Aldershot Town v Ebbsfleet United – Play-Off Eliminator Match Preview – Wednesday 2 May 2018, 7pm
Aldershot Town completed their 2017-18 National League fixtures with a 2-1 defeat at Gander Green Lane on Saturday, as Sutton United cemented third-place. The loss saw The Shots drop a place to fifth, so they have ultimately finished in the same position as last season, once again qualifying for the end of season play-offs. On Wednesday, in-form Ebbsfleet United come to The EBB Stadium for a one-off ‘Eliminator’ tie (kick-off 7pm) to determine which of the two teams will travel to Prenton Park on Saturday to take on second-placed Tranmere Rovers for a place in the promotion decider at Wembley on Saturday 12th May.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
With the exception of long-term absentee Nick Arnold, Gary Waddock has a full playing squad to choose from. He decided not to risk Matt McClure at Sutton, following a groin injury, but he may come back into contention for Wednesday’s match day squad.
Opposition – Ebbsfleet United FC:
Nickname: The Fleet
Ground: Stonebridge Road
Manager: Daryl McMahon
Ebbsfleet were promoted to the National League in 2011 but then suffered relegation in 2013 to National League South, where they remained until last season’s promotion. They battled it out with Maidenhead United for the title, losing just four matches all season, but eventually finished second on 96 points. In the Play-Offs, they faced Hampton & Richmond Borough, beating them 2-1 in both legs to progress to the final, where they took on Chelmsford City and another 2-1 victory saw them secure a place in the National League.
Daryl McMahon began life in football with West Ham United in 2002 and eventually made his professional debut during a loan spell with Torquay United. He had spells with Port Vale, Leyton Orient and Notts County, before signing-on for two years at Stevenage. He later went on to play for Cambridge United, Farnborough and Boreham Wood, where he joined as a player-coach in 2011 at the age of 27. He left in 2012 and joined Eastleigh, before a year with Dover Athletic. His first spell with Ebbsfleet United was in 2013, and he was appointed Caretaker-Manager following the departure of Steve Brown in 2014, taking control for three games before Jamie Day was appointed. In 2015, he signed for Boreham Wood and made 11 appearances. In April 2015, he was offered the role as manager at Ebbsfleet United, finishing second in his first season before losing in the Play-Offs to Maidstone United. Twelve months later he led The Fleet to promotion. The 33-year-old signed a five-year deal this season and has led his side to a sixth-place finish and the play-offs at their first opportunity.
Sam Deering was the only player to leave Stonebridge Road of their own choice following last season’s promotion to the National League, opting to join the revolution at Billericay Town. McMahon retained eighteen players – more than any other National League club – including ex Shots Dave Winfield and Aaron McLean. He added eight players in the close season, most notably Maltese international defender Sam Magri from Dover Athletic, experienced winger Myles Weston (Wycombe Wanderers) and midfielder Jack Payne (Blackpool). Striker Danny Kedwell (19 goals) and midfielders Jack Powell (10) and Luke Coulson (9) topped the Fleet goalscoring charts this season. Mid-season captures included the vastly-experienced Port Vale right-back Lawrie Wilson and Dagenham & Redbridge forward Corey Whitely, who both joined on loan for the run-in.
After a bizarre start to the season, in which Ebbsfleet drew ten of their first eleven National League games, they then began to find the winning formula, although it was The Shots that brought an end to Fleet’s thirty-two match unbeaten run that had extended through the back end of the 2016-17 season and into their first couple of months in the top tier of Non-League. The Fleet ended the season strongly, climbing from twelfth in mid-February to finish 6th, losing just once in their final fourteen fixtures.
The Shots came away from Stonebridge Road with all three points when the teams met in September 2017, with James Rowe and Scott Rendell scoring the goals in a 2-0 victory. Honours were even back in January, when McMahon’s side shut out The Shots at The EBB Stadium to earn themselves a key point.
Overall, Aldershot Town enjoy the better record, having won ten, drawn six and lost just four of the twenty matches played between the two sides. In the 2007-08 season, in which Waddock led Aldershot Town back to the Football League, Town took four of the six points in the Conference. However, Ebbsfleet prevailed in the two-legged FA Trophy semi-final, beating Shots 3-1 at Stonebridge Road and progressing to Wembley with a 1-1 second leg draw at The Rec.
Wednesday’s referee is Alan Young, who has taken charge of 25 National League matches this season, showing 88 yellow cards and three red cards. He has taken the middle in four Aldershot Town matches this season, which include one win, one draw and one defeat at The EBB Stadium – against Torquay United, Sutton United and Dover Athletic, respectively – as well as the 2-0 defeat at Tranmere Rovers.
BBC Surrey Sport’s Rob Worrall and Shots legend Nikki Bull will be covering the game live on Wednesday evening. Tune-in to the BBC Sport website or BBC Sport App from 6.50pm for full match commentary. During the game, tweet your views to @RobShot66.