Aldershot Town ended a four-game stretch without a win last Saturday with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Lincoln City that lifted them to 14th in the table. However, three of the Shots’ next four games are away from the Electrical Services Stadium, with Andy Scott and his team making the mammoth trip to the North-East this weekend to take on Gateshead. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
After three desperately disappointing results and performances against Woking, Nuneaton Town and Braintree Town, the Shots bounced back last weekend with a gritty 1-0 win. Whilst Brett Williams’ 32nd minute, left-foot volley was ultimately the difference between the two sides, you could argue the most important moment came in the opening fifteen minutes. A Phil Smith error (in an otherwise excellent performance) led to an open-goal opportunity for the Imps, but Jordan Burrow’s close-range effort was superbly blocked by Joe Oastler. Whilst the first half display from Aldershot Town was full of pace and tenacity, the second period was a more dogged affair, restricting their opponents to a handful of half-chances to earn the Shots’ first home clean sheet of the season.
Saturday’s game again demonstrated the importance of getting the first goal for Aldershot Town. In the five games in which they’ve scored first (four of which have been at home), the Shots have won four and drawn one, but in the six games in which they’ve conceded the opening goal, they’ve lost four and drawn two. Overall on their travels, Andy Scott’s team have been solid, picking up five points from five games, including an excellent-looking point at Torquay United and narrow defeats at Eastleigh and FC Halifax Town. Whilst their away record of just four goals conceded is very good indeed (only bettered by Barnet and Kidderminster Harriers), the total of four goals scored certainly needs some improvement.
Football has been played in Gateshead since 1889, but the original Gateshead AFC was formed in 1930 when neighbours South Shields FC moved to Gateshead because of financial difficulties. Despite being members of the Football League until 1960, that club folded in 1973, with new club Gateshead United suffering the same fate four years later. The current club, Gateshead FC, took their place, and are in their sixth campaign in the top-flight of non-league football after promotion from Conference North in 2009. The Heed came agonisingly close to promotion last season, finishing 3rd in the table and beating Grimsby Town in the Play-Off semi-finals, before losing 2-1 to Cambridge United at Wembley.
Gateshead have continued the 2014-15 campaign in a similar vein, sitting fifth in the Conference table with 21 points from eleven games thus far. The North-East side are currently on a four-game unbeaten streak, whilst they’ve won their last three home games, beating Chester, AFC Telford United and Dartford. Overall, their record of twelve points from five home games (the one loss was a 6-1 defeat to Grimsby Town on 23 August) is the fourth-best in the division, whilst their twenty goals scored is also only bettered by three teams in the Conference.
Gary Mills, who helped York City to a promotion and FA Trophy double in 2012, took charge of the Heed last September. He was relatively happy with last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Welling United, telling the club’s official website: “We’ve got to play our game and play how we know we can play. Unfortunately, we’ve only done that for 45 minutes today. In my mind if we’d have done that for 90 minutes, we’d have won the game … We’ve started the season well – we’re picking up results, and we’re sitting just off the top. We’ve won all bar one of our home games, and we’re picking up results away from home, so, I think we are confident that we can go on and achieve something.”
Andy Scott made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of Lincoln City, with Joe N’Guessan, making just his second start for the Shots, in place of Sam Hatton. N’Guessan went off after half-an-hour after taking a bang to the head, and was replaced by nineteen-year-old Tom Derry, but he should be fit for this weekend’s fixture. The second change saw Dan Fitchett being preferred to Josh Scott alongside Brett Williams in the striking pairing. Brett Williams’ goal, his 6th of the season, continued his extraordinary run since joining Aldershot Town last summer, with the striker now having thirty goals in 54 league games.
Tristan Plummer was rested again on last weekend after suffering from some tightness in his hamstrings after the Nuneaton Town game, so he may be available for the trip to the North-East. However, neither club captain Chris Barker, who has missed the last seven games with a calf problem, nor Mark Molesley, who currently has a tendonitis issue that has seen him miss the Shots’ last five fixtures, are scheduled to be fit for this weekend’s game.
Despite his team’s excellent 2013-14 campaign, Mills made plenty of changes to his squad over the summer, with eleven permanent arrivals and fifteen players leaving the Heed. Most of the departures from the club’s striking ranks, including last season’s fourteen-goal top scorer James Marwood, who moved to St Mirren. Fellow strikers Colin Larkin, Jack Lester, Adam Boyes, Liam Hatch and Richard Brodie have all moved on, as have defender Carl Magnay and midfielder Josh Walker. Gateshead also lost this season’s top scorer Marcus Maddison, who joined Peterborough United last month for an initial fee of £250,000, after he’d notched four goals in the club’s opening five league games. Several first-teamers have remained at the Gateshead International Stadium, however, including goalkeeper Adam Bartlett, defenders Craig Baxter, Ben Clark and James Curtis; midfielders Rob Ramshaw, Jamie Chandler, John Oster and Phil Turnbull, plus striker James Brown.
Mills has spread his net far and wide to securing striking reinforcements, bringing onboard Danny Wright (Forest Green Rovers), Lewis Guy (Carlisle United), Jon Shaw (Luton Town), Carl Finnigan (South African side Chippa United) and former Aldershot Town striker Michael Rankine (seven goals in 58 games between 2011 and 2013) after he was released by Hereford United. Another ex-Shot, winger Alex Rodman (eight goals in 53 games from January 2011 until May 2013) was snapped up from Grimsby Town, as was fellow midfielder Greg McDermott (Newcastle United). At the other end of the pitch, Andrai Jones (Barnsley) and JJ O’Donnell (signed from Luton Town after a successful loan spell from the Hatters last season) are now the first-choice full-backs, whilst Tom Allan (York City) and Ryan Wilson (Ilkeston Town) add depth to the squad.
Gateshead should have a largely fully-fit squad this weekend, with only Jon Shaw unavailable through injury at this time.
The only previous meetings between Aldershot Town and Gateshead happened last season, with neither team able to break the deadlock in the corresponding fixture in the North-East. The home side came closest to scoring in a dour affair, with substitute Colin Larkin having a 93rd-minute penalty saved by Glenn Morris, as well as hitting the woodwork ten minutes earlier. The game at Aldershot ten weeks later was led at the break by the hosts thanks to a Josh Scott goal, but Brett Williams’ 53rd-minute red card changed the game. Jack Lester and JJ O’Donnell score afterwards to secure three points for the visitors.
There were also five meetings between the North-East club and Aldershot FC. All five games were won by the home side (including an 8-1 win for the Shots in the old Division 4 in September 1958, which was the club’s record Football League victory), with Gateshead winning on all three occasions at their old Redheugh Park ground. The Tynesiders won 1-0 and 4-1 in a pair of league fixtures in January 1959 and September 1959 respectively, while also defeating the Shots 3-1 in an FA Cup Third Round tie in January 1949.
If he plays this weekend, Sam Hatton will make his 150th Conference appearance.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Ross Joyce from Cleveland, who is in his fourth campaign as a Conference referee. He took charge of the Shots’ 4-0 defeat at FC Halifax Town last November, whilst he has shown nineteen yellow cards and two red cards in four league games this season.
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 Gateshead. 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.