Aldershot Town suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions after going down 3-1 at Welling United on Saturday, with the third straight league loss dropping them to 18th in the table. It was a far-from-ideal start to a tough-looking festive fixture list, which starts with the visit of league leaders Barnet on Boxing Day. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Last weekend’s loss in South-East London was all-too-familiar to other recent defeats, with the Shots creating chances, not taking them, and then being punished by their more clinical opponents. Dan Ficthett, making his first start since 30 September at Dover, could have had a hat-trick before the Wings took the lead in first half stoppage time. The home side then doubled their lead in the 53rd-minute, with Phil Smith making a stunning save three minutes later. Shots skipper Glenn Wilson halved the deficit after 66 minutes with his first goal for the Club, but Andy Scott’s team missed further good chances either side of Tyrone Marsh’s second goal of the game nine minutes from time. There was also time for Phil Smith to make another outstanding stop, tipping Kieron St Aimie’s long-range effort onto the post.
After a run of two defeats in ten games (with both losses being unlucky ones) between 11 October and 25 November, the Shots have rapidly gone backwards in the last month. Five defeats and the goalless home draw with Rochdale have been the sum total of their last six fixtures, with just three goals coming in those games. Aldershot Town’s home form has also dropped off the cliff, with three defeats, one draw and no goals in their quartet of competitive fixtures at the Electrical Services Stadium since the FA Cup win against Portsmouth. Only Southport have scored fewer than the Shots’ fourteen home goals in the Conference, whilst their overall home form is now the fifth-worst in the division.
After a trio of consecutive last-day escapes from relegation out of the Football League, Barnet finally dropped through the trapdoor in April 2013. It brought an end to an eight-season stay in the Football League, and was a sorry finish to the Club’s 106-year stay at Underhill. The Club finished 8th in the non-league top-flight last season, seven points from the play-offs, but they had a good finish to the campaign under Martin Allen. Having taken charge for the fourth time on 19 March, Allen oversaw a run of one defeat from the last eight games of 2013-14. After winning the Conference title in 1991 and 2005, the Bees are ideally-placed to become the first Club to win the Conference title on three occasions.
Barnet have been leading the way for the majority of the season so far, with their 55 points from 26 games seeing them secure a seven-point lead at the top of the table. Their 58 league goals is, by far, the best record in the division (Torquay United are the next highest with 45), whilst they’ve failed to score in only one league game this season. 27 points from thirteen games away from The Hive is also vastly superior to any other Conference side, with eight of those fixtures seeing road victories. The Bees are also conceding less than a goal in a game (23 goals against), but their only clean sheet in their last eight league games came in last weekend’s 3-0 win at Chester.
With his team in such great form, Allen confirmed that he has no plans to add to his squad in the January transfer window. He told the Barnet & Potters Bar Times last week: “There has been money available from the Chairman for players to come in for about the last month. The Chairman is offering money to get new players if we want them and I don’t want them. I don’t need them. These players have got us to where we are and it is our responsibility to see it through. What am I going to do, leave them out? Change them? Drop them? Could you imagine what they would be like in the dressing room and on the training pitch behind the scenes?”
Andy Scott made three changes for the game at Rochdale, with Mark Phillips replacing Jaydon Gibbs in the back four, with Joe Oastler moving to right back, after Gibbs picked up a virus. Naby Diallo and Dan Fitchett also started in place of Mark Molesley (rested) and Brett Williams (dropped to the bench), respectively. The Shots’ nine-goal top scorer lost his place in the starting line-up after a run of just one goal from open play in his last twenty outings, although he has netted two from the penalty spot in that time. Glenn Wilson did get himself on the scoresheet, with his first league goal since March 2010, when he scored in a 2-2 draw for Crawley Town at Salisbury City.
