Aldershot Town remain 13th in the National League after their four-game unbeaten streak ended at the weekend with a 3-2 defeat at Gateshead. This was the first game in the side’s run of six away games in seven league fixtures, with the second coming up this Saturday as the Shots visit struggling Welling United. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The loss at the weekend saw the Shots finish pointless despite a highly entertaining afternoon’s fare. For the second time this season, Rhys Browne gave the team an early lead against the North-East club with a delightful finish after an excellent sixteen-pass team move, arguably Aldershot Town’s best of the campaign. Ryan Bowman and CJ Hamilton gave the hosts the lead before Jake Gallagher turned in Dan Walker’s cross just before half-time. The second half was a more sedate affair, but the Heed’s winner was a controversial one. Joe Oastler looked favourite to clear Paddy McLaughlin’s 52nd-minute free kick, but a push in the back of the Shots defender went unpunished and the set-piece glanced off him and past Phil Smith. Despite their best efforts, the visitors couldn’t find a deserved equaliser.
The fact that the Shots lost from a winning position means they’ve now dropped a total of sixteen points from such positions in 2015-16, three more than in the whole of the previous campaign. Even if they’d managed to hold onto just half of those, they’d now be at fifty points for the season and all-but-safe from relegation with thirteen games to go. Aldershot Town’s defeat at Gateshead also means their last seven away games in the National League have seen them pick up just one win (at Macclesfield Town last month) and five points. However, a victory this weekend would see them better last season’s total of six league wins away from the EBB Stadium, which would be a fine achievement.
Welling United celebrated their 50th anniversary by winning the 2012-13 Conference South title, a triumph that returned the club to the level it had last graced in 1999-2000, when the Wings were relegated after fourteen consecutive seasons in the non-league top-flight. Following that relegation, they spent four campaigns in the Southern League Premier Division, before becoming founder members of the Conference South, where they stayed for nine seasons. The Wings finished sixteenth in their first season back in the Conference, but only survived last year on goal difference. A 1-0 home defeat to Southport on the final day was irrelevant as relegation rivals Alfreton Town were demolished 7-0 by Bristol Rovers.
The Wings are struggling again this season, sitting in the National League relegation zone with 26 points from 33 fixtures. They’re on an extraordinary run of sixteen league games without a win, dating back to a 2-1 home win against Lincoln City on 13 October. During this stretch, they’ve picked up just five points, which has seen them slump to 22nd in the standings. They’ve also only managed two points from their last eight outings at Park View Road. The main issue has been goalscoring with their total of 25 league goals being the lowest total in the division. Defensively they actually have the fourteenth-best record in the division, but Welling United have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nineteen league games.
Formerly assistant-manager under Jamie Day, Dean Frost took over after Loui Fazakerly was sacked on 25 January. The new man in charge told Kent Online after getting the job: “I’m really looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be different for me compared to what I’m used to. I’m going to be the final decision maker which is nice; it means the buck stops with me. I’d like to think that we can only improve. But we all have to stick together, players, staff and supporters and show some fight… I’m trying to get players in first, that’s my main concern – to give the squad a bit of balance… Upfront it’s clear that we need to strengthen by the goals record. We’re trying to change that but it’s proving to be quite difficult.”
For the first time in five games Barry Smith made a change to his starting eleven with Ross Lafayette preferred to Alfie Pavey at Gateshead alongside Charlie Walker. The former Welling United man played crucial parts in both goals and will be desperate to start again on Saturday after scoring 39 goals in two campaigns for the South-East London club between 2012 and 2014. Another former Wing, Jake Gallagher, should start at Park View Road after scoring his first Aldershot Town goal at the weekend. The rest of the side should also pick itself despite the defensive lapses that saw the Shots concede for the first time in over five hours in the North-East last Saturday.
The Shots boss had the luxury of a fully-fit squad last Saturday, with Jack Saville and Newport County loanee Nathan Ralph being preferred once again to Luke Oliver and Tom Richards in the matchday squad. However, Damon Lathrope and Charlie Walker both limped off at the weekend and could be doubts for the trip to Welling.
