Aldershot Town drew their second consecutive game last Saturday, leading at half-time before conceding a second-half equaliser at Dartford. This weekend sees the Shots take on Torquay United for the second time in two months, but on this occasion it’s in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Most Shots fans heading away from Princes Park on Saturday will have been wondering how their team failed to pick up three points. Josh Scott gave the Shots a deserved lead (at a time when the visitors were down to ten men), with Brett Williams having two good opportunities – one hit over the bar, one saved by Darts keeper Jason Brown in stoppage time – to extend their lead. After the break, the hosts’ best spell of the game saw them equalise in the 67th minute through Andy Pugh. Williams forced Brown into two further saves in the second half, including one in the 94th-minute that proved to be the last kick of the game. Apart from the goal, Aldershot Town’s defence looked solid, but, once again, good chances were missed by Andy Scott’s attackers, with two points being dropped as a result.
The draw meant Aldershot Town have now lost just one of their last four games, plus their home form has improved after the two defeats in September against Woking and Braintree Town. Since those games, the Shots have secured seven points from three home games, keeping two clean sheets to boot. However, the game did continue two trends for Andy Scott’s team, namely starting games well, but finishing them poorly. The Shots’ half-time lead means they would now sit fourth in the Conference if games ended at half-time, but they’d be 22nd in a table based on second half results. That statistic mainly comes about because of the Shots conceding ten of their nineteen league goals after the 66th minute.
Formed in 1899, it took Torquay United 28 years to reach the Football League, and that’s where they stayed until their first relegation from League Two in 2007. The Gulls were promoted two years later (one year after the Shots) and managed to reach the League Two play-offs in consecutive seasons. In 2011, they lost 1-0 to Stevenage in the final at Wembley, whilst twelve months later, they lost 4-1 on aggregate to Cheltenham Town in a play-off semi-final. Last year, they finished bottom of the Football League again, five points from safety, despite a valiant late surge that saw them win three of their last five league games.
Former Gulls midfielder Chris Hargreaves took over as manager from Alan Knill on 6 January 2014, but couldn’t save the South Devon club from a second relegation in seven years. Torquay United lost their opening game of this campaign at Gateshead, before embarking on a ten-game unbeaten run that lifted them to 2nd in the table. However, four defeats in their last five league fixtures, conceding fourteen goals in the process, have seen them slip to 9th. They’ve also lost their last three games away from Plainmoor (at AFC Telford United, Forest Green Rovers and Alfreton Town), but only Barnet and Woking have score more than the Gulls’ 29 goals in sixteen league games.
Torquay United lost 3-2 at home to Grimsby Town on Saturday, with Hargreaves particularly disappointed with his side’s defending. Speaking to the Torquay Herald Express after that game, he said: “I said before the game ‘be ruthless in all areas’ and unfortunately today we weren’t… It’s just that in those vital periods and vital times at the moment we are being punished. All goals against are bad, but the goals today were particularly disappointing and unusual. I can’t come here and pick out individuals and be negative about them because they are working their socks off for me. The only thing I can do is go back to default and say we will work harder and try to give the fans success.”
Andy Scott made four changes for the trip to Dartford, with Chris Barker returning to the starting line-up after eight weeks out with a calf injury, whilst Mark Molesley made his first start since the win over Grimsby Town on 30 August. Manny Oyeleke made his third Aldershot Town debut after arriving on loan from Brentford last week, and the 21-year-old had a solid game in central midfield alongside fellow loanee Kieron Forbes. Andre McCollin also made a Shots debut upfront with Brett Williams, although his outing was brought to an early conclusion after a nasty-looking head injury. Josh Scott kept his place in the side, albeit in an unfamiliar left-wing position, and scored his first goal in thirteen appearances.
Scott was without five players last Saturday, with Damon Lathrope (groin) and Mark Phillips (broken toe) joining Anthony Tonkin (calf) and Sam Hatton (knee) on the Aldershot Town injury list. That quartet are all expected to be out until mid-November at the earliest. Jordan Roberts missed the game due to a one-game ban, but he will be available for the visit of Torquay United and should return to the starting XI. McCollin is cup-tied after already playing for Kingstonian in the competition, but Manny Oyeleke, Kieron Forbes and Joe N’Guessan are available to the Shots manager as per the terms of their loan agreements.
