Shots v Woking match preview – 26 December 2016
Aldershot Town suffered yet another defeat last Saturday as they went down to a 2-0 reverse at Chester. Gary Waddock and the Shots fans will be hoping they can bounce back for the festive double-header against Woking, with the Cards visiting the EBB Stadium on Boxing Day. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The most disappointing part of the loss at Chester was that the visitors didn’t start playing until they’d gone 2-0 down. James Alabi hit the post from the penalty spot in the 7th minute to give them an early reprieve, but Jordan Chapell used the freedom of the Deva Stadium to put the hosts 1-0 up two minutes before the break. Aldershot Town’s best first-half chance saw Idris Kanu curl a shot wide from twenty yards. Alabi then doubled the lead ten minutes later, turning in from close range after Tom Shaw’s shot was saved by Mark Smith. The Shots rallied after that, with Shamir Fenelon and Bernard Mensah hitting the woodwork and Callum Reynolds firing over from the latter’s rebound, whilst Charlie Walker was denied by a fine save from Blues goalkeeper Alex Lynch in the 85th minute.
As well as the defeat in Chester being their sixth in their last nine league games, it was also Aldershot Town’s seventh loss in their last eleven games in all competitions. That run dates back to the goalless draw with Torquay United on 22 October, a game which the Shots dominated and could have gone third in the National League table with a win. The dramatic downturn in form can be put down to two main areas. Firstly, the run of five defeats in eight home games in all competitions (after they picked up sixteen points from their first eighteen at the EBB Stadium) and secondly, the concession of seventeen goals in their last nine games after conceding just sixteen in their first nineteen outings of the 2016-17 campaign.
Their opponents on Boxing Day secured a place in the top flight of the non-league pyramid for the first time in April 1992, a couple of weeks after the demise of Aldershot FC. Seventeen consecutive seasons at that level included five top-five finishes (ending in the runners-up slot in 1994-95 and 1995-96) and three FA Trophy successes between 1993 and 1998. However, the club faded over the next decade and were relegated to Conference South in 2009. Play-Off defeats against Bath City and Farnborough followed, before Woking returned to the Conference Premier as Champions in 2011-12. Their four campaigns back at this level have seen the Cards finish 12th, 9th, 7th, then 12th again last season.
The Cards, however, have struggled so far in 2016-17, sitting nineteenth in the table with 24 points from 24 games. They only managed one point from their opening six games, whilst a run of eight league games without a win from 24 September to 12 November dropped them back into the relegation zone. Since then, however, ten points have been secured from five national League outings, a run which includes wins at Maidstone United and at home against Gateshead and Bromley. Woking have only managed to win one league game away from home this season, whilst only Maidstone United and Southport have worse defensive records than the Cards’ 44 goals conceded in this campaign so far.
Garry Hill has been in charge of the Surrey side since January 2011 and he’s looking forward to facing the Shots in front of the TV cameras. He told the Surrey Advertiser: “It’s a special game and anybody who tells you different is saying it tongue in cheek. On Boxing Day it means much more than a win and to me it’s the difference between having a bit more dinner or nothing at all. It’s all about the bragging rights and we’ve tended to have the better of them recently over there… It’s a big game for the fans and a special day for everyone connected with both clubs and we are looking forward to it even though it will be tough… They are a lot stronger now and have a good manager in Gary [Waddock] and a top bloke too.”
Gary Waddock made six changes to his starting eleven at Chester as he looked to arrest his side’s slump. Callum Reynolds and Cheye Alexander returned to the back four, with Dion Conroy moving back into central midfield to partner Jake Gallagher, who had returned from a three-game suspension. Shamir Fenelon and Idris Kanu were restored to the flanks, whilst Scott Rendell was preferred upfront to Charlie Walker, who was named amongst the substitutes. Jim Kellermann, Iffy Allen and Kundai Benyu all dropped to the bench, with the latter two coming on in the second half. We can expect further changes on Boxing Day, especially with Wednesday’s announcement that Walker, Allen and Josh Wakefield had all been released. The latter two had faded at the Shots after promising starts and had come to the end of their contracts, whilst Walker (last season’s fourteen-goal top scorer) never recovered that form after suffering an ankle ligament injury in July. However, one player extending his stay with the Shots is Conroy, whose loan from Chelsea will now run until the end of the season.
Jack Saville has completed a one-game ban after his red card in the FA Trophy, plus Waddock could have some of his key players back from injury to face Woking. Central midfielder Liam Bellamy (missed eight games with a knee injury), Matt McClure (out against Chester due to a calf problem) and Jake Cole (unavailable for six games due to an ankle injury) could all return to the squad on Monday. Former Woking loanee Nick Arnold will be out with an ankle injury until mid-January at the earliest, whilst Will Evans went off because of a back problem last weekend and will be assessed nearer to kick-off.
