Aldershot Town suffered just their second defeat of the season at FC Halifax Town on Saturday, which, coupled with results elsewhere, dropped the Shots to 13th-place in the Conference standings. Not for the first time this season, they take on a team in fine form, with unbeaten Woking making the short trip to the Electrical Services Stadium on Tuesday evening. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The Shots’ 1-0 defeat in Halifax on Saturday was ultimately disappointing, but the performance was another good one in a season that has been full of them thus far. Whilst the Shaymen just about deserved the win, Andy Scott’s side had a number of good chances in the opening fifteen minutes and after the home side took their 72nd-minute lead. FC Halifax goalkeeper Matt Glennon made an excellent save from Kieron Forbes after just four minutes, whilst Brett Williams, Josh Scott and Joe Oastler also had first-half chances. In the second period, Glennon made saves from Williams, Dan Fitchett, Joe N’Guessan and a Sam Hatton corner as Aldershot Town pushed for an equaliser, but, ultimately, their effort came to nought in the West Yorkshire drizzle.
The Shots were relatively solid as they defended numerous crosses, long throws and set-pieces into their penalty area before the home team finally made the breakthrough. That’s been a feature so far in 2014-15, with their tally of just six goals conceded only being bettered by seven other Conference sides. Half of those have come at the Electrical Services Stadium, where Aldershot Town have picked up seven points from their trio of home fixtures thus far, which is the fourth-best tally in the division. Including the end of last season, the Shots have won four of their last six home outings, notching thirteen points and eleven goals in the process.
Their opponents on Monday secured a place in the top-flight of the non-league-pyramid for the first time in April 1992, a couple of weeks after the demise of Aldershot FC. Seventeen consecutive seasons at that level included five top-five finishes (ending in the runners-up slot in 1994-95 and 1995-96) and three FA Trophy successes between 1993 and 1998. However, the club faded over the next decade and were relegated to Conference South in 2009. Play-off defeats against Bath City and Farnborough followed, before they returned to the Conference Premier as champions in 2011-12. 97 points were accrued under former Dagenham & Redbridge and Weymouth boss Garry Hill, who took charge in January 2011.
Finishes of 12th and 9th followed, but the Cards have surpassed expectations with an unbeaten start to this campaign. Fifteen points in seven games sees them 3rd in the table, whilst only Barnet and Grimsby Town have bettered Woking’s sixteen league strikes – a total that has been significantly helped by Scott Rendell’s league-leading seven goals. The Surrey side have won their last three games, but their away form is equally impressive, having won six and drawn three of their last nine fixtures on their travels – a club best – since a 2-0 loss at Kidderminster Harriers at the end of February.
Hill has led Woking to their best-ever start in the non-league top-flight and confidence is understandably very high at Kingfield. Speaking to the Surrey Advertiser after Saturday’s 3-1 home win over Lincoln City, former Shots midfielder Josh Payne said: “It’s good to look at the table and see we’re near the top. The main thing is we’re unbeaten but I think we have a lot more to show on the pitch, we’ve had a mixture of games. Subs like Gez Sole have come on and nicked one back, like against Dartford, and we had the Dover game – you saw the scoreline. It’s been nice and enjoyable and everyone is working hard for each other. When you get on a run no one wants it to end… Aldershot haven’t been doing badly either. It should be good. I’ve heard good things about the pitch, which is nice and should suit us. “
Andy Scott made two changes to his starting line-up on Saturday afternoon with Josh Scott returning in place of Dan Fitchett, who dropped to the bench, whilst Anthony Tonkin came in for the injured Mark Molesley. Fitchett came on in the second half, as did summer signing and former Gillingham forward Tom Derry, which meant the Shots had four strikers on the pitch at the end of the game. Brett Williams couldn’t add to his tally of five league goals at the weekend, but will certainly want to be involved on Tuesday after spending the 2012-13 season at Woking, scoring four goals in 31 games in all competitions.
