Shots v Chester match preview – 10 September 2016
Aldershot Town kept up their 100% home record with an outstanding 3-1 win against the previously unbeaten Tranmere Rovers on Saturday. The three points lifted them to 4th in the National League table as they welcome struggling Chester to the EBB Stadium this weekend. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Aldershot Town’s third win on the bounce was another outstanding advert for the National League with the home side deserving the three points. Bernard Mensah gave the Shots the lead in the 3rd minute from Cheye Alexander’s centre before Andy Cook headed in a deserved equaliser from a right-wing cross eight minutes before half-time. Jake Cole made outstanding saves from Connor Jennings and Cook either side of the break to set up the game’s dramatic finish. In the 79th minute, substitute Iffy Allen was brought down in the box and Scott Rendell stepped up to dispatch the penalty and give the hosts the lead. Three minutes later a poorly-cleared corner was emphatically volleyed in from the edge of the area by Will Evans to seal the win and send the EBB Stadium into rain-drenched delirium.
The win was Aldershot Town’s fourth at home of the season, which is a remarkable turnaround bearing in mind they only won seven league fixtures at the EBB Stadium in the whole of 2015-16. It’s also marks the first time that Aldershot Town have won four consecutive home league games since November and December 2013, when they defeated Southport, Braintree Town, Tamworth and Welling United. Another pleasing element of Aldershot Town’s early season form is how the goals have been shared around amongst the squad. Last season saw 26 of the 54 goals (48.1%) being scored by strikers, but so far this season only four of the twelve goals (33.3%) have been scored by Scott Rendell and Matt McClure.
The story of Chester FC has been a brief and, mostly, very successful one. The supporters-run club was founded in 2010 following the demise of their precursors Chester City, who were wound-up in March of that year after a string of financial problems, points deductions and on-pitch struggles. Continuing to play at the Deva Stadium, the Blues secured three straight promotions, winning the Northern League Division One North, the Northern League Premier Division, and then the Conference North in 2012-13. Their first season at this level saw them finishing in the relegation zone before a reprieve due to Hereford United’s expulsion. There was a 12th-place finish in 2014-15, whilst they ended last season 17th in the table.
Under interim manager Jon McCarthy (he was given the role permanently over the summer), the Cheshire side won their last three games of last season, but they’ve only managed seven points so far in this campaign. This is a tally that leaves them 19th in the early National League table. They’ve been defeated by Woking and Forest Green Rovers in their last two outings, whilst Chester have only managed one point from their four away games, albeit an impressive one in a goalless draw with Boreham Wood last month. That was the only one of their eight league fixtures so far in which they’ve failed to score, with their tally of thirteen league goals only being bettered by six sides in the division.
McCarthy, the former Birmingham City and Northern Ireland midfielder, has been philosophical over his side’s inconsistent start to the season. Speaking to the Chester Chronicle, he said: “Is it inconsistent when that has been this football club for the last three seasons since they came into the National League? What they haven’t done in the time I’ve been here is beat the teams in the middle of the league or at the top of the league… What we have always done since I have been here is beat those teams in that mini league around us at the bottom, we’ve always done that… I get how people are and it is not to avoid the situation but there is some science here of something positive.”
Gary Waddock made two changes from the side that started against Dover Athletic, with Anthony Straker preferred to Nick Arnold at left back and Scott Rendell returning in place of Jim Kellermann. The latter selection also saw the Shots boss electing to go with his preferred 4-4-2 formation. The game continued his run of not having named the same starting eleven in consecutive games this season, but whilst injuries have played a part, there’s also been a consistent element of tailoring a side to the opposition. Of the seventeen players to feature for Aldershot Town in the 2016-17 campaign, all have started at least two games and only three – Callum Reynolds, Cheye Alexander and Matt McClure – have started in all eight fixtures.
Jack Saville has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, but is back in training and will be aiming to be back for this weekend’s fixture, whilst Jim Kellermann missed the win against Tranmere Rovers with an ankle problem. Last season’s top scorer Charlie Walker is also back in training after damaging his ankle ligaments against MK Dons on 23 July, but this weekend’s game could come too soon for him.
