Aldershot Town v Barrow AFC – match preview – Saturday 21 April 2018
Tuesday evening’s 1-0 home win over Gateshead left Aldershot Town in third place in the National League, with two matches left to play. It was a dominant performance throughout by the home side and, were it not for a quite outstanding performance from ‘Heed keeper James Montgomery, the margin of victory could easily have been significantly more than just one goal.
The Shots are once again at The EBB Stadium on Saturday as they host Barrow AFC in their final home match of the regular season.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Manager Gary Waddock was able to recall Scott Rendell (illness) and James Rowe (injury) back into Tuesday evening’s match-day squad and made four changes to his starting line-up from the defeat at Tranmere Rovers. His squad are carrying a few knocks and niggles going into this weekend, but long-term absentee Nick Arnold is the only Shots player certain to miss the Barrow match.
Barrow AFC, also known as The Bluebirds, were formed in 1901 and play their home games at Holker Street. The Club spent over fifty years in the Football League between 1921 and 1972, achieving promotion to Division Three by finishing third in the Fourth Division in the 1966–67 season. The highest league standing in the Club’s history was to be short-lived, and a return to Division Four came after relegation in 1969–70 season. At the end of the 1971–72 season, after an unsuccessful bid for re-election, Barrow were voted out of the Football League, to be replaced by Hereford United. Barrow have since spent their time in the top two levels of non-league football, having been promoted five times to the Conference, most recently as Conference North champions in 2014-15. They have twice won non-league football’s most prestigious cup competition, the FA Trophy – in 1990 and 2010 – becoming the only club to have won the Trophy at both old and new Wembley Stadium. The club colours are blue and white.
Paul Cox left Barrow AFC by mutual agreement in September 2017, to take charge of fellow National League outfit Guiseley AFC. His assistant, Micky Moore, took over as Caretaker-Manager, a position that was made permanent with a two-and-a-half-year contract a few weeks later but, after just eight games in charge, Moore was sacked, leaving the position vacant for a second time.
47-year-old former Forest Green Rovers and Gillingham manager Ady Pennock picked up the reigns at Holker Street in October 2017. Pennock, who also played just under 300 professional games for The Gills and AFC Bournemouth, was appointed immediately prior to The Shots’ visit to Holker Street, and was present as his new side recorded a 3-1 victory on the day.
Barrow finished last season in seventh place in the National League, narrowly missing out on the National League Play-offs.
The Bluebirds have struggled to follow up last year’s strong showing and have been in-and-around the relegation places for much of this season. Since Pinnock’s arrival, their away form has picked up, but they have often faltered at home and hence remain just one place and two points above the drop-zone going into Saturday’s game at The EBB Stadium, albeit with a game in hand on most of their rivals.
Barrow lost key players in the close season, three of whom moved up to the Football League, in Jordan Williams (to Rochdale), Nick Anderton (Blackpool) and Richie Bennett (Carlisle United). Centre-back, Captain and Player of the Season Danny Livesey joined Salford City, whilst Ross Hannah and Paul Turnbull both joined Chester. In the same week that Pennock arrived, midfielder Alex Ray-Harvey moved to Guiseley AFC, and Liam Hughes followed soon after. Striker Byron Harrison then went out on loan to Sutton United, leaving just four players at Holker Street that had been at the club the previous season, including goalkeeper Joel Dixon and defender Moussa Diarra. Notable new signings this season included defenders Dan Jones (Grimsby Town) and Jack Barthram (Cheltenham Town), midfielders Asa Hall (Cheltenham Town) and Bedsente Gomis (Sutton United), plus six-goal top scorer Jordan White (Wrexham) and Adi Yussuf, who has since moved to Solihull Moors. Pennock has brought in a handful of loan signings, which include striker Luke James (five goals since his arrival from Forest Green Rovers), midfielder Chris Clements (Grimsby Town), defender Ollie Cook (Southampton) and winger Chris Humphrey (Bury).
Saturday sees just the sixth meeting between Aldershot Town and Barrow AFC. Back in October, an Adi Yussuf hat-trick secured all three points for the Bluebirds, with Adam McDonnell scoring what proved to be merely a consolation goal as the hosts romped home 3-1.
On the opening day of last season, Barrow also won, with Liam Hughes scoring the game’s only goal. When the two sides met again at The EBB Stadium in February 2017, Ross Hannah’s brilliant 95th-minute free-kick snatched a point for nine-man Barrow as they came from two goals down late on. A superb opening 45 minutes from The Shots put them in control, as Matt McClure fired the opener after just 49 seconds and Will Evans headed in from close range on 26 minutes – yet the Bluebirds rescued a draw with two fine solo goals.
The 2015-16 meetings saw the away side coming out on top on both occasions. At Holker Street, the Shots produced one of their best performances of the season, as a Charlie Walker brace and Cheye Alexander cracker secured a 3-1 victory in Cumbria, whilst in April 2016, Andy Cook scored the only goal of a game.
The Bluebirds also faced Aldershot FC on 23 occasions. The first, a 2nd Round FA Cup tie in December 1934, resulted in a 2-0 win for the visitors at Holker Street, but the other 22 all took place in the Football League’s Fourth Division. Those games saw ten wins for the Shots and five for Barrow with seven draws. The Shots recorded an 8-2 home victory in November 1963, but their results in Cumbria were less impressive. Of the eleven league meetings at Holker Street, six were draws, including the last four. Aldershot FC managed just two wins – 4-3 in January 1959 and 2-0 in April 1964 – whilst Barrow won on three other occasions.
Saturday’s referee is Sam Purkiss, who has taken charge of 19 National League matches this season, showing 53 yellow cards and five red cards to date. Two of those red cards came in The Shots’ 2-1 home victory over AFC Fylde, when Manny Oyeleke and Fylde’s Jack Muldoon were both dismissed. That’s the only Aldershot match that Purkiss has taken charge of this season, to date.