Aldershot Town v Barnet Match Preview – Saturday 4 August 2018
Aldershot Town kick off the 2018-19 season with a home match against new, yet familiar opposition in Barnet FC. The Bees were relegated from League Two at the end of last season but have appointed a manager, in John Still, who has won three titles at this level, and are amongst the early favourites for promotion. Still has put a strong playing squad together which includes half of last season’s Shots defence, in skipper Callum Reynolds and Cheye Alexander.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
With the capture on Wednesday of three more signings, Gary Waddock took his playing squad to twenty. With a second goalkeeper still required – be that a young loanee, or an established stopper capable of challenging Jake Cole for his place – and the possibility of Nick Arnold re-signing, once over his current injury, that number may well yet rise in the near future. It’s a couple more than last season, perhaps designed to withstand the early onslaught of fixtures – no less than seven in August alone – and the inevitable injuries along the way.
To this point, ten players from Waddock’s squad have stayed and ten new faces have come in. The Shots boss will have a new-look defence: in front of Cole, Lewis Kinsella is likely to get the nod at left-back, whilst former Ipswich Town defender George Fowler is favourite to start in the centre. New signings Josh Lelan, Chris Smith (loan from Ipswich Town), Dominic Bernard (loan from Birmingham City), Marvin McCoy and Karleigh Osborne, plus youngster Matt Bozier, will compete for the remaining places in the back four. Osborne, the most experienced among them, and McCoy are unlikely to start, given the knocks that have denied both a full pre-season. In central-midfield, Waddock has strong competition for places, with Adam McDonnell and Jake Gallagher now joined by Huddersfield Town loanee Regan Booty and the impressive Luke Howell, both of whom have stood out in pre-season. It remains to be seen how The Shots will line-up, formation-wise; it appears evident that more than one system has been tried out in the warm-up games, which is logical given the variety and strength of opposition that Town will face, in an ever more unpredictable and highly-competitive league.
On the wings, Waddock has a couple of exciting new signings. Luke Wannadio, so impressive against The Shots last season, has joined from Bromley, and former Crystal Palace Academy graduate Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong looks an excellent young prospect too. Forwards Scott Rendell, Shamir Fenelon and Matt McClure have all stayed for this season, but will have fresh competition for their place from the classy Dan Holman, much-travelled in recent seasons but eager to settle at the club and start banging in the goals his record suggests that he is more than capable of. James Rowe, released by Waddock back in May, gets a second opportunity at the club and will be keen to force his way into the starting line-up and make-up for an injury-nagged end to last term.
Opposition – Barnet FC:
Nickname: The Bees.
Manager: John Still
Stadium: The Hive (Capacity: 6,205)
2017-18 league position: 23rd (Sky Bet League Two)
Formed in 1888 as Chipping Barnet, they have spent the majority of their 130-years in non-league football, winning various honours such as the FA Amateur Cup in 1946, Southern League Cup in 1976 and Conference League Cup in 1989. They were promoted to the Football League for the first time in 1991 but have bobbed up and down three times since. They again won promotion in 2005 and 2015, but, alas, on the final day of last season were relegated despite a 3-0 win over basement side Chesterfield. Famous former players include Dougie Freedman, Linvoy Primus, Yannick Bolasie, Jason Puncheon, Jimmy Greaves, Alan Pardew, Mark Lawrenson and, of course, Edgar Davids.
John Still has been re-appointed Bees boss, returning to the club for his third stint in charge. The London-born 68-year-old began his career with Leyton Orient, in the 1960s, and went on to play for Bishop’s Stortford, Leytonstone and Dagenham before ending his playing career after just nine years due to injury.
He took up his first position in management with Leytonstone, aged just 26. Over the next two decades he took charge of the likes of Dartford, Maidstone United, Redbridge Forest and Dagenham & Redbridge. That first spell with the Daggers began in 1992 and he’d go on to return to the side on a number of occasions. His first Football League experience came with Peterborough United in 1994, whilst his first spell with Barnet between 1997 and 2000, before returning to Underhill for the 2001-02 campaign.
Following a spell as Assistant Manager at Bristol Rovers, he returned to Dagenham in 2004, staying for nine years and delivering promotion to the Football League by winning the Conference in 2006 and eventually taking them to League One via the Play-Offs in 2010. Still won the Conference again in 2014 with Luton Town before another three-year spell with the Daggers ended with the club in deep financial crisis last season.
Barnet forward Dave Tarpey experienced the highs and lows of football in a matter of weeks when he made a dream move to the Football League. After bagging 87 goals in 124 appearances for Maidenhead United, including 44 goals in 41 National League South matches in 2016-17, he went on to get seven goals in six games following promotion. He picked up a serious injury in just his second match for the Bees ruling him out for the entire campaign. He’ll now be looking to recapture the form he was in last time he played in the National League.
Still brought the excellent Mark Cousins (goalkeeper), Craig Robson (defender), Dan Sparkes (winger) plus central-midfielders Charlee Adams and Andre Boucaud with him from Victoria Road, and all will feature strongly this season, as will former Shots favourites Alexander and Reynolds. Up front, The Bees now also have the goal-power of ex-Stevenage, Barrow and Sutton United striker Byron Harrison.
Saturday’s referee is Sam Purkiss. Last season, Purkiss took charge of 21 National League matches, showing 59 yellow cards and six red cards. He took the middle in two matches at The EBB Stadium, the 2-1 home win against AFC Fylde and 1-1 draw with Barrow AFC.
BBC Surrey Sport’s Rob Worrall and a special guest will be covering the game live on Saturday afternoon. Tune-in to the BBC Sport website or BBC Sport App from 2:50pm for full match commentary. To interact, tweet @RobShot66.