Aldershot Town made it four points from two games with a battling point at Gateshead on Saturday. On Tuesday evening, they face a second consecutive away game, albeit one considerably closer to North-East Hampshire, as they make a visit to recently-promoted Dover Athletic. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Apart from the concession of an 88th-minute equaliser, the Shots’ performance at Gateshead closely mirrored that in their 1-0 win against Lincoln City seven days earlier. Andy Scott’s team weathered some early pressure before creating some chances for themselves. Jordan Roberts had had a header tipped over the bar in the 29th minute before Joe N’Guessan’s cross floated over Adam Bartlett and into the Gateshead net ten minutes later. The Stevenage loanee could have doubled the lead two minutes into the second half, but he fired over the bar from Dan Fitchett’s slide rule pass. The home side launched an aerial barrage in the final twenty minutes and their goal ensured, probably rightly, that the points were shared in the North-East.
The game continued the trend of Aldershot Town being better in the first half of games this season, They’d actually sit 8th if Conference games ended at half-time, whilst only three of the twelve goals they’ve conceded have been before the break. Overall on their travels, Andy Scott’s team have been solid, picking up six points from six games, including an excellent-looking point at Torquay United, as well as against Gateshead, and narrow defeats at Eastleigh and FC Halifax Town. Whilst their away record of just five goals conceded is very good indeed (only bettered by league-leaders Barnet), the total of five goals scored certainly needs some improvement.
Dover Athletic were formed in 1983, following the demise of Dover FC, and they have had a rollercoaster history thus far. Two promotions from the Southern League’s Southern Division (1987-88) and Premier Division (1992-93) saw the start of nine seasons in the non-league top-flight, with a best finish of 6th in 1999-2000. However, financial difficulties saw three relegations in four seasons, which left the club in Ryman Division One. Under the stewardship of Andy Hessenthaler, consecutive promotions were won in 2007-8 and 2008-09, which saw the Whites climb into Conference South. It was from there that they were promoted via the play-offs last season after a 5th-placed finish in the league.
However, the Kent side have struggled so far in this campaign, sitting 19th after twelve games. Last season’s success was built on the best defensive record in the division, but only three teams have conceded more than Dover Athletic’s 22 league goals. In fact, their clean sheet at the weekend was their first of the campaign. They’ve struggled at the other end of the pitch as well, notching just ten goals so far, which is the third-worst record in the Conference. They’ve also managed just six points from six games at Crabble in 2014-15, losing three in a row at home before their most recent fixture.
Chris Kinnear, who took over in January 2013 after previously managing the Whites from 1985 to 1995, has admitted that his team have struggled since promotion. He told Kent Online before the weekend’s 1-0 home win over Alfreton Town: “It’s a massive step-up, it’s more like jumping two leagues with the difference you’ve got between the full-time former Football League clubs and clubs like us who’ve come up from the Conference South… It’s been a hard learning curve but that’s all part and parcel of getting promoted and we’ve got to keep our heads and start getting some results… We’ve played almost all of the top sides and now we’ve got some games coming up against some of the middle of the road teams, when hopefully we’ll be able to pick up some points.”
Andy Scott named an unchanged starting line-up for the trip to Gateshead, with Joe N’Guessan keeping his place in the starting line-up despite coming off against Lincoln City last weekend with a head injury. That also meant Dan Fitchett started alongside Brett Williams and, even though he couldn’t get on the scoresheet for the Shots, the former Salisbury City striker worked tremendously hard for the team. It must only be a matter of time before the 23-year-old gets his first goal for Aldershot Town. Saturday also saw a Shots debut, albeit as a 92nd-minute replacement, for former Weston-super-Mare midfielder Naby Diallo
A further name was added to the Aldershot Town injury list, with Josh Scott unavailable to face Gateshead after picking up a groin injury in the win over the Imps. His absence meant Andy Scott could only name four substitutes at the weekend. Club captain Chris Barker has missed the last eight games with a calf problem, whilst Mark Molesley currently has a tendonitis issue that has seen him miss the Shots’ last six fixtures. Neither are scheduled to be fit for Tuesday’s trip to Kent, but Tristan Plummer, who has been absent for the last three with a hamstring issue, may be an option for the Shots manager.
Despite May’s promotion, Chris Kinnear made some dramatic changes to his squad over the summer, with eleven players arriving at the Crabble Athletic Ground on permanent deals since the end of last season. Goalkeeper Andrew Rafferty arrived after he left Hartlepool United last month, whilst centre-back Connor Essam (Crawley Town) and left-back Tyrone Sterling (Dartford) add quality to the defensive corps. Former Aldershot Town scholar Rob Gerrard and Sean Francis (Bishop’s Stortford) also add depth in that area. Attacking midfielders Christian Nanetti (Havant & Waterlooville), Matty Saunders (Whitehawk), Nicky Deverdics (Tadcaster Albion) and Matt Lock (Australian club Bunbury Forum Force) have all featured in the first quarter of this campaign, whilst ex-Shot Stefan Payne (31 goals for Ryman League Premier side AFC Hornchurch last season) and Jake Reid (Bromley) will look to fire the Whites to safety. However, their top scorer in 2014-15 is Luton Town loanee Ricky Miller, who has three league goals so far after leading Conference North last season with 24 goals for Boston United. Former Shots loanee Solomon Taiwo is also on a month-long loan deal from the Hatters, whilst Cambridge United defender Tom Bonner is on loan until January.
Amongst those who departed Dover Athletic over the summer were former Aldershot Town centre back Terrell Forbes, strikers Moses Ademola and Elliot Charles, plus midfielders James Rogers, Ashley Carew and Michael Kamara. Since the start of the campaign, Kinnear has also let midfielders Barry Cogan (fourteen goals last season) and Liam Bellamy go on loan to Margate and Chelmsford City respectively. Amongst those who have remained with the Whites for their return to the non-league top-flight are goalkeeper Mitch Walker, captain Craig Stone, fellow defenders Sean Raggett, Richard Orlu and Tom Wynter, midfielders Ricky Modeste and Chris Kinnear Jr, plus strikers Tom Murphy (also scored fourteen times for The Whites last season), Nathan Elder and ex-Shot Jeff Goulding.
The Dover Athletic boss does have some injury issues with Walker (elbow) and Modeste (ankle) both missing games in recent weeks. However, he may have Wynter back for the visit of Aldershot Town with the left back missing the previous five fixtures with a hamstring problem.
This week’s game sees the first league meeting between Aldershot Town and Dover Athletic, although they have met on three previous occasions in the FA Cup. The most recent was one that Shots fans will want to forget, with it being the first time that the team has lost in the competition to a club from a lower level. Two Adam Birchall goals gave 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 sole Gary Abbott goal in a Fourth Qualifying Round game at what is now the Electrical Services Stadium on 31 October 2000.
Tuesday evening’s referee is Justin Amey from Dorset, who took charge of the Shots’ 1-1 draw at Torquay United last month. He also oversaw a pair of Aldershot Town away games last season – the 3-1 victory at Barnet in January and March’s 1-0 defeat at Braintree Town.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Tuesday evming. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 7pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website at 7.35pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against the Kent side. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)