Aldershot Town ended a run of two consecutive defeats at the weekend with a battling 1-1 draw at Nuneaton Town. However, the side’s form in September hasn’t matched that of August, with the Shots facing another tough test on Tuesday evening as Braintree Town visit the Electrical Services Stadium. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
After the disappointment of the midweek defeat against Woking, Andy Scott and the Shots’ fans would have expected a positive reaction to the loss. What they wouldn’t have expected was a first-half performance that Scott described as ‘appalling’. Andy Brown gave the hosts the lead after nineteen minutes, a header which came nine minutes after he’d hit the post. Brett Williams had a couple of chances, but the Shots looked disjointed and were lucky not go further behind when a Lee Fowler free-kick hit the bar in the 63rd-minute. Three minutes later, however, Williams’ cross was hammered home by Sam Hatton and Aldershot Town were able to secure a fifth point from five away games.
Despite only keeping one clean sheet in nine league games this season, only six teams have conceded fewer than the Shots’ eight goals in the Conference this season. They’ve conceded just one goal in each of the other eight games, a record which shows Andy Scott’s team are always in contention to get a result. The ability of his substitutes to change the game is another factor in this, with Hatton’s goal being the second equaliser in three away games to have been scored by such a player. Josh Scott also came off the bench to good effect on Saturday and it’s a trait the manager will look to continue throughout the campaign. However, Hatton’s goal was just the fifth to be scored by someone other than Brett Williams this season, which is a statistic that needs improvement over the next few months.
Most of Braintree Town’s 115-year history has been spent in regional and local leagues, but four Ryman League promotions in ten years between 1996 and 2006 took the Essex club up to Conference South, where they quickly established themselves. Five years at that level ended with the Iron’s promotion as Champions in 2010-11, with their first two Conference Premier campaigns bringing finishes of 12th and 9th. The Iron had a good start to last season and were 3rd after a win over Hyde on 5 October, whilst their eventual sixth-placed finish, just three points from a play-off place, was a tremendous achievement by the Essex club.
Braintree Town got off to a slow start this season, losing three of their first four league fixtures, but they’ve won four of their last five and are now eighth in the Conference table. On Saturday afternoon, they won 2-0 at home to Kidderminster Harriers, the third time in four games that they’ve won by that score. Last season, the Iron has the fourth-best away record in the division, but they’ve struggled on the road thus far in 2014-15, only picking up three points from four games, all of those coming via a 2-0 win at Alfreton Town on 30 August.
The former Maidenhead United and Hampton and Richmond Borough boss, Alan Devonshire, is doing another excellent non-league managerial job with the Iron and was linked with the vacant managerial job at Colchester United earlier this month. However, Chairman Lee Harding told the Braintree and Witham Times: “I’ve had no approach and haven’t heard anything from Colchester. But if there was an approach and Alan wanted to go, then I would understand. Good luck to him, but we have always only spoken about the job at Braintree that is to be done with moving into the new stadium. However, Alan is a sensibly ambitious manager and these types of jobs don’t come along too often. Any interest would be a compliment to Alan and our club if he is considered.”
Andy Scott made two changes for the trip to Nuneaton Town, with Dan Fitchett coming in for Josh Scott and Tristan Plummer (making his first start since 25 February) to replace Sam Hatton on the right-hand side of midfield. Hatton, however, came on for Kieron Forbes and scored his first Shots goal with a fine finish. It was a first league goal since 1 April 2013, when he notched the winner in a 2-1 win for Grimsby Town and Stockport County. With Forbes’ injury, the 26-year-old will be the favourite to replace him in the middle of the Shots’ midfield.
The Aldershot Town injury list grew further at the weekend, with Forbes limping off with a knee problem. That could mean that Scott has just fifteen fit players for the game against Braintree Town. Club captain Chris Barker has missed the last five games with a calf problem and is some time away from making a return to first-team action, whilst a tendinitis issue has meant Mark Molesley has been unavailable for the last three matchday squads. Like Molesley, Joe N’Guessan’s is expected to be out for another week to ten days with an ankle injury.
Alan Devonshire had to make some adjustments to his squad over the summer, with five players leaving and a further eight arriving on a permanent basis. Two of the departures were rewarded for excellent campaigns in the Iron’s play-off push with moves to Football League clubs, as fourteen-goal top scorer Dan Holman joined Colchester United, and captain Dean Wells moved to Stevenage. Also moving on were midfielder Luke Daley, who joined Dartford, and former England C goalkeeper Nathan McDonald, who moved to Ryman League Premier club Enfield Town. Amongst those who remained at Cressing Road were defenders Ryan Peters, Sam Habergham, Matt Paine and Alan Massey; midfielders Chez Isaac, Kenny Davis (top scorer this season with five goals), James Mulley and Dan Sparkes; strikers Sean Marks and Jordan Cox, plus goalkeeper Nick Hamann.
A triumvirate of strikers have arrived since the end of last season, with former Shots loanee Charlie Strutton (AFC Wimbledon), Michael Bakare (Tonbridge Angels) and Simeon Akinola (Harrow Borough) adding to the manager’s attacking options. Midfielders Dan Walker and Ryan Case joined from Hereford United and Dorchester Town respectively, whilst Mitch Brundle (Bristol City) and Remy Clerima (Brackley Town) have added quality to the defensive ranks. Meanwhile, former Chelmsford City goalkeeper Carl Pentney is the new back-up to Hamann.
Devonshire could be without as many as six players for the trip to North-East Hampshire, and will definitely be without Kenny Davis, who will serve a one-game suspension on Tuesday after picking up two yellow cards against Kidderminster Harriers. Strutton is still recovering from the broken leg suffered on his Shots debut last November against Southport, whilst Sean Marks is also injured at the moment. Clerima (hamstring), Matt Paine and Jordan Cox (both knee) are also likely to be unavailable for the game against Aldershot Town.
Aldershot Town and Braintree Town have met on eight previous occasions, with the Shots winning five and losing three of the meetings. Remarkably, all of those games have been won by the home side, with Andy Scott’s team winning 2-1 last November at the Electrical Services Stadium. Kenny Davis gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot, before Brett Williams and Matt Paterson netted for the hosts to secure all three points. The Iron got some measure of retribution in March of this year, with Dan Holman’s 3rd-minute goal giving the hosts a 1-0 win at Cressing Road.
In their five home victories over the Essex side, Aldershot Town have scored fifteen goals, whilst conceding just two. The Shots won 3-1 in the first FA Trophy meeting, 4-0 in the league in September 2001 (Lee Holsgrove, Grant Payne, Stafford Browne and Scott Forrester with the goals) and 3-0 eleven months later, thanks to a brace from Michael Harper on his debut for the North-East Hampshire club. John Grant scored twice, with Ben Harding also netting, as the Iron were beaten 3-0 in a FA Trophy 3rd Round tie in February 2008.
If he plays on Tuesday, Anthony Tonkin will make his 250th appearance in the Conference.
Tuesday evening’s referee is Mark Pottage from Dorset, who is in his first campaign as a Conference referee. This season, he’s officiated in three Conference games, showing five yellow cards and one red card.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Tuesday evening. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 7pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website at 7.40pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Braintree Town. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)