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Match Preview: Stones v Shots – 15 Aug 2017

Match Preview: Maidstone United v Aldershot Town – Tuesday 15 August 2017

Following their scintillating home performance and 6-0 victory over Guiseley AFC on Saturday, Aldershot Town sit proudly atop the National League as the only team with maximum points from the opening three matches. Goals from Matt McClure (2), skipper Callum Reynolds (his first for the club), Jim Kellermann, James Rowe and Bobby-Joe Taylor saw The Shots romp to a record-equalling best-ever win at Conference National level. On Tuesday evening, they travel east to the Gallagher Stadium, home of Maidstone United for what will be their fourth game in eleven days.

Rob Worrall previews the action…

Shots Squad:

Will Evans will definitely miss Shots trip to Kent (broken toe) and Bernard Mensah (slight hamstring strain) is unlikely to be risked until fully fit again. Nick Arnold took a slight ankle knock on Saturday, so Chris Arthur – who made an impressive debut against Guiseley AFC – may retain his place at left back. Otherwise, Aldershot Town manager Gary Waddock should have the pick of the rest of his playing squad.

Opposition – Maidstone United FC

Founded: 1992 (as Maidstone Invicta FC)

Nickname: The Stones

Ground: Gallagher Stadium

Manager: Jay Saunders

Brief History:

Several comparisons can be drawn between Maidstone United and Aldershot Town. Both clubs were founded 25 years ago in 1992, following the demise of their former clubs; both have achieved many promotions to get back to National League level, and both clubs are renowned for having a passionate and vocal supporter base.

Without a suitable ground to play at, Maidstone Invicta FC had to wait a whole season to get started and, by that stage, found themselves playing seven divisions down the non-league pyramid in the fourth division of the Kent County League. Following successive promotions, the club changed its name to Maidstone United FC but then took four seasons (and six managers) to win promotion to the Kent County Premier League. After finishing 3rd and then 2nd over the next two seasons, Maidstone obtained ‘Senior Club’ status and were accepted into the Kent League (Step 5 of the Non-League pyramid).

The 2005-06 season saw Stones win the Kent League and gain promotion to Isthmian Division 1 South – which they went on to win at the first time of asking. A tough first season in Step 4 saw them avoid relegation on the final day of the season and, against a background of continuous managerial changes and ground-shares, United went on to retain their Isthmian Premier status over the next few difficult seasons.

In 2011, following a brief stint as Player/Caretaker-Manager (with the club adrift at the bottom of the league and soon to be relegated), Jay Saunders became permanent Manager. In 2012, Maidstone United finally moved into their own ground – The Gallagher Stadium. Saunders guided The Stones back into the Isthmian Premier League via a play-off promotion in 2013 and then, two seasons’ later, to the Isthmian Premier title. Promotion from the National League South was achieved at the first time of asking in May 2016, when Maidstone beat Ebbsfleet 4-3 on penalties in the play-off final to earn a place in the National League.

Last Season:

Following the two successive promotions, Maidstone struggled early on and found themselves in the lower reaches of the table towards the turn of the year. However, some astute loan signings from Saunders saw a turnaround in form and a highly respectable 14th place finish, with 58 points.

The Gaffer:

Jay Saunders played in midfield for Margate (116 appearances) and Ebbsfleet (60) before joining Maidstone, where he soon took over the management reigns. Still only 38, Saunders has an impressive management CV, which includes three promotions in six seasons in charge of the Kent club.

The Squad:

With United making the decision to go full-time at the end of last season, Saunders released six players, including winger Yemi Odubade, and lost a further four players – two of which (Alex Flischer and Tom Mills) were unable to make the switch from part-time. Winger Bobby-Joe Taylor joined Gary Waddock’s Aldershot Town and striker Kevin Lokko signed for Stevenage.

Saunders retained six players: goalkeeper Lee Worgan, plus outfielders Ofori Twumasi, Jack Richards, Harry Phipps, Jack Paxman and Jamar Loza.

The Stones manager has added 14 players this close season, including five that have become permanent signings after joining Maidstone United on loan last season: Reece Prestedge, Magnus Okuonghae, Stuart Lewis, Delano Sam-Yorke and Joe Piggot. Defenders Josh Hare (Eastbourne Borough) and Alex Wynter (Colchester United) both bring Football League experience to Saunders’ side and they are joined by 21-year-old Alex Finney, who has signed on a six-month loan from Queen’s Park Rangers. Left-back Joe Anderson (Bromley) played in the National League last season, as did midfielder Jai Reason, with Boreham Wood. Exciting young winger Tom Wraight scored 22 goals and made 14 assists for East Thurrock United last season, and 19-year-old Harley Willard has made the switch from Under-23 football at Southampton. Johan ter Horst – a striker previously with Hill City – has also signed, but will be out until September with a shoulder injury.

Form:

The Stones faced a tough opening fixture list this season, with two away Kent derbies in their opening three games – both of which resulted in 2-0 defeats. United currently sit in 22nd place in the National League with just a solitary point – gained in their season opener, a 1-1 draw with newly promoted Maidenhead. Joe Piggot scored the Stones’ goal in that match.

Head-to-Head:

Aldershot Town and the current version of Maidstone United have met just twice to date – last season. Bernard Mensah netted an 88th-minute winner at The EBB Stadium twelve months ago, and goals from Kundai Benyu and Jake Gallagher secured a season double for The Shots back in February.

The original incarnations of Aldershot FC and Maidstone United did play each other on five occasions in the 1989-90 and the 1990-91 seasons. The first of those two campaigns saw a pair of wins for the Kent side, including a 2-0 win at The Recreation Ground on 14 April 1990. That came after the Shots had been given a 5-1 hammering at Dartford FC’s Watling Street on New Year’s Day.

The following season saw greater success for the North-East Hampshire club, including a pair of home wins. They triumphed 4-3 in a Fourth Division game on 24 November 1990, whilst beating the Stones 2-1 in a Second Round FA Cup tie a fortnight later. The two sides then drew 1-1 in Kent on 8 May 1991, which was the penultimate game of Aldershot FC’s last full season in the Football League.

Referee:

Tuesday’s referee is David Rock, who has taken the middle in two National League matches already this season, showing seven yellow cards and no red cards to date. Last season he refereed 24 National League games, showing 70 yellows and eight reds. He refereed Aldershot Town twice in 2016-17: the 2-2 draw at Bromley and the 2-0 away defeat to Sutton United, in which he sent off Jake Gallagher on the stroke of half-time.

Coverage:

BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and ex-Shots goalkeeper Nikki Bull will be covering the game live on Tuesday evening. Tune in to the BBC Sport website (or the BBC Sport App) from 7:35pm for full match commentary. You can contact us throughout the evening via Twitter, @RobShot66 and @BullWorldTrip.

Alternatively, follow @OfficialShots for full text commentary.

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