Hartlepool United v Aldershot Town – Match Preview – Saturday 18 November 2017
Fresh from last week’s late home victory over AFC Fylde, The Shots make another long journey north this weekend, to take on a resurgent Hartlepool United side that could move into the Play-Off places with a win, in front of what could be a season-high attendance, with the home side discounting tickets for all supporters to half price. Rob Worrall previews the action…
There has once again been player movement this week, as Shots boss Gary Waddock looks to freshen up his squad for the coming months. Goalkeeper Mark Smith has gone out on loan to Eastbourne, so whilst Jake Cole continues to recover from a hamstring injury, Reading loanee Lewis Ward is again likely to deputise, with 17-year-old Luke Skinner set to take a place on the bench. Defensively, Cameron Pring has been recalled by Bristol City, after making just one substitute appearance whilst with The Shots. Meanwhile, Kodi Lyons-Foster has been recalled from his loan spell at Whitehawk and is likely to travel north. Shaun Okojie continues his loan at Wealdstone. Bobby-Joe Taylor (knee) is back in training now, but Saturday could be a little early for his return. Matt McClure continues to be troubled by a nagging groin injury and Nick Arnold continues his recovery from an ACL injury.
Hartlepool United were formed in 1908 as Hartlepool United Football Athletic Company. They are nicknamed ‘The Pools’ and play at Victoria Park, which has a capacity of 7,858. Their average home attendance this season is 3,537. They have previously been managed by such names as Brian Clough and Cyril Knowles, and are also the favourite team of Sky Sports’ presenter Jeff Stelling. In 1968 the “s” and the “United” were dropped from the team name of “Hartlepools United”. This was in connection with West Hartlepool being absorbed along with the old smaller town of Hartlepool and the village of Hart into one new borough named “Hartlepool”. The appendage of “United” was restored in 1977.
Founder members of Division Three North, The Pools eventually found themselves in Division Four once the league restructured. That soon became a struggle and in the 1970s, they consistently finished around the bottom end of the table and found themselves applying for re-election an incredible four years running at one point, somehow surviving each time. In 1991 they finally gained promotion to the Third Division, which was soon re-labelled as Division Two following the creation of the Premier League. Their time in the third tier was to be short-lived, though, with relegation following in 1994. They bounced back up in 2003 and then finished in a record high sixth in the third tier, for the next two seasons, reaching the Play-Offs on both occasions. They came closest in 2004-5, losing out to Sheffield Wednesday in the final. They dropped again to what was now League Two, only to bounce straight back up in what would be another short-lived appearance in the third tier.
The Pools remained in League Two until last season, when the club finally suffered its first relegation from the Football League and took their place in this season’s National League.
Former Middlesbrough, Preston North End and Crystal Palace defender Craig Harrison was appointed Hartlepool United manager in May 2017. Harrison’s managerial career most notably includes a period as Director of Football and Manager of The New Saints (better known as TNS), who were crowned 2011-12 Welsh Premier League Champions (WPL) in his first season in charge. He won the WPL again the 2013-14 season, before securing it for a third year running the following season.
In May 2017, he was named Welsh Premier League manager of the season, having led the side to their sixth successive Welsh Premier League title, as well as the Welsh League Cup and, in doing so, broke Ajax’s 44-year-old world record for the longest winning streak in European top-flight football.
After a poor start to life at National League level, in which they had to wait until their seventh league match for their first victory, Pools have settled well into life in non-league’s top tier. Seven wins in their next ten matches followed and they come into Saturday’s encounter with Aldershot Town in fine form, unbeaten in their last seven league matches.
Harrison retained twelve of last season’s relegated squad and has – to this point – brought in fifteen new players to the club. Top striker Padraig Amond opted to stay in the EFL, moving to League Two side Newport County. Harrison did manage to keep Rhys Oates (four goals so far this season) and has bolstered his forward line with Jonathan Franks, who re-joined the club from Ross County and is currently top scorer with six. Goalkeeper Scott Loach (Notts County) has been a revelation between the posts, gaining three Man of the Match awards already this season. He crucially saved a penalty at Borehamwood last Saturday to earn Pools a share of the spoils. Former Dover Athletic midfielder Nicky Deverdics pulls the strings in midfield for Hartlepool, whilst other notable signings this season include Ryan Donaldson (Plymouth Argyle, formerly of Cambridge United) and the lively Jake Cassidy, who re-joins his former boss after a spell at Guiseley.
Aldershot and Hartlepool’s first and last meetings were both in the FA Cup. Back in 1954-55, the old Aldershot FC lost 4-0 and Aldershot Town went out to Pools in the first round in 2004 at Victoria Park – the home side romping to a 5-1 win on that occasion.
All other meetings between the two clubs were pre-1992, with Aldershot FC having the better record, with 25 wins to Hartlepool’s 17. The other 12 matches were drawn.
Saturday’s referee is Matthew Donohue, who has refereed six matches so far this season, showing 16 yellow cards and no red cards to date. He has not previously refereed Aldershot Town this season and this is his first season at National League level.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and FIFA17 commentator Brandon Smith 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 them throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Get in touch with them by tweeting @RobShot66 and @smithster940 or posting in the Aldershot Town Fans Facebook Group.