The Shots’ six game unbeaten streak came to an end on Wednesday evening with a disappointing 2-1 home defeat to Lincoln City. They’ll look to start another run with a positive result at struggling Kidderminster Harriers this weekend, ahead of next Wednesday’s televised FA Cup replay at Bradford City. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Aldershot Town’s loss in midweek was unfortunate in some regards, but also of their own making to some extent. They started well, with debutant Dipo Akinyemi and Dan Walker going close in the opening eleven minutes. However, it was the visitors who went in at half-time ahead through Kyle Wootton after the home defence failed to clear a corner in the 38th minute. Within a minute, Tom Richards had wasted a glorious chance for an equaliser, before Akinyemi showed him how to do it with a fine header from Walker’s right-wing cross. The Shots let Lincoln City back into the game, however, and Phil Smith made a couple of smart stops either side of Jack Muldoon’s deflected long-range winner with ten minutes to go.
As good as their form has been in recent weeks, and the defeat was their first in five games at the EBB Stadium (during which they’d conceded just one goal), the loss did mark their fifth home defeat of the season. Including the two home FA Cup ties, they’ve only managed twelve goals in twelve home fixtures in 2015-16, with only two of those games seeing more than one goal for the hosts. Fortunately, the form of Barry Smith’s side on their travels has been far better. Their seventeen points from ten games is the sixth-best record in the division, whilst they’ve also managed fifteen goals. Since the defeat at Tranmere Rovers in September, Aldershot Town have picked up seven away points from a possible nine.
It took Kidderminster Harriers 114 years to win promotion to the Football League, under the stewardship of Jan Molby in 2000, but their stay there lasted just five seasons. Since then, the Worcestershire side has tried manfully to regain that place, coming closest of all in 2012-13 when finishing second to Mansfield Town by just two points before losing to Wrexham in the play-off semi-finals. Recent news stories though have focused on the off-field situation, with the club halving the playing budget over the summer after struggling to pay staff on a number of occasions last season. Earlier this month, the club’s football development director, and previous interim manager, Colin Gordon became the club’s majority shareholder to ensure the seasons’ running costs of £300,000 could be met.
On the pitch, the Worcestershire side has been equally troubled, failing to win any of their opening eighteen league games. That run ended with a 1-0 home win over Woking on 31 October, but they remain 23rd in the National League standings. That victory came after ex-Forest Green Rovers manager Dave Hockaday took over in the dugout on 9 October following Gary Whild’s departure the previous month. The win against Woking ended a run of eleven home games without a win, a sequence in which they’d won just four points. Only Torquay United have a worse home record than Harriers’ six points from ten games, whilst they’ve only managed one clean sheet in their last thirty outings.
The side got back to losing ways in midweek, however, going down to a 3-1 defeat at Chester on Tuesday evening. Speaking to the Kidderminster Shuttle after the game, Hockaday said: “Chester were the better side overall but it’s hard to take when decisions go against you… Our game management needs to be better. Chester’s second goal was of our own making because it came a minute after we had kicked off the second half. There has been a lapse in concentration and the ball is in the back of the net. Sometimes players go out just to play and they walk off the pitch thinking they’ve had a good game no matter the result. But it’s all about the decisions you make and how you manage the game.”
Barry Smith was forced into two changes for the visit of Lincoln City with Rhys Browne missing out through illness and Richard Brodie serving a one-game suspension. Tom Richards came in for the former on the left of midfield, whilst eighteen-year old Stevenage loanee Dipo Akinyemi made his debut upfront alongside Charlie Walker. After one goal in fourteen games for his parent club this season, it took him just over an hour to open his account for the Shots. It’ll be difficult for Smith to drop him for the trip to Aggborough this weekend, even with Brodie’s return. Smith will also have midfielder Jake Gallagher back after the completion of his four-game ban, but he may also have to settle for a place on the bench
Jack Saville limped off in stoppage time on Wednesday with a hamstring problem, so must be a doubt for the game on Saturday, whilst Shots fans will hope that Browne will have recovered to take his place in the matchday squad. Defender Joe Oastler is back in training after an ankle operation over the summer and is expected to return to action in the next three weeks.
