Aldershot Town’s poor run of form continued on Tuesday with a 3-1 home defeat against Braintree Town, a loss that extended the team’s winless streak to four games since the turn of the month. This weekend Lincoln City visit the Electrical Services Stadium, with the Shots looking to move back into the top half of the table. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
After picking up eleven points from their first six games and nearly getting a result at FC Halifax Town in the seventh, Andy Scott’s side have gone rapidly backwards in the last trio of fixtures. The performance from the Shots on Tuesday night was nowhere near good enough, with Braintree Town thoroughly deserving all three points. Phil Smith had already made one excellent save before Dan Sparkes curled in a left-footed shot from twenty yards, with a counter-attacking brace in the second half from Jordan Cox putting the Iron 3-0 up. However, despite all the negativity, Aldershot Town did have their chances before Damon Lathrope’s first senior goal in the 94th minute. Brett Williams and Lathrope both hit the woodwork in the latter stages of the first half, whilst Williams, Dan Fitchett and Josh Scott all forced saves from Nick Hamann in the Braintree goal.
The winless run in September has coincided with a goalless stretch from Brett Williams, after the Shots’ top scorer managed five goals during the sextet of fixtures in August. Ultimately, however, Aldershot Town’s overall goal tally of eleven goals in ten games hasn’t been good enough, with only seven teams having scored less in the Conference in 2014-15. At the other end of the pitch Scot will also be concerned by the fact his team have only kept one clean sheet this season, albeit against some tough opponents. The Shots have only managed two points from six games against teams currently in the top half, which can be compared to ten points from four games against those in the bottom half.
2014-15 sees Lincoln City’s fourth successive campaign in the Conference, following their relegation from the Football League in May 2011. It was a sorry demise for the Imps, who had spent all-but-one of the previous eighty seasons in the Football League and famously made the play-offs for five straight campaigns between 2002 and 2007, but failed to secure promotion to the third tier of the Football League on each occasion. The Lincolnshire side have struggled in their first three seasons back in non-league, finishing 17th, 16th and then 14th in 2013-14, where they finished twelve points from the play-off places.
The Lincolnshire club picked up ten points from their first four games, which included wins over Barnet and Braintree Town. However, since then, the Imps have slipped to 14th (one point above the Shots) in the table, having lost five of their last six league fixtures, conceding sixteen goals in the process. As it stands, only the bottom two (Alfreton Town and AFC Telford United) have conceded more than Lincoln City’s twenty goals, but, like the Shots, they have had a tough start to the campaign. The Imps have already played all of the top four (winning away at leaders Barnet), and seven of the current top ten.
The Imps’ poor form continued at the weekend with a 2-0 defeat at Welling United, but midfielder Alan Power was trying to remain positive despite the loss. He told the Lincolnshire Echo earlier this week: “We spoke after the game about the need to go again at Aldershot on Saturday and go for three points. It wasn’t an inquest; we just got together on the pitch. We don’t argue with each other, we talk, and it’s constructive criticism. I think that’s the way it has to be. We need to be open with each other and we were and that’s what will make us better… We will have to get back to how we were playing in the first couple of weeks. We are a good squad of players and we will definitely bounce back from this.”
Andy Scott made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of Braintree Town, with Sam Hatton being rewarded for his equaliser at Nuneaton Town with a start in place of Tristan Plummer, whilst Josh Scott was preferred to Dan Fitchett alongside Brett Williams in the striking pairing. Fitchett was on the bench after passing a pre-match fitness test, as was Joe N’Guessan, who returned after missing the two previous games with an ankle injury. Kieron Forbes started the game after limping off at Nuneaton with a knee problem and played 59 minutes before being replaced by Fitchett.
Tristan Plummer was rested on Tuesday night after suffering from some tightness in his hamstrings after the Nuneaton Town game, but he should be available for the visit of Lincoln City. However, neither club captain Chris Barker, who has missed the last six games with a calf problem, nor Mark Molesley, who currently has a tendonitis issue that has seen him miss the Shots’ last four fixtures, are scheduled to be fit for this weekend’s game.
