Dover Athletic v Aldershot Town Match Preview – Saturday 6 January 2018
Two wins and two draws from their four festive fixtures have left Aldershot Town clear in second place in the National League table, albeit six points behind leaders Macclesfield Town. On New Year’s Day, they completed a derby double against local rivals Woking, thanks to two Scott Rendell strikes, either side of Kane Ferdinand’s leveller.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
The Shots were once again without injured skipper Callum Reynolds (ankle) at Woking as well as top scorer Shamir Fenelon who woke up feeling unwell on the morning of the game. Fortunately, Will Evans, who had sustained an eye injury against Maidstone United 48 hours earlier, was passed fit to play. Boss Gary Waddock will await the fitness of both before naming the squad that will travel to The Crabble, but will be able to add left-back Lewis Kinsella and striker Nicke Kabamba to his squad after the duo joined on loan from Colchester United and Portsmouth, respectively. Nick Arnold continues to recover from a long-term knee injury.
Opposition – Dover Athletic FC:
Founded: 1983 (following the dissolution of Dover FC)
Nickname: The Whites
Ground: Crabble Athletic Ground
Manager: Chris Kinnear
Dover Athletic were a Conference South club when they reached the third round of the FA Cup for the first time in 2011-12, following wins over Gillingham and Aldershot Town. In the 2012–13 season The Whites reached the Play-Offs, only to lose in the final to Salisbury City. In the following season the team reached the second round of the FA Cup and made the Play-Offs once more and, on 10 May 2014, they beat Ebbsfleet United 1-0 to seal the club’s return to the top flight of non-league football for the first time since 2002. In May 2016, in just their second season at this level, Dover Athletic finished fifth to make the National League Play-Offs but lost out to that season’s Promotion Final winner Forest Green Rovers. Last term, Athletic found themselves in a battle over the closing weeks for the final Play-Off spot with The Shots, which saw the Hampshire club pip The Whites to fifth place.
Chris Kinnear is in his second stint as Whites manager. In his first reign at Crabble, he took the club from the foot of the Southern League to the Conference, winning the Southern League Southern Division (1987-88) and the Southern League Premier Division twice (1989-90, 1992-93), reaching the Conference in 1993 for the first time, after the club were contentiously denied due to ground regulations in 1990.
After promotion in 1993, Kinnear led the club to eighth place in the first Conference season after an incredible start saw the team challenging at the top of the table before slipping away. A year later, personal issues led to his departure from Crabble after ten years of success.
Re-joining the club in 2013, he has led them to promotion back to the top tier of non-league football and fifth and sixth place finishes in the last two seasons.
Kinnear put together an almost entirely new squad in the summer, with just five players remaining from 2016-17. Eleven players departed at the end of their contracts, including the National League’s 40-goal top scorer Ricky Miller, who joined League One side Peterborough United. Fellow strikers Ross Lafayette and Moses Emmanuel signed for Sutton United, along with defender Aswad Thomas. Other notable departees include Maltese international Sam Magri (Ebbsfleet United), Bondz N’Gala (Dagenham & Redbridge) and Ricky Modeste (Billericay).
The Dover boss, who has reputation for getting the best out of players with a point to prove, recruited well. Connor Essam, who had been on loan at Crabble last season, signed permanently from Eastleigh, and other defensive signings included Josh Passley (Whitehawk), Femi Ilesanmi (Boreham Wood), Giancarlo Gallifuoco (Torquay United) and Manny Parry (Braintree Town). He bolstered his midfield ranks with the likes of Nortei Nortey (Solihull Moors) and Mitch Brundle (Gateshead). Up front, Kinnear has good competition for places with four forwards joining, in Toby Sho-Silva (Bromley), Jamie Allen (Southport), Kane Richards (Chester) and fourteen goal top scorer Ryan Bird (Newport County).
Kinnear’s most recent signing is former Aldershot Town star Liam Bellamy, who came on as a 68th minute substitute at Maidstone on New Year’s Day.
Dover come into Saturday’s game unbeaten in their last six National League matches, although they have drawn five of those games, including the last four. They have suffered just two defeats in their last eighteen league games.
When The Shots and the Whites met at the EBB Stadium in September, Kinnear’s men secured all three points with a 2-0 win, thanks to goals from Giancarlo Gallifuoco and Kadell Daniel. Last season, Aldershot Town won the key encounter between the two sides in April, with Matt McClure’s late penalty gaining The Shots three precious points in the race to a Play-Off place. Town has also won 2-1 at Crabble back in August 2016, which saw them end a wretched run at the ground. First-half goals saw Shamir Fenelon and Liam Bellamy (against his previous club) give The Shots a 2-0 lead, before ex-Shots loanee Ross Lafayette pulled one back. In a frantic, high-tempo second period, with the home side inspired by the half-time introduction of Ricky Miller, Town dug in and held on to claim all three points.
Saturday will see the eleventh meeting between the two sides, and the eighth in the league. In 2015-16, the Shots were demolished 5-2 at Crabble, with all five goals coming from set pieces. Goals from Sam Hatton and Charlie Walker had put the visitors back on level terms shortly after half-time before defensive errors sunk any hopes of a positive result. Earlier that season, Stefan Payne had given the Kent side an early advantage at the EBB Stadium, before Richard Brodie’s first goal for Town ensured both teams finished with a point. In September 2014, the Shots’ trip to Crabble was another horror show, with the visitors going down to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat. The reverse game in March 2015 finished 3-1 to the home side, thanks to goals from Andre McCollin and a Jim Stevenson brace.
The three previous occasions saw the sides face off in the FA Cup. The most recent one of those saw two Adam Birchall goals give the Whites (then of Conference South) a 2-0 home win against Kevin Dillon’s team in a second round tie in November 2010. The Kent side also won by the same score in the only other meeting at Crabble, which was a second qualifying round fixture in September 1996. Aldershot Town’s sole victory came courtesy of a Gary Abbott goal in a fourth qualifying round game on 31 October 2000.
Saturday’s referee is Joe Johnson, who has taken charge of 10 National League matches so far this season, showing 27 yellow cards and 2 red cards. He refereed Aldershot Town’s season opener at FC Halifax Town a game in which The Shots won 2-0.
BBC Surrey Sport’s Rob Worrall and FIFA18 commentator Brandon Smith will be covering the game live on Saturday afternoon. Tune-in to the BBC Sport website or the BBC Sport App from 2.50pm for full match commentary. To interact with them, tweet @RobShot66 and @smithster940.