Aldershot Town completed the first half of their league season on Saturday with a 3-1 defeat at Wrexham. The loss, coupled with results elsewhere, dropped them to 16th in the table, ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup tie. Rochdale are the visitors to the Electrical Services Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with a place in the Third Round at stake. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
After a run of seven games in twenty days, Andy Scott’s team ran out of steam in North Wales last Saturday. An excellent opening fifteen minutes was capped by Dan Holman’s superb curling left-footed strike. However, the home side gradually worked their way into the game and equalised eleven minutes later. If Jaydon Gibbs’ mis-hit cross had dipped under, rather than flicking the top of, the crossbar just before half-time, the game could have been very different. However, Wrexham took the lead in the 48th-minute and secured the win with Louis Moult’s penalty with twenty minutes to go. Substitute Dan Fitchett had a great chance to set up a grandstand finish, but flashed a close-range header wide with ten minutes to go. However, the home side thoroughly deserved the three points.
Aldershot Town’s recent home form has been good, despite the recent loss against Eastleigh on 22 November. Including the two FA Cup victories, the Shots have won five of their last eight home fixtures. Overall, they have the 16th-best home record in the Conference, but they have risen to the occasion against some of the bigger sides they’ve faced, defeating Portsmouth, Torquay United and Grimsby Town, plus picking up a draw with Bristol Rovers. Concerns will be had though with the statistic that Aldershot Town have already dropped eleven league points from winning positions, whilst fourteen of their 29 goals conceded in this campaign have come after the 65th minute.
Having formed in 1907, Rochdale entered the Football League fourteen years later. They became infamous for their 36-year tenure in the fourth tier of English football between 1974 and 2010, but have had an unfamiliar, yo-yo existence in recent campaigns. The promotion from League Two in 2010 led to two seasons in League One that were ended with a 24th-place finish under John Coleman. The Dale finished 12th in League Two as the Shots were relegated, before securing another promotion with a third-place finish in 2013-14. Both promotions came under the leadership of Keith Hill, who returned to Spotland in January 2013 after an eighteen-month spell in charge of Barnsley.
The Greater Manchester side are currently eighth in League One, three points out of a play-off place. However, they’re currently on a run of one win in six games in all competitions, whilst picking up just one point from their last four games in the league. Rochdale’s away results have been markedly better than their home form this campaign, with sixteen of their 27 league points coming away from Spotland, plus no League One team have bettered the Dale’s 21 away league goals. We could see some goals on Sunday, as Rochdale’s record of 32 goals from nineteen league games is the fourth-best in the division, but they have conceded ten goals in their last sextet of fixtures.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News after last Saturday’s 3-0 home derby defeat to Oldham Athletic, Hill suggested that he may make changes for upcoming games: “I think one or two players need taking out of the firing line and I need people to understand why I am doing that – not the players – the supporters. Everybody wants to do well but I am looking at one or two of the younger players at the minute… I remain very positive because we are in front of ourselves and, if we look back to the start of the season we had four points after five games. Since then we’ve been on an unbelievable run but now we are hitting the buffers a little bit and that happens in any club.”
Andy Scott named an unchanged starting line-up for the trip to Wrexham, with Naby Diallo starting his fourth consecutive league game and Andre McCollin continuing in a front three with Brett Williams and Dan Holman. The Colchester United loanee’s goal was his third in Shots colours and must have been especially sweet, coming as it did against the team for whom he featured on loan earlier this season. Chris Barker replaced Holman at half-time after missing two games with a calf problem, whilst Tristan Plummer could feature against Rochdale after returning from a one-month loan spell at Southern League Premier side Weymouth, for whom he scored two goals in seven games.
As with last Saturday’s game, the Shots boss could be without nine players for the upcoming FA Cup tie. Holman went off on Saturday with an ankle injury, whilst Joe N’Guessan is also unavailable with a similar problem. Jordan Roberts has missed five of the last six games with a hamstring issue, whilst Manny Oyeleke has missed two games with a calf problem. Left back Anthony Tonkin has been out for seven weeks with a calf injury, whilst midfielder Damon Lathrope has been out for a similar length of time with a groin problem. Mark Phillips hasn’t featured since injuring a quadriceps muscle at Portsmouth, whilst Josh Scott will be out for the foreseeable future after scans revealed a broken metatarsal suffered in the home defeat against Gateshead last month. Andre McCollin will also miss out after playing in the FA Cup for Kingstonian earlier this season.
