Last weekend Aldershot Town secured arguably their best result of the season so far with a 2-1 home victory over Grimsby Town. That win lifted the Shots to eighth in the table, but another tough task awaits this weekend as the Shots kick-off September with the long trip to high-flying FC Halifax Town. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
After 35 minutes of last Saturday’s game, you wouldn’t have got particularly favourable odds on Aldershot Town picking up their third win of the season. That opening period saw the Mariners hit the post, have a shot cleared off the line and force goalkeeper Phil Smith into a trio of smart saves. However, the dismissal of Lenell John-Lewis changed the game and the Shots took full advantage, playing some superb football in the process. A Brett Williams brace means he now has five goals in six games this season, with the second strike proving to be the winner after Grimsby Town took advantage of a defensive error to half the deficit. Once again, the 26-year-old proved his worth to the club and it was a huge relief that the transfer deadline passed without his departure for a higher-ranked team.
The three points accrued at the weekend gave the Shots a total of eleven points from their six games in August. That average of 1.83 points per game is the club’s highest in August since 2006’s ten points from five games. They’re unbeaten in their last four league games, whilst their away form has also been an improvement from the previous campaign. Andy Scott’s men were unlucky not to get a point at Eastleigh in the first fixture on their travels, but they’ve since won at AFC Telford United and drawn at Torquay United. If you look at their last six games across this season and the end of 2013-14, the Shots have eleven points from six away league games.
The story of FC Halifax Town has been a brief and incredibly successful one. The club was founded six years ago following the demise of their precursors, Halifax Town, who were wound up following their relegation from the Conference Premier in 2008, with debts of over £2 million. The West Yorkshire side secured three promotions in their first four years, winning the Northern Premier League Division One North (2009-10) and the Northern Premier League Premier Division (2010-11), before winning the 2013 Conference North Play-Off Final. Last season, they weren’t too far away from another promotion, finishing 5th in the non-league top-flight before losing to Cambridge United in the Play-Off semi-finals.
The Shaymen made a super start to this campaign, winning their first five games by an aggregate score of 16-3. That run came to an end with a 2-1 loss at Bristol Rovers last Saturday, a result which dropped FC Halifax Town to 2nd in the embryonic Conference table. Their excellent record since their promotion to this level has been down to their form at The Shay, where they haven’t lost in the league since 7 December 2013. During that time, they’ve won ten and drawn four of their fourteen home league fixtures, plus they’re the only team this season with a 100% home record. They’ve beaten Southport, Welling United and Lincoln City, scoring three goals in each outing.
Neil Aspin has been in charge since April 2009 and he was bullish following Saturday’s defeat. He told the Halifax Courier after the game: “Any game you lose you are disappointed but when you dominate the second-half and the players have put in so much effort, they really didn’t get what they deserved today… I felt we deserved to win the match so the result is disappointing, but not the performance, and the players have got to take heart from the fact that they finished the game well. The second-half of the game they were really strong, pushed them back, and dominated Bristol on their own pitch…. It’s important as a manager I take it on the chin but we’ve got to go again and put another run together.”
Andy Scott made two changes to his starting line-up on Saturday afternoon with Dan Fitchett making his full Shots debut in place of Josh Scott, whilst Mark Molesley returned in place of Anthony Tonkin, who dropped to the bench. That meant Jordan Roberts dropped into the back four, and the 20-year-old had one of his best games in an Aldershot Town shirt. He moved back into midfield in the second half and, along with half-time arrival Joe N’Guessan, helped provide extra width and pace to the Shots attack. It was also a very successful afternoon for Fitchett, who set up both Brett Williams’ goals and looked like an excellent addition to Andy Scott’s squad.
Club captain Chris Barker has missed the last two games with a calf injury, and certainly won’t be rushed back to action. Striker Josh Scott will be available this weekend after missing the win over Grimsby Town to attend the birth of his first child, which gives Andy Scott a nice selection headache, whilst the Shots boss was also able to welcome Tristan Plummer back to his matchday squad last weekend. The former Weston-super-Mare winger missed the last two months of the 2013-14 campaign with a knee injury, whilst a hamstring injury precluded him from the first month of this season.
Neil Aspin was able to keep the majority of last season’s play-off squad together, with seven players arriving and only five leaving The Shay. The biggest departure was, of course, last season’s top scorer Lee Gregory, who moved to Millwall after notching 29 league goals and 32 in all competitions. Defenders Ryan Toulson and Chris Smith, plus midfielders Ryan Crowther and Danny Lowe also left the club over the summer. Amongst those who have remained to push for promotion once again include goalkeeper Matt Glennon, defenders Scott McManus, Matty Pearson, Simon Ainge and Marc Roberts, plus midfielders Paul Marshall, Lois Maynard, Danny Schofield and former Shots winger Adam Smith.
With the loss of Gregory, most of Aspin’s summer acquisitions have been in the attacking third. Scott Boden arrived from Macclesfield Town after scoring eighteen Conference Premier league goals last season, whilst Richard Peniket signed from Tamworth. Both strikers have got three goals for the Shaymen in this campaign, as has the centre-back Marc Roberts. Ross Dyer (Mansfield Town) and Jamie Jackson (Bradford Park Avenue) also add options upfront, whilst ex-Macclesfield Town defenders Steve Williams and James Bolton, plus ex-Cambridge United full-back Kevin Roberts, provide depth amongst the defensive ranks.
Peniket went off in the first half at Bristol Rovers with a knee injury, and won’t be fit for the visit of the Shots, whilst defenders Williams and Pearson have picked up knocks this week and are considered doubts for the game.
Aldershot Town met FC Halifax Town for the first two occasions last season, with the visitors getting a hammering on 16 November at The Shay. A limp first half saw goals from Lee Gregory, Adam Smith and Scott McManus, whilst a Marc Roberts header completed the 4-0 rout. In January 2014, the West Yorkshire side came to the Electrical Services Stadium and secured a 2-2 draw. Goals from Jordan Roberts and Craig Stanley were bookended by a Lee Gregory brace, whilst Brett Williams missed a penalty with the game at 0-0.
Aldershot Town’s record at the Shay is less than impressive, with just five points from their six visits and no victories from the last five trips to the ground. The only win came courtesy of a Tim Sills brace in a 2-1 away win in February 2004. Those six fixtures also saw just thirteen goals (ten for the hosts, three for the Shots), so we’ll be hoping for a bit more goalmouth action this weekend. Aldershot FC’s record at this ground wasn’t much better, winning four, drawing eight and losing ten of their 22 fixtures in Halifax.
If he plays on Saturday, Brett Williams will make his 50th league appearance for the Shots.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Wayne Barratt from Worcestershire, who took charge of three Shots’ home games last season – the 3-0 defeat to Grimsby Town last October, the 3-1 win over Welling United in December and the 2-2 draw with Forest Green Rovers back in February. Last year, he officiated in 26 Conference Premier games, showing 67 yellow cards and eight 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 for team news just after 2pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website at 2.55pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Grimsby Town. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)
Plus, we want your reaction to the game between 5pm and 6pm on Saturday in ‘The Final Whistle’. Win, lose or draw, we want to hear from you throughout this season. Call us on 03459 57 00 57 and let your voice be heard.