Tranmere Rovers v Aldershot Town match preview – Friday 14 April 2017
As frustrating as Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to relegation-threatened Torquay was, it did see The Shots stretch their unbeaten run at The EBB Stadium to 10 matches. The point earned was also enough for Town to hold on (by goal difference only) to fifth place in the National League.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
The Shots dominated the opening half-an-hour against Torquay, creating several goal-scoring opportunities. Three of them fell to Bernard Mensah who shot just wide of one post, acrobatically volleyed just past the other and then shot straight at visiting keeper Brendan Moore. Leading scorer Scott Rendell had the ball in the net on 17 minutes only for a linesman’s flag to rule it out for offside. Earlier Rendell had also seen his claim for a penalty turned down after it appeared that he was pushed from behind inside the area.
Torquay then took a 33rd minute lead, when striker Ruairi Keating latched on to a through ball inside the area and lifted a rising shot past the on-rushing Jake Cole. Trailing 1-0 at the break, The Shots worked hard to get back into the game and substitute Matt McClure’s bullet header forced Moore into a full stretch save. Fourteen minutes from time, McClure was brought down as he turned on the edge of the area and Kundai Benyu stepped up to curl home the resultant free kick to level the scores.
United could have won it in added time when ex-Shot Brett Williams broke clear. Cole came off his line to block Williams’ shot, but in doing so sustained a deep gash on his shin, which forced him to be stretchered off. Rendell donned the gloves for the final few minutes but was not called into action and the game ended 1-1.
The Shots team included three changes for the Torquay match. With defender Will Evans’ wife in labour, manager Gary Waddock gave a first start to Reading loanee Dominic Hyam. Cheye Alexander returned at right-back, with Nick Arnold switching over to the left. Idris Kanu, who was rested at Solihull, also came back in, with Anthony Straker and Shamir Fenelon taking their places on the bench. Evans may well return for the Tranmere match, with Mark Smith on stand-by to replace Cole, if required.
Tranmere Rovers were formed in 1884 and were founder members of Division Three North in 1921. That started an unbroken 94-year spell in the Football League that had some incredible highs along the way. A Division Three North title in 1937-38 led to one year in the second tier of English football, a level they returned to in 1991. Their decade in the Championship saw three Play-Off appearances and a League Cup Final defeat in 2000 to Leicester City. The Wirral side dropped into the bottom tier with a defeat on the last day of the 2013-14 campaign, before finishing dead last in League Two twelve months later. Their first National League campaign ended with a 6th-place finish, two points from the play-offs.
Rovers began this season strongly, winning six and drawing one of their opening seven fixtures. Their first defeat came at The EBB Stadium in September, and the winless run of four games that followed saw the departure of then-manager Gary Brabin. His replacement, Micky Mellon, soon had Tranmere firing again and he has led the team to 23 wins from his first 36 games in charge. On Saturday, they beat Solihull Moors 9-0 to go level on points with leaders Lincoln City, but a midweek home defeat (0-1) to third-placed Forest Green Rovers brought an end to their run of six straight victories. Rovers and Shots share the joint best defensive record in the National League, with both teams having conceded 35 goals in 42 games.
Most Apps: Keeper Scott Davies and defender Steve McNulty are both ever-present, with 42 league appearances.
Most Goals: Andy Cook is Rovers’ top scorer with 22 league goals this season.
Key Player: Former Macclesfield and Wrexham attacker Connor Jennings is in great form, scoring a hat-trick against Solihull Moors on Saturday.
Aldershot Town and Tranmere Rovers have only met three times in the National League, with the first game taking place in September 2015 at Prenton Park. Sam Hatton gave the visitors a fifth-minute lead, before Rovers replied with goals from Norwood, ex-Shot Adam Mekki and Andy Mangan to secure all three points. In the return game, in February 2016, the two sides played out a goalless draw. Back in September, Bernard Mensah gave Shots an early lead, before Andy Cook levelled the scores. However, a penalty from Scott Rendell and a blistering Will Evans volley earned Town a 3-1 victory.
The two sides also met in two Second Round FA Cup matches in late 2009. The first game on the Wirral finished goalless, before Rovers came through 2-1 in the replay, Oliver Bozanic scoring for Shots. Tranmere Rovers did play 32 league games against Aldershot FC between 1961 and 1987, with all but four taking place in the old Fourth Division. Overall, the Shots won thirteen, lost twelve and drew seven of those fixtures.
Good Friday’s match referee is Peter Wright, who has taken charge of 14 National League games this season, issuing 43 yellow cards and one red card. He has not refereed either Tranmere Rovers or Aldershot Town this season.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and former Shots goalkeeper Nikki Bull will be covering the game on Friday afternoon. Tune in to the BBC Sport website from 2.50pm for full match commentary.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @RobShot66 and @BullWorldTrip