Shots v Lincoln City match preview – 4th March 2017
On Tuesday evening, Aldershot Town took their unbeaten run to 10 games with a 1-1 draw at Eastleigh.
It also ensured they completed the entire calendar months of January and February 2017 without defeat. The Shots, who lost Jim Kellermann to a red card just 25 minutes in, took the lead just before half-time when Bernard Mensah’s pass sent Idris Kanu through on goal and the youngster finished confidently. Town held on to that precious lead until 10 minutes from time, when Craig McAllister’s close-range leveller ensured the spoils were shared. With results elsewhere proving favourable for The Shots, the point saw them remain 6th in the National League table, but now just one point from a Play-Off position and ten behind Saturday’s visitors Lincoln City, who could only draw 1-1 at home to lowly York City.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Gary Waddock’s charges looked the better side and created the more clear-cut chances in the midweek match at Eastleigh both prior to and following Kellermann’s sending off, in a one-sided first half. Mensah, Kanu, Rendell and Kellermann all saw efforts on goal thwarted prior to Kanu’s brilliantly timed run and finish – his fourth goal for the club.
Eastleigh were quickest out of the blocks after the break but after a torrid five-minute spell of pressure which saw two chances spurned and a couple of obligatory Jake Cole saves, Waddock’s men regained their strong foothold despite their numerical disadvantage. The Shots’ defence were heading for a third consecutive clean sheet until McAllister arrived perfectly into the six-yard box to poke home from a long throw. Jake Gallagher almost restored his team’s advantage from the restart, but shot straight at the Eastleigh keeper. As added time approached, Shamir Fenelon burst into the box, but his effort was saved by the keeper for a corner and, in the end, Town had to be content with just one point.
The draw took Gary Waddock’s side to 58 points for the 2016-17 campaign and stretched their current away run to 5 games without defeat. At the EBB Stadium, The Shots have performed even better, having gone 6 unbeaten, scoring 14 goals and conceding just 3 in reply. Only their table topping visitors on Saturday can boast a better home league record this season. Overall, Aldershot Town have won 11, drawn 3 and lost 3 of their 17 home National League matches to date.
Formed in 1884 as an amateur association, Lincoln turned professional in the 1891-92 season. Originally they played at the John O’Gaunt’s Ground, and moved to their current ground, Sincil Bank, in 1895. Their championship honours include three Division 3 North Championship titles in 1931-32, 1947-48 and 1951-52 and a Division Four (now League Two) Championship in 1975-76, when they were managed by the late Graham Taylor.
In 1982 and again in 1983, Lincoln narrowly missed out on promotion to the Second Division. In 1986, though, they became the first team to suffer automatic relegation from the Football League, and, in doing so, set the rather unwanted record of becoming the first club to be demoted from the Football League on four occasions. They regained their Football League status automatically via promotion as champions of the Conference at the first attempt and held on to it until the end of the 2010-11 season, when Aldershot Town themselves condemned The Imps to relegation on the final day.
Having flirted with relegation once again in 2013 (surviving on the final day of the season) they have since gone on to record successive mid-table finishes (14th, 15th & 13th). At the beginning of this season, Danny Cowley (having guided Braintree Town to a Play-Off place last term) replaced Chris Moyses as the club’s manager and this change brought about a quite remarkable upturn in The Imps’ fortunes.
City began the season strongly and have maintained their form throughout. They currently sit top of the National League and, perhaps even more impressively, have reached the Quarter-Finals of the FA Cup. Just seven days after this match, Lincoln City will play Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium for a place in a Wembley-hosted semi-final. Incredibly, they are also just one (two-legged) tie away from Wembley in the FA Trophy, having reached the semi-final stage of that competition.
Gary Waddock made two changes in midweek with Bernard Mensah coming back in for Shamir Fenelon and defender Anthony Straker replacing Nick Arnold. With Kellermann now commencing a four-match suspension, Waddock could re-call recent signing Manny Oyeleke from Canvey Island, where the aforementioned has been building his match fitness following a prolonged absence from the game since his release by Exeter last summer. Ipswich Town loanee Kundai Benyu will complete his third month at Aldershot Town following this game.