Not only is the Harriers’ squad unrecognisable from last season, it’s gone through vast changes since the beginning of this campaign. Virtually all of last season’s squad has moved onto pastures new, mainly for financial reasons, including strikers Lee Hughes (Ilkeston Town), Danny Wright (Cheltenham Town) and Craig Reid (Brentwood Town); midfielders Jack Byrne, Callum Gittings (both Solihull Moors) and Josh O’Keeffe (Altrincham); defenders Kevin Nicholson (Bath City, now player-manager at Torquay United), Josh Gowling (Grimsby Town) and Jamie Grimes (Dover Athletic), plus goalkeepers Danny Lewis (Solihull Moors) and Jasbir Singh (Gloucester City). Ten-goal top scorer Marvin Johnson left for Motherwell in January, whilst players have also been shipped out during this season. Reece Styche (Macclesfield Town), Aman Verma (Torquay United), Adam Dawson (Tranmere Rovers) and Joe Clarke (Brackley Town) have all left Aggborough on loan over the last few weeks.
The only senior players who have remained are defenders Jared Hodgkiss, Jordan Tunnicliffe and Jake Green, plus midfielder Luke Maxwell, and they’ve since been joined by a succession of loanees and bargain buys. Dean Snedker (Brackley Town) is the current first-choice goalkeeper, with Jonathan Brown (Rushall Olympic) and Alex Palmer (on loan from West Bromwich Albion) as his back-ups. The defensive corps also includes Kelvin Langmead (season-long loan from Ebbsfleet United), Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (Alfreton Town), Matt Young (started the season at Dover Athletic) and West Bromwich Albion loanee Kyle Howkins. Hockaday’s midfield options include fellow West Brom loanee Joe Ward, Bournemouth loanee Ben Whitfield, former Torquay United player James McQuilken, Calvin Dinsley (Redditch United), Bosnian Dino Fazlic (signed from Croatian side FK Zadar) and wingers Jordan Jones (Redditch United) and Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell). Matthew Barnes-Homer, who made fifteen scoreless appearances for the Shots earlier this season, is on loan at Aggborough to add to the attacking options of Jordan Murphy (on loan from Walsall, scorer of the winner against Woking), Gurjit Singh (four goals in this campaign, signed from Tipton Town) and recently-signed teenager George Obusu.
Barnes-Homer won’t be able to play against his parent club this weekend, whilst Tunnicliffe is expected to miss the game with a hamstring injury. Jake Green and Luke Maxwell have also missed recent games through injuries, so must be considered doubts for the visit of the Shots, whilst summer signing Rob Taylor (Tranmere Rovers) has missed the whole campaign thus far.
This weekend sees the eleventh meeting between Aldershot Town and Kidderminster Harriers, with the Shots having won six and drawn three of the previous ten meetings. Their only defeat came in January at the EBB Stadium when Jack Byrne scored to give the visitors a 1-0 win and handed their hosts their ninth defeat in ten games. Manager Andy Scott was sacked the following morning. Aldershot Town picked up a 2-0 win at Aggborough last November, thanks to goals from Brett Williams (converting a penalty after Jared Hodgkiss was sent off) and Mark Molesley. The fact that there were two goalless games in 2013-14 means no home side has scored a goal in the last four fixtures between the two clubs.
The Shots have picked up eleven points on their five previous visits to Kidderminster, with the biggest victory being a 4-1 win in March 2006, when all four away goals from Darren Barnard, Nick Crittenden, Ryan Williams and Kirk Hudson came before half-time. Aldershot Town also won 2-1 at Kidderminster at the start of the 2007-08 Conference Premier-winning season, with Scott Davies and John Grant earning the visitors all three points, whilst there was also a 0-0 draw between the two clubs in April 2007.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Tom Nield from Huddersfield, who is in his first season on the National Referees List. This season he’s officiated in three National League fixtures, showing eleven yellow cards and no 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 from 2.10pm for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website and BBC Sport app 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