Aldershot Town put in their worst performance of the season on Tuesday night, slumping to a 3-0 loss at Dover Athletic, which dropped them to 15th in the Conference table. With the Shots in the middle of a run of ten games in 35 days, they return home this weekend to take on Alfreton Town at the Electrical Services Stadium. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
After four points and a pair of impressive performances against Lincoln City and Gateshead, Aldershot Town fans would have expected a great deal more from their team at the Crabble Athletic Ground on Tuesday evening. The Shots put in a feeble display and were well beaten by the hosts, who scored three good goals against lackadaisical defending. Things might have been different had Brett Williams’ 2nd-minute shot squeezed into the bottom right-hand corner of the Dover net, but the visitors never really troubled the Kent side, who also hit the crossbar and forced a pair of good saves from Phil Smith. Despite somehow being credited with ten efforts on goal, Andy Scott’s team looked disjointed and lacking ideas in the attacking third.
That issue is now also backed up by the statistics, with the Shots only managing thirteen goals in the same amount of league games thus far in 2014-15. As it stands, only Nuneaton Town, Southport and Alfreton Town have managed less, with Aldershot Town only managing four goals in seven league games during the month of September. It’s also noticeable that, of Brett Williams’ six goals this season, five of them have come in the club’s four league victories. The 26-year-old desperately needs some help from his teammates with the other outfield players having scored just seven goals in 144 combined league appearances in 2014-15.
Alfreton Town were formed in 1959 by a merger between Alfreton Miners Welfare and Alfreton United, and most of their formative years were in the Midland Counties League. A spell in the Northern Premier League was followed by seven seasons in Conference North, which ended with the winning of that title in 2010-11. The Derbyshire side’s first two seasons in a national league saw finishing positions of 15th and 13th, and, despite reverting to part-time playing status in the summer of 2013, the Reds were 3rd in the table with eight games to go. However, a run of just three points from their last eight games saw the Reds sitting 11th in the division’s final standings.
That poor form continued into this season, with the Derbyshire club losing their opening seven league fixtures. A run of ten points from four games lifted them out of relegation zone, but consecutive defeats against Dover Athletic and FC Halifax Town have left the Reds 22nd in the table. They’re one of the three teams who have scored fewer league goals than Aldershot Town this season, whilst only Altrincham and AFC Telford United have conceded more than Alfreton Town’s 28 league goals. They also have the third-worst away record in the division, losing five of their six games away from the Impact Arena.
Nicky Law, who took over as the Reds manager in May 2007, saw both positives and negatives from Saturday’s 2-0 home loss to FC Halifax Town. He told the club’s official website after the game: “I am disappointed with the result obviously, especially as I thought we murdered them, played them to death with some good football and were far and away the better team. We could have been 2-0 up, but then, when we have had to defend, we have conceded from a long throw and from a cross into the box. We are okay, they are second in the league and we have bossed them. But, when it has come to it, we have not been able to defend in central defence. That’s the difference between the two teams… We were the better team, but we have lost again.”
Andy Scott named an unchanged starting line-up for the third game in a row at Dover Athletic, with Joe N’Guessan keeping his place in the starting line-up on the right-hand side of midfield, whilst Dan Fitchett started a third consecutive game alongside Brett Williams at the top of Scott’s 4-4-2 formation. Once again, only four substitutes were named, with the outfield trio – Tom Derry, Naby Diallo and Sam Hatton – all looking bright following their introductions. Whether any of them did enough to play their way into the starting XI will be revealed on Saturday afternoon.
There may be some injury respite though for the Shots boss, with all four of the current injured quartet hoping to return to training in the next fortnight. Saturday’s game may be too soon, however, for club captain Chris Barker (nine games out injured with a calf problem), Mark Molesley (a tendonitis issue has seen him miss the Shots’ last seven fixtures), Tristan Plummer (absent for four games with a hamstring issue) and Josh Scott (unavailable for the trips to Gateshead and Dover because of a groin injury).
For a variety of reasons, Alfreton Town’s squad is virtually unrecognisable from the one that performed so well last season. Since the end of the last campaign, seventeen players have signed on permanent deals, whilst a further three are currently on loan at the Impact Arena. Three of those seventeen – goalkeeper Jon Stewart, midfielder Sean Wilkins and attacking midfielder Lee Stevenson (on loan to Stockport County) – have already left the club, whilst few of the others have made a significant impact thus far. The defensive reinforcements look impressive on paper, and include Duane Courtney (Tamworth), Luke Graham (Hereford United), Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (Luton Town), Jordan Keane (Stoke City), Chris Smith (FC Halifax Town), Dan Gray (Lincoln City) and Lawrence Gorman (Nottingham Forest). In midfield, Andi Thanoj (Grimsby Town), Anthony Howell (Mansfield Town), Jake Sheridan (Lincoln City) and Nathan Hicks (Conference North side Leamington) have been added to the squad, whilst Karl Hawley (Torquay United), Benny Igiehon (Swiss club FC Lagenthal) and Massiah McDonald (Matlock Town of the Northern Premier League Premier Division) were expected to add firepower to the frontline. The triumvirate of loan players currently available to Nicky Law are goalkeeper Cameron Dawson (Sheffield Wednesday), midfielder David Mellor (Oldham Athletic) and four-goal top scorer Joe Ironside (Sheffield United).
Only two players – defender Bradley Wood and midfielder Dan Bradley – started for the Reds at the weekend having been on permanent deals at the club last season, whilst Tom Shaw (eight goals in 2013-14) and Paul Clayton (seven goals last season) came on as second-half substitutes. Undoubtedly, the biggest loss was nineteen-goal top scorer John Akinde, who moved to Barnet, but plenty of other key players also moved on in the summer. They include goalkeepers Jon Worsnop and Ross Atkins (returned to parent club Derby County); defenders Nick Fenton, Chris Westwood, Michael Wylde and Connor Franklin; plus midfielders John McGrath, Danny Meadows and Josh Law, who moved to Motherwell.
Law has a largely fully-fit squad to choose from, with only Nathan Hicks (shoulder) being an injury doubt for this weekend’s game.
The only two previous meetings between these two sides occurred last season, with both teams winning away from home. The fixture in North-East Hampshire saw the Reds score twice from set-pieces through Tom Shaw and Josh Law, whilst the winner from Jake Speight was laid on a plate after a run of pace and power from man-of-the-match John Akinde. The home side’s equalisers came from Jaydon Gibbs and Brett Williams, and they could have snatched all three points had Gibbs not missed an open goal four minutes before the visitors went ahead for the third and final time.
In Derbyshire on 8 April, Alfreton Town were swept aside by the Shots who romped to a 4-1 win. A Martin Rowlands free kick and a header from Mark Phillips gave the visitors a 2-0 lead at half-time. John Akinde halved the deficit in the 56th minute, but Manny Oyeleke restored the two-goal advantage within sixty seconds. Mark Molesley completed the scoring with a fine run and finish in the 66th minute, with the win playing a huge part in Aldershot Town’s Conference Premier survival.
If he plays on Saturday, Glenn Wilson will make his 250th appearance in the non-league top-flight.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Chris Powell from Dorset, who is in his first season as a Conference referee. So far this season, he’s taken charge of three league games, showing seven yellow cards and no red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 2pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website at 2.55pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Alfreton Town. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)
Plus, we want your reaction to the game between 5pm and 6pm on Saturday in ‘The Final Whistle’. Win, lose or draw, we want to hear from you throughout this season. Call us on 03459 57 00 57 and let your voice be heard.