Keith Hill has kept the majority of last season’s promotion-winning squad intact, although nineteen-goal top scorer Scott Hogan was sold to Brentford for £750,000. Ian Henderson has netted eight goals this season, after scoring twelve times in 2013-14, whilst fellow forwards Jack Muldoon, Calvin Andrew and Barnsley loanee Reuben Noble-Lazarus have all attempted to take up the slack. The midfield is arguably Rochdale’s strongest suit, with Matt Done (top scorer with ten goals), former Shot Peter Vincenti (seven goals this season, equalling his total from the previous campaign), Matty Lund (nine goals last season), Stephen Dawson and Jamie Allen all having excellent campaigns thus far. Bastien Hery has also made a handful of league starts, whilst Tomasz Cywka arrived on loan from Blackpool last week.
In defence, youth product Scott Tanser is the side’s only League Two ever-present in 2014-15, whilst Rhys Bennett, Ashley Eastham and Blackburn Rovers loanee Jack O’Connell have all featured consistently in the back four. Ex-Aldershot Town defender Olly Lancashire (fifteen games in the 2012-13 relegation campaign) has formed part of the defensive back-up corps, with Joe Rafferty and Michael Rose. Last season’s first-choice goalkeeper was Josh Lillis, and he started the campaign as the number one, but Leicester City stopper Conrad Logan was signed on loan until January as injury cover.
Hill’s squad will be far from full-strength this weekend, with Done serving the third game of a three-match suspension, whilst Vincenti suffering a knee ligament injury at the end of October that will keep him out for three months. Josh Lillis is out with a long-term ankle problem, whilst O’Connell is unavailable due to the terms of the loan agreement with his parent club.
This is the eighth meeting between Aldershot Town and Rochdale, with the Shots having won two, lost three and drawn two. One of those victories took place in December 2012, with the Shots winning 4-2 at home in a League Two encounter. Dani Lopez, Danny Rose, Peter Vincenti and Craig Reid scored for the home side, with Ashley Grimes netting twice for the visitors. The most recent game saw a 1-1 draw at Spotland in March 2013, when Adam Mekki scored a late equaliser.
The other win for the Shots was even more memorable, with a 2-1 home win in the Carling Cup Third Round in September 2011. Danny Hylton’s winning goal, after Grimes had given Dale the lead, took them to the famous Fourth Round tie against Manchester United. Rochdale also played Aldershot FC on 48 occasions, winning seventeen, losing seventeen and drawing fourteen fixtures. In 24 away games against Aldershot FC, the Greater Manchester side won just three and lost fourteen of their games in North-East Hampshire.
If he features on Sunday, Mark Molesley will make his 100th appearance for the Shots.
FA Cup history
Fourteen 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. 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 ten of the last twelve seasons.
Their journey to this stage of the competition began with 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. This earned Aldershot Town a plum First Round tie with League Two Portsmouth, which saw the two teams play out a 2-2 draw at Fratton Park. Jordan Roberts and Mark Molesley put the away side 2-1 up before they conceded a late equaliser. However, the replay ten days later saw Andy Scott’s side winning 1-0, with Molesley netting the vital 81st-minute goal.
Rochdale’s best FA Cup runs have seen them reach the Fifth Round on two occasions in 1989-90 and 2002-03. Last year, Dale reached the Fourth Round, beating Championship side Leeds United along the way, but their record before that had been exceptionally poor. Prior to last season’s run, they’d lost in the First Round in seven of the previous eight campaigns. In this year’s First Round, Rochdale drew 0-0 at Northampton Town of League Two, before winning 2-1 in the replay. 1-0 down with five minutes to go, the home side equalised through Reuben Noble-Lazarus, before Olly Lancashire scored the decisive goal.
Sunday afternoon’s referee is Phil Gibbs from the West Midlands, who took charge of the Shots’ last Second Round FA Cup tie, when they beat Fleetwood Town 3-2 in December 2012. Gibbs has officiated in two of Aldershot Town’s most famous games – the 2-1 win at Torquay United in March 2008 and the 3-3 home draw with Bury five months later – as well as a 1-0 league defeat at Rochdale in August 2009. So far this season, he’s taken charge of eleven games, showed 25 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 Sunday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 1pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary on the radio and via the BBC Surrey website from 1.55pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will get on in this game. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)