since the end of the previous campaign. They include outstanding centre-back Sean Raggett (Lincoln City), goalkeeper Andy Rafferty (Spennymoor Town), strikers Tom Murphy (Maidstone United) and Duane Ofori-Acheampong, defender Craig Braham-Barrett (Braintree Town) and midfielder Naby Diallo (Bath City).
So far, there have been five new permanent arrivals at Crabble, including the former Aldershot Town midfielder Jim Stevenson, who scored eight goals in 63 games after first playing for the Shots in January 2015. Kinnear has looked to replace Payne’s goals with Moses Emmanuel, who tallied twenty goals in 2015-16 for Bromley, and former Shots loanee Ross Lafayette (two goals in sixteen games during a three-month loan spell at the end of last season), who arrived from Eastleigh. The Whites boss also snapped up the former Forest Green Rovers goalkeeper Steve Arnold, plus midfielders Sammy Moore (on loan from Leyton Orient until 14 January) and Mitchell Pinnock (Kingstonian). They add to a decent number of returning players, including striker Ricky Miller (22 goals in the previous campaign), defenders Richard Orlu, Jamie Grimes, Tyrone Sterling, Sam Magri and Aswad Thomas, midfielders Jack Parkinson (seven goals last season) and Ricky Modeste, plus goalkeeper Mitch Walker.
As things stand, Kinnear will have a fully-fit squad from which to choose on Bank Holiday Monday.
Monday afternoon’s game sees the eighth meeting between Aldershot Town and Dover Athletic, with this being the fifth to take place in the league. The last game between the clubs saw the Shots being demolished 5-2 last December, 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. Last August, Stefan Payne gave the Kent side an early advantage at the EBB Stadium, before Richard Brodie’s first goal for the club 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 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 at what is now the Electrical Services Stadium on 31 October 2000.
Monday afternoon’s referee is Constantine Hatzidakis from Kent, who took charge of three Aldershot Town home defeats last season – the 3-0 loss against Macclesfield Town in September, the 1-0 defeat against Wrexham two months later and the 1-0 reverse against Woking on Boxing Day. In the first two of those games, he dismissed Shots midfielder Jake Gallagher. This season he’s officiated in four National League fixtures, showing eleven yellow cards and one red card.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison will be covering the game on Monday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM from 2.10pm for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website and BBC Sport app from 2.50pm.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport and @GavinDenison