Aldershot Town produced a wonderful performance at Portsmouth on Sunday to earn a 2-2 draw and a place in the Second Round draw to take on Rochdale or Northampton Town, providing they can overcome the League Two side in next Wednesday’s televised replay. However, it’s back to league duties this midweek with the Shots visiting Kidderminster Harriers. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Sunday afternoon was memorable for a number of reasons, most notably for the extraordinary Remembrance ceremony before kick-off and the atmosphere provided by the 2446 away fans in the crowd of 11,095. However, the performance on the pitch surpassed most Shots’ fans expectations, especially after going a goal down to Farnborough-born Jed Wallace’s penalty after just fifteen minutes. However, Andy Scott’s side dominated the next hour of the game, equalising through Jordan Roberts and then deservedly taking the lead thanks to Mark Molesley’s first goal of the campaign. However, the home side finished the stronger and were back on level terms in the 81st minute through a close-range header from skipper Danny Hollands. Pompey centre-back Paul Robinson was sent off shortly after, but Aldershot Town couldn’t take advantage and an enthralling cup tie finished 2-2.
The Shots have now won one, lost one and drawn three of their last five games in all competitions, performing strongly in that quintet of fixtures and scoring eight goals. However, it’s also the case that they haven’t won any of their last four league games, picking up just two points in the process. It’s also the case that, whilst the majority of recent performances away from home have been solid, Aldershot Town still only have one away win this season, and that coming at the Conference’s bottom side AFC Telford United in August. That 2-0 win saw the Shots’ only away clean sheet, whilst the team’s sorry tally of six away goals in nine league games needs improvement.
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, and came closest of all two seasons ago, finishing second to Mansfield Town by just two points. Harriers then lost 5-2 on aggregate against Wrexham in the play-off semi-finals. Last season, the Worcestershire side finished seventh in the Conference Premier table, five points outside the play-off places, despite losing just one of their last thirteen league fixtures.
Prior to Tuesday’s league games, Harriers were 9th in the table, with 29 points from eighteen games. The club’s home form has been outstanding in 2014-15, with twenty of those points have been gained at Aggborough – a record that is only bettered in the Conference this season by Eastleigh. Kidderminster have won their last two home fixtures, whilst Grimsby Town are the only team to win at Aggborough in the league. Harriers have also only conceded eighteen goals in eighteen league games, which is the fifth-best record in the division, but they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine league outings.
Kidderminster Harriers haven’t played since 1 November, when they beat Torquay United 2-1 at Aggborough. Speaking after that game, manager Gary Whild told the Kidderminster Shuttle: “The club did everything it could to get a game on (on 8 November), but unfortunately Nuneaton pulled out at the 13th hour. Unfortunately, the Aldershot match is now a day later so we have to wait. Players don’t want to miss a game on Saturday so it’s a bit frustrating but we’ll have the lads in training this weekend. It was disappointing to go out of the FA Cup last week, especially with the club’s finances at the moment, but we bounced back well and we’re still only four points off second place in the league. We picked a team and squad which we thought was capable of winning.”
Andy Scott made two changes for the trip to Portsmouth, with Mark Phillips (the centre-back had returned to the Shots on loan from AFC Wimbledon earlier in the week) and Tom Derry coming in for Kieron Forbes, who was only available from the bench after being injured against Gateshead eight days earlier, and the injured Josh Scott. With Forbes and Manny Oyeleke (himself returning after two games out with a calf problem) only named amongst the substitutes, it meant Joe Oastler’s 200th senior appearance came in an unfamiliar central midfield role. Brett Williams and Dan Holman continued their burgeoning partnership upfront, whilst Jaydon Gibbs and Jordan Roberts had, arguably, their best games of the campaign thus far.
However, Phillips only lasted until first-half stoppage time at Fratton Park after picking up a leg injury in the aftermath of Jordan Roberts’ equaliser. Andy Scott will be hoping to have both him and Josh Scott, who missed the cup tie with a foot injury, fit for the trip to Kidderminster. Damon Lathrope (groin) and Anthony Tonkin (calf) are long-term injury doubts, but the Aldershot Town manager will be able to add striker Andre McCollin to his squad after the 29-year-old was cup-tied at the weekend.
Even though the number of departures or arrivals weren’t as high as some of their Conference opposition, Gary Whild lost a number of his first-choice personnel from last season’s promotion push. Starting full-backs Lee Vaughan and Mickey Demetriou joined Football League clubs, in Cheltenham Town and Shrewsbury Town respectively, whilst forward Amari Morgan-Smith (eleven goals in 2013-14) joined Oldham Athletic. Goalkeeper Nathan Vaughan, midfielder Danny Jackman and striker Anthony Malbon all joined Conference North side Worcester City, whilst forwards Ryan Rowe, Santiago Aloi and Adrian Cieslewicz also left the club. Amongst those players who have remained are goalkeeper Danny Lewis, centre-backs Chey Dunkley, Josh Gowling and Ashley Grimes, midfielders Marvin Johnson, Kyle Storer and Callum Gittings, plus strikers Michael Gash (top scorer with fifteen goals last season) and Nathan Blissett.
Whild made eight permanent signings over the summer with Jared Hodgkiss (Forest Green Rovers) and Kevin Nicholson (Torquay United) coming in as the first choice full backs. Jake Green (Bristol Rovers) adds further depth to the defensive ranks, whilst Jasbir Singh (Solihull Moors of Conference North) is the new back-up goalkeeper. The striking options were strengthened by former Shots striker Craig Reid (twelve goals in 45 games in 2012-13), who joined from Stevenage, Reece Hales from Birmingham City, former Forest Green Rovers striker Reece Styche and Ahmed Obeng, who notched seventeen goals last season for Rushall Olympic of the Northern Premier League Premier Division. The Harriers boss also recently capture Luton own midfielder Matt Robinson on a one-month loan deal.
The home side have a couple of injury concerns ahead of the game, with Josh Gowling (shoulder) and Kyle Storer (hernia) both unlikely to feature on Wednesday evening.
This week’s fixture sees the ninth meeting between Aldershot Town and Kidderminster Harriers, with the Shots having an unbeaten record against the Worcestershire side. Five wins and three draws have come their way in the previous meetings, including two goalless games in 2013-14. In front of the TV cameras at Aggborough last September there wasn’t much to separate the two sides, whilst it was a similar state of affairs at the Electrical Services Stadium on 18 March of this year.
The Shots picked up eight points on their four 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.
If he plays on Wednesday night, Jaydon Gibbs will make his 50th league appearance for Aldershot Town, whilst Tom Derry will make his 50th senior appearance if he features at Kidderminster.
Wednesday evening’s referee is Justin Amey from Dorset, who took charge of Aldershot Town’s 1-1 draw at Torquay United in August. He also oversaw two Shots’ away games last season – the 3-1 victory at Barnet in January and March’s 1-0 defeat at Braintree Town. So far in this campaign, Amey has officiated in five Conference games, showing sixteen yellow cards and one red card.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Wednesday evening. Tune into the BBC Surrey website at around 7.35pm for full match commentary.
You can also contact us throughout the game via our Twitter feed: @bbcsurreysport