A hat-trick from Lorent Tolaj ensured Aldershot Town would progress to the FA Cup First Round Proper for the first time in five years with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Lewes.
Aldershot made two changes from the side that beat Solihull Moors last weekend as Coby Rowe came in for Haji Mnoga, who is on international duty for Tanzania, and Joe Haigh made his Shots debut in place of Jack Barham who was missing from the squad after picking up a knock in training.
The Shots started well in possession and despite looking reasonably comfortable against their lower-league opposition, it was Lewes who registered the first sign of danger. A squared ball across the face of Aldershot’s goal was begging to be turned in but Theo Widdrington had done well to track a runner and intercept and clear danger.
It was Widdrington who had Aldershot’s first sights at goal. His first effort from outside the box was blocked, but his second effort was a little less dangerous, ballooning over the bar.
Lorent Tolaj found himself alone up top in a slight change of tactic by Tommy Widdrington and the Swiss striker certainly didn’t suffer as he was able to score a quick-fire double to put his side two to the good within two minutes!
His first in the 12th minute was a gift. Lewes tried to play out from a goal kick and a misfired pass across the face of their goal was straight to the feet of Tolaj who turned and slotted under the hapless Nathan Harvey.
His second goal was even easier! Aaron Jones burst into the box down the right and squared it across goal for Tolaj to tap it in from merely a yard out to double his and Aldershot’s tally in the 15th minute.
The Shots’ number nine almost had his hat-trick in the 20th minute. Joe Haigh played a delightful, delicate through-ball into the area for Josh Stokes who played it across goal but Tolaj was beaten to the ball by a Lewes defender who did really well to clear the danger.
The two goal advantage was perfect for Aldershot to demonstrate some of the fantastic football that has been displayed at the EBB Stadium so far this season as they calmly and patiently spread the play and controlled proceedings.
The Shots were desperately unlucky to not score a third in the 33rd minute. Josh Stokes fed through Lorent Tolaj who unselfishly squared it back to Stokes to thunder an effort against the inside of the post that then bounced off a defender’s head and out. Joe Haigh turned back into the area with the ball but his effort was fired just over the bar.
Lewes had a slight flurry before the break but Coby Rowe was on hand to stop the danger on two occasions. Firstly a fantastic sliding recovery challenge nicked the ball off Tommy Wood as he shaped to shoot, before he popped up on the line to block Harvey Hughes’ effort from outside the box.
Lewes needed to score the next goal to find a route back into the game and did just that only three minutes into the second-half. Tommy Wood found himself through on goal and calmly found the bottom far corner.
Aldershot could have got nervous and forced to recede into defence but instead looked to restore their advantage. Ollie Harfield surged forward and forced a good save from Nathan Harvey in the 50th minute.
And they did restore their two-goal advantage in the 56th minute. Lorent Tolaj shot on the turn but saw his effort well saved by Nathan Harvey who could only parry it to the feet of Aaron Jones for the skipper to score with a true poacher’s finish!
Tolaj was desperate for his hat-trick but things just wouldn’t fall for him. Crosses and passes were inches away from his reach and shots were saved well by Harvey as he pushed for the match-ball.
A string of substitutes, including Keane Anderson coming on to make his professional Aldershot Town debut, were made and The Shots seemed to be edging towards a place in the hat for the First Round of the Emirates FA Cup.
And the afternoon was topped off with only a few minutes to play as Lorent Tolaj completed his hat-trick in added time. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, he shot with his right-foot on the turn and managed to find the bottom corner to ensure his side progressed with a comfortable scoreline!
Attendance: 1758 (184 away)
Shots lineup: 1. Jordi van Stappershoef, 3. Ollie Harfield, 4. Cian Harries, 5. Coby Rowe, 6. Theo Widdrington, 9. Lorent Tolaj, 10. Josh Stokes, 11. Ryan Glover (12. Keane Anderson 88′), 17. Aaron Jones (C), 20. Joe Haigh (8. Tyler Frost 69′), 27. Tommy Willard (24. Maxwell Mullins 84′).
Subs not used: 38. Finlay Westen, 18. Olly Scott, 31. Ollie Turner, 39. Kwame Thomas.