Aldershot Town v Leyton Orient – Match Preview – Saturday 23 September 2017
Back-to-back away victories last week saw injury-hit Aldershot Town rise to the top of the National League table – a quite remarkable achievement in the circumstances. Substitute Fabien Robert’s late volley on Saturday secured a first-ever win for The Shots at Gateshead, and he also scored Town’s only goal in the 2-1 Hampshire Cup defeat at Eastleigh on Tuesday. This Saturday sees the eagerly awaited visit of Leyton Orient, which should see The EBB Stadium’s highest league attendance to date this season.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Shots manager Gary Waddock was able to give vital match-time to Shaun Okojie and Manny Oyeleke –both returning from injury – in Tuesday evening’s Hampshire Cup tie at Eastleigh. Robert, Kodi Lyons-Foster, Luca Wrightman and Matt Bozier also started, giving them all increased match fitness for the difficult spell of games The Shots face in the coming weeks. Waddock was also boosted on Friday afternoon by the return of centre-back Will de Havilland, whose loan from Wycombe Wanderers has been reactivated following his return from a knee injury.
Five players remain unavailable to Waddock this weekend. Nick Arnold (ACL) is out until at least March, whilst Will Evans (broken toe), Bernard Mensah (tendon), Bobby-Joe Taylor (ankle) and Shamir Fenelon (hamstring) remain side-lined.
Opposition – Leyton Orient FC:
Founded: 1881 (as Eagle Cricket Club)
Nickname: The O’s
Ground: Brisbane Road
Head Coach: Steve Davis
As recently as 2013–14 all appeared well at Leyton Orient. They finished third in League One, securing a Play-Off place. They defeated Peterborough United to advance to the final at Wembley, only to lose in the final to Rotherham United via a penalty shoot-out.
The 2014–15 season saw a reversal of fortunes for Orient after the club was taken over by Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti. A disastrous second-half of the season meant that Orient were relegated from League One after a 2–2 draw at Swindon Town on the final day. Manager Fabio Liverani, with only eight wins in twenty-seven matches, left the club by mutual consent in May 2015.
Orient finished one place but six points away from a League Two play-off place in 2015–16, but last season (2016–17) saw another disastrous slump, under five different managers and off-pitch turmoil including a winding-up hearing against Becchetti for unpaid taxes. On 22nd April 2017, Orient were relegated to the Vanarama National League, ending their 112 year stay in the Football League. Under new owner Nigel Travis, the club survived to take its place in the National League for the 2017-18 season.
Omar Riza ended last season as the Leyton Orient manager, but the club’s new owner decided on a different approach, with Martin Ling introduced as Director of Football and former Crewe Alexandra manager Steve Davis as Head Coach. 51-year-old Davis is now assisted by coach Ross Embleton as they bid for an immediate return to the English Football League. Davis was sacked as Crewe manager in January 2017 after more than five years in charge of the Railwaymen. The former centre-back guided them to promotion from League Two through the Play-Offs in his first season in charge in 2011-12.
By the time 2017-18 got under way, just nine players remained at Brisbane Road from last season – including two goalkeepers. Davis has recruited well, with notable signings including Macauley Bonne (Colchester United), who has netted seven times already, mostly playing alongside David Mooney (Southend United) who has returned for a second spell with The O’s.
Full-backs Jake Caprice (Woking) and Joe Widdowson (Dagenham & Redbridge) come with National League experience, whilst new centre-backs George Elokobi (Colchester United), Jamie Sendles-White (Swindon Town) and Josh Coulson (Cambridge United) have dropped down from League Two. Amongst others, Charlie Lee (Stevenage) and Alex Lawless (Yeovil Town) have also dropped down from the Football League to strengthen the O’s midfield ranks. Thursday saw the three-month loan signing of 23-year-old winger James Brophy from League Two Swindon Town.
It’s testimony to just how tight this season’s National League is that Orient had the chance to go top just a couple of weeks ago, but following three consecutive defeats now find themselves in 13th place. To say that their form to date has been mixed would be an understatement. They suffered an opening day defeat at Sutton United, before bouncing back to win their first two home matches. Then followed a heavy defeat (6-1) at Bromley, prior to an unbeaten run of four matches, which has been followed by a trio of defeats against Boreham Wood (2-0), FC Halifax Town (0-3) and Hartlepool United (1-2). Much like The Shots, The O’s come into Saturday’s game without several key players, including Elokobi, Lee, Dayton, Harrold and ex-Shots loanee Paul McCallum.
This is the first meeting at National League level between the two clubs and Aldershot Town FC have never played Leyton Orient, although Aldershot FC met Leyton Orient on 47 occasions. The Shots won 17 of those encounters, to Orient’s 15, with Aldershot FC winning seven and drawing 10 of 23 games at The Recreation Ground. The Shots last home victory was in the 1983-84 League Cup, when Glen Burvill and a double from Dale Banton earned a 3-1 win. Boxing Day 1986 saw Aldershot FC win 3-1 at Brisbane Road, thanks to Bobby Barnes, Giorgio Mazzon and Tommy Langley – the last time The Shots beat Orient.
Saturday’s referee is David Rock, who has previously taken charge of 5 National League matches this season. Rock has shown 14 yellow cards and no reds. He refereed The Shots’ 1-1 draw at Maidstone United in August.
BBC Surrey Sport’s Rob Worrall and ex-Shots striker Tim Sills will be covering the game live on Saturday. Tune in to the BBC Sport website (or the BBC Sport App) from 2.50pm for full match commentary. To interact with them, tweet @RobShot66 and @Sillsmeister.