Gary Simpson, who has been in charge since February 2013, oversaw a severe pruning of his squad over the summer with thirteen players leaving Sincil Bank and just six arriving on permanent deals, although three further players were signed on long-term loan deals. Amongst those who moved on were midfielders Bohan Dixon, Dan Gray and Jake Sheridan, forwards Waide Fairhurst, Danny Rowe and Adi Yussuf, plus defender Luke Foster. Goalkeeper Paul Farman joined Boston United on loan earlier this month, but a number of 2013-14’s first-team regulars have stayed with the Imps. They include defenders Sean Newton and Nat Brown, midfielders Alan Power, Jon Nolan, plus last season’s twenty-goal top scorer Ben Tomlinson.
The next highest scorer after Tomlinson for Lincoln City last season was Power with six goals, so Simpson has certainly bolstered his forward line. Strikers Jordan Burrow (five goals this campaign to lead the Imps, signed from Stevenage), Sahr Kabba (thirteen goals last season for Havant & Waterlooville) and Delano Sam-Yorke (on loan from Cambridge United until 17 January) add goals to the squad, whilst Karl Ledsham (scored seven times for Southport in 2013-14), Hamza Bencherif (four goals this year after signing from Algerian club JS Kabylie) and Marcus Marshall (arrived on a season-long loan from Morecambe) should do the same from midfield. In the defensive third, centre-back Tony Diagne (Morecambe), right-back Jake Caprice (Dagenham & Redbridge) and goalkeeper Nick Townsend (season-long loan from Birmingham City) all look like good signings by the former Macclesfield Town manager.
Simpson only has a couple of injury concerns for the trip to Aldershot, with right-back Tom Miller certainly unavailable after damaging his knee ligaments in the summer. Nat Brown came off on Tuesday night with a shoulder injury and must be considered a doubt for this weekend’s fixture. To help his depleted ranks, the Imps manager told the local press on Thursday that he was close to bringing in a young Premier League centre half on a month’s loan.
Saturday sees the ninth meeting between Aldershot Town and Lincoln City, with the North-East Hampshire side certainly having the superiority, having won five, drawn one and lost two of the previous eight meetings. One of those wins for the Imps came in this game last season, as they won 3-2 at the Electrical Services Stadium. Goals from Tom Miller and Thierry Audel twice gave the visitors the lead, with Bradley Bubb and Josh Scott equalising, before Ben Tomlinson netted the 70th-minute winner. That was a measure of retribution for the Shots’ 1-0 win at Sincil Bank on 12 October 2013, when a Brett Williams penalty three minutes into the second half was enough to secure all three points.
Aldershot Town had picked up seven points from their previous three league games over Lincoln City in North-East Hampshire, with a 2-0 win in November 2008 (with goals from Andy Sandell and Scott Davies), a 3-1 victory on 1 May 2010 that secured a place for the Shots in the League Two play-offs and a 2-2 draw in February 2011. Aldershot FC’s home record against the Imps wasn’t as good, winning seven, losing six and drawing four of the seventeen meetings. Aldershot FC’s overall record against Lincoln City saw them win thirteen, draw eleven and lose nine of the 33 fixtures.
If they play this weekend, Joe Oastler will make his 50th league appearance for the Shots, whilst Jaydon Gibbs will make his 50th senior appearance for the club.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Adam Hopkins from Plymouth, who is in his second campaign as a Conference referee. He showed six red cards in nine league games last season, plus he brandished three yellow cards in Woking’s 1-1 draw with Dartford in August.
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 for team news just after 2pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website at 2.55pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Lincoln City. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)
Plus, we want your reaction to the game between 5pm and 6pm on Saturday in ‘The Final Whistle’. Win, lose or draw, we want to hear from you throughout this season. Call us on 03459 57 00 57 and let your voice be heard.