Aldershot Town v Borehamwood – Match Preview – Saturday 24 March 2018
Following last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Chester, Aldershot Town slipped to sixth in the National League table. On Saturday, they return to the EBB Stadium to host third placed Boreham Wood, who are unbeaten away from home in the league since September 2017.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Manager Gary Waddock may once again be able to call upon the services of Reading loanee goalkeeper Lewis Ward, who has missed the last four games with injury, but will have to await news on the fitness of Forest Green Rovers loanee Fabian Robert. Nick Arnold continues to build his fitness after recovering from his long-term knee injury.
Opposition – Boreham Wood FC:
Nickname: The Wood
Ground: Meadow Park
Manager: Luke Garrard
Promoted via the Play-Offs from National League South in 2014-15, The Wood’s first season in the National League had been all about avoiding relegation – which, led by captain Callum Reynolds, they did in dramatic style, winning their final three games to stay two points above the drop zone. That allowed them to build further during the summer of 2016, and the work they did paid dividends with an 11th-place finish last term.
Luke Garrard became the youngest manager in any of England’s top five divisions when he was appointed as the boss of Boreham Wood, aged just 30, in October 2015. A former Wood defender, Garrard started out as a trainee with Spurs before moving on to Swindon Town, where he spent three years between 2002 and 2005. He also spent time on the books of Bishop’s Stortford and Boreham Wood upon leaving the County Ground, and then moved on to AFC Wimbledon in 2006 for a four-year stint and over 100 appearances. He initially returned to Boreham Wood on loan in 2009-10, before making the reunion permanent that summer, and he made well over 100 appearances before succeeding Ian Allinson in the Meadow Park hot seat.
Garrard released seven of his playing squad from last season, including winger Jai Reason, who joined Maidstone United, and lost three players to other clubs. Experienced midfielder Kenny Davis joined Sutton United, and Dagenham & Redbridge came in for both right-back Ben Nunn and striker Morgan Ferrier, although Ferrier has recently returned to Meadow Park.
He retained nine of his squad, including goalkeeper Grant Smith and defenders Danny Woodards, Mark Ricketts (Captain) and David Stephens. He also kept hold of midfielder Bruno Andrade – who is Wood’s top scorer this season with 21 goals in all competitions – and forward Angelo Balanta, who has weighed in with 10 goals himself.
Garrard strengthened his playing squad with some real quality in highly-rated young right-back Kane Smith from Hitchin Town, plus midfielders Tom Champion (Barnet) and Keiran Murtagh (Woking). He brought in three players on season-long loans: left-back Ryan Johnson (Stevenage), centre-back Jamie Turley (Newport County) and striker Bradley Ash (Barnsley, out long term with injury).
More recently, Garrard has brought in defender Alex Davey (Cheltenham Town), left-back Ollie Harfield and striker Joe Quigley (both AFC Bournemouth), and Dagenham & Redbridge defender Scott Doe.
The Wood begun the 2017-18 season well and have been in the top half of the National League table all season. They are currently on an eight-match unbeaten run and, away from Meadow Park, have not lost in league action since September. They have lost just twice in their last 26 league matches.
Saturday afternoon sees the eighteenth meeting between the two sides, with Aldershot Town winning eleven, losing four and drawing twice. Back in August, The Wood became the first team to defeat Aldershot Town this season, thanks to a 2-1 victory at Meadow Park. Goals from Andrade and Jeffers gave the hosts a 2-0 lead and Cheye Alexander’s second half sizzler proved ultimately to be mere consolation for The Shots.
Last season, the two teams played out a 1-1 draw at Meadow Park, with Morgan Ferrier and Matt McClure scoring in a three-minute window during the second half. At the EBB Stadium in December, The Shots ran out 2-0 victors, with Scott Rendell and Idris Kanu on the scoresheet.
Their first meeting at National League level had taken place in October 2015 at Meadow Park, with Charlie Walker netting in the 10th minute of a 1-0 win. However, Boreham Wood got a modicum of revenge in April 2016 with a 2-1 win at the EBB Stadium. Ricky Shakes gave the visitors an early lead, with Jake Gallagher equalising two minutes later. Chris Barker was wrongly sent off for an allegedly deliberate handball in the 76th minute, with Conor Clifford stepping up to dispatch the winner from the penalty spot. Arguably the most famous fixture between these clubs was the 1999 Isthmian League Cup Final, which Aldershot Town won 2-1 after extra time, thanks to a Gary Abbott brace.
Aldershot Town’s home record against Boreham Wood is very impressive, with six wins and just two defeats in eight games, keeping five clean sheets and conceding just five goals. As well as a 1-0 home victory in the 2002-03 Ryman League Premier Division title-winning season (Nick Roddis getting the only goal of the game), the Shots recorded a thumping 6-0 win in November 1998, with Roy Young and Gary Abbott both netting hat-tricks in a Ryman League Premier Division fixture. Former Head Groundsman Andy Nunn scored in a 3-1 win for the hosts in April 1995, whilst the first triumph for the visitors in north-east Hampshire came in November 2001 with a 2-0 win, also in the Ryman League Premier Division.
Saturday’s referee is Joe Johnson, who has taken the middle in 12 National League matches so far this season, showing 35 yellow cards and three red cards to date. He has previously refereed Aldershot Town twice this season; the 2-0 victory at FC Halifax Town on the opening day and the 2-1 away win at Dover Athletic.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and Shots defender Nick Arnold will be covering the game live on Saturday. Tune in to the BBC Sport website, or the BBC Sport App, from 2.50pm for full match commentary. You can also contact them throughout the afternoon on Twitter, via @RobShot66 and/or @narnold10, or the ‘Aldershot Town Football Club Fans Group’ page on Facebook.