Woking v Shots match preview – Saturday 2 January 2016
Aldershot Town made it four points from three games on Monday with a battling 1-1 draw at high-flying Eastleigh. The result kept them 16th in the National League table ahead of their third and final festive fixture, and their first of 2016, on Saturday as they visit local rivals Woking. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Both the Shots and their hosts produced a thoroughly entertaining afternoon’s action at the Silverlake Stadium, with a draw being a fair result. Phil Smith had already made a couple of smart saves before being beaten by Josh Payne’s eighth-minute penalty after Omar Beckles fouled James Constable. Aldershot Town responded positively, with home goalkeeper Ross Flitney making fine stops from Jim Stevenson and Tom Richards before Sam Hatton confidently dispatched his side’s first penalty of the campaign to make it 1-1. In the second half, Smith was the busier keeper with outstanding saves from Payne and Yemi Odubade, whilst Jai Reason hit the post for Eastleigh. For the Shots, Marcus Harness and Tom Richards had opportunities to snatch all three points in the last five minutes, but failed to find the net.
Whilst the draw ended a streak of three consecutive losses on the road, it did stretch the Shots’ winless run away from home to five games. Their last away victory was at Boreham Wood on 13 October, which was their fifth away win in seven at the time. Goalscoring also continues to be a problem for Barry Smith, with just four coming in their last nine games in all competitions. Disappointment at that end of the pitch has been a feature throughout 2015, with Aldershot Town netting just 51 times in fifty games during the calendar year. During the past twelve months, the Shots’ overall league statistics have been poor, playing 46 times in the National League and securing fourteen wins, ten draws, 22 defeats and 52 points in total.
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. They’ve improved each season back at this level, finishing 12th, 9th and then 7th in 2014-15, three points from the play-offs.
The Cards have had an up-and-down season so far, but they still sit 7th in the table with 41 points from 27 games. They were unbeaten in their first nine league games, then lost three in a row, before winning three on the bounce. Woking then won just one of their next ten National League outings, before picking up sixteen points from their last seven matches. Goalscoring has been their strength, with their total of 46 league goals being the sixth-best in the division, with sixteen in their previous seven games. At Kingfield, they’re unbeaten in their last three fixtures, a run which includes a 4-1 win over Tranmere Rovers and a 3-1 victory against Lincoln City.
Garry Hill has been in charge of the Surrey side since January 2011 and he spoke positively about Monday’s goalless draw with Boreham Wood, which came in front of the Cards’ biggest crowd of the season, 2,097. He told the Surrey Advertiser after that game: “We’ve had two games in 48 hours and come out of it with four points out of six, which included a win in the local derby. It was a fair result against Boreham Wood – we had one genuine chance when Gez Sole had a shot saved by their keeper and they had a few counter attacks… We’ve turned it round over the last five weeks and the fact we’re disappointed with a point and a clean sheet shows how far we’ve come in that time.”
Barry Smith made one change to the starting line-up for the trip to Eastleigh, with top scorer Charlie Walker returning in place of Richard Brodie. This allowed Burton Albion winger Marcus Harness to return to the squad as a substitute after completing the suspension incurred from the red card he picked up whilst playing on loan at Ilkeston FC earlier this season. His first appearance since the home game against Cheltenham Town was an impressive one off the bench and he could be under consideration for a start on Saturday. Goalscorer Sam Hatton should keep his place on the right of midfield after scoring his tenth Aldershot Town goal at Eastleigh, the ninth to have come away from the EBB Stadium.
Brodie was unavailable to the Shots manager after sustaining a back spasm in training earlier this week, whilst Rhys Browne has been suffering with a virus, so the short trip to Kingfield could come too soon for him. Centre-back Jack Saville has now recovered from a similar illness and is awaiting the opportunity to return to the matchday squad.
Garry Hill was forced into a major squad reshuffle over the summer of 2015, with a number of his key players leaving the Cards. First-choice centre-backs Joe McNerney and James Clarke moved to League Two sides Crawley Town and Bristol Rovers respectively, whilst attacking midfielder Kevin Betsy and former Shots full-back John Nutter both retired. Josh Payne (nine goals last season) joined Eastleigh, Dean Morgan was released and left-back Aswad Thomas moved to fellow National League club Dover Athletic. Fellow defender Mike Cestor suffered a serious knee ligament injury last December and hasn’t featured so far in this campaign, whilst last season’s top scorer Scott Rendell (24 league goals) and centre-back Ismail Yakubu (who arrived from Newport County in June) suffered similar injuries in August and have been ruled out for the remainder of this season. Amongst those who have remained at Kingfield include goalkeeper Jake Cole, inspirational skipper Mark Ricketts, midfielder-turned-centre-back Joey Jones, full-back Chris Arthur, attacking midfielders John Goddard (eleven goals this campaign) and Kieran Murtagh, plus long-serving striker Giuseppe Sole, who has recently returned from a loan spell with National League South outfit Basingstoke Town.
Rendell’s loss has largely been covered by former Shots loanee Dan Holman (three goals in eighteen Aldershot Town games between October 2014 and January of this year), who has seventeen goals in 28 appearances for the Cards, including eight in his last eight National League outings. Brian Saah (Dagenham & Redbridge) and Jake Caprice (Lincoln City) have strengthened the defence, whilst Nick Hamann arrived from Braintree Town to act as the back-up to Cole. Former Shot loanee Bruno Andrade (QPR), Jimmy Keohane (Exeter City) and Kadell Daniel (Charlton Athletic) have bolstered the midfield ranks, but Godfrey Poku (AFC Telford United) failed to impress before being loaned out to Havant and Waterlooville. The Woking boss has also recently snapped up the impressive loan trio of striker Joe Quigley (Bournemouth), left-back Cameron Norman (Norwich City) and central midfielder Matt Robinson (Luton Town), all of whom have been crucial to Woking’s recent good form.
Apart from the long-term injures to Rendell, Yakubu and Cestor, Hill should have a fully-fit squad from which to choose this weekend. He’s named the same starting eleven for the last three games, so changes will most likely be kept to a minimum.
Since their first meeting in the FA Cup in October 1998, these two clubs have met each other on 21 occasions, with the Shots winning ten (including seven of the last nine), drawing six and losing five. Of course, Boxing Day saw a 1-0 win for the Cards at the EBB Stadium thanks to John Goddard’s 40th minute winner in a game of few good chances. 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 a late goal from loanee Jack Marriott ensuring a nervous finish for the visitors.
In the previous season both games finished 2-1 to Aldershot Town, the latter of which at Kingfield, on Easter Monday, secured the visitors’ place in the Conference for another season. Mark Molesley got the decisive goal after Brett Williams and Brett Johnson had netted either side of half-time. Williams also scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the 2-1 win in North-East Hampshire on 26 August 2013.
Aldershot Town also have the historical advantage at Kingfield, winning on six of their last seven visits to the ground. As well as the two victories since Aldershot Town’s relegation, 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 last 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 three of their ten fixtures in Surrey.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Dean Treleaven from West Sussex, who took charge of the Shots’ 3-0 home defeat against Forest Green Rovers in October, as well as Aldershot Town’s 1-0 defeat to Woking at the EBB Stadium in September 2014. This season he’s officiated in eight National League fixtures, showing 26 yellow cards and two red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gary Smith and Woking press officer John Moore will be covering the game on Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM from 2.10pm for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by full match commentary via the radio frequencies, the BBC Surrey website and BBC Sport app from 2.50pm.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport and @GavinDenison