Garry Hill has certainly been hampered by a number of key departures since the end of last season, with two – Scott Rendell (49 goals in 84 appearances between 2013 and 2016) and Jake Cole (74 games in two seasons) – of course joining the Shots. Last season’s twenty-goal top scorer John Goddard moved to League One outfit Swindon Town, whilst left-sided player Chris Arthur also moved into the Football League, joining Crawley Town. Captain Mark Ricketts and Bruno Andrade joined Boreham Wood, local hero Giuseppe Sole moved to Hampton & Richmond, Godfrey Poku signed for Oxford City and Cameron Norman returned to parent club Norwich City. Amongst those players who remained at Kingfield were defenders Ismail Yakubu (who missed all but six games in 2015-16 with a serious knee injury), Brian Saah, Joey Jones and Jake Caprice, experienced midfielder Keiran Murtagh and Academy products Charlie Carter and Aaron Smith-Joseph.
The Woking boss hasn’t had the biggest budget with which to reinforce his squad, but he’s made some excellent signings. New England C goalkeeper Brandon Hall arrived from Ebbsfleet United, whilst striker Gozie Ugwu (thirteen goals) and attacking midfielder Fabio Saraiva (eleven goals) signed from Wycombe Wanderers and Ryman League Premier Division side Merstham respectively. The attacking ranks were further strengthened by former youth player Delano Sam-Yorke (Forest Green Rovers), Chike Kandi (Brighton and Hove Albion) and Dennon Lewis (season-long loan deal from Watford). Michael Poke (Eastleigh) has been primarily used as Hall’s deputy this season, whilst Terell Thomas (on loan from Charlton Athletic) and Frazer Shaw (formerly at Leyton Orient) have been added to the Cards’ defensive corps. Former Shots loanee Nathan Ralph (one goal in twelve appearances at the end of last season) and Anthony Edgar (Braintree Town) will provide width if required, whilst Frankie Sutherland (QPR) and ex-Shots trialist Max Kretzschmar (Wycombe Wanderers) have added options in central midfield. On Friday, Hill also secured the signing of Kane Ferdinand, who scored the winner for East Thurrock United against the Shots in the FA Trophy earlier this month.
Hill will be able to welcome Charlie Carter back to his squad after he completed his three-match suspension against Guiseley, but Kretzschmar and Ansah will both be unavailable to face the Shots due to long-term injuries. Keiran Murtagh has only played 45 minutes in the last month because of a hamstring problem, so may struggle to feature on Monday.
Since their first meeting in the FA Cup in October 1998, these two clubs have met each other on 22 occasions, with the Shots winning ten (including seven of the last ten), drawing six and losing six. Last season saw the Cards completing their first double over their local rivals. John Goddard tallied the only goal at the EBB Stadium on Boxing day, whilst his goal proved to be the winner at Kingfield seven days later. Joe Quigley had given the hosts the lead, with Rhys Browne notching what proved to be a consolation for Aldershot Town. The 2014-15 campaign saw both clubs winning the away fixture, with the Cards’ victory last September coming courtesy of a stunning 35-yard free kick from Giuseppe Sole, which was the one true moment of quality in an uneventful game. The reverse fixture on 28 December saw Andre McCollin and Brett Williams give the Shots a 2-0 lead in the opening thirty minutes before Jack Marriott got one back for the home team in the 88th minute.
The Shots also have the marginal advantage at the EBB Stadium; winning four, drawing four and losing three times against the Cards. As noted above, Woking have won the last two on this ground, but the Shots have won four of the eight league games on this ground, including the famous 4-0 win in front of the TV cameras in March 2005 and a 2-1 victory on New Year’s Day 2008. Later in the 2007-08 promotion season, these two teams also played out a 2-2 draw in the semi-final of the Setanta Shield, with the Shots eventually going through after winning the penalty shootout 4-3. The first game in North East Hampshire ended in a 0-0 draw, with Aldershot Town as a Ryman League Premier Division club, in the FA Cup in October 1998, whilst Woking’s first victory at the Shots came in an FA Trophy 4th Round Replay sixteen months later.
If he features on Boxing Day, Anthony Straker will make his 250th appearance for the Shots, becoming just the fourth player to reach the milestone for the club. Will Evans will make his 200th senior appearance if he plays against Woking on Monday.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Craig Hicks from Sutton, who took charge of the Shots’ 2-0 home victories against Wrexham in August and Solihull Moors two months later. He also oversaw Aldershot Town’s 2-1 win at Braintree Town last August, as well as the 2-0 victory at Torquay United at the start of October 2015. This season he’s officiated in eleven National League fixtures, showing 21 yellow cards and three red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison, Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team and Woking FC Press Officer John Moore will be covering the game on Boxing Day afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM or DAB from midday for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies, website and BBC Sport app from 12.15pm.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport or @GavinDenison