Preview: Bradford City v Aldershot Town

Aldershot Town suffered their second defeat in three days on Saturday afternoon, going down to a 2-0 defeat at Kidderminster Harriers. However, the players can put the disappointment of the weekend behind them with Wednesday’s televised FA Cup First Round replay at League One side Bradford City. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.

Barry Smith was furious with his team’s performance at the weekend, saying their opponents “wanted it more” and that his players “just thought it was Kidderminster and they would turn up and allow us to win”. A poor first half from both teams saw neither keeper making a save, although Dipo Akinyemi headed over the bar from Dan Walker’s fine cross. The hosts, however, started the second period with a tempo that the Shots couldn’t match, scoring in the 53rd and 59th minutes through James McQuilken and Ben Whitfield respectively. Charlie Walker (twice) and Dan Walker both forced fine saves from Harriers’ stopper Dean Snedker in the final 25 minutes, but it was too little too late.

The two recent losses came after a six-game unbeaten streak, albeit the last three results in that sequence were draws, meaning the Shots have now gone five games without a win since last month’s 1-0 victory at Boreham Wood. A lot has also been made of Aldershot Town’s defensive prowess over recent weeks, which has drawn attention away from a paucity of goals over the last month. The last seven games in all competitions have seen Smith’s side notch just five goals, failing to score more than one in any of them. However, Saturday saw Aldershot Town fail to score for the first time in nine fixtures away from the EBB Stadium (they’d scored fifteen goals in that run of games).

Bradford City were formed in 1903 and immediately elected into the Second Division of the Football League. They’ve spent two spells in the top flight – 1908 to 1922 and 1999 to 2001 – but the latter relegation was the first of three in seven campaigns that saw them drop into League Two for the 2007-08 season. It took them six years to get back into the third tier, which they did with a Play-Off Final win against Northampton Town in 2013. That season also saw them improbably make their way to the League Cup Final, where they lost 5-0 to Swansea City after knocking out Premier League sides Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa en route to Wembley.

They finished seventh last season, four points from the play-offs, and they sit in the same position in this campaign after seventeen league outings. The West Yorkshire side have won five and drawn two of their last seven league outings and their success is based on the third-best defensive record in the division. Only Burton Albion and Walsall have conceded fewer than the Bantams’ eighteen league goals, whilst they’ve kept three consecutive clean sheets. They’ve got the ninth-best home record in League One, with their four-game unbeaten run at Valley Parade includes winning their last two against Blackpool and Crewe Alexandra at the weekend

Manager Phil Parkinson, who has been in charge since August 2011, wasn’t impressed with his team’s performance at the EBB Stadium. He told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus: “We’ve still got a big job to do… We were probably 75 per cent in the first half and could have been punished… We came up against a team who have conceded very few goals over recent weeks. I know their two centre halves are highly rated and a lot of clubs are watching them both… “If you look at the last few home performances they’ve been really good and we’ll have to get up to those levels to win. It will be a big day out for the Aldershot players. Their lads want to be league players and they’ll have a determination to do well there.”


Barry Smith made three changes for the trip to Aggborough, one of which was enforced as Luke Oliver came in for the injured Jack Saville. Oliver was withdrawn in the 63rd minute of his first start since mid-September as the Shots chased a way back into the game, but will be desperate to feature on Wednesday after scoring five goals in 119 games for Bradford City between March 2010 and January 2014. The other changes saw Richard Brodie and Rhys Browne being preferred to Charlie Walker and Tom Richards, who both dropped to the bench and appeared as second half substitutes. Walker certainly impressed after coming off the bench and is almost certain to start in midweek.

Saville missed the game at Kidderminster with a hamstring problem and definitely won’t make the trip to Valley Parade, whilst fellow defender Joe Oastler is back in training after an ankle operation over the summer and is expected to return to action in the next three weeks. Stevenage loanee Dipo Akinyemi was signed by the Shots after the initial draw, so is ineligible to feature on Wednesday evening.

As you’d expect from a side just outside the League One Play-Offs, Bradford City’s squad is full of quality and options aplenty for Phil Parkinson. The former Crewe Alexandra and Colchester United goalkeeper Ben Williams is the first-choice between the posts, with youngster Joe Cracknell, who signed from Hull City over the summer, as his back-up. The excellent defensive record is protected by centre-backs Rory McArdle, Reece Burke (on loan from West Ham United) and Nathan Clarke (signed from Leyton Orient in July), whilst Christopher Roustis has recently returned from a long-term calf injury. The first choice full-backs are Stephen Darby and James Meredith, with youngster Luca Mellor and former Crewe Alexandra left-back Greg Leigh as their deputies.