Welling United had to re-build their playing squad last summer, with a number of key players from the 2014-15 campaign moving onto pastures new. Jake Gallagher, of course, made to switch to the EBB Stadium after 38 games, four goals and three red cards for the Wings last season, but fellow midfielders Joe Healy (Maidstone United), Malachi Hudson (Kingstonian) and Dominic Vose (Wrexham, but now with Scunthorpe United) also moved on. Like Vose, defender Jamal Fyfield also joined the North Wales side, whilst fellow centre-back Chris Bush signed for Lincoln City. First-choice goalkeeper, and former Shots loanee, Jon Henly returned to Reading after the completion of his loan spell, whilst Tom King, their main goalkeeper during the first half of this season, was recalled by Millwall in December. Amongst those who remained were defenders Zac Fagan, Ben Jefford and Barney Williams, plus attacking midfielders Kieron St Aimie, Reece Harris and Sam Corne. However, St Aimie has since been released, whilst Jefford signed an eighteen-month contract with Forest Green Rovers last month.
Amongst the players who arrived in South-East London during preseason were defenders Michael Chambers (signed permanently from Crystal Palace after a successful loan spell last season), Harry Osborne (Charlton Athletic) and Kevin Lokko (Colchester United), whilst defensive midfielder Xavier Vidal arrived from Ryman League Premier Division side Dulwich Hamlet and leads the team with eight goals. Ricky Wellard (Sutton United) and Harry Lee (Leyton Orient) were added to the midfield ranks, whilst the main signings in the attacking third were Sahr Kabba (Gloucester City, thirteen goals for Havant & Waterlooville in 2013-14) and former Maidstone United forward George Porter. Recently the Wings have added attacking midfielders Kadell Daniel (four goals in 23 games for Woking earlier in this campaign), Luke Wanadio (Staines Town) and Nortei Nortey (Maidenhead United), plus striker Tomi Adeloye (Leatherhead) and five loanees – goalkeeper Marek Rodak (Fulham), centre back Ian Gayle and striker Ade Yussuf (both Dagenham & Redbridge), left back Noah Chesmain (Millwall) and central midfielder James Ferry (Brentford).
Sam Corne and Kevin Lokko returned from injury during Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss at Torquay United, but the latter’s appearance came at the expense of fellow centre-back Michael Chambers, who limped off after three minutes. Zach Fagan, Harry Osborne, Harry Lee and George Porter all missed the trip to Devon through injury and might be unavailable on Saturday. Vidal has also missed the last three games, but could feature this weekend against the Shots.
Saturday afternoon sees just the sixth meeting between Aldershot Town and Welling United, with the five previous games all being won by the home side. The most recent game was in September at the EBB Stadium, with Richard Brodie scoring the only goal of an uneventful game. The corresponding game last season was a massive one in the context of Aldershot Town’s season, with Ryan Jarvis’ stoppage time penalty giving the Shots a 2-1 win on Valentine’s Day 2015 that ended a run of nine defeats in ten league games. Last season’s other fixture took place on 20 December 2014, with the Wings winning 3-1. Tyrone Marsh and Kieron St Aimie netted for the hosts, before Glenn Wilson scored his first goal for Aldershot Town with 25 minutes left. Marsh then notched his second of the game to secure all three points.
The previous season’s game at Park View Road saw Alex Dyer’s fifteenth-minute goal being the difference between the two sides, but the Shots got a measure of retribution at the EBB Stadium three-and-a-months later. On 28 December, Welling United took the lead five minutes into the second half through Ross Lafayette, but had defender Blaine Hudson sent off in the 66th minute. The hosts took full advantage, scoring three unanswered goals through Brett Williams and a brace from Aidan O’Brien.
If Damon Lathrope features on Saturday, he’ll make his 50th appearance for the club.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Rob Whitton from Essex, and he’s taken charge of three Shots games this season – the 3-2 home win over FC Halifax Town in September, October’s 1-0 victory at Boreham Wood and the following month’s 2-0 home loss against Cheltenham Town. This season he’s officiated in thirteen National League fixtures, showing 33 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 or DAB 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 @gavindenison and @bbcsurreysport