The Shots boss will hope Gibbs is able to return on Boxing Day, but Aldershot Town will most likely be without five injured players, including Phillips, who went off at Welling with a hamstring problem. Left back Anthony Tonkin has been out for almost three months with a calf injury, whilst midfielder Damon Lathrope has been out for a similar length of time with a groin problem. Josh Scott will be out for the foreseeable future after scans revealed a broken metatarsal suffered in the home defeat against Gateshead at the beginning of November, whilst Joe N’Guessan has missed the last six games with an ankle problem.
Martin Allen was able to keep the majority of last season’s squad for this campaign’s promotion push. Midfielder Mark Byrne and top league goalscorer Jake Hyde (twelve goals) both moved into the Football League with Newport County and York City respectively, whilst back-up goalkeeper Nick Jupp was released and subsequently joined Met Police. Midfielders Ahmed Abdulla, Kieron Cadogan, James Harper and Roberto Casabella also left the Bees, as did forwards Harry Crawford and Marciano Mengerink. Amongst those who remained in North London were goalkeeper Graham Stack, defenders Andy Yiadom, Elliot Johnson, Jack Saville and David Stephens; midfielders Curtis Weston, Luisma Villa (who has eleven goals so far in 2014-15) and Mauro Vilhete, plus strikers Keanu Marsh-Brown and Jon Nurse.
The Bees’ most eye-catching signings came in the attacking third, with John Akinde being snapped up after a nineteen-goal season with Alfreton Town. He’s already matched that in this campaign, with his seventeen league goals being the best tally in the Conference. Veteran goalscorer Charlie MacDonald was signed from Oldham Athletic to play alongside him, whilst former QPR midfielder Lee Cook has eight goals this season after arriving in the summer from Greek side Apollon Smyrni. Centre back Bondz N’Gala and defensive midfielder Sam Togwell have been excellent acquisitions at the other end of the pitch, whilst defender David Hunt (Oxford United) and striker Bernard Mensah (Watford) are on loan until January. The Barnet manager also signed former Aldershot Town winger Adam Mekki in the summer (he scored six goals in 100 appearances during his time in North-East Hampshire), but the 22-year-old has recently been told he is free to leave the club.
Allen only has the two injury concerns, with last season’s thirteen goal top scorer Keanu Marsh-Brown missing the weekend win against Chester with a thigh injury and Jon Nurse suffering a knee ligament strain earlier this month, which will keep him out for around six weeks.
Friday afternoon sees the seventeenth meeting between Aldershot Town and Barnet, with the Shots certainly having the edge in recent meetings, winning six of the last eight, as well as picking up thirteen points from the last five games. That gives them the slight historical edge with eight wins, compared to five victories for the Bees, plus three draws, one of which came at the Electrical Services Stadium last September. Aldershot Town led 3-1 with twelve minutes to go, thanks to a Brett Williams brace and a Manny Oyeleke strike, but Barnet secured a point with late goals from Marciano Mengerink and Harry Crawford. The Shots then won 3-1 at The Hive in January, with Jordan Roberts, Bradley Bubb and Mark Molesley netting the goals for the visitors.
Barnet won’t be looking forward to their trip to Aldershot, having failed to win on any of their last six visits. The Bees were beaten 4-1 in February 2012 and 4-0 on Boxing Day 2009, and have only won once at the home of Aldershot Town. That came in November 2004, when a pair of Jonny Dixon goals failed to prevent a 3-2 defeat for the hosts. Overall, the Shots have won four, drawn three and lost one of their eight home games against the North London side. This will also be the team’s third meeting on Boxing Day, with the Shots winning 3-0 at Barnet in 2008 and 4-0 in North East Hampshire twelve months later.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Nicholas Kinseley, who took charge of last season’s 3-3 draw between these two clubs, as well as Aldershot Town’s 4-1 FA Trophy defeat to Havant & Waterlooville in February and the 3-0 home win against Dartford last August. So far this season, he’s refereed seven league games, showing fifteen yellow cards and three red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Friday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website at 1pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do on Boxing Day. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)