The Shots got off to a dream start to the 2023/24 National League season, as goals from Jack Barham, Haji Mnoga, Josh Stokes and two from Lorent Tolaj saw the Shots win comfortably on opening day.
2 minutes in it was almost the dream start for the Shots, as some fantastic work from Josh Stokes found him in a great position to cross, and Lorent Tolaj flicked the cross onto the post.
The Shots didn’t take long to get off the mark, as Jack Barham got Aldershot into the lead in the 13th minute. Chris Haigh initially rushed out to meet Tolaj for a cross, but his failed effort left the goal open, which firstly resulted in a poor cross from Ollie Harfield, but a poor touch at the back post from Lewis Coyle saw Aaron Jones put a first time cross in to Jack Barham, who scored from close range.
Oxford City were gifted their way back into the game in the 26th minute, after a defensive mistake lead to Alfie Potter being one on one with Jordi Van Stappershoef, who rounded the keeper and played it across to Josh Parker, who tapped into the empty net to level.
Unfortunately for Theo Widdrington his Aldershot debut was cut short in the first half, coming off with a knock after 29 minutes and being replaced by Tyler Frost.
However just 7 minutes later the lead would be restored for the Shots, a good corner from Ollie Harfield left Oxford City scrambling, and after two misfired efforts Haji Mnoga was on hand to mark his return to the EBB with a goal from close range.
10 minutes of added time became the Lorent Tolaj show to end the half, his first contribution coming from a fantastic effort that was headed for the top corner if not for a flying save from Chris Haigh. He almost scored again moments later, as a good run from Jack Barham ended in a ball across the box which again found Tolaj, but a good defensive effort saw it go wide.
As the old saying goes, it was third time lucky for Lorent Tolaj, as Barham again found him inside the box, but this time there was no mistake from the Swiss who put the Shots 3-1 up.
HALF TIME: Shots 3-1 Oxford City
Just after the break the Shots added a fourth and Jack Barham again had a huge hand in the goal. Stuart O’Keefe nicked the ball off the Oxford midfield and slid in Jack Barham, who unselfishly played the ball across to Josh Stokes, who slotted into the bottom corner to make it 4-1.
A fantastic showing from Josh Stokes ended in the 57th minute, as he was Tommy Widdrington’s first change of the second half, Tommy Willard coming on in his place.
Stuart O’Keefe gave the EBB a scare in the 70th minute, as he went down after a tackle in the Oxford half. It’s too soon to officially confirm anything in regards to the midfielder, but it was a good sign that he walked himself around the pitch as he came off in place of Kwame Thomas.
The game had become about seeing out the final minutes for the Shots, but that all changed in the 88th when a quick counter attack saw Tyler Frost slide through Lorent Tolaj, who shifted onto his right and put the ball into the back of the net to make it five for the Shots.
Tolaj wasn’t done there, almost making it an opening day hat-trick as he turned Canice Carroll and had a pop from the edge of the box, but Chris Haigh made another fine save to deny him the match ball.
Oxford got a second goal in added time at the end, Aaron Williams-Bushell forced his way into the box and played the ball across to Josh Parker who scored his second of the game from close range.
The second goal wasn’t enough for Oxford to get anything out of the game, as the referee drew the game to a close at 5-2 to the Shots.
The Shots now turn attention to a first trip of the season next weekend, as they face Oldham on Saturday 3pm next weekend.
Shots team: 1. Jordi Van Stappershoef, 3. Haji Mnoga, 3. Ollie Harfield, 4. Cian Harries, 6. Theo Widdrington (8. Tyler Frost, 29’), 7. Stuart O’Keefe (C) (39. Kwame Thomas, 70’), 9. Lorent Tolaj, 10. Josh Stokes (27. Tommy Willard, 57’), 17. Aaron Jones, 22. Jack Barham, 24. Maxwell Mullins, Unused subs: 5. Coby Rowe, 11. Ryan Glover, 39. Kwame Thomas