Once again, The Shots only confirmed absentee will be central midfielder Liam Bellamy, who had an operation earlier this month on the knee ligament injury he suffered during the game at Forest Green Rovers on 5 November. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that Bellamy will play again this season.
Cowley chose to retain a large number of last season’s Imps squad, including 23-goal top scorer Matt Rhead. The big target-man leads the way again this season, with 13 league goals to his name. Other key players that remain at Sincil Bank from last season include goalkeeper Paul Farman; defenders Luke Waterfall (7 goals this season), Jamie McCombe, Bradley Wood and Lee Beevers; midfielders Alan Power and Terry Hawkridge, plus forward Jack Muldoon.
Unsurprisingly, Cowley returned to his former club for personnel reinforcements, snapping up England C midfielder Alex Woodyard (40 appearances already this season), left back Sam Habergham and winger Taylor Miles. He strengthened the Imps’ attacking ranks with the captures of Nathan Arnold (11 goals this season having signed from Grimsby Town), Adam Marriott (Stevenage) and Jonny Margetts (Tranmere Rovers).
Margetts moved to League One side Scunthorpe United after netting five goals in his opening seven appearances, but has this week returned to The Imps on loan. Former Dover Athletic centre-back Sean Raggett has boosted the defence (not to mention scoring the priceless winner against Premier League Burnley in the FA Cup 5th Round) whilst highly-rated midfielder Elliott Whitehouse signed from Nuneaton Town.
With The Imps making progress on all fronts this term, and a likely fixture pile-up in the second half of the season, it was no surprise that Cowley decided to bolster his numbers at the turn of the year. In came five players – all on loan from Football League clubs: defender Sean Long (Reading), midfielders Billy Knott (Gillingham), Josh Ginnelly (Burnley) and Joe Ward (Brighton and Hove Albion) and forward Dayle Southwell (Wycombe Wanderers), with Theo Robinson (Southend United) being the only notable departure.
Working with a larger squad has allowed Cowley to rotate his starting eleven as he attempts to negotiate the tricky run of fixtures facing The Imps due to their cup success on two fronts. He made seven changes for the midweek match draw with York City and, with no let-up in City’s busy playing schedule, there are likely to be several more this weekend.
Saturday sees the fourteenth meeting between Aldershot Town and Lincoln City, with the North-East Hampshire side having a slight superiority, winning six, drawing two and losing five of the previous thirteen meetings. The reverse fixture this season proved to be an absolute thriller. Idris Kanu gave Shots an early lead, before two Nathan Arnold strikes saw The Imps lead at the break. Goals from Cheye Alexander and Scott Rendell turned the match on its head after the break as The Shots produced a stirring second half performance, only for Rhead to controversially level for City in the 97th and final minute. The 3-3 draw took Cowley’s men to a tenth match unbeaten – rather ironically the same scenario with which Aldershot Town come into this match.
Half of the last eight games have been won by the away side, with the Imps winning 2-1 at the EBB Stadium last November. Jack Muldoon netted a deflected winner with ten minutes to go. The Lincolnshire side completed the double in March last year with a 2-0 home win courtesy of Jamie McCombe and a Joe Oastler own goal. The only two other home victories in that stretch both came in 2014-15. Brett Williams got the only goal of the game at the EBB Stadium in September 2014, whilst The Imps got their revenge the following January with a comfortable 3-0 win.
Saturday’s referee is Craig Hicks, who has officiated in 19 National League matches during season 2016-17, issuing 45 Yellow Cards and 5 Red cards. He has taken charge of 4 Aldershot Town matches this season; the home matches versus Wrexham (2-0), Solihull Moors (2-0), Woking (4-0) and the away match at Maidstone United (2-0).
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Saturday. Tune in to the BBC Sport website from 2.50pm for full match commentary.
You can also contact us throughout the evening via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport @GavinDenison and @RobShot66.