The 1-0 win on Saturday against Nuneaton Town means the Shots have now won consecutive league games for the first time this season. The confidence in the side couldn’t be higher for their most high-profile game in three years, with Portsmouth visiting the Electrical Services Stadium. A place in the Second Round of the FA Cup is at stake and BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The game on Saturday afternoon certainly won’t be the most memorable of the 2014-15 campaign, but it was a game that Andy Scott’s side wouldn’t have got three points from a couple of months ago. A game of few chances and low quality was always going to be tight, with both teams only testing the opposition goalkeeper once in the opening period. Phil Smith made a superb save from Gavin Cowan’s header, whilst Dan Holman right-footed curler was kept out by Nuneaton Town stopper James Wren. Holman finally got his goal eight minutes into the second half, nodding in from close range after Sam Hatton’s right-wing cross was sliced to the striker at the back post. The Shots defence was yeoman-like once again and survived a couple of goalmouth scrambles in the last five minutes to preserve the win.
The Shots have now won three, drawn three and lost just one of their last seven games in all competitions, performing strongly in the games since the 1-0 loss at Chester last month and scoring eleven goals in the process. The victory at the weekend also means that Aldershot Town have now won four and lost just one (and that to a last-minute winner against Gateshead) of their previous six games in North-East Hampshire. Overall, their record of seventeen points from ten home games is the eleventh-best in the division, whilst two consecutive league clean sheets have contributed to the Conference’s seventh-best defence.
Portsmouth FC was founded in 1898 and were founder members of the old Third Division in 1920. The club’s proud history included two Football League titles in 1948-49 and 1949-50, but their recent past has been overshadowed by financial crises and upheaval. Two spells in administration followed their 2008 FA Cup win, and ultimately led to three relegations in four seasons. The 2013-14 campaign was Portsmouth’s first in the fourth tier since 1979-80 and they were just two points above the relegation zone with seven games remaining. However, five wins from those remaining fixtures saw the newly fan-owned club retain their Football League status, eventually finishing 13th in the table.
Pompey have only managed six points from their last five league games, causing them to slip to 13th in the League Two table. However, ten of their seventeen league games have come against teams currently in the top half of the table. Whilst Portsmouth’s results at Fratton Park have been outstanding, it’s a very different story on the club’s travels. They have the third-worst away record in the division, having lost their last three away league games (against Bury, Shrewsbury Town and Plymouth Argyle) and gone seven without a win since their only away league victory at Oxford United in August. Their astonishing record of just three goals in nine away league games is comfortably the worst in their division.
Manager Andy Awford, who took charge on 27 March, has huge concerns about the club’s away form, especially after Saturday’s 3-0 loss in South Devon. He told the Portsmouth News after the game: “It is not unusual for us to be like that away from home and that’s the disappointing thing for me. The home form is promotion form and, obviously, the away form is relegation form – it’s not the first time it has happened. It’s very disappointing. I think I have come through it a little bit. The last away performance at Shrewsbury was a lot more solid and arguably deserved something out of the game. But today we didn’t deserve anything because of the way we defended in the first half.”
Andy Scott made one change for the visit of Nuneaton Town, with Naby Diallo making his first Aldershot Town start in place of the injured Mark Molesley in a three-man Shots midfield. Sam Hatton continued to deputise for Jaydon Gibbs at right-back, whilst a second successive game with a 4-3-3 formation paid dividends once again. Manny Oyeleke and Kieron Forbes dominated the middle of the pitch, whilst Dan Holman’s goal was an appropriate reward for an excellent afternoon’s work. Better news regarding the Colchester United loanee came after the game when it was announced that Holman would remain on loan at the Electrical Services Stadium until January 2015.
Saturday’s victory was especially impressive when you bear in mind that the Shots were without seven injured players. Mark Molesley’s leg injury ruled him out, but the hope is that his absence, as well as that of Jaydon Gibbs and Jordan Roberts (both hamstring injuries), was merely precautionary. Mark Phillips injured a quadriceps muscle at Portsmouth and must also be a doubt for the FA Cup replay. Damon Lathrope (groin) and Anthony Tonkin (calf) are long-term injury doubts, whilst Josh Scott has missed the last three games with a foot problem. However, Andre McCollin is definitely unavailable on Wednesday evening, with the forward being cup-tied having already featured in this season’s FA Cup for Kingstonian.
Quality is spread right throughout the Portsmouth squad, which makes Aldershot Town’s draw at Fratton Park all the more remarkable. Andy Awford signed two new goalkeepers over the summer, with Paul Jones being the first-choice this season (after 105 appearances for Crawley Town in the two previous campaigns), whilst having the former Torquay United custodian Michael Poke as his back-up. The most eye-catching member of the Pompey defence is left-back Nicky Shorey, who won two England caps – against Brazil and Germany – in 2007, whilst Joe Devera and Ben Chorley have been reliable centre-backs. Awford has brought in Crystal Palace right-back Alex Wynter and experienced Millwall centre-back Paul Robinson on loan, whilst former Aldershot Town loanee Dan Butler (fifteen appearances in two loan spells last season) could feature from the bench.
