Aldershot Town slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday night, which dropped them back to 13th in the National League table. However, they’ll look to bounce back from that with a third consecutive home win this weekend, as Macclesfield Town visit the EBB Stadium. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The Shots’ third of three mammoth away trips in September started in fine fashion, thanks to Sam Hatton’s fifth-minute goal. It also marked the first time this season that Barry Smith’s side have scored in the opening fifteen minutes, and they should have had more in a superlative first half display. However, the hosts equalised in first half stoppage time after Omar Beckles’ charged-down clearance was turned in by James Norwood. It proved to be the turning point with former Shots midfielder Adam Mekki and Andy Mangan scoring after the break to give the hosts all three points. With the score at 1-1, Rhys Browne had a good opportunity to put the Shots back in front just after the hour mark, but failed to hit the target.
After giving up thirteen points from losing positions during the 2014-15 campaign, Aldershot Town have already dropped nine so far this season. Admittedly, those defeats have come against Gateshead, Grimsby Town and Tranmere Rovers, but it’s a trend that needs to be reversed before too long. The Shots will be happy to have a home game on Saturday, not only because of the ridiculous mileage they’ve clocked up over the last fortnight, but because they’ve won their last two fixtures at the EBB Stadium against FC Halifax Town and Welling United. After each of their last three defeats, Barry Smith’s charges have gone on to pick up four points, then six points and then another six points from the two following games, and they’ll be hoping to start a similar run on Saturday afternoon.
Macclesfield Town were formed in 1874 and, for the fifteen years between 1997 and 2012, the Silkmen were held up as an example of how to survive in the Football League on small crowds and an uncompetitive playing budget. They even managed a solitary season in the third tier of English football in 1998-99. However, their relegation back to the top-flight of non-league football saw the Cheshire side encounter financial troubles. Over the summer of 2013, Macclesfield Town were nearly wound-up with debts to the tune of £500,000, but finished 15th in the non-league top flight. It’s fair to say that the Silkmen over-achieved last season with a superb sixth-place finish, just one point from the play-offs.
This campaign, though, has seen them drop back into the pack, with Tuesday night’s 2-1 home defeat to Barrow leaving them 17th in the National League table. However, the Shots should bear in mind that, so far in 2015-16, the Silkmen have managed to beat league leaders Forest Green Rovers, Woking and Grimsby Town. The 4-1 win against Rovers, however, is their only points from their last four games, plus they’ve lost their last two fixtures on the road. Bromley (1-0) and Cheltenham Town (2-0) have both beaten the Cheshire side away from Moss Rose this month, with the Silkmen losing five of six on their travels thus far. Town have also only managed to keep one clean sheet in their last ten league outings.
Club legend John Askey (168 goals in 698 games over nineteen seasons) has been in charge since April 2013. Speaking to the club’s official website earlier this week, the manager was very positive: “We’ve been playing well all season, we just haven’t always been able to get the goals. It’s really pleasing to get four goals. The work the players have been doing in training clearly showed against Forest Green, a top of the league team, so I can’t really ask for anymore… With injuries, it’s hard, but what’s pleasing is that the supporters themselves have been round and are trying to help increase the budget at the club and we can’t thank them enough for that.’’
For the third game in succession, Barry Smith named an unchanged line-up for the trip to Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday night. However, it proved to be a game too far for his side, especially when you consider they’d travelled over 1500 miles in the previous ten days. Sam Hatton wore the captain’s armband once again and scored his first goal in eleven games to put the Shots in front. Remarkably, of his seven goals for the club, six have come away from the EBB Stadium. If the manager is to make a change this weekend, we could see Dan Walker returning to the starting eleven after some strong performances from the bench in recent weeks.
However, the Shots boss could be without four key defensive players again for the visit of Macclesfield Town. Goalkeeper Phil Smith and centre-back Luke Oliver failed to feature once again due to groin and calf injuries respectively. However, they may be available for selection this weekend. Defenders Joe Oastler and Sean McGinty, however, are long-term absentees. The former’s recovery from an ankle operation will keep him out until late October, whilst McGinty should return in early October after suffering a broken metatarsal in the pre-season game at Basingstoke Town.
After such an outstanding campaign, it’s no surprise that the Silkmen lost a number of key players over the course of the summer. Their two top scorers – eleven-goal Waide Fairhurst and Matthew Barnes-Homer, who tallied on nine occasions – joined Torquay United and Aldershot Town respectively, whilst ever-present goalkeeper Rhys Taylor and midfielder Scott Barrow both joined League Two side Newport County. Adriano Moke moved to Wrexham, defender Alex Grant returned to Stoke City after the completion of his long-term loan and Thierry Audel signed for Notts County after the expiration of his short-term deal. Will Haining and Arthur Gnahoua also left Moss Rose. Macclesfield Town’s midfield, however, remained largely intact with Danny Whitaker (six goals in 2014-15), Paul Turnbull (five goals), Paul Lewis (four goals), Chris Holroyd (four goals) and Danny Rowe all remaining at the club, as did defenders George Pilkington, Andy Halls and Dan Cowan.
John Askey has made some astute signings to replenish his playing staff since the end of last season, with Kristian Dennis being the main success story. Signed on a season-long loan from Stockport County, for whom he scored twelve Conference North goals last season, the striker already has eight goals this season. Alongside him are John Marsden (six goals for Southport in the previous campaign), Jack Sampson (Morecambe) and Theo Bailey-Jones (Wrexham). Shwan Jalal is the new first-choice stopper after arriving from Northampton Town, whilst centre-backs Neill Byrne (AFC Telford United) and Tony Diagne (season-long loan from Lincoln City), plus left-back David Fitzpatrick (Southport), also look like good signings. Fellow defender Curtis Haynes-Brown arrived from Lowestoft Town of National League North, whilst former Accrington Stanley midfielder Danny Whitehead also joined the Silkmen over the summer.
However, it is a squad beset by injuries, with Askey only able to name three substitutes on Tuesday night. Byrne is out for six weeks with a broken leg, whilst Haynes-Brown hasn’t featured thus far after injuring his ankle in preseason. Paul Turnbull, Theo Bailey-Jones and John Marsden have also failed to feature in recent weeks and must be considered doubts for the trip to North-East Hampshire.
Aldershot Town and the Silkmen have faced each other on twelve occasions, with the Shots winning two, losing four and drawing six of those encounters. In this fixture last season, midfielder Danny Whitaker scored eleven minutes into the second half to give Macclesfield Town all three points, whilst the two sides played out a goalless draw in March at Moss Rose. The low scores in the games last season aren’t uncommon, with the Shots scoring just eight times in those dozen fixtures. The Silkmen’s 4-2 home win over the Shots in October 2008 looks like more of an anomaly with each passing season.
Macclesfield Town have got an impressive record from their six games at the EBB Stadium, drawing three games and winning twice. Mark Molesley’s only goal of the game gave the Shots their sole victory on 7 September 2013. In October 2011, Danny Hylton gave the hosts a 1-0 half-time lead before goals from George Donnelly and Ross Draper gave all three points to the Cheshire side. Prior to that, this fixture had seen two 0-0 draws in November 2009 (ex-manager Kevin Dillon’s first game in charge) and February 2011, as well as a 1-1 tie in January 2009.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Constantine Hatzidakis from Kent, who’s in his first season on the National Referees List. However, he did take charge of the Shots’ 1-0 home FA Trophy defeat against Burgess Hill Town last December. So far this season, he’s overseen three National League games, showing 21 yellow cards and no red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Aldershot Town defender Joe Oastler 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