Aldershot Town rose to the occasion once again on Sunday, with a battling goalless draw against League One Rochdale. The winner of next Tuesday’s replay at Spotland will take on Championship side Nottingham Forest in the Third Round, but, before then, the Shots return to league action as they host high-flying Macclesfield Town. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The Shots produced another excellent FA Cup performance on Sunday, to go along with the wins against Portsmouth and Torquay United, and they thoroughly earned their place in the Third Round draw. As the old cliché goes, it was difficult to tell the difference between two sides that were separated by 56 league places, with Aldershot Town only denied the win by a number of excellent saves from Rochdale keeper Conrad Logan. The first half was shaded by the visitors, with Phil Smith making a fine save from Calvin Andrew, and then doing likewise just after the hour mark from ex-Shot Peter Vincenti. From that point onwards however, the hosts were rampant with Dan Holman, Brett Williams and captain Glenn Wilson all being denied superbly by the visitors’ custodian.
Aldershot Town’s recent home form has been good, despite the November losses against Gateshead and Eastleigh at the Electrical Services Stadium. Including their FA Cup exploits, the Shots have won five, drawn two and lost two of their last nine home fixtures. Overall, they only have the 16th-best home record in the Conference, but Andy Scott’s players have shone defensively in recent weeks, keeping four clean sheets in their last seven league and cup outings. Concerns will be had though with the statistic that Aldershot Town have already dropped eleven league points from winning positions in 2014-15, whilst fourteen of the 29 goals conceded in this campaign have come after the 65th minute.
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 financial troubles. Over the summer of 2013, Macclesfield Town were nearly wound-up with debts to the tune of £500,000, while the previous owners restructured the club by transferring their shares into a Community-owned Interest Company. On the pitch, the Cheshire side finished 15th in the Conference.
This season, however, has been a different story, sitting 4th in the table with 42 points from 24 games. Manager John Askey, who took charge in April 2013, has produced an attractive side, who have the only unbeaten home record in the division, winning their last six league games at Moss Rose. Only Grimsby Town have conceded fewer than Macclesfield Town’s twenty league goals, but their form on the road hasn’t been as good. In their last six league games on their travels, the Silkmen have only picked up three points, and those coming via draws against Dartford, Nuneaton Town and Welling United. Their last away game saw a 3-1 defeat at league leaders Barnet, a team they beat 2-1 at home in October.
The Cheshire side got back to winning ways on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Woking, reiterating their status as the season’s surprise packages. Club board member Andy Scott told the Macclesfield Express: “Our season on the pitch has been incredible, especially when you consider the budget that John is working with. What he and Efe (Sodje) have achieved is great, they have created a fantastic spirit in the squad, who are enjoying their football…. The community spirit is amazing, and I think that’s because we have battled through a few hard years together. We’re still not out of the mess financially yet…. If we could get 300 or so more fans through the door each game, it would be a massive help.”
Andy Scott made three changes for the visit of Rochdale, with Chris Barker (a first start since the win against Portsmouth due to a tight calf), Manny Oyeleke (missed two games, also with a calf injury) and Jordan Roberts (missed five of the last six games with a hamstring problem) all returning to the starting line-up. That meant Naby Diallo and Sam Hatton dropped to the bench, Dan Holman started despite injuring an ankle at Wrexham the previous weekend, whilst Andre McCollin was unavailable due to being cup-tied when with Kingstonian. Amongst the substitutes were loanee centre-back Mark Phillips (who had missed six games with a thigh injury) and winger Tristan Plummer, who came on in the second half after completing a month-long loan spell at Southern League Premier side Weymouth.
As well as McCollin, the Aldershot Town boss was also without four injured players for Sunday’s draw, and that quartet could all be missing on Wednesday night. Left back Anthony Tonkin has been out for two months with a calf injury, whilst midfielder Damon Lathrope has been out for a similar length of time with a groin problem. Josh Scott will be out for the foreseeable future after scans revealed a broken metatarsal suffered in the home defeat against Gateshead last month, whilst Joe N’Guessan has missed the last two games with an ankle problem.
John Askey has had to re-shape his squad with ten key players leaving Moss Rose over the course of last summer. 22-goal top scorer Scott Boden moved to Conference rivals FC Halifax Town, as did defenders Steve Williams and James Bolton. The Silkmen’s 2013-14 Player of the Season, left back Danny Andrew, joined Fleetwood Town, whilst fellow defenders Joe Connor (Southport) and Carl Martin (Wealdstone) have also moved on since the end of the last campaign. Scott Kay (Southport), Jack Mackreth (Grimsby Town), Peter Winn (Chester) and Jon-Paul Kissock (Whitehawk) have meant that the Macclesfield Town boss also had to search for midfield reinforcements. Connor Jennings, who scored seventeen goals whilst on loan from Scunthorpe United in the first half of last season, also left the club to be loaned to Grimsby Town, before subsequently joining Wrexham in the summer. Amongst those first-team players who remained at Moss Rose were goalkeeper Rhys Taylor, defender Andy Halls, striker Chris Holroyd, plus midfielders Paul Turnbull, Paul Lewis and Danny Whitaker.
George Pilkington (Mansfield Town), Liam Hogan (a month-long loan from Fleetwood Town) and Will Haining (Hyde) have certainly strengthened the centre of the Silkmen’s defence. Scott Barrow (Tamworth) is now the first-choice left back, whilst Adriano Moke (Stockport County) and David Gonzalez (Spanish third-tier side Caudal) have provided valuable support in midfield. In the attacking third, Waide Fairhurst is Macclesfield Town’s top scorer with eight goals after returning from a spell with Lincoln City, whilst Matthew Barnes-Homer has also returned to Moss Rose. The former Shots loanee, who scored 21 league and cup goals for the Cheshire club in 2012-13, has scored three times in eight league games after arriving from Conference South side Whitehawk (initially on loan) in October. Fellow forwards Denny Johnstone (on loan from Birmingham City), Malachi Lavelle-Moore (Notts County) and Domaine Rouse (Droylsden) have, so far, provided less of an impact.
Rhys Taylor, Paul Turnbull and Andy Halls were all doubts for Macclesfield Town’s game against Woking, but all recovered to play their parts in a vital win. As a result, Askey should have a fully-fit squad for the trip to North-East Hampshire.
Aldershot Town and the Silkmen have faced each other on ten occasions, with the Shots coming out on top in this fixture last season. Last September, a Mark Molesley goal gave the home team all three points, whilst a 1-1 draw in Cheshire on 12 April was earned thanks to Brett Williams’ 90th-minute penalty. They also met eight times in the Football League between 2008 and 2012, with the Shots losing three, drawing four and winning just one of those ties. That solitary victory was in the last of those fixtures, with Aaron Morris’ only goal proving decisive at Moss Rose in February 2012. Aldershot Town’s three previous visits to Macclesfield saw two defeats and a 1-1 draw in April 2010.
Macclesfield Town have got a good record at the Electrical Services Stadium, drawing three games and winning on their most recent visit to North-East Hampshire prior to last season. 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.
Wednesday evening’s referee is Craig Hicks from Surrey, who took charge of the Shots’ 2-2 home draw with FC Halifax Town in January. So far this season, he’s taken charge of eight Conference games, showed 22 yellow cards and one red card.
BBC Surrey’s Adrian Harms and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Wednesday 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