Last Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat against Southport – their fourth in five games – was overshadowed by Monday’s news that Barry Smith had decided against renewing his Aldershot Town contract for personal and family reasons. He’ll look for one final victory this weekend as they travel to mid-table Bromley. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The loss on Saturday wasn’t how the Shots boss would have wanted to sign off at the EBB Stadium, but it was a performance all too familiar to the home fans. They went ahead in the ninth minute through Dan Walker, but the visitors were the dominant side from that point forwards. They equalised nine minutes later through Liam Nolan after the Shots failed to clear a set piece from their left, with Andy Wright’s 39th-minute winner coming from the same source. In between those goals, Charlie Walker’s header hit the bar, whilst Dan Thomas saved from Louis Almond and Mike Phenix just before the break. In the second half, Southport keeper Andy Coughlin was untroubled with Rhys Browne, Dan Walker and Ross Lafayette all failing to hit the target from inside the penalty area.
Two of the main statistics from Barry Smith’s year in charge are contradicting in the extreme. The Shots equalled the club record of twelve home defeats in a season, but they haven’t bettered this season’s eight away wins since they won thirteen times on the road during the 2007-08 promotion campaign. Two other stand-out figures are that only FC Halifax Town and Torquay United have conceded more than the Shots’ 71 goals this season, whilst they’ve also dropped 22 points from winning positions in 2015-16. Whilst the season has finished meekly, Smith’s side were 13th, just ten points off the play-offs at the end of February. His main regret may be that they couldn’t push on from that point, especially bearing in mind the average current position (13.1) of their final twelve opponents.
Bromley Football Club was founded in 1892, switching between the Kent, London, Spartan, Athenian and Isthmian League before settling in the latter in 1952. They’ve won three FA Amateur Cups and were Isthmian League winners on four occasions, whilst their promotion via the Play-Offs in 2007 started a run of eight seasons in Conference South. On six consecutive occasions they ended the season between 11th and 17th before a third-place finish in 2013-14 (losing to Ebbsfleet United in the Play-Off semi-final) and the National League South title last season. They finished two points clear of Boreham Wood to secure their first appearance in the non-league top flight with some style.
They continued that form at the start of 2015-16 and actually sat in 4th place at the end of October. However, they’ve dropped back into midtable since that time and are currently 13th with 60 points from their 45 games. That slump actually saw promotion-winning manager Mark Goldberg getting the sack on 4 February, with the former Woking midfielder Neil Smith subsequently taking charge. Bromley have only won one of their last eight games, but they do have the eighth-best scoring record in the National League. The Ravens also have the 9th-best home record in the division, but a run of sixteen points from a possible eighteen at Hayes Lane was ended earlier this month with a home loss to Torquay United.
Smith oversaw a 3-1 defeat at Gateshead last weekend, but he’s battled a crippling injury list since taking charge. He told the News Shopper earlier this month after a draw with Altrincham: “On the bench we had a 16-year-old keeper who is signing up for the academy next year. We had a couple of other teenagers, too. The future is looking bright but we are down to out bare bones. It would be nice if we could finish the season on a high with all our first-team players, but I have no problem bringing the youngsters on because I rate them highly… I want to be in the top 10 and especially at home, we want to put on a display for the supporters… I know whoever I put in will put a shift in and that’s all I ask for.”
Barry Smith made two changes for the visit of Southport, with Jack Saville, who had missed two games with an ankle injury, returning to the starting eleven at centre-back in place of the suspended Chris Barker. The other addition saw Dan Walker replacing Jim Stevenson, who dropped to the bench. Walker, who’d last featured against Torquay United in mid-March, rewarded his manager by scoring his first Shots goal at the EBB Stadium. After being very critical of his players’ application and commitment last Saturday, changes to the starting eleven can be expected for the trip to Bromley. Barker will be available after serving his one-game ban.
