For the first time this season, Aldershot Town came from behind to secure a point on Tuesday night, but the 1-1 draw against Dover Athletic means that the Shots’ wait for a first win of the season continues. For the second consecutive Saturday, they make a long trip north, facing newly-promoted Guiseley this weekend. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Aldershot Town’s opening 35 minutes on Tuesday night were undoubtedly as bad as the performance three days earlier at Wrexham. They looked nervous at the back, especially from set-pieces, gave the ball away cheaply in midfield and conceded an early goal. Stefan Payne’s finish was exquisite, but the time and space allowed him was hugely excessive. You couldn’t fault the spirit of Barry Smith’s side, however, as they got an equaliser through Richard Brodie’s first goal for the Club, before looking a completely different side after the break. The introductions of Rhys Browne and Tom Richards galvanised the team and the fans, with the two combining superbly with fifteen minutes to go. Browne’s pass released the former Fulham winger, but, with the goal gaping, he put the chance wide from eight yards out.
The Shots’ return of two points from their opening quartet of fixtures leaves them in 21st-place in the embryonic National League table, whilst their total of two goals leaves them only above Southport in the ‘goals for’ standings. However, their attacking play in three of the four games has deserved better and, in Rhys Browne, the Aldershot Town management have unearthed someone with the attacking verve to get fans out of their seats. If the visitors can secure three points up at Guiseley, it would certainly give something about which the away fans could get excited. The travelling supporters have witnessed just two wins and seven points from their eleven games away from the EBB Stadium in 2015.
Guiseley AFC were formed in 1909, with fans looking back most fondly on an extraordinary three season spell between 1989-90 and 1991-92 which saw an FA Vase win, a losing final appearance and a defeat in the semi-finals. However, the last five full league campaigns have been even more impressive. The West Yorkshire side reached the Conference North Play-Offs in all five of their seasons in the division, losing in the final in 2010-11 (to AFC Telford United) and 2013-14 (Altrincham). However, it was third time lucky last season, where they defeated AFC Fylde (3-1 on aggregate) and Chorley (3-2) to reach the non-league top flight for the first time in the Club’s history.
The Lions’ home record was the sixth-best in Conference North Last season, whilst they were also the sixth-highest scorers in the division. They were stronger on the defensive side of the field, with only champions Barrow and AFC Fylde conceding fewer than Guiseley’s 49 league goals. They’ve started this season strongly, picking up seven points from their first four games. However, it should be noted that all four of their opponents are in the bottom half of the table. They went down to a 1-0 loss at Welling United on the opening day, before consecutive 1-0 home wins against Kidderminster Harriers and Altrincham.
A 1-1 draw at Barrow on Tuesday night saw them concede just their second goal of the campaign, but it did stretch their unbeaten streak to three games. Hopes are high that the Lions can compete strongly in the National League under young manager Mark Bower, with Guiseley chairman Phil Rogerson telling the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We‘ve deliberately not gone full-time. But with the signings we’ve made and ones we have retained, we are looking at mid-table and would be disappointed if we weren’t there… Mark is not one to shout about things. He just gets on and gets the job done and he has proved himself. I have always said if you can recruit from inside the Club that you have a bit of a running start as that person will know what players are there and Mark also has that league experience.”
After the drubbing at Wrexham, Barry Smith made three changes to his starting line-up for the visit of Dover Athletic. Jack Saville, the former Barnet defender, came in for his full debut at left-back in place of Nick Anderton, whilst Richard Brodie also made his first start for Aldershot Town in an attacking line-up alongside Matthew Barnes-Homer and Dan Walker. Rhys Browne dropped to the bench to make way for the former Southport striker, whilst Jake Gallagher did likewise for the returning Sam Hatton. The 27-year-old had missed two games after taking a knock to the kidney on the opening day at Gateshead, but he started on Tuesday night and also re-took the Captain’s armband from Phil Smith.
Anderton didn’t feature on Tuesday night after rolling his ankle in training earlier in the week. He may be fit for the trip to West Yorkshire, but Smith will continue to be without two key defenders, with Joe Oastler and Sean McGinty both unavailable. Oastler has only played once since Valentine’s Day because of an ankle injury, whilst McGinty suffered a broken metatarsal in the pre-season win over Basingstoke Town.
As you’d expect from a team that secured promotion in the spring, Mark Bower has kept the majority of the key members of last year’s squad, whilst also adding six players from Football League clubs on permanent deals. The most familiar name is striker Tom Craddock, who arrived from Portsmouth having not played since November 2013, but managed 23 goals in this division for Luton Town in 2009-10 and notched fifteen times for League Two Oxford United in the following campaign. Former Oldham Athletic defender Adam Lockwood has re-signed for the Lions, whilst centre-back Rob Atkinson and midfielder Will Hatfield have arrived from Accrington Stanley. Bower also captured the former Leeds United pair, goalkeeper Daniel Atkinson and midfielder Zac Thompson, whilst forward Jake Charles has arrived on a one-month loan deal from Huddersfield Town.
The main departure over the summer was Danny Ellis, who’d made over 400 appearances in a decade with the club. He’s since signed for Harrogate Town, whilst Andy Holdsworth, Alex Johnson and Kyle Harrison have also left Nethermoor Park. However, the Guiseley boss managed to hang onto 24-goal top scorer Adam Boyes, with fellow strikers Nicky Boshell and Oli Johnson (both scored eleven goals last season) also staying at the club. In midfield, the Club have retained Wayne Brooksby (also eleven goals in 2014-15), Gavin Rothery (six goals last season), Jake Lawlor (five goals) and player-assistant manager Danny Boshell, with the defensive corps being equally stable. Danny Lowe, Ryan Toulson and Club Captain Ben Parker should all feature prominently in the National League, whilst Steven Drench remains the first-choice goalkeeper. Lawlor, Johnson and Danny Boshell all made the 2014-15 Conference North Team of the Year.
Ben Parker has been out since January with an ankle injury, so is unlikely to feature on Saturday, whilst Oli Johnson has struggled with hamstring injuries in recent months and is also a doubt for the visit of the Shots. Otherwise, Mark Bower has a fully-fit squad from which to choose this weekend.
Aldershot Town and Guiseley have only previously met in a Third Round FA Trophy tie in January 2014 in North-East Hampshire. In the end, the hosts cruised to a 3-0 victory, with the Lions’ only shot on target coming from Ben Parker’s first-half own goal. Loanee Aiden O’Brien made it 2-0 before half-time whilst Jordan Roberts completed the scoring after the interval.
Saturday’s referee is Wayne Barratt from Worcestershire, who took charge of the Shots’ 1-0 loss at FC Halifax Town last September. In the 2014-15 campaign, he officiated in seventeen Conference Premier games, showing 43 yellow cards and five 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 2.15pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Sport website from 2.50pm.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport and @GavinDenison