Aldershot Town slumped to a second successive away defeat on Tuesday night, with another sub-par display resulting in a 1-0 defeat at Chester. Andy Scott’s team, now in 15th place in the table, will look to bounce this weekend as they welcome promotion-chasing Bristol Rovers in the Memorial Stadium. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The result and performance on Tuesday on Cheshire had a horrible inevitability to it, bearing in mind the Shots’ recent trials and tribulations in midweek fixtures, as well as their struggles against some of the smaller sides in the division. Aldershot Town started slowly and struggled to impose their will on the game in a game of few chances at either end. Having said that, the visitors did have opportunities to get something from a game where a draw would have been a reasonable result. Mark Phillips missed a close-range free header in the first half, whilst there were a couple of goalmouth scrambles in the second half where it seemed harder for the ball not to go into the Chester net.
Andy Scott’s fury at his forwards after the game is certainly backed up by the figures that show his side have only scored fifteen goals in as many league games. Only Nuneaton Town, Southport and Alfreton Town have notched less, whilst Aldershot Town have only scored more than one goal on four occasions in the Conference in 2014-15. The club’s four strikers have only scored four goals from open play this season and an improvement in this should make the team more consistent. On the plus side, the Shots have won their last two home outings (keeping clean sheets in the process) and have thirteen points from seven games at the Electrical Services Stadium.
Bristol Rovers was founded in 1883 as Black Arabs FC, and were also known as Eastville Rovers and Bristol Eastville Rovers, before finally changing their name to Bristol Rovers in 1899. The club were admitted into the new Division Three of the Football League in 1920 (which became Division Three (South) the following season) and that’s where they stayed for the next 94 years. However, a disastrous season in 2013-14 saw the Pirates finish 23rd in League Two, which saw them relegated to the Conference on goal difference. Fans are looking for an immediate return to their former level, and they’ve seen their side get off to a fine start to the campaign.
The Pirates are currently 4th in the table, despite only picking up one point from their first three fixtures. At the moment they’re on an eight-game unbeaten streak, a run which includes six victories. Last season, Bristol Rovers had the worst away record in League Two, but they’ve improved that standing to the 11th-best in the Conference. Their last three outings away from the Memorial Stadium have seen them beat Lincoln City and Southport, whilst drawing at Eastleigh. The Bristol side have also conceded just thirteen goals in fifteen goals game, a statistic only bettered by Barnet, Kidderminster Harriers, Grimsby Town and Torquay United.
Despite Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Dartford, manager Darrell Clarke, who took over in the summer of 2013, wasn’t entirely happy with his team’s performance. He told the Bristol Post after the game: “It was a very anxious performance because we made it hard for ourselves. We didn’t hold the ball well enough at the top of the pitch and that meant we dropped and deeper and it wasn’t too good for my heart. We had chances to finish the game off a lot earlier, but for whatever reason we are not doing that at the minute. The performance could have been better, but it was a tough game and I’m pleased we managed to hold on. I’m delighted with the three points on a night that (leaders) Barnet lost as well. That leaves us four points off top spot with 15 games played and I’m over the moon with that.”
Andy Scott made two changes for the trip to Chester, with team captain Glenn Wilson replacing Anthony Tonkin in the Shots’ defence after missing the win over Alfreton Town with a hamstring injury. Wilson played alongside Mark Phillips in the centre of defence, whilst Joe Oastler had a solid game in an unfamiliar left back role. The other change came in midfield with Damon Lathrope coming back into the starting eleven, with Joe N’Guessan missing out on a place in the matchday squad. Tom Derry also continued upfront alongside Brett Williams, whilst it was good to see Chris Barker amongst the Aldershot Town substitutes after missing the previous ten games with a calf injury.
Whilst Barker returned to the team on Tuesday, the fixture came too soon for Mark Molesley, who has now missed nine games with a tendonitis issue. However, the 33-year-old midfielder is back in training so could feature this weekend. Anthony Tonkin missed the trip to Cheshire with a calf injury, ending his run of eight consecutive starts at left back, and Andy Scott will hope to have him back sooner rather than later.
As is the case with most relegated clubs, the management have had to re-tool the playing squad, with seventeen players leaving the Memorial Stadium for pastures new. Amongst those to depart were fifteen-goal top scorer John-Joe O’Toole (Northampton Town), defenders Michael Smith (Peterborough United), Jim Paterson (Forfar Athletic) and Danny Woodards (Tranmere Rovers); midfielders Seanan Clucas (NIFL Premiership club Linfield) and Alefe Santo (Hull City), plus strikers Matt Harrold (Crawley Town), Eliot Richards (Tranmere Rovers) David Clarkson (Dundee), Steven Gillespie (Altrincham) and Fabian Broghammer.
Ten players were brought in on permanent deals over the summer, with all areas of the pitch being augmented with eye-catching signings for this level of football. Strikers Jamie White (eleven league goals for Salisbury City in 2013-14), Matty Taylor (nine Conference goals for Forest Green Rovers and Chester last season) and Adam Cunnington (three-month loan from Cambridge United, for whom he notched eight league goals last season) all have pedigree at this level. In midfield Lee Mansell (Torquay United), Andy Monkhouse (Hartlepool United), Jake Gosling (Exeter City), Angelo Balanta (QPR), Dave Martin (on loan from Luton Town until January) and Stuart Sinclair (Salisbury City) all look excellent signings, whilst Neal Trotman (Plymouth Argyle) and Daniel Leadbitter (Hereford United) add strength to the defensive corps. Will Puddy (another capture from Salisbury City) is the back-up goalkeeper to Steve Mildenhall, who is one of a number of first-team players to stay with the Pirates. Their ranks also include Lee Brown, Tom Parkes, Mark McChrystal and Tom Lockyer, midfielder Ollie Clarke and striker Ellis Harrison.
Darrell Clarke will have a largely fully-fit squad to choose from this weekend, although Angelo Balanta is struggling with a thigh injury and Jake Gosling will be away on international duty with Gibraltar for their game against Republic of Ireland.
Saturday will be the ninth time that Aldershot Town and Bristol Rivers have met in a competitive fixture, with the Shots winning two, drawing three and losing the other trio of fixtures. However, they are unbeaten in league games, doing the double over the Pirates in 2011-12 and picking up a pair of 2-2 draws in the Shots’ relegation campaign. Excellent goals from Craig Reid and Alex Rodman put the visitors in front at the Memorial Stadium in September 2012 before Rovers’ snatched a second-half stoppage-time equaliser. They then repeated the feat on Boxing Day after Michael Hector and Reid had put the hosts in front again.
This weekend will be the fourth occasion that these two sides have met at what is now the Electrical Services Stadium. Prior to the aforementioned 2-2 draw, the Shots picked up a 1-0 league win in March 2012, thanks to a Peter Vincenti strike. That was preceded by a 0-0 draw in an FA Cup First Round tie in November 2001. Bristol Rovers’ record at this ground against Aldershot FC was much better, winning eight, drawing three and losing nine of their 20 games in North-East Hampshire in all competitions.
If he plays on Saturday, Joe N’Guessan will make the 50th senior appearance of his career
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Rob Whitton from Essex, who took charge of the Shots’ 2-1 win over Grimsby Town in August. He also took charge of three Aldershot Town games in the previous campaign – the goalless draw against Kidderminster Harriers in March, the 2-1 FA Cup home defeat against Shortwood United last October and the 1-0 defeat at Welling United in September 2013 So far this season, he’s taken charge of six league games, showing twenty yellow cards and two 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 website at 2.55pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Bristol Rovers. 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.