Aldershot Town went down to a 1-0 home defeat against Eastleigh in the FA Trophy on Saturday, albeit with a much improved team performance. The Shots return to league action this weekend as they host Guiseley looking to avoid a club record eight consecutive loss in all competitions. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Whilst Barry Smith’s side went down to another defeat, and another home one at that, it fell into the same bracket as the losses against Cheltenham Town and Bradford City, rather than the defeats at Kidderminster and Dover. The opening 45 minutes saw them well on top, but unable to break the deadlock. Charlie Walker missed from four yards just before the break, whilst Danny Carr was denied twice by visiting goalkeeper Ross Flitney. As expected, Eastleigh improved after half-time, with Phil Smith made a fine stop from James Constable, before Yemi Odubade’s chip was turned in on the goal line by Ross Lafayette in the 83rd minute. Four minutes earlier, Omar Beckles had been sent off for a professional foul on Odubade, with the Shots never looking like getting an equaliser.
Last Saturday’s game at the EBB Stadium once again showed the importance of netting first for Aldershot Town this season. When they have scored first this season, Barry Smith’s team have won eight, drawn two and lost two of these twelve games. However, they’ve conceded first on fourteen occasions so far in this campaign, losing twelve, drawing once and only managing a win at Braintree Town in August. Getting off to a good start is especially important this weekend, as losing to Guiseley at the EBB Stadium this coming Saturday would equal the club record for consecutive home defeats. The Shots have suffered four straight losses at home since beating Sutton United in the FA Cup in October.
Guiseley AFC were formed in 1909, with fans looking back most fondly on an extraordinary three season spell between 1989-90 and 1991-92 which saw an FA Vase win, a losing final appearance and a defeat in the semi-finals. However, the last five full league campaigns have been even more impressive. The West Yorkshire side reached the Conference North Play-Offs in all five of their seasons in the division, losing in the final in 2010-11 (to AFC Telford United) and 2013-14 (Altrincham). However, it was third time lucky last season, where they defeated AFC Fylde (3-1 on aggregate) and Chorley (3-2) to reach the non-league top flight for the first time in the Club’s history.
The Lions’ fans will be relatively happy with the team’s first half of the campaign, as they sit 16th in the National League table, with thirty points from 25 games. They’re currently on an unbeaten streak of four games, which includes a 3-2 replay win over Northern Premier League Division One North side Burscough on Tuesday evening. Their away form has been poor, however, in 2015-16, winning just one of their thirteen games on the road in all competitions. That came on 26 September, when they won 1-0 at Braintree Town, but since then they’ve failed to win any of their seven away games. Defensively, they’ve struggled recently, keeping just one clean sheet in their last eight fixtures.
Following the midweek win, Mark Bower, who’s been in charge since September 2013, was keen to talk about his side’s progress since they met the Shots in August. The Lions’ boss told the Wharfedale Observer: “A couple of key decisions during moments when we were on top went against us and perhaps 4-0 flattered them, but we were the architects of our own downfall. I think we have learnt some lessons since then and I certainly feel the squad is stronger and has improved since then. We will go down there and hopefully give a good account of ourselves and, if we play like we have for the majority of the past six weeks, then I think we’ve every chance of getting a result.”
Barry Smith made two changes for the visit of Eastleigh last Saturday, with Luke Oliver making his first start since the FA Cup replay at Bradford City in place of the injured Jack Saville, whilst Dan Walker returned to the starting line-up in place of Sam Hatton, who dropped to the bench. The game was also notable for Joe Oastler’s late substitute appearance, with it being his first senior appearance since severely injuring his ankle at Bristol Rovers in March. The Aldershot Town manager will also have central midfielder Jake Gallagher available after he completed his three-game suspension last weekend.
Defender Jack Saville also missed that game through injury, so must be considered a doubt for the visit of Guiseley, but Smith will definitely be without ever-present central defender Omar Beckles as he serves a one-game ban for his red card in the FA Trophy. Loanee winger Marcus Harness is still suspended as Ilkeston Town, where he was on loan earlier this season, are still to complete the required amount of games to finish his ban.
As you’d expect from a team that secured promotion in the spring, Mark Bower kept the majority of the key members of last year’s squad, whilst also adding a number of players from Football League clubs on permanent deals. The most familiar name is striker Tom Craddock, who arrived from Portsmouth having not played since November 2013, but managed 23 goals in this division for Luton Town in 2009-10 and notched fifteen times for League Two Oxford United in the following campaign. Former Oldham Athletic defender Adam Lockwood has re-signed for the Lions, whilst centre-back Rob Atkinson and midfielder Will Hatfield have arrived from Accrington Stanley. Bower also captured the former Leeds United pair, goalkeeper Danny Atkinson and midfielder Zac Thompson, whilst former Plymouth Argyle midfielder Oliver Norburn arrived last month. The Lions’ manager has also sealed the loan deals of ex-Shots loanee Adam Smith (fourteen scoreless appearances between October 2011 and January 2012) from Wrexham and Torquay United top scorer James Hurst (seven goals in 2015-16).
The main departure over the summer was Danny Ellis, who’d made over 400 appearances in a decade with the club. He’s since signed for Harrogate Town, whilst Andy Holdsworth, Alex Johnson and Kyle Harrison have also left Nethermoor Park. However, the Guiseley boss managed to hang onto 24-goal top scorer Adam Boyes (leading the way with seven goals in this campaign), with fellow strikers Nicky Boshell and Oli Johnson (both scored eleven goals last season) also staying at the club. In midfield, the Club have retained Wayne Brooksby (also eleven goals in 2014-15), Gavin Rothery (six goals last season), Jake Lawlor (five goals) and player-assistant manager Danny Boshell, with the defensive corps being equally stable. Danny Lowe, Ryan Toulson and Club Captain Ben Parker should all feature prominently in the National League, whilst Steven Drench remains the first-choice goalkeeper. Lawlor, Johnson and Danny Boshell all made the 2014-15 Conference North Team of the Year.
Ben Parker has been out for the last month through injury, so is unlikely to feature on Saturday, whilst Oli Johnson has struggled with hamstring injuries in recent months and is also a doubt for the trip to North-East Hampshire. Rob Atkinson is definitely out with a hamstring problem, whilst James Hurst is a doubt because of a muscle strain.
Aldershot Town and Guiseley’s only previous league meeting took place on 22 August at Nethermoor Park, with the Shots ultimately running out comfortable 4-0 winners. However, the hosts had a number of good opportunities in the opening twenty minutes before Richard Brodie broke the deadlock. Jim Stevenson made it 2-0 at the break, before Cheye Alexander’s outstanding solo effort and Brodie’s second of the afternoon gave the visitors all three points.
The two teams also met in a Third Round FA Trophy tie in January 2014 in North-East Hampshire. In the end, the hosts cruised to a 3-0 victory, with the Lions’ only shot on target coming from Ben Parker’s first-half own goal. Loanee Aiden O’Brien made it 2-0 before half-time, whilst Jordan Roberts completed the scoring after the interval.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Mark Pottage from Dorset, who took charge of the Shots’ 2-0 home win over Altrincham in October, as well as the 1-1 home draw with Wrexham in April. This season he’s officiated in eight National League fixtures, showing 31 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 Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM from 2.10pm for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website and BBC Sport app from 2.50pm.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport and @GavinDenison