Chris Hargreaves used his first preseason as Torquay United manager to rebuild his squad, although maybe not as much as he would have wished. Eight new permanent signings have arrived in South Devon, most of whom will most directly impact the attacking third of the pitch. The most eye-catching was striker Ryan Bowman (nineteen goals for Hereford United in 2012-13, eight for York City in League Two last season), but Toby Ajala (Bristol City) and Duane Ofori-Acheampong (Southend United) also provide pace upfront. The midfield has been rebuilt with Luke Young (Plymouth Argyle), Louis Briscoe (Mansfield Town) and Courtney Richards (Brighton), whilst Josh Wakefield joined on a month-long loan deal from Bournemouth in August, and has since had the loan extended until 5 November. Centre-back Angus MacDonald arrived after Salisbury City’s expulsion from the non-league top-flight, whilst Jordan Seabright (Dagenham & Redbridge) is the new back-up goalkeeper.
Nine players left Plainmoor in the summer, including captain Lee Mansell (Bristol Rovers), left-back Kevin Nicholson (Kidderminster Harriers), forward Billy Bodin, goalkeeper Michael Poke (Portsmouth), plus midfielders Danny Stevens, Joss Labadie, Nathan Craig and, of course, Damon Lathrope, who made the trip up the A303 to join the Shots. Amongst those who remained at Plainmoor following relegation were goalkeeper Martin Rice, defenders Tom Cruise, Aaron Downes and Dale Tonge (although the latter pair were transfer-listed over the summer), wingers Jordan Chapell (who was the Gulls’ top scorer last season with five goals) and Ashley Yeoman, plus the ex-Aldershot Town midfielder Ben Harding, who was also on the transfer list earlier in this campaign.
Whilst Hargreaves has a largely fully-fit squad to choose from this weekend, he will be without his captain and six-goal top scorer Luke Young, who will serve a one-game suspension after accruing five bookings this season. Harding, however, won’t be able to face his former side after injuring a hamstring in the home draw with Southport in August.
Aldershot Town and Torquay United have faced each other on eleven occasions, with the Gulls having the edge by five wins to four. The only draw came earlier this season at Plainmoor, with Joe N’Guessan’s goal equalising an earlier effort from Courtney Cameron. A point for either side was probably fair, with the home side dominating the first half, with Andy Scott’s side being the better team after the break. Whilst the Shots have picked up four points from their last two league games against Torquay United, they had lost the previous three fixtures.
The Gulls will certainly make the trip from South Devon in confident mood, having won six of their last eight games at what is now the Electrical Services Stadium. However, Aldershot Town have won two of their last three home fixtures, including a 1-0 win in February 2013, where Troy Brown scored the only goal of Dean Holdsworth’s last game in charge. They also beat the Gulls by the same score in March 2011, with Luke Guttridge netting the winner. Overall, Torquay United’s record against Aldershot FC saw them win fifteen, draw eight and lose twenty of their 43 visits to North-East Hampshire.
FA Cup history
Twelve 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, 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 scored 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 last 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.
Torquay United’s best runs in the FA Cup have seen them reach the Fourth Round on five previous occasions – 1954-55, 1970-71, 1982-83, 2008-09 and 2010-11, when they lost to Crawley Town, who then drew Manchester United in the Fifth Round. However, the Gulls have lost their last two FA Cup ties, going out to Harrogate Town and Rochdale in the First Round in the two previous campaigns.
Torquay United also lost all three of their FA Cup games against Aldershot FC, two of which were First Round defeats in North-East Hampshire – a 2-1 loss in November 1966 and a 1-0 defeat twenty years later. The Devon side also went down to a 3-2 defeat at Plainmoor in the Second Round in December 1963.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Wayne Barratt from Worcestershire, who took charge of Aldershot Town’s 1-0 defeat at FC Halifax Town in September. He also oversaw three Shots’ home games last season – the 3-0 defeat to Grimsby Town last October, the 3-1 win over Welling United in December and the 2-2 draw with Forest Green Rovers back in February. So far this season, he’s officiated in seven Conference Premier games, showing fourteen 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 Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 2pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website at 2.55pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against the Gulls. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)
Plus, we want your reaction to the game between 5pm and 6pm on Saturday in ‘The Final Whistle’. Win, lose or draw, we want to hear from you throughout this season. Call us on 03459 57 00 57 and let your voice be heard.