Shots v Woking match preview – 1 January 2017
Aldershot Town got back to winning ways on Boxing Day with a comprehensive 4-0 drubbing of local rivals Woking at the EBB Stadium. Everyone of a Shots persuasion will be hoping for a similar result and performance as they face the same opponents on New Year’s Day at Kingfield. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Not even the most optimistic Shots fans would have expected such an emphatic victory on Monday. Their side copied the formula that served them so well in the opening two months of the season with Scott Rendell (thanks to a mistake from Cards goalkeeper Brandon Hall) and Shamir Fenelon netting in the opening ten minutes. Rendell got his second in the 25th minute before completing his hat-trick in the first minute of first half stoppage time. The gap could have been wider but Fenelon and Rendell both missed excellent headed opportunities. In the second period, Idris Kanu and Bernard Mensah shot over the bar when well placed, whilst the 73rd and 75th minutes saw Jake Cole make his only two saves from Gozie Ugwu and Anthony Edgar’s penalty, which was awarded after Kundai Benyu bundled over Charlie Carter.
The win was especially surprising given that Gary Waddock’s side had lost six of their previous nine league games. His team had also given up seventeen goals in their prior nine fixtures in all competitions, so the clean sheet was equally welcome. It was the Shots’ eleventh of their National League campaign (a total only bettered by Chester and Tranmere Rovers, who both have thirteen), which is only three fewer than they managed in the whole of the 2015-16 season. Overall, the Shots’ defensive record of 26 goals conceded in 26 league games is the fourth-best in the division. However, they’ve continued to struggle away from the EBB Stadium, going six without a win since they won 1-0 at York City on 1 October.
Their opponents on New Year’s 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 National League 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 25 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. Despite an improvement in their league form, the Surrey side failed to win any of their five games in December, scoring just one goal in the process. Woking are unbeaten in their last four home league games (beating Gateshead and Bromley, whilst drawing with North Ferriby United and Guiseley), but only Southport have a worse defensive record than the Cards’ 48 goals conceded in this campaign so far.
Garry Hill has been in charge of the Surrey side since January 2011 and he was understandably furious about his team’s display in the 4-0 defeat at the EBB Stadium on Boxing Day. He told the Surrey Advertiser: “We let the football club down in a big, big way. We came in with 11 points out of 18 in respect of the last six league games. But there were so many embarrassing, gutless performances out on the park. And I don’t have any pleasure saying that as a manager in any way or form… You can’t give goals away like we did in the manner that we did early on… I am the manager at that team and I am hurting bad. We have seen a performance that was gutless, I can’t say any more than that.”
Gary Waddock made two changes to his starting eleven on Boxing Day, with former Cards stopper Jake Cole returning to the side after missing six games with an ankle injury. That meant Mark Smith dropped to the bench, as did Will Evans, who was replaced by Ipswich Town loanee Kundai Benyu. His selection in midfield meant Dion Conroy reverted to centre back, where he shone alongside skipper Callum Reynolds. The Shots boss also named Matt McClure amongst his substitutes after he missed the fixture at Chester due to a calf problem. Scott Rendell’s hat-trick – his first since scoring three times for Woking in a 5-2 win at Southport in October 2014 – took him to nine goals for the season, which leads the Shots, whilst Bernard Mensah’s cross for Rendell’s third goal gave him a team-leading sixth assist of the campaign.
The return to fitness of Cole and McClure meant that Waddock was without just two players for the Boxing Day game against Woking. Central midfielder Liam Bellamy is close to a return to the squad after missing the last nine games with a knee injury, but former Woking loanee Nick Arnold (two appearances in September 2014) will be out with an ankle injury until mid-January at the earliest. Defender Jack Saville was released earlier this week after 36 appearances in eighteen months at the club, becoming the fourth player dispensed with by the Shots boss during the festive period.
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 Borough, Godfrey Poku signed for Oxford City and full back 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. Last Friday, Hill also secured the signing of Kane Ferdinand, who scored the winner for East Thurrock United against the Shots in the FA Trophy in mid-December.
Kretzschmar and Ansah will both be unavailable to face the Shots at Kingfield due to long-term injuries, but Hill should have the rest of his squad from which to choose on New Year’s Day.
Since their first meeting in the FA Cup in October 1998, these two clubs have met each other on 23 occasions, with the Shots winning eleven (including eight of the last eleven), drawing six and losing six. Whilst Aldershot Town managed a comfortable win on Boxing Day, the Cards completing their first double over their local rivals last season. John Goddard tallied the only goal at the EBB Stadium on Boxing Day 2015, whilst his goal also 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 in the second half. 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.
Aldershot Town also have the historical advantage at Kingfield, winning on six of their last eight visits to the ground. As well as Aldershot Town’s 2-1 victory in the 2014-15 campaign, they also won in Woking by the same score in the previous season. On Easter Monday 2014, goals from Brett Williams and Mark Molesley gave Andy Scott’s side the three points they needed to secure National League survival. The Shots also managed two wins in the 2007-08 promotion campaign. A Kirk Hudson goal secured a 1-0 victory on Boxing Day 2007, whilst Gary Waddock’s team also won 4-2 in an FA Trophy tie, a game which featured a John Grant brace, seventeen days later. The Shots previous defeat at Woking occurred in front of the TV cameras, succumbing to a 2-0 defeat in October 2006 thanks to goals from Steve Evans and Giuseppe Sole. Overall, Aldershot Town have won six, drawn one and lost four of their eleven fixtures in Surrey.
Sunday afternoon’s referee is Adrian Quelch from Dorset, who took charge of the Shots’ goalless draw at Torquay United in October. So far this season, he’s officiated in nine National League fixtures, showing 23 yellow cards and no red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gary Smith, Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team and Woking FC Press Officer John Moore will be covering the game on New Year’s Day. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM or DAB from 12.30pm for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies, website and BBC Sport app from 12.50pm.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport