The Shots secured another impressive FA Cup result on Sunday, holding League One side Bradford City to a 0-0 draw at the EBB Stadium. Prior to next week’s televised replay, however, Aldershot Town have two important league games, starting with a home fixture on Wednesday against Lincoln City. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
It’s an old cliché, but it wasn’t an easy task to tell which of the two teams was 51 places above the other on Sunday afternoon. Barry Smith’s side had the better of the first half, with Dan Walker creating opportunities down the right, whilst Jim Stevenson forced a fine save from Bantams’ goalkeeper Ben Williams with his 20-yard drive in the 34th minute. As you’d expect, the visitors improved after the break, with the Shots rarely providing an attacking threat. Phil Smith made a good save from Billy Clarke two minutes into the second half, whilst Rory McArdle and Tony McMahon failed to hit the target when well placed. Those efforts on goal, however, were few and far between.
The efforts of all eleven players on the pitch gave Aldershot Town their fifth clean sheet in eight games in all competitions. Only five goals have been conceded in that time, with three goals coming in the televised fixture against Forest Green Rovers, and this improvement has been a major part of the Shots’ six game unbeaten streak. The recent run could have been even better, but Barry Smith’s team have drawn their last two league games after scoring the opening goal. Overall, the Shots have dropped thirteen points from winning positions in the league so far in 2015-16, which equals their total for the whole of the previous campaign.
2015-16 sees Lincoln City’s fourth successive campaign in the Conference, following their relegation from the Football League in May 2011. It was a sorry demise for the Imps, who had spent all-but-one of the previous eighty seasons in the Football League and famously made the Play-Offs for five straight campaigns between 2002 and 2007, but failed to secure promotion to the third tier of the Football League on each occasion. The Lincolnshire side has failed to finish in the top half of the table in any of their campaigns back in non-league, finishing 17th, 16th, 14th and then 15th in 2014-15, where they finished thirteen points above the relegation zone.
The Imps have started this season positively and they sit one place and one point above the Shots in 11th, having played one game fewer. They have lost their last two games – a 1-0 defeat at Bromley, followed by Sunday’s 5-3 defeat at National League South side Whitehawk in the FA Cup – but, prior to that, they’d only lost one of their nine games in all competitions. Defensively, they’d only conceded one goal in the four games prior to the game at Whitehawk, with Lincoln City having both the eighth-best attacking and defensive records in the division. Their away record has been equally good in the National League this season, securing thirteen points from nine fixtures away from Sincil Bank.
Manager Chris Moyses, who took charge last November, was understandably hugely disappointed with his team’s performance at the weekend. He told the Lincolnshire Echo after the game: “It was disgraceful defending. We have given Whitehawk five goals. It is not good enough, not good enough at all… I’m livid. We had a good chance at Whitehawk and we should have come away with something. I am really disappointed that we’ve not. We have to buck up and work better and do better and take more responsibility for our actions… I want to tell the fans I am sorry. I am disappointed in the performance we have put in… You cannot start games like we did.”
It wasn’t surprising that Barry Smith named an unchanged starting eleven for the visit of Bradford City and he was rewarded with a solid performance and a deserved replay at Valley Parade. Plenty of plaudits, quite rightly, went to the back four, but central midfielders Damon Lathrope and Jim Stevenson both had good games in front of them. However, the Shots’ boss will have to make one change on Wednesday with Richard Brodie being unavailable. One option is for Rhys Browne to move centrally to support Charlie Walker, with either Tom Richards or Sam Hatton coming into midfield, whilst Luke Oliver, who has played as a striker during his career, would be a more like-for-like replacement. There could also be a debut for eighteen year old Stevenage striker Dipo Akinyemi, who signed a one-month loan deal earlier this week.
Brodie will miss the fixture after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign against Bradford City on Sunday, whilst Jake Gallagher serves the final game of his four-match ban on Wednesday evening. Defender Joe Oastler is back in training after an ankle operation over the summer and is expected to return to action in the next 3-4 weeks, whilst Rhys Browne has been suffering from an illness in recent days, so will be assessed closer to kick-off.
