Aldershot Town made it three defeats out of three in 2015 with a loss at Lincoln City at the weekend. The loss meant they remained 18th in the table, but are now just six points above the relegation zone. Another tough task awaits them on Tuesday night as they host Kidderminster Harriers. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Despite a thirteen-day lay-off, six players departing and three more arriving; it was more of the same for the Shots on Saturday. Early chances were missed, whilst defensive errors were ruthlessly punished by more clinical opponents. In the opening 25 minutes, the visitors looked strong and debutant Ryan Jarvis was denied twice by opposition goalkeeper Paul Farman, before Charlee Adams lashed in a 25-yard screamer to put the Imps ahead. Glenn Wilson’s weak defensive header then let in Ben Tomlinson for the second, whilst Arnaud Mendy thrashed in the third three minutes into the second half. Aldershot Town showed plenty of spirit to try and get back into the game, but never truly threatened a dramatic comeback as the game petered out to another defeat.
The defeat means the Shots have lost nine of their last eleven games in all competitions, whilst only picking up three points from their last possible 24 in the Conference. The obvious area of concern is in the attacking third, with those eleven games seeing Aldershot Town score just seven goals. It’s worth noting that, in those eleven games, Andy Scott’s team have only scored the opening goal of the game twice (at Wrexham and Woking). Coming from behind to pick up points is another quality that’s eluded the Shots this season, with just three points (draws at Torquay United and Nuneaton Town, plus a home point against Bristol Rovers) garnered from losing positions in the league.
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 two seasons ago when finishing second to Mansfield Town by just two points. Harriers then lost 5-2 on aggregate against Wrexham in the play-off semi-finals. Last season, the Worcestershire side finished seventh in the Conference Premier table, five points outside the play-off places, despite losing just one of their last thirteen league fixtures.
The Worcestershire side are currently eighth in the Conference, just one point outside the top five. A seven-game unbeaten run at the beginning of the campaign got things off to a good start, but three league defeats in the last four games have slowed down the side’s momentum under Gary Whild. Their away record is good, with two consecutive wins against Forest Green Rovers and Dartford, and nineteen points from fourteen fixtures away from Aggborough. Their defensive record is also the ninth-best in the division, but after four clean sheets to start 2014-15, Kidderminster Harriers have only managed three in the following 26 league outings.
However, the club’s good season has come against a backdrop of financial difficulties, with supporters currently unhappy with the board of directors over the club’s finances. Club benefactor Kath Lane, who along with husband Ernie, is currently paying the player’s wages told the Kidderminster Shuttle in November: “My husband and I are no longer board members but we do support the club financially. I can tell you five directors have stepped down. Last season, my husband and I and two others were financially supporting the club. We are now left with only five directors, of which only two are putting money into the club at all, which is a very small amount. We need the fans coming into the club because your support, along with my husband’s and mine, is keeping the club going.”
Andy Scott made three change for the trip to Lincoln City, with new signings Danny East, Ryan Jarvis and Matt Saunders, the latter of whom arrived on Friday from Conference South side Hemel Hempstead Town, all taking their place in the starting eleven. Saunders was preferred to Kieron Forbes, who dropped to the bench, whilst East did well in an unfamiliar right midfield position. Jarvis also showed good early signs of a developing partnership with top-scorer Brett Williams. The Shots manager will also have been buoyed by the return of Josh Scott, who had been out for two-and-a-half months with a broken foot, with the 29-year-old looking lively in his twenty minutes of action. A fourth recent arrival, midfielder Jim Stevenson, whom arrived on a one-month from Luton Town on Monday, could make his debut on Tuesday night.
A further injury boost for Scott is that midfielder Damon Lathrope, who’s been out for over three months with a groin problem, is back in full training. However, Mark Molesley, who’s missed the last six games with an Achilles injury, was described as being “nowhere near” a return to the first-team.
Even though the number of summer departures or arrivals weren’t as high as some of their Conference opposition, Gary Whild lost a number of his first-choice personnel from last season’s promotion push. Starting full-backs Lee Vaughan and Mickey Demetriou joined Football League clubs, in Cheltenham Town and Shrewsbury Town respectively, whilst forward Amari Morgan-Smith (eleven goals in 2013-14) joined Oldham Athletic. Goalkeeper Nathan Vaughan, midfielder Danny Jackman and striker Anthony Malbon all joined Conference North side Worcester City, whilst forwards Ryan Rowe, Santiago Aloi and Adrian Cieslewicz also left the club. Harriers’ financial difficulties have also seen centre back Chey Dunkley (Oxford United), plus strikers Nathan Blisset (Bristol Rovers) and Michael Gash (Barnet), leave during the course of the campaign, whilst summer signing Reece Styche was loaned to Tamworth. Winger Marvin Johnson has taken up some of the attacking slack, notching ten goals to lead the side.
Whild made eight permanent signings over the summer with Jared Hodgkiss (Forest Green Rovers) and Kevin Nicholson (Torquay United) coming in as the first choice full backs. Jake Green (Bristol Rovers) adds further depth to the defensive ranks, whilst Jasbir Singh (Solihull Moors of Conference North) is the new back-up goalkeeper. The striking options were strengthened by former Shots striker Craig Reid (twelve goals in 45 games in 2012-13), who joined from Stevenage, and Ahmed Obeng, who notched seventeen goals last season for Rushall Olympic of the Northern Premier League Premier Division. The Harriers boss has replenished his squad mid-season with the arrivals of goalkeeper Joslain Mayebi (Wrexham), defenders Jordan Tunnicliffe (Sutton Coldfield Town) and Nat Kelly (month-long loan from Birmingham City), midfielder Aaron Wildig (signed on Monday on a month-long loan deal from Shrewsbury Town), plus forwards Jamie Spencer (Redditch United), Keyon Reffell (Welsh Premier League side Port Talbot Town) and Akwasi Asante (formerly of Birmingham C).
The home side’s only injury concerns ahead of the game will be centre back Josh Gowling, who’s missed the last six games with a knee injury.
Tuesday night sees the tenth meeting between Aldershot Town and Kidderminster Harriers, with the Shots having an unbeaten record against the Worcestershire side. Six wins and three draws have come their way in the previous meetings, including a 2-0 win at Aggborough in mid-November. The game came to life just after half-time, with Jared Hodgkiss being sent off for the hosts, whilst also conceding a penalty. Brett Williams converted the spot kick, before Mark Molesley rounded off the 2-0 win with a deflected effort from fifteen yards. There were two goalless games in 2013-14, with not much to separate the two sides in either encounter. That was especially the case at the Electrical Services Stadium last March.
However, Aldershot Town had on all three games between the sides in North-East Hampshire prior to that, with Kidderminster’s previous visit coming 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.
If he plays on Tuesday night, Brett Williams will play in his 100th game in the Conference.
Tuesday evening’s referee is Justin Amey, who has taken charge of two Shots game this season, both of them against Torquay United – the 1-1 league draw at Plainmoor in August and the 2-0 home win in the FA Cup two months later. So far this season, he’s refereed seven Conference games, showing twenty 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 into the BBC Surrey website at around 7.35pm for full match commentary.
You can also contact us throughout the game via our Twitter feed: @bbcsurreysport