Bearing in mind the side’s lowly position last season in the National League, it may be quite surprising to learn that Chester retained a good number of their playing squad. Seven players moved on from the Deva Stadium to be replaced by six permanent signings and three long-term loanees. There were key departures, however, with last season’s 26-goal top scorer Ross Hannah joining Barrow, outstanding centre-back Ben Heneghan moving to Scottish Premiership side Motherwell and John Rooney (ten goals in 2015-16) making the short trip to Wrexham. Defender Ryan Higgins, goalkeeper Tony Thompson and forward Craig Hobson also left the Cheshire side. Amongst those who have remained are goalkeeper Jon Worsnop, defenders Ryan Astles, Johnny Hunt and Ian Sharps (also acting as Assistant Manager); midfielders Craig Mahon and Tom Shaw, plus forwards James Alabi, Jordan Chappell and Kane Richards.
McCarthy will look to the former Tamworth striker Elliott Durrell (thirteen league goals last season for The Lambs, three already in this campaign and the National League Player of the Month for August) to replace the goals of Ross Hannah. The defensive corps has been strengthened by the arrivals of Blaine Hudson (Wrexham), Evan Horwood (Northampton Town), Ross Killock (Leeds United) and Theo Vassell (on loan from Walsall until 1 January), whilst Liam Roberts has joined the club on a season-long loan deal from Walsall to challenge Worsnop. Ryan Lloyd (on loan from Port Vale until 1 January), James Akintunde (Cambridge United) and Wade Joyce (Stalybridge Celtic) have also added midfield options.
The Chester manager will be able to welcome Horwood back to his squad after he served a one-match ban in last weekend’s game against Forest Green Rovers. Vassell also missed that fixture with a concussion, whilst Ross Killock has failed to feature this season due to a calf injury.
Saturday sees the seventh meeting between Aldershot Town and Chester, all of which have been in what is now the National League. Shots fans won’t want to be reminded of the last time the two sides faced off, with the visitors going down to a record 8-2 defeat at the Deva Stadium. Four goals from James Alabi and two from Sam Hughes put the Blues 6-1 up at half-time, with Ross Hannah’s brace rounding things off for the hosts in the second half. Ross Lafayette and Dan Walker got the merest of consolations for Barry Smith’s side. Two months earlier, Sean McGinty, Alfie Pavey (on his debut) and Jim Stevenson got the goals in a 3-1 home win for the Shots. The Cheshire side won both games in 2014-15 by the score of 1-0. John Rooney scored the only goal at the EBB Stadium in April 2015, whilst Matty Hughes was the game-winner in this corresponding fixture in October 2014. Seven months earlier, a Brett Williams brace gave the Shots a comfortable 2-0 win at the EBB Stadium, with Jaydon Gibbs’ 90th-minute goal securing a point for Aldershot Town in that campaign’s away fixture in November 2013.
Aldershot Town previously played four league games against Chester City, with a record of one win, one defeat and two draws. Both the draws came at what is now the EBB Stadium, with it finishing 1-1 in November 2003 and 2-2 in April 2009. Kirk Hudson scored a brace in the latter fixture, with the point not being enough to save the Cheshire side from relegation.
Chester City (confusingly also previously known as Chester) also had 45 games against Aldershot FC between 1948 and 1989. Their record in North-East Hampshire was a poor one, with the Shots winning fourteen, drawing seven and losing on just two occasions. Aldershot FC’s overall record against the Blues was very much in their favour with nineteen victories, thirteen draws and thirteen defeats.
If he plays this weekend, Anthony Straker will play his 236th game for the Shots, moving him to equal fourth with Stuart Udal on the club’s all-time appearance list.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Antony Coggins from Oxfordshire, who is in his first season on the National Referees list. This season he’s officiated in three National League fixtures, showing eight yellow cards and one red card.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM or DAB 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 or @GavinDenison