Aldershot Town v Eastleigh – Match Preview – Monday 2 April 2018
Aldershot Town’s 0-0 draw at Solihull Moors on Good Friday saw them move up to fourth place in the National League, with six games left to play. Goalkeeper Lewis Ward put in an outstanding display to help secure that point whilst, at the other end, The Shots had two decent second-half penalty appeals turned down. On Easter Monday, Town are back at The EBB Stadium, where they host fellow Hampshire outfit Eastleigh – a side that they’ve not yet beaten at National League level in nine attempts.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
With two games in three days, Shots manager Gary Waddock may well choose to shuffle his pack for Monday’s game and he should have good options available to him with an almost fully fit squad and only Nick Arnold continuing his return from long-term injury. George Fowler, Nicke Kebamba and Bobby-Joe Taylor were all surplus to requirements on Friday and could come back into the squad if required.
Opposition – Eastleigh FC
Founded: 1946 (as Swaythling Athletic FC)
Nickname: The Spitfires, after the original Spitfire assembled at Eastleigh Airport
Ground: Silverlake Stadium
Manager: Andy Hessenthaler
Having gained promotion from Conference South as Champions in 2014, Eastleigh made the play-offs in their first season in Non-League’s top flight. However, they couldn’t get past a strong Grimsby Town outfit, who went on to win promotion to the Football League. Since then, they’ve twice finished in mid-table, although they have had decent FA Cup runs in both seasons.
Andy Hessenthaler took up the managerial reigns at the Silverlake in November, swapping job roles with Richard Hill, who moved upstairs to become Director of Football. Hessenthaler – a former player who was plucked from non-league at the age of 26 and went on to play almost 500 games for Watford and Gillingham – also brings with him a wealth of managerial experience. He has been in charge at Gillingham on three separate occasions, spells which sandwiched a successful spell at Dover Athletic, and more recently has also bossed Leyton Orient.
In the close season, Hill retained fifteen of last season’s Spitfires squad and recruited a further twelve players to it, including some notable additions to his forward line. Chris Zebroski (eight goals to date) returned for a second spell at the club, and was joined by former Leyton Orient striker Paul McCallum (six goals so far) and former Cambridge United forward Ben Williamson, who is joint top scorer with Zebroski, with eight. Other signings included five players with Football League experience, and they added to those ranks with the long-term loan signing of Lincoln City central defender Callum Howe. More recently, Hessenthaler has strengthened his squad further with two more loan signings, in midfielders Sam Matthews (Bournemouth) and Ryan Broom (Bristol Rovers).
Eastleigh have spent the majority of this season in mid-table; however, under Hessenthaler, their results have picked up slightly. They quickly put together an unbeaten run of nine matches, although this was followed by three consecutive defeats. They currently sit in 14th place in the National League and, in their last match, they beat play-off contenders Dover Athletic 2-1.
Whilst the first five fixtures between Aldershot Town & Eastleigh took place in the Hampshire Senior Cup, they’ve also met nine times in league action since the latter’s most recent promotion. The Spitfires won the first four and defeated the Shots 1-0 at the EBB Stadium in November 2016 thanks to a goal from Mikael Mandron. Earlier this season, the two sides played out a 0-0 draw at The Silverlake, with Kodi-Lyons Foster being sent-off for The Shots.
Back in February 2017, the sides drew 1-1, with a late Craig McAllister strike cancelling out Idris Kanu’s first-half goal for the visitors, who also had Jim Kellermann sent-off. The Spitfires managed two victories in North-East Hampshire the previous season: in August 2015’s league game, Lee Cook’s late goal secured a 2-1 win for Eastleigh, whilst in the first round of the FA Trophy, three months later, another close affair was won by Ross Lafayette for the visitors with ten minutes to go. Soon after that game, penalties from Josh Payne and Sam Hatton ensured a point apiece in a 1-1 draw at the Silverlake.
In August 2013, in front of the TV cameras, the two clubs played out a dour encounter decided by a 90th-minute goal from home striker Ben Wright, with the Spitfires completing the double three months later, as goals from Craig McAllister and Stuart Fleetwood secured a 2-0 win at the EBB Stadium.
Of those five Hampshire Senior Cup ties, Aldershot Town won four and lost one, with the Shots winning all three at the Silverlake Stadium. In January 1996, a Mark Anderson brace and one from Jamie Horton gave the visitors a 3-2 win in a second round tie, whilst goals from Roy Young and Darren Brodrick gave them a 2-1 victory at the quarter-final stage two years later. The most recent Hampshire Senior Cup tie, in March 2007, saw Kirk Hudson get the only goal in another quarter-final match. Meanwhile, the two ties at the EBB Stadium saw a win for each club: a Lee Charles brace in January 2003 gave the home side a 2-1 victory in a quarter-final match-up, whilst Eastleigh got revenge a year later, triumphing 1-0 in a fourth round game in North East Hampshire.
Monday’s referee is David Rock, who has refereed 22 National League games so far this season, showing 50 yellow cards and three red cards to date. He has already refereed Aldershot Town on four occasions this season, and in the most recent of those sent-off Will Evans after just three minutes against league leaders Macclesfield Town.
BBC Surrey Sport’s Rob Worrall and Shots defender Nick Arnold will be covering the game live on Monday afternoon. Tune in to the BBC Sport website or BBC Sport App from 2.50pm for full match commentary. To interact with them, tweet @RobShot66 and @narnold10.