Club captain Chris Barker has missed the last three games with a calf injury, and certainly won’t be rushed back to action, whilst a tendonitis issue forced Molesley out of the matchday squad. Scott may also be without loanee winger Joe N’Guessan, who had one of the shortest appearances in Shots history after the 19-year-old came on as a second-half substitute, injured his ankle and was then replaced five minutes later. Naby Diallo, the former Weston-super-Mare winger who joined in the summer, was on the bench for the first time as a Shot on Saturday and should be involved again against the Cards.
Garry Hill was able to keep most of last season’s squad together, with seven players arriving on a permanent basis and only five leaving Kingfield. The main departure was Sam Beasant, who left to become first-choice goalkeeper at Stevenage, whilst defender Brett Johnson departed for Margate. Another ex-Shot, Anthony McNamee was also released, as were midfielders George Frith and Niall Wright. Amongst those to have stayed with the Cards are goalkeeper Aaron Howe, defenders Adam Newton and Joe McNerney, midfield skipper Mark Ricketts and long-serving forward Giuseppe Sole. A quartet of former Aldershot Town players also stayed at Woking: last season’s 23-goal top scorer Scott Rendell (became Aldershot Town’s youngest ever goalscorer in August 2003, then netted three goals in twelve games during a three-month loan from Reading at the end of the 2004-05 season), midfielder Josh Payne (35 games, three goals between January and December 2012), left-back John Nutter (six goals in 79 games from 2001 to 2004) and former youth forward Reece Beckles, who was released when the Shots went into administration in the summer of 2013.
The incoming players have significantly strengthened Hill’s options, with another former Aldershot Town player, Dean Morgan (four goals in eleven appearances at the end of the 2009-10 League Two play-off campaign), adding to the club’s attacking ranks after signing from Wycombe Wanderers. Midfielders Keiran Murtagh (Mansfield Town) and Joey Jones (Yeovil Town) were signed permanently after loan spells last season, whilst defender James Clarke and midfielder Theo Lewis arrived after Salisbury City’s expulsion from the Conference. Goalkeeper Jake Cole arrived from Plymouth Argyle, whilst defender Nick Arnold has joined from Reading after spending last season on loan at Wycombe Wanderers. The Woking boss also recently extended the loan of AFC Wimbledon winger Chris Arthur until 4 January 2015.
Forward Kevin Betsy also stayed at Kingfield, but will miss the first three months of the season with a knee injury, whilst Cole is out with an ankle problem. Keiran Murtagh will definitely not make the short trip to Aldershot as he’s on international duty with Antigua & Barbuda, whilst full-backs Newton (groin) and Nutter have been unavailable for recent games.
Since their first meeting in the FA Cup in October 1998, these two clubs have met each other on eighteen occasions, with the Shots winning nine (including the last six), drawing six and losing three. Both games last season finished 2-1 to Aldershot Town, the latter of which at Kingfield on Easter Monday, secured the visitors their place in the Conference for another season. Mark Molesley got the decisive goal after Brett Williams and Brett Johnson had netted either side of half-time. Meanwhile, Matt Paterson scored for the home side just 22 seconds into the corresponding fixture last August, with Williams doubling the advantage seventeen minutes later. Woking improved after the break and got a goal back from the penalty spot through Gavin Williams, but they couldn’t force an equaliser.
The home side also has the weight of history behind them at the Electrical Services Stadium; winning four, drawing four and losing just once against the Cards. They’ve won four of the six league games on this ground, including the famous 4-0 win in front of the TV cameras in March 2005 and a 2-1 victory on New Years Day 2008. The first game in North-East Hampshire ended in a 0-0 draw, with the Shots as a Ryman League Premier Division club, in the FA Cup in October 2008, whilst Woking’s sole victory at the Shots came in an FA Trophy 4th Round Replay sixteen months later.
If they play on Tuesday, Joe Oastler will make his 50th appearance for the Shots, whilst Damon Lathrope will make the 150th senior appearance of his club career.
Tuesday evening’s referee is Dean Treleaven from West Sussex, who took charge of Aldershot Town’s 1-0 home win against Macclesfield Town last September. This season, he’s officiated in three Conference games, showing twelve yellow cards and two red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison will be covering the game on Tuesday evening. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 7pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website at 7.35pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Woking. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)