Aldershot Town’s 1-0 home defeat to Kidderminster Harriers was the 106th and final game of Andy Scott’s tenure in charge. The defeat kept the Shots 18th in the division, just six points above the relegation places. Caretaker boss Chris Barker will lead the team for the first time this weekend as they take on mid-table Altrincham at the second attempt. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Scott’s final game as Aldershot Town manager was all-too-similar to the majority of those defeats that led to his dismissal. The missed chances were abundant: Joe Oastler hit the crossbar after four minutes, Ryan Jarvis dallied when presented with an open goal, albeit 25 yards out, in the first minute of the second half, Danny East shot into the side-netting and Jordan Roberts was denied by a fine save by full debutant goalkeeper Jasbir Singh. It appeared the Shots had received a let-off when substitute Akwasi Asante stood on the ball four yards from an open goal, but sixty seconds later, Jack Byrne thumped in the 74th-minute winner from eighteen yards to seal the hosts, and Andy Scott’s, fate
The now ex-manager leaves the club after a disappointing season that failed to capitalise on the positives of the battling performance in the previous campaign. The last twelve games in all competitions under Andy Scott saw ten defeats, whilst they only managed three points from their last possible 27 in the Conference. The area that obviously needs immediate improvement is in the attacking third, with those twelve games seeing Aldershot Town score just seven goals. It’s worth noting that, in the last twelve fixtures, the Shots only scored the opening goal of the game twice (at Wrexham and Woking). Coming from behind to pick up points is another quality that’s eluded Aldershot Town this season, with just three points (draws at Torquay United and Nuneaton Town, plus a home point against Bristol Rovers) garnered from losing positions in the league.
Previous long-term spells in the non-league’s top tier from 1979 to 2000 and 2005 to 2011, plus two FA Trophy triumphs and their long-standing record of beating sixteen league teams as a non-league team in the FA Cup, mean that many Altrincham fans will feel they’ve returned to their rightful level after three seasons in Conference North. Last season saw the Robins finish 3rd in the table, four points below champions AFC Telford United, before defeating Hednesford Town and Guiseley in the play-offs. The latter 2-1 victory came via a 121st-minute winner from Greg Wilkinson in front of 4632 jubilant home fans.
They struggled in the early part of this campaign, losing eight of their first twelve league games and only securing eight points in the process. However, their form has improved since then and they currently sit 15th in the Conference table, three places, but nine points above the Shots. The Robins’ home form has been consistent – they’ve won seven and lost six of their sixteen league fixtures at Moss Lane – but they’ve won their last two against Chester and Torquay United. Overall, the Greater Manchester side have won their last three league fixtures, scoring eight goals in the process. One weakness for Altrincham is that they’ve only managed to keep five league clean sheets in 2014-15.
Their most recent outing, however, saw a 1-0 FA Trophy defeat at Bath City on 24 January. Speaking to the Sale & Altrincham Messenger after the game, manager Lee Sinnott said: “We were not dynamic enough in the final third, and we sometimes gave possession away too cheaply. We got ourselves in some decent positions to test them with dangerous crosses, but the quality was not there. It just didn’t ignite for us on the day… You could not possibly fault the players for effort or application, and if we had been anywhere near our A game in the final third, we would have gone through. It is disappointing to go out so close to the final stages, but the players can’t be faulted over the course of the season, and that’s why I have to hold it back a bit. We just need to dust ourselves down now and go again in the league.”
In his last game in charge, Andy Scott made one change with his final signing, Luton Town loanee Jim Stevenson, starting in place of Sam Hatton, whilst the game also marked home debuts for Danny East, Matt Saunders and Ryan Jarvis. With his caretaker management duties taking precedence, it’ll be interesting to see if Chris Barker starts the game for the Shots in his usual left-back position. He may also choose to start his first signing, 18-year-old MK Dons striker Kabongo Tshimanga , who made his first team debut in November and has 42 goals in 25 Under-18 fixtures this season.
Barker may also be able to welcome midfielder Damon Lathrope back to his matchday squad, with the 25-year-old having resumed training after missing the last four months with a groin problem. However, Mark Molesley, who’s missed the last seven games with an Achilles injury, was described as being “nowhere near” a return to the first-team. Also missing will be defender Anthony Tonkin (released) and loanee Kieron Forbes (returned to Forest Green Rovers), both of whom left the club earlier this week. Their departures mean ten players have left the Shots since the start of January.
Altrincham were able to keep the vast majority of their promotion-winning squad intact, including veteran goalkeeper Stuart Coburn, who has made 673 appearances for the Robins. Last season’s first choice defence – Shaun Densmore, Adam Griffin, Gianluca Havern and Scott Leather – all returned, as did fellow defender Tom Marshall, plus midfield quartet Jake Moult, Simon Richman, James Lawrie and Nicky Clee. Strikers Damian Reeves (22 goals last season, seventeen in this campaign) and Kyle Perry (fourteen goals) also returned to Moss Lane, and more than made up for the departure of James Walshaw, the top scorer in Conference North last season with 29 league goals. He was unable to commit to the extra travel of a national league schedule and subsequently joined Harrogate Town.
Despite remaining part-time, Lee Sinnott was able to bring in some strong additions to the Club. Peter Cavanagh, who can play in defence or midfield, arrived at Alty after leading Rochdale to promotion from League Two last season, whilst former Cheltenham Town and Colchester United striker Steven Gillespie joined after being released by Bristol Rovers in the summer. Goalkeeper Dave Barton (Newcastle Town of the Northern Premier League Division 1 South), plus midfielders Ryan Crowther (FC Halifax Town) and Sean Williams (Conference North club Colwyn Bay) also arrived at the Greater Manchester club. What’s remarkable is that no further signings have arrived since the summer, which surely makes Altrincham one of the most stable sides in English football.
However, Sinnott could be without Cavanagh on Saturday, with the veteran missing the last three games with an achilles problem. However, the Altrincham boss will be able to select Sean Williams after he served a one-game suspension at Bath City.
Saturday afternoon sees the eighth meeting between Aldershot Town and Altrincham, with the Shots winning three, drawing two and losing two of the previous fixtures. The most recent meeting was on the opening day of this season, with Brett Williams, Jordan Roberts and Josh Scott getting the goals in a 3-1 home win at the Electrical Services Stadium. Prior to that, the last time the two clubs met was in the Shots’ promotion-winning season, with the North-East Hampshire club securing a pair of 2-1 wins. Jonny Dixon and Louie Soares scored for the visitors in the game at Moss Lane in September 2007, whilst Anthony Charles and Scott Davies notched for the hosts in the return game six months later.
The 2006-07 season saw a pair of goalless draws between the two sides, but Altrincham managed to complete an emphatic double over the Shots in 2005-06. James Olsen and Colin Little got the goals in a 2-0 win in North-East Hampshire on 27 August 2005, whilst the Shots were battered 5-1 in the away game in January 2006. As it transpired, Darren Barnard’s penalty was the merest of consolations.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Paul Rees from Bristol, who took charge of the Shots’ 2-0 win at AFC Telford United in August, as well as the vital 2-1 win at Woking on Easter Monday that confirmed Aldershot Town’s place in the non-league top flight. So far this season, he’s refereed ten Conference games, showing 31 yellow cards and four red cards.
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 Robins. 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.