Aldershot Town picked up their second consecutive victory on Saturday with an outstanding 2-0 win at playoff-chasing Macclesfield Town. The Shots will look to make it three league wins in a row for the first in over two years when they host bottom club Kidderminster Harriers this weekend. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The quality of the performance matched that of the result at Moss Rose, with Barry Smith’s side producing arguably their best win under his charge. The opening fifteen minutes were even – Rhys Browne had two long range efforts saved, whilst Phil Smith made an excellent stop to keep out Danny Rowe’s header – before Alfie Pavey made it two goals in two games with a fine header from Dan Walker’s cross. Dan Walker (on two occasions) and Jake Gallagher missed the target when well-placed, but the visitors doubled their lead when Damon Lathrope’s free kick floated over Ritchie Branagan in the 65th minute. There was time for Branagan to save well on two occasions from Dan Walker and Ross Lafayette, whilst the Shots defence was impressively solid at the other end.
The Shots haven’t won three league games in a row since they beat Southport, Braintree Town and Tamworth in November and December 2013, so will be desperate to make it nine points from nine this weekend. Results have certainly taken an upward turn in recent weeks, with ten points secured from a possible eighteen (which includes six from nine at the EBB Stadium) after a run of five consecutive league defeats through November and December. The win in Cheshire gave Aldershot Town their sixth away league win of 2015-16, which equals their total for the whole of the previous campaign. This season’s 21 points from 15 away games is an improvement on last season’s 24 points from 23 games.
It took Kidderminster Harriers 114 years to win promotion to the Football League, under the stewardship of Jan Molby in 2000, but their stay there lasted just five seasons. Since then, the Worcestershire side has tried manfully to regain that place, coming closest of all in 2012-13 when finishing second to Mansfield Town by just two points before losing to Wrexham in the play-off semi-finals. Recent news stories though have focused on the off-field situation, with the club halving the playing budget over the summer after struggling to pay staff on a number of occasions last season. This has reflected significantly on the club’s on-field exploits during a disastrous National League campaign thus far.
The Worcestershire side failed to win any of their opening eighteen league games before a 1-0 win over Woking on 31 October. However, since the 2-0 victory against the Shots two weeks later, they’ve lost six league games on the bounce to drop back to the foot of the table. Ex-Forest Green Rovers and Leeds United manager Dave Hockaday was sacked on 7 January after less than three months in the job, with Chief Executive and majority shareholder Colin Gordon taking over on an interim basis for the second time this season. Harriers come into this game without an away win since their 1-0 victory at the EBB Stadium last January, a run of 23 games (seven draws, sixteen defeats) in all competitions.
Gordon oversaw Harriers’ first game of 2016 on Saturday, a 1-0 home loss against Guiseley that leaves his side fifteen points from safety. After the game he told the Kidderminster Shuttle: “We haven’t got a target man, a focal point, someone who can actually causes defences problems and get on the end of something. We need the final piece of the jigsaw… We haven’t controlled games all season. At half-time we had words, changed one or two things around and we did control the game. We were completely bossing the game and nobody could see Guiseley scoring. What we lack is killer instinct, turning possession into goals and a cool head. I was very pleased with the performance in the second half.”
Barry Smith named an unchanged line-up for the game in Cheshire, with Alfie Pavey and Charlie Walker starting in the striking roles in preference to recent signing Ross Lafayette. The 30-year-old Eastleigh forward had signed the previous day on a loan deal until the end of the season and subsequently made his debut as a 60th-minute substitute. After being a target for the Shots in the summers of 2014 and 2015, the club have finally got their man. The excellent performances of Damon Lathrope and Jake Gallagher in central midfield certainly justified their inclusion in the starting eleven ahead of Jim Stevenson, who is a slight injury doubt for Saturday’s game.
The Shots boss had the luxury of a fully-fit squad from which to choose at the weekend, with Jack Saville, Sam Hatton and Richard Brodie missing out on the matchday sixteen through managerial choice. Smith will also have Matthew Barnes-Homer available for selection against Kidderminster Harriers after the forward returned from Aggborough earlier this week having made nine scoreless appearances during his loan spell.
