Aldershot Town v Maidstone United Match Preview – Saturday 30th December 2017
Aldershot Town found some fine festive form to run out 3-1 winners in the Boxing Day derby match with Woking. Two first-half strikes from Shamir Fenelon, either side of an Inih Effiong leveller, saw The Shots lead at the break. In the second-half, they were dominant and Manny Oyeleke smashed home off the underside of the crossbar to secure the three points, which took Town up to third place in the National League.
On Saturday, they host twelfth placed Maidstone United as well the BT Sport cameras, at the EBB Stadium. It’s a lunchtime game, with a 12:30 kick off.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Jim Kellermann missed the Boxing Day match with a slight hamstring strain and Saturday may well be too soon for his return. Waddock will await news on the fitness of James Rowe, who has missed the last three matches, whilst Nick Arnold will be out until Spring.
Opposition – Maidstone United:
Formed: 1992 (as Maidstone Invicta)
Nickname: The Stones
Ground: Gallagher Stadium
Manager: Jay Saunders
Current Position: 12th
Several comparisons can be drawn between Maidstone United and Aldershot Town. Both clubs were founded 25 years ago in 1992, following the demise of their former clubs; both have achieved many promotions to get back to National League level, and both clubs are renowned for having a passionate and vocal supporter base.
Without a suitable ground to play at, Maidstone Invicta FC had to wait a whole season to get started, and by that stage found themselves playing seven divisions down the non-league pyramid in the fourth division of the Kent County League. Following successive promotions, the club changed its name to Maidstone United FC but then took four seasons (and six managers) to win promotion to the Kent County Premier League. After finishing third and then second over the next two seasons, Maidstone obtained ‘Senior Club’ status and were accepted into the Kent League at Step 5 of the Non-League pyramid.
The 2005-06 season saw Stones win the Kent League and gain promotion to Isthmian Division 1 South – which they went on to win at the first time of asking. A tough first season in Step 4 saw them avoid relegation on the final day of the season and, against a background of continuous managerial changes and ground-shares, United went on to retain their Isthmian Premier status over the next few difficult seasons.
In 2011, following a brief stint as Player/Caretaker-Manager and with the club adrift at the bottom of the league and soon to be relegated, Jay Saunders became permanent Manager. In 2012, Maidstone United finally moved into their own ground, The Gallagher Stadium. Saunders guided The Stones back into the Isthmian Premier League via a Play-Off Final victory in 2013 and then, two seasons later, to the Isthmian Premier title. Promotion from the National League South was achieved at the first time of asking in May 2016, when The Stones beat Ebbsfleet United 4-3 on penalties in the Play-Off Final to earn a place in the National League.
Following two successive promotions, Maidstone United struggled early on and found themselves in the lower reaches of the table towards the turn of the year. However, some astute loan signings from Saunders saw a turnaround in form and a highly respectable 14th place finish, with 58 points.
Jay Saunders played in midfield for Margate (116 appearances) and Ebbsfleet United (60 games) before joining Maidstone United, where he soon took over the management reigns. Saunders’ CV includes three promotions in six seasons in charge of the Kent club.
With Maidstone United making the decision to go full-time at the end of last season, Saunders released six players and lost some others, including winger Bobby-Joe Taylor, who opted to join Aldershot Town, and striker Kevin Lokko, who signed for Stevenage only to then head to Dagenham & Redbridge on a season-long loan.
Saunders retained just six players, including goalkeeper Lee Worgan, defender Seth Nana Ofori Twumasi and striker Jamar Loza. The Stones manager then added 14 players in the close season, including five loanees from last season, all of which joined as permanent signings: Reece Prestedge, Magnus Okuonghae, Stuart Lewis, Delano Sam-Yorke and Joe Pigott. Other notable signings included defenders Josh Hare (Eastbourne Borough) and Alex Wynter (Colchester United), who have both brought Football League experience to Saunders’ Stones side this season. Left-back Joe Anderson (Bromley) played in the National League last season, as did midfielder Jai Reason, with Boreham Wood. Exciting young winger Tom Wraight scored 22 goals and made 14 assists for East Thurrock United last season, and 19-year-old Harley Willard made the switch from Under-23 football at Southampton. In recent months, Saunders has brought in midfielder Oliver Muldoon from Gillingham and striker Aaron Collins, on a one-month loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Stones made a solid start to the 2017-18 National League season and, by the end of September, occupied fifth place having won six, drawn four and lost just three of their opening thirteen league fixtures. Since then, though, they have won just three of their subsequent eleven games and have slipped into a mid-table position. They come into Saturday’s game without a win in six. However, two Joe Pigott strikes (taking him to thirteen goals for the season) in an impressive first-half display at Dover Athletic on Boxing Day saw them 2-0 up before being pegged back after the break to a 2-2 draw and just a point, leaving them twelfth coming into Saturday’s game.
Aldershot Town and the current incarnation of Maidstone United have met just three times to date. Back in August, Jake Gallagher’s 76th minute strike had The Shots just moments away from recording a fourth successive win to start the season, when full-back Josh Hare pounced to level the scores and earn The Stones a point. In 2016-17, Bernard Mensah netted an 88th-minute winner at The EBB Stadium, whilst goals from Kundai Benyu and Jake Gallagher secured a season’s double for The Shots back in February.
The original Aldershot FC and former Maidstone United did play each other on five occasions in the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons. The first of those two campaigns saw a pair of wins for the Kent side, including a 2-0 win at The Recreation Ground on 14 April 1990. That came after the Shots had been given a 5-1 hammering at Dartford FC’s Watling Street on New Year’s Day.
The following season saw greater success for the North-East Hampshire club, including a pair of home wins. They triumphed 4-3 in a Fourth Division game on 24 November 1990 whilst beating the Stones 2-1 in a second round FA Cup tie a fortnight later. The two sides then drew 1-1 in Kent on 8 May 1991, which was the penultimate game of Aldershot FC’s last full season in the Football League.
The referee on Boxing Day is Adam Bromley, who has refereed 11 matches so far this season, showing 36 yellow cards and one red card to date. He previously refereed Aldershot Town in their 2-0 win at Ebbsfleet United and 2-0 home victory over Wrexham in November.
BBC Surrey Sport’s Rob Worrall and Shots defender Nick Arnold will be covering the game on Saturday, with live commentary from 12:20pm. You can also contact them throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Get in touch by tweeting @RobShot66 and @narnold10 or via the Aldershot Town Football Club Fans Group on Facebook.