Aldershot Town v FC Halifax Town – Match Preview – Saturday 9 December 2017
Last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Torquay United at Plainmoor took The Shots’ current unbeaten run to five games, with just one goal conceded in that spell. It wasn’t, however, enough to keep them at the National League summit and they go into Saturday’s match at home to FC Halifax Town in 4th place.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Waddock made two changes to his starting eleven against The Gulls. Adam McDonnell sat that one out after his red card against Bromley, but Cheye Alexander returned, allowing Jim Kellermann to revert to his midfield berth. Up front, Matt McClure returned to lead the attack, in the absence of Shamir Fenelon (groin). Manny Oyeleke, returned to the squad after his own (three-match) suspension and came on as a second half substitute.
Jake Cole also returned to the playing squad after his recent hamstring trouble but, with Reading loanee Lewis Ward in such fine form having conceded just one goal in his five starts to date, had to be content with a place on the bench. Bobby-Joe Taylor also returned to action at Torquay, coming on late in the first half for Fabien Robert, who fell awkwardly in an acrobatic attempt at striking the ball and left Plainmoor on crutches. Nick Arnold remains side-lined and is expected to be out until at least March 2018.
Opposition – FC Halifax Town:
Nickname: The Shaymen
Ground: The MBi Shay
Manager: Billy Heath
2016/2017: 3rd (Promoted via the Play-Offs, National League North)
Current Position: 17
Formed in 2008 following the demise of the old Halifax Town, FC Halifax Town began life in the Northern Premier League Division One North. In their first season, The Shaymen finished eighth before storming to the league title in the 2009/10 campaign.
It was the first of successive promotions for FC Halifax Town as they reached the National League North in 2011. After a season in non-league’s second tier, they built solid foundations and a year later went on to achieve promotion to the top flight via the Play-Offs in 2012.
With the old Halifax Town having spent the majority of their history in the Football League, the new Shaymen looked to continue that tradition, reaching the National League Play-Offs in their first season back. They failed to reach the Play-Offs the next season and another year on suffered relegation to the National League North. However, they would soon bounce back.
Under manager Billy Heath, the 2016-17 season was one to remember at The Shay. Having left promoted North Ferriby United to head across to West Yorkshire, he led his side to a competitive and successful year. They battled with the likes of AFC Fylde, Kidderminster Harriers and Salford City for league honours, but it was the Play-Offs that greeted The Shaymen come May. They faced Salford City in the semi-final, drawing both legs 1-1 before winning 3-0 on penalties. They then went on to play Chorley in the final at The Shay. The game went to extra-time before Joe Garner’s 100th-minute goal sent Halifax back to the National League in front of a record crowd for the National League North Play-Off Final.
Manager Billy Heath has a wealth of experience in non-league football, but has never made it above National League level. During his playing career he played for the likes of Alfreton Town, Lincoln United, Matlock and North Ferriby United.
He went into management, taking charge of the likes of Bridlington Town, Frickley Athletic and Hall Road Rangers before moving on to former club North Ferriby United in 2011. With The Villagers, he won promotion as champions of the Northern Premier League Premier Division and promotion via the Play-Offs to the National League.
Perhaps his greatest achievement came in the FA Trophy in 2015. Heath’s Villagers side reached the final at Wembley where they met Wrexham. The Dragons led 2-0 before United pulled two goals back before taking the lead in extra-time. Louis Moult equalised late on for Wrexham before Ferriby took the honours in a penalty shoot-out.
Following promotion to the National League, Heath surprised many by taking the job at FC Halifax Town, who had been relegated to the National League North, but had added to his CV yet another promotion last term.
FC Halifax Town have had an up and down season so far. They began with a 2-0 home defeat to The Shots and had to wait four games for their first National League goal and five for their first victory. They then found some great form, winning six of their next eight matches and found themselves in a Play-Off position. Since that last victory – over Bromley – they have not won a single game, drawing five and losing six of their last eleven games. Away from home, they have picked up ten points from eleven National League fixtures to date.
Despite losing Richard Peniket (Gateshead), Jordan Sinnott (Chesterfield) and Kevin Roberts (Wrexham) in the close-season, FC Halifax Town retained many of last season’s playing squad. Striker Tom Denton bagged 18 goals last season in what was his second successive promotion, and he is once again their leading scorer this season, with seven goals to date.
It was a busy summer for FC Halifax Town with a number of quality signings joining. Former Wrexham defender Martin Riley signed for the club in May one a one-year deal. They have since signed Port Vale goalkeeper Sam Johnson and attacker Bohan Dixon from AFC Fylde. Heath also signed one of his former charges at North Ferriby, Connor Oliver, who gives good cover both in midfield and defence. Ben Tomlinson, a striker released by Carlisle United, also joined, and midfielder Dion Charles is nearing the end of a second loan spell from Fleetwood Town. Exciting winger Matty Kosylo has been in terrific form this season, with five goals and a clutch of ‘Man of the Match’ awards too.
Aldershot Town have met FC Halifax Town on seven previous occasions, with a win and two draws at the EBB Stadium, plus two Shots defeats and two wins in West Yorkshire. The teams last met on the opening day of the season at The Shay, with The Shots running out 2-0 victors thanks to goals from Shamir Fenelon and a late James Rowe penalty. In April 2016, The Shots also came away with a win at The Shay, with goals from Jim Stevenson and Rhys Browne securing a 2-0 victory for the visitors. Earlier that season, Aldershot Town raced into a 3-0 lead thanks to a Charlie Walker brace and another from Jim Stevenson, before goals from Danny Hattersley and David Brooks ensured a nervy finish at the EBB Stadium. In September 2014, The Shots lost 1-0 at The Shay, with Ross Dyer scoring the only goal of the game for the hosts. Ten months earlier, FC Halifax Town won again at home in this fixture, thumping The Shots 4-0.
Aldershot Town remain unbeaten against The Shaymen at the EBB Stadium, recording five wins and three draws since October 2003.
Aldershot FC’s home record in this fixture was also impressive, winning twelve and losing just four of 22 matches between January 1964 and November 1990. Two consecutive games in the mid-1980s saw The Shots win 6-1 and 5-2, as Dale Banton scored five in May 1983, before another brace – matched by Les Lawrence’s double – in February 1984.
Saturday’s referee is Thomas Bramhall, who has refereed nine matches so far this season, showing 24 yellow cards and three red cards to date. He previously refereed Aldershot Town in the 3-3 draw at Maidenhead this season.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and a special guest will be covering the game on Saturday, bringing live commentary via the BBC Sport website or the BBC Sport App from 2:50pm. You can also contact Rob throughout the afternoon via Twitter, by tweeting @RobShot66, or posting in the Aldershot Town Fans Facebook Group.