Not only is the Harriers’ squad unrecognisable from last season, it’s gone through vast changes since the beginning of this campaign. Virtually all of last season’s squad moved onto pastures new, mainly for financial reasons, including strikers Lee Hughes (Ilkeston Town), Danny Wright (Cheltenham Town) and Craig Reid (Brentwood Town); midfielders Jack Byrne (five goals last season), Callum Gittings (both Solihull Moors) and Josh O’Keeffe (Altrincham); defenders Kevin Nicholson (Bath City, now player-manager at Torquay United), Josh Gowling (Grimsby Town) and Jamie Grimes (Dover Athletic), plus goalkeepers Danny Lewis (Solihull Moors) and Jasbir Singh (Gloucester City). Ten-goal top scorer Marvin Johnson left for Motherwell last January, whilst players have also been shipped out during this season. Reece Styche, Dino Fazlic (FC Halifax Town), Joe Clarke and Matt Young have all left the club over the last few weeks, whilst Aman Verma (Torquay United) and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (Nuneaton Town) have both left Aggborough on long-term loan deals.
The only senior players who have remained are defenders Jared Hodgkiss, Jordan Tunnicliffe and Jake Green, plus midfielder Luke Maxwell, who was bought by Birmingham City for £75,000 earlier this month and subsequently loaned back to the Worcestershire side. They’ve since been joined by a succession of loanees and bargain buys. Dean Snedker (Brackley Town) is the current first-choice goalkeeper, with Jonathan Brown (Rushall Olympic) as his back-up. The defensive corps also includes Kelvin Langmead (season-long loan from Ebbsfleet United), Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell) and the experienced Keith Lowe, who was recently released by York City. The midfield options include Bournemouth loanee Ben Whitfield, Adam Dawson (Leicester City), former Torquay United player James McQuilken, Calvin Dinsley, Jamie Spencer and Jordan Jones (all Redditch United), plus recent arrivals Arthur Gnahoua (Macclesfield T), Elton Ngwatala (French fourth tier side FC Chambly), Ousmane Fane (Lyn FK of the Norwegian third division) and Omari Patrick (Beaconsfield SYCOB). In the absence of Barnes-Homer, top scorer Gurjit Singh (five goals in this campaign, signed from Tipton Town) could lead the line this weekend.
Dawson may feature against Aldershot Town after missing time with a hernia problem, but Jordan Tunnicliffe (hamstring), Jake Green and summer signing Rob Taylor (Tranmere Rovers) are all currently out with long-term injuries.
This weekend sees the twelfth meeting between Aldershot Town and Kidderminster Harriers, with the Shots having won six and drawn three of the previous eleven meetings. Their only two defeats have come in the last two fixtures. In November, a rotten Shots performance at Aggborough was punished by second half goals from James McQuilken and Ben Whitfield, whilst last January at the EBB Stadium, a Jack Byrne goal give the visitors a 1-0 win. It was their hosts’ ninth defeat in ten games, which saw manager Andy Scott being sacked the following morning. Aldershot Town’s last win was a 2-0 win at Aggborough in November 2014, thanks to goals from Brett Williams and Mark Molesley.
Prior to last season’s loss, the two teams played out a goalless draw in North-East Hampshire in March 2014. However, Aldershot Town had won all three games between the sides in North-East Hampshire prior to that. On 1 March 2008, Harriers took an early lead, before an immediate equaliser by Danny Hylton and a 66th-minute winner by Ben Harding. The Shots also won 4-2 in October 2006, thanks to a hat-trick from Marcus Gayle, and 1-0 twelve months earlier, with Omari Coleman netting the winner.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Adam Bromley from Plymouth, who took charge of the Shots’ 3-0 defeat at Wrexham in August, as well as last season’s 2-0 win against Alfreton Town in October 2014 and the following March’s 2-1 home defeat against Southport in March. He also oversaw four Aldershot Town games in the 2013-14 campaign, including the 1-1 FA Cup draw with Shortwood United. Last season, he’s officiated in twelve Conference games, showed 25 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 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