Aldershot Town v Hartlepool United Match Preview – Tuesday 6 March 2018
After falling foul of the Beast from the East on Saturday, The Shots now return to the EBB Stadium on Tuesday, looking to re-ignite their home form against a Hartlepool United side who, having been relegated from the Football League last season, once again find themselves in a battle at the wrong end of the table.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Shots manager Gary Waddock will be without both Lewis Ward and Jim Kellermann, who picked up injuries in the warm-up prior to last weekend’s draw at Wrexham. Cheye Alexander has returned to training, but Saturday could come too soon for him. Nick Arnold continues to make good progress towards a return following his long-term knee ligament 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. They have been previously managed by such names as Brian Clough and Cyril Knowles. They are also the favourite team of Sky Sports Presenter Jeff Stelling. In 1968, the ‘s’ and ‘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 1970’s, 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 2004-05, losing out to Sheffield Wednesday in the Final. They dropped again to what was now League Two, only to bounce straight back up again, 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.
Just ten days ago, The Pools dispensed with the services of former Middlesbrough, Preston North End and Crystal Palace defender Craig Harrison, who was only appointed Hartlepool United manager in May 2017. Harrison’s managerial career had most notably included a period as Manager and Director of Football of The New Saints (better known as TNS). They were crowned 2011-12 Welsh Premier League Champions in his first season in charge and went on to clinch six consecutive titles under his command.
Central defender Matthew Bates has taken up the role of Caretaker-Manager whilst the search for Pools’ new boss is under way, and he took charge of their 1-0 home defeat to Ebbsfleet United last weekend.
A poor start to life at National League level meant that Hartlepool United had to wait until their seventh league match for their first victory. Seven wins in their next ten matches followed and they looked set for a season of stability in the National League. However, following a run of just two wins in their last 15 National League games, they now find themselves sitting in 19th place, just two points above the relegation zone.
Former boss Harrison retained twelve of last season’s relegated squad and had brought fifteen new players to the club by the time the 2017-18 season kicked off. Top striker Padraig Amond opted to stay in the EFL, moving to League Two side Newport County. Harrison, though, did manage to keep Rhys Oates and bolstered his forward line with Jonathan Franks, who scored 6 goals for The Pools before opting to move on again to Wrexham last month. Former Dover midfielder Nicky Deverdics had been pulling the strings in midfield for Hartlepool, but following their recent, well-documented financial problems Deverdics has also moved to Wrexham. Other notable signings this season included Ryan Donaldson (currently out injured) and the lively Jake Cassidy, who has missed much of the season but has contributed four goals to date. Former Harrogate midfielder Michael Woods is Pools’ top scorer this season, with eight goals. Scott Loach has been excellent between the sticks for them this season. Bates will await news on the fitness of Liam Donnelly, but will definitely be without Donaldson, Aaron Cunnigham and Kenton Richardson (all recovering from surgery) and Sunderland loanee Michael Ledger.
In the reverse fixture this season, Aldershot Town came away with the three points, thanks to late goals in each half from Bernard Mensah and Jim Kellermann. Prior to November’s meeting at The Victoria Ground, 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, similarly, Aldershot Town went out to Pools in the First Round in 2004 at Victoria Park, as the home side romped to a 5-1 win.
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.
Tuesday’s referee is Christopher Pollard, who has taken charge of seven National League matches so far this season, showing 19 yellow cards and one red card to date. He is yet to referee a game involving either Aldershot Town or Hartlepool United.
There will be full live BBC Surrey Sport coverage of Tuesday’s game, with Rob Worrall and injured Shots star Nick Arnold. If you can’t make it to The EBB Stadium, tune in from 7.35pm. To interact with them, tweet @RobShot66 and/or @narnold10.