After last season’s disappointing campaign, Chris Moyses made a major overhaul of his playing squad over the summer. Nine key players moved on from Sincil Bank, including the team’s four leading goalscorers from 2014-15. Fourteen-goal top scorer Ben Tomlinson moved into the Football League with Barnet, Jordan Burrow (ten goals) joined FC Halifax Town, whilst eight-goal pair Delano Sam-Yorke and full-back Sean Newton moved to Forest Green Rovers and Wrexham respectively. The Imps also lost defenders Hamza Bencherif (six goals, to FC Halifax Town), Jake Caprice (Woking) and Tony Diagne (season-long loan to Macclesfield Town), midfielders Tom Miller (League Two side Carlisle United) and Arnaud Mendy (Whitehawk), plus winger Marcus Marshall, who returned to Morecambe after the completion of his season-long loan. Amongst those who have remained with the club are goalkeeper Paul Farman, defender Nat Brown and midfielders Jon Nolan and Alan Power, who scored seven goals last season.
The Lincoln City boss re-stocked his squad largely from Mansfield Town and Scunthorpe United, with the former being from where he secured his two leading scorers this season. Matt Rhead has fourteen goals, including a hat-trick in Sunday’s FA Cup defeat, whilst Liam Hearn has scored eight times so far this season. Right-back Lee Beevers also arrived from the Stags as part of a new look back four, where he’s lined up alongside left-back Chris Bush (Welling United) and centre-backs Luke Waterfall (Wrexham) and Callum Howe (Scunthorpe United). Defensive midfielder Matt Sparrow also arrived from Scunthorpe United, as have loanee midfielder Terry Hawkridge and striker Kyle Wootton, who signed on a one-month loan deal at the end of October. The midfield ranks have been supplemented with the arrivals of former Shots captain Craig Stanley (three goals in 58 games between 2012 and 2014) from Eastleigh, Bradley Wood (six goals for Alfreton Town in the previous campaign) and Greg Tempest (Notts County), whilst Jack Muldoon (Rochdale) adds depth in the attacking third.
After missing the previous month with a hamstring injury, Stanley could feature in midweek after being an unused substitute against Whitehawk, whilst Wootton will be available after being cup-tied at the weekend. One player who won’t make the trip to North-East Hampshire is Alan Power, who serves a one-game suspension after being sent off on Sunday.
Wednesday sees the eleventh meeting between Aldershot Town and Lincoln City, with the North-East Hampshire side certainly having the superiority, having won six, drawn one and lost three of the previous ten meetings. Both games last season were won by the home side, with Brett Williams getting the only goal of the game at the EBB Stadium last September. The Imps got their revenge back in January with a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Charlee Adams, Ben Tomlinson and Arnaud Mendy. This was the opposite of the 2013-14 campaign when the away team returned home with a three-point haul. Lincoln City won 3-2 at the EBB Stadium against the Shots in that campaign, despite goals from Bradley Bubb and Josh Scott for the hosts.
Aldershot Town have picked up ten points from their previous five league games against Lincoln City in North-East Hampshire, with the first three meetings seeing a 2-0 win in November 2008 (with goals from Andy Sandell and Scott Davies), a 3-1 victory on 1 May 2010 that secured a place for the Shots in the League Two Play-Offs and a 2-2 draw in February 2011. Aldershot FC’s home statistics against the Imps wasn’t as good, winning seven, losing six and drawing four of the seventeen meetings. Aldershot FC’s overall record against Lincoln City saw them win thirteen, draw eleven and lose nine of the 33 fixtures.
If they feature against Lincoln City, Jim Stevenson will make his 200th senior appearance, whilst Dan Walker will play in his 150th game in the non-league top flight.
Wednesday evening’s referee is Alan Young from Cambridgeshire, who took charge of Aldershot Town’s 1-0 home win against Welling United in September. This season he’s officiated in seven National League fixtures, showing 22 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 Wednesday evening. Tune in to the BBC Sport website from 7.35pm for full match commentary.
You can also contact us throughout the evening via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport and @GavinDenison