The Aldershot Town manager will definitely be without midfielder Damon Lathrope, who suffered a fractured foot in February, and Joe Oastler, who picked up a knee injury at Chester last month, whilst Sean McGinty (dislocated shoulder) will also be unavailable. Goalkeeper Phil Smith has also sat on the bench for the last three games because of a thigh problem, so Dan Thomas should start once again.
Mark Goldberg was able to keep the majority of his title-winning squad intact last summer, whilst also adding a number of players with Football League experience. The seven permanent signings included former Newport County midfielders Lee Minshull and Max Porter, strikers Alex Wall (Luton Town, six goals on loan at Dartford in 2013-14) and Bradley Goldberg (seven goals in the previous campaign whilst on loan from Dagenham & Redbridge), plus centre-back Ben Chorley from Portsmouth. They also snapped up defenders Sean Francis from Dover Athletic and Aaron Tumwa from Farnborough. Since the turn of the year, the attacking ranks have been strengthened by striker Adam Cunnington (Ebbsfleet United), plus attacking midfielders Nathan Coombes (Notts County) and Rohdell Gordon (Stevenage, three month loan).
Amongst the players who remained at Hayes Lane following the end of the previous campaign include twenty-goal top scorer, Moses Emmanuel. However, the former Woking forward has scored just three times in 2016. Fellow strikers Pierre Joseph-Dubois and Louis Dennis, who both scored nine goals last season, are also still at the club, as are midfielders Reece Prestedge and Ali Fuseini. Experienced goalkeeper Alan Julian has been a regular starter, as have defenders Rob Swaine (who was also in the 2014-15 Conference South Team of the Year), Joe Anderson, Paul Rodgers and Jack Holland. Amongst the players that did leave the club last summer were former Aldershot Town striker Jamie Slabber (now at Sutton United, twelve goals last season), midfielder Danny Waldren (ten goals, Dulwich Hamlet) and goalkeeper Seb Brown (Hampton & Richmond Borough), whilst forward Anthony Cook moved to Ebbsfleet United in December.
As mentioned, Neil Smith has had serious injury problems since taking charge, and this weekend should be no different. Six players – forwards Alex Wall, Moses Emmanuel, Louis Dennis and Ben May, plus midfielders Max Porter and Lee Minshull – were missing from last Saturday’s game. However, he will be able to add Ali Fuseini to his squad after he served a one-match suspension against Gateshead.
Saturday afternoon sees the tenth meeting between these two sides with the Shots winning five, losing twice and drawing twice. Six of those games were in cup competitions with the only two league meetings prior to this season happening in the 1998-99 campaign. In September 1998, Aldershot Town picked up a 1-1 draw away from home thanks to a Gary Abbott goal, whilst the legendary Shots striker also scored in the 3-0 home win three months later. The most recent game took place last October at the EBB Stadium, with Charlie Walker giving the home side the lead in the 38th minute. Jack Holland equalised with a fine goal three minutes later before Jake Gallagher received a second half red card.
Aldershot Town have won two, drawn one and lost one of their four visits to Hayes Lane. Their only wins came in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup in October 2005 (Tim Sills scoring the only goal of the tie) and in the first leg of the Isthmian League Cup Semi-Final in March 1999, with the Shots winning 3-1 in South-East London. They ended up winning 4-3 on aggregate before Aldershot Town beating Boreham Wood to win the trophy. In addition to the 1-1 league draw mentioned above, Bromley also won 3-1 in an Ryman League Full Members Cup tie in October 1999.
If he plays this weekend, Cheye Alexander will be making his 50th league appearance for the Shots, all of which have come in consecutive games.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Adam Hopkins from Plymouth, who took charge of October’s 1-1 draw between these two teams, as well as the Shots’ 2-1 home defeat against Gateshead on the opening day of this season. This season he’s officiated in nine National League fixtures, showing 21 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 or DAB from 5pm for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website and BBC Sport app from 5.15pm.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @gavindenison and @bbcsurreysport