After months of uncertainty, Aldershot Town are finally due to kick off their 2020-21 National League season on Saturday, with what will be their longest trip for a league game. They will travel to Victoria Park, to take on Dave Challinor’s Hartlepool United in a match that, due to current UK Government restrictions, will take place behind closed doors.
Rob Worrall previews the game:
Shots’ boss Danny Searle has retained the services of 12 of the playing squad from his first season in charge, in which The Shots were in 16th place when the season was curtailed due to the Covid-19 virus. Town were ultimately given an official final placing of 18th after PPG (Points Per Game) were applied, with a PPG of 1.17. Whilst the Shots’ Ethan Chislett has moved up to League One level with AFC Wimbledon, Searle has managed to retain key players, including; Mitch Walker, Lewis Kinsella (currently out with a recurrence of his MCL injury), George Fowler, Alex Finney, Craig Tanner and Mo Bettamer. Young goalkeeper Ryan Hall has signed his first full professional contract and young midfielder Reece Wylie has also signed for the full 20-21 season.
There are 8 ‘new arrivals’ at The EBB Stadium, although 1 of them, youngster Ben Shroll, has stepped up from the Shots’ Academy. Centre-Back Jamie Sendles-White, formerly with Crawley Town, has skippered the side throughout pre-season, earning the responsibility of Club Captain for the 2020/21 season. Also joining The Shots’ are; Killian Colombie, a French man that started his Youth career with Paris St Germain and most recently played in the USA and wide forward Joel Nouble, a Cascadian international that scored 27 goals in 46 appearances across recent spells with Haringey Borough and Concord Rangers. In Midfield, Searle has added Josh Rees from Bromley and Toby Edser (Nottingham Forest, with loan spells at Woking last season), both of whom have shown a keen ‘eye for goal’ in pre-season. Winger Chike Kandi has also signed from Dagenham & Redbridge, impressing in some of the early pre-season matches, before picking up a slight knock which has kept him out of recent friendlies. Last, but most definitely not least, through the ‘incoming’ door at the EBB, is former Leeds United & Aston Villa Striker Ross McCormack, who, having taken last season ‘out’ of football, is keen to re-ignite his passion for the game with Aldershot Town.
Name: Hartlepool United
Manager: Dave Challinor
Stadium: Victoria Park
2019/20 National League position: 9th when the season was curtailed, awarded 12th place on PPG (1.41)
Initially formed in 1908, from a successful Amateur Cup winning team, Hartlepool United joined the Football League in 1921 and until 2017, spent their entire existence in the lower two divisions. After successive mid table finishes, they will be keen to look upwards again, after a strong finish to last season.
Former Tranmere Rovers, Stockport County and Bury defender Dave Challinor is in charge of The Pools’. Challinor ended his playing career and started his managerial experience at Colwyn Bay, whom he guided to Runners-Up spot in the Northern Premier League in his first season at the helm, eventually gaining promotion to what was the Conference North via the Play-Offs. In November 2011, he was announced as the new manager of AFC Fylde, who at that time, played in the Northern Premier League Division 1 North. His impact was instant, gaining promotion (as Champions) in his first season and then guiding The Coasters to NPL Play-Offs the following season. They lost on that occasion, but gained promotion to the Conference North twelve months later.
Challinor then steered Fylde to Play-Off victory and up to the National League, where they finished once again in a Play-Off position, losing to Boreham Wood at the first stage. Challinor left Mill Farm half way through last term, but was soon snapped up by Hartlepool, where his arrival saw an upturn in their results and a strong finish to the season.
Pools have lost the services of Mark Kitching (Stockport County), Aidan Keena (Hearts) and Gus Mafuta (Boreham Wood), whilst Michael Raynes has retired and a further 10 players were released.
Just 7 players remain at Victoria Park; goalkeeper Ben Killip, midfielders Nicky Featherstone & Gavin Holohan, plus Wingers Ryan Donaldson and Luke Molineux, whilst youngsters Brad Young (Keeper) and Brad Young (Utility) have signed professional terms.
Challinor has brought in 12 new faces, including 3 that were at Victoria Park on loan last season; Defender Tim Odusina (Norwich City) and midfielder Gary Liddle (Walsall) and Mark Shelford (Salford City). Highly rated Left Back David Ferguson has arrived from York City, Winger Josh MacDonald (FC Halifax Town), Forward Rhys Oates (Morecambe), Claudio Ofosu, another Winger from Royston Town, plus Midfielder Tom Crawford (Notts County). Completing the new faces at Hartlepool this season are a trio of strikers; Mason Bloomfield (Norwich City, formerly at Dagenham & Redbridge), David Parkhouse (Sheffield United) and youngster Joe Grey, who has been promoted from the club’s Academy. Just two days prior to the season kick off, Pools have also added Defender Ryan Johnson from Kidderminster on a short-term deal.
Less than 48 hours before the season opener, Hartlepool made 2 additional loan signings:
Goalkeeper Henrich Ravas from Derby County and Newcastle United Defender Lewis Cass. Both loans are for the duration of the 20-21 season
Saturday’s referee is Martin Woods, who refereed 14 National League matches last season, showing 36 Yellow Cards and 2 Red Cards. He did not take charge of an Aldershot Town game last season, but took the middle in two Hartlepool games, including their 5-1 win at Chesterfield.
BBC Surrey Sports Rob Worrall will be covering the game live on Saturday afternoon with Alan Baldwin as summariser. Tune in to the BBC Sport website (or the BBC Sport App) from 2:50pm for full match commentary. To interact, tweet @RobShot66
The game is also being ‘live-streamed’ by Hartlepool United at a cost of £9.99. For more details, visit hartlepoolunited.co.uk