Suddenly, Aldershot Town go into Tuesday night’s re-arranged Vanarama Conference game against FC Halifax Town as the form side. Their run of five games without defeat – for the first time in two years – has lifted The Shots 11 points clear of the relegation zone with just nine games left. Steve Gibbs previews the action…
FC Halifax Town’s own run, of three games without victory or even a goal, represents something of a crisis for Neil Aspin’s usually metronomic, ultra-consistent team. Although still in a healthy eighth place, The Shaymen boast ‘only’ the 11th best away record in the division, with five wins and seven defeats from 17 matches on their travels.
Whilst struggling for goals, they do, however, have the third-best defensive record in away games, with five of those defeats by just a single goal; only Forest Green Rovers and Eastleigh, in fifth and sixth place respectively, have earned more comprehensive victories against FC Halifax. The 1-0 defeat at Southport, on 3 March, was sandwiched by two goalless draws, at Kidderminster Harriers and against Dartford, but Aspin continues to believe in his squad.
“I know it is a hard league, it is our second season now and we have competed well,” he told www.HalifaxAFC.co.uk, the Club’s official website. “If you want to get out of this league, you have to accept everything has to change. But, we are competing well in this league and at this level. We aren’t playing well at the moment but I am confident we can turn that around.”
Given the current state of The Shay pitch – which FCHT share with Halifax Rugby League Club – they may actually find the Electrical Services Stadium surface more to their liking, but veteran midfielder Danny Schofield also explained to HalifaxAFC.co.uk: “It is going to be a tough game. I have played against Aldershot a few times in my career and it has always proved to be a tough place to go. But we are solid as a defensive unit and we just need to start creating more chances, and I am sure we can do that.
“At the start of the season we were scoring goals freely with the same personnel, so we have proved already this season that we have got goals in us, so we just need to keep focused and keep at it.”
The Shots, meanwhile, are looking to re-establish Fortress Rec – or FortrESS, if you will – and are now three games unbeaten at home, following a run of five consecutive defeats.
Since their promotion back to the Conference, FC Halifax Town’s success has been based on a solid defence, and it remains a strong and settled unit this season. 36 year-old Matt Glennon continues to be a fine goalkeeper and reassuring presence behind a back-four recently comprising James Bolton at right-back, Marc Roberts and deadline day signing Graham Hutchison at centre-back, with Scott McManus as the marauding left-back.
Hutchison, a 22 year-old Glaswegian who joined from Worcester City last month, has impressed since replacing hamstring injury victim Steve Williams. Aspin also has 20 year-old Leeds United centre-back Ross Killock – signed on a youth loan until the end of the season – as defensive back-up.
Former Shots winger Adam Smith has been a peripheral figure of late, but Aspin still lined-up against Dartford on Saturday in a highly-attacking formation which amounted to 4-2-4 with wingers Richard Peniket and Rochdale loanee Jack Muldoon (usually a striker) in particularly advanced roles. Matty Pearson and Danny Schofield anchored midfield, allowing Peniket and Muldoon to support the front two of Scott Boden and former Southport striker Danny Hattersley.
It is Boden who leads The Shaymen scoring charts, with ten, but Aspin may be tempted to restore midfielder Lois Maynard – who has eight goals – and Jamie Jackson, who has four, to his starting line-up after naming both on the bench last weekend.
Chris Barker’s injury concerns, meanwhile, continue to grow, with Jaydon Gibbs suffering a recurrence of his back injury just 15 minutes into the game at Macclesfield, to join Mark Molesley, Ryan Jarvis and Joe Oastler in a crowded treatment room. However, Danny East returned from his own tendinitis problems earlier than expected, and should be joined in the matchday squad by Josh Scott – available again following suspension – and midfielder Matt Saunders.
Head To Head
Aldershot Town are looking to beat the ‘new’ FC Halifax Town for the first time in four attempts. The Shots have just one point – earned in a 2-2 draw at the ESS in January 2014 – to show for their efforts after a 4-0 defeat at The Shay in November 2013 and last September’s 1-0 loss, when substitute Ross Dyer scored the winner.
In 10 games against Halifax Town, between October 2003 and April 2008, The Shots won five and lost just two, and remain unbeaten in six home matches against The Shaymen.
In nine games this season, Devon referee Adam Hopkins has issued 27 yellow cards and one red. In September he took charge of The Shots’ 1-0 win against Lincoln City, before returning to the ESS in November for Eastleigh’s 2-0 victory.
BBC Surrey’s Jon Howick will provide full match commentary via the BBC Sport website from approximately 7.35pm, with summariser Rob Worrall. Click here to listen online.
Get in touch via Twitter during the game through @OfficialShots and @BBCSurreySport.