Danny Hollands and James Dunne have been outstanding in central midfield this season, whilst Nigel Atangana (who scored against the Shots for Havant & Waterlooville in an FA Trophy quarter-final in February), Jack Whatmaugh, Ben Close and Nick Awford are more youthful options. Whatmaugh actually started as the midfield ‘1’ in the 4-1-4-1 formation employed by Andy Awford in Saturday’s defeat, with Hollands and Andy’s son Nick ahead of him. Farnborough-born, and ex-Boro loanee, Jed Wallace is Portsmouth’s top scorer this season with eight goals and was their Man-of-the-Match in the first tie, so he should start on the right. Ex-Barnet forward Ricky Holmes is favoured on the left, whilst Craig Westcarr, Swindon Town loanee Miles Storey and Ryan Taylor will all vie for a forward berth.
James Dunne, however, is one of a quartet of Portsmouth players out with long-term knee injuries, a list that also includes Tom Craddock, Wes Fogden and another former Aldershot Town loanee, Adam Webster. Danny East will be unavailable with a groin problem, but the Pompey boss will have centre-back Paul Robinson available after serving a one-game suspension.
The first competitive fixture between these two clubs occurred on 9 November, when a crowd of 11,095, including 2,446 Aldershot Town fans, saw a pulsating FA Cup tie at Fratton Park. Jed Wallace gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot in the fifteenth minute after Glenn Wilson had tripped Craig Westcarr. The Shots were back on level terms in first half stoppage-time, when Jordan Roberts turned in Dan Holman’s deflected cross from close range. Mark Molesley put Aldershot Town in front after 68 minutes, when Kieron Forbes dispossessed Ben Close to cross for the 33-year-old midfielder, but the visitors were denied a famous win after Danny Hollands nodded in from six yards after Nicky Shorey’s cross was flicked on by substitute Ryan Taylor.
Portsmouth faced Aldershot FC in ten competitive fixtures, the most recent of which was a Second Round FA Cup tie in December 1982. A Dale Banton brace and one from Les Briley gave the Shots the victory at Fratton Park, with future England international Neil Webb scoring for the hosts, who would go on to win the old Third Division title. However, Pompey had knocked their Hampshire counterparts out of the same competition in January 1958 and November 1976, the latter after a replay at Fratton Park, with Alex McGregor scoring in both games. The overall record saw Aldershot FC winning two games, Portsmouth picking up five victories and three draws. However, Portsmouth have never lost at what is now the Electrical Services Stadium, winning two and drawing two of their four competitive games in North-East Hampshire.
FA Cup history
Thirteen months ago, Aldershot Town suffered the worst cup result in their history, being knocked out of the FA Cup by Shortwood United of the Southern League Division One South & West. After drawing 1-1 in Gloucestershire, the Shots then lost the home replay 2-1 after taking the lead through Matt Paterson. Despite that shambolic showing (against a side 65 places below them in the football pyramid), it’s easy to forget that they’d reached the Fourth Round in the previous campaign, with the undoubted star of the FA Cup run being Danny Hylton, who topped the competition’s scoring chart with eight goals in four games. Overall, the Shots’ record in the FA Cup has been excellent, reaching at least the Second Round in nine of the previous eleven seasons. Prior to October 2013, the last time the Shots had lost a Qualifying Round tie was 26 October 2002, when they went down 4-0 at home to Dagenham & Redbridge.
Andy Scott’s team reached this stage of the competition thanks to a 2-0 victory over Conference rivals Torquay United. Striker Josh Scott scored once in each half as the Shots dominated proceedings at the Electrical Services Stadium.
Portsmouth were, of course, the winners of this competition in 2008, as well as beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-1 in the last final before the outbreak of World War Two. They also finished as runners-up in 1929, 1934 and 2010, when they were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea. However, Pompey haven’t won an FA Cup tie since the 2010 semi-final, when they beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Wembley. Since that victory, Portsmouth suffered two Third Round defeats, which were then followed by two First Round defeats in 2012 and 2013.
Wednesday’s referee is Stuart Attwell from Warwickshire, who last officiated a Shots fixture in October 2012, when he took charge of the 4-3 defeat at Torquay United. A better omen is that he oversaw a 3-0 FA Cup First Round replay win against Rotherham United in November 2008. So far in this campaign, he has officiated in fifteen games (including the Premier League game between Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion earlier this month), showing 36 yellow cards and one red card.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison will be covering the game on Wednesday evening. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 7.05pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website (UK only) at 7.45pm. The live match commentary will also be broadcast on BBC 5 live sports extra from 7.40pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Pompey. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)