The experienced Gary Liddle, former Woking loanee Billy Knott and Lee Evans (on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers) have rotated the two central midfield roles between them this season, whilst Tony McMahon (signed from Blackpool in the close season), Kyel Reid (on loan from Preston North End).and Mark Marshall (formerly of Barnet and Port Vale) provide the width. Upfront, the Bantams boss can call upon three excellent strikers – James Hanson (five goals this season, 79 goals in 288 appearances since signing in 2009), Billy Clarke (just back from a knee injury, fourteen-goal top scorer last season) and Devante Cole (five goals in this campaign after arriving from Manchester City). At the weekend, youngsters Dylan Mottley-Henry and Luke James filled out the substitutes bench.

Meredith (Australia), Burke (England Under-20s) and Lee Evans (Wales Under-21s) all missed the weekend victory as they were away on international duty, with Meredith and Evans definitely being unavailable on Wednesday as they’re still away with their national sides. Burke has come back to West Yorkshire with a slight knee problem, whilst midfielder Josh Morris and forward Steven Davies are both doubts with long-term knee injuries. Winger Paul Anderson will definitely be unavailable having suffered a broken leg at the end of September.

FA Cup history
Aldershot Town’s recent history in the world’s oldest cup competition has been the proverbial rollercoaster ride, with two highs and one extraordinary low in the last three years. Last year, the Shots knocked out Portsmouth in the First Round before losing to League One side Rochdale in a Second Round replay, whilst they reached the Fourth Round in 2012-13. They lost to an injury-time winner against Championship side Middlesbrough, having beaten fellow League Two clubs Fleetwood Town and Rotherham United in their two previous ties. In between those campaigns, Aldershot Town suffered the worst FA Cup result in their history, being knocked out in the Fourth Qualifying Round by Shortwood United of the Southern League Division One South & West, a side 65 places below them in the football pyramid at the time. Overall, though, the Shots’ record in the FA Cup has been excellent, reaching at least the Second Round in ten of the previous twelve seasons.

Bradford City won the FA Cup back in 1911, beating Newcastle United 1-0 at Old Trafford in a replay after a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace. The winning goal was scored by Jimmy Spiers, who won the Military Medal for bravery in the field during the First World War before being killed during the Battle of Passchendaele in August 1917. They have lost in the First Round in three of the previous six campaigns, but last season they went on a superb run to the quarter-finals. They beat National League opposition – FC Halifax Town and Darttord – in the first two rounds, before needing a replay to beat Championship side Millwall in the Third Round. They then famously won 4-2 at Chelsea before beating Sunderland 2-0 at Valley Parade. The last eight tie saw a 0-0 home draw with Reading, before losing 3-0 in the replay at the Madejski Stadium.

This week’s replay sees the twelfth meeting between Aldershot Town and Bradford City, with the Shots winning five and losing four of the previous eleven fixtures. Seven of the first eight were won by the home side, but the away side has got something from the last three games. The two sides drew 0-0 at the EBB Stadium in the first game of this tie in an even contest, with Jim Stevenson forcing a fine save from Ben Williams in the 34th minute; Phil Smith did likewise to deny Billy Clarke two minutes into the second half. In the last pair of league meetings, two Nahki Wells goals gave the Bantams a comfortable 2-0 win at the EBB Stadium in November 2012, whilst a 97th minute penalty – conceded by Aaron Morris, dispatched by Alan Connell – made it 1-1 in Aldershot Town’s last visit to Valley Parade the following March. Kieron Cadogan has given the visitors the first-half advantage.

After three consecutive defeats in West Yorkshire, including a 5-0 hammering under Gary Waddock in March 2009, Aldershot Town finally picked up their first win at Valley Parade on the opening day of lthe 2011-12 campaign. Danny Hylton and a Robbie Threlfall own goal gave the visitors the decisive lead, before James Hanson’s bullet header gave the hosts a 90th-minute consolation.

Aldershot FC had an equally poor record in West Yorkshire winning three, drawing two and losing nine of their fourteen visits to the Bantams.


Wednesday evening’s referee is Keith Hill from Hertfordshire, who has taken charges of three Shots games, all of which were 1-1 draws – at Cheltenham Town in February 2013, at home to Notts County in February 2010 and at Torquay United in September 2009. This season he’s officiated in fifteen fixtures in all competitions, showing 58 yellow cards and three red cards.


BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison will be covering the game on Wednesday evening in a BBC Surrey Sport midweek special. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM from 7.05pm for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by regular updates and instant goal news.

You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport and @GavinDenison