Aldershot Town suffered their fourth defeat in six games on Saturday, going down to a shock 1-0 home defeat against Ryman League Division One South side Burgess Hill Town in the FA Trophy. An entirely different challenge awaits on Tuesday night as the Shots travel to Rochdale, with a home FA Cup Third Round tie against Nottingham Forest awaiting the winner. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The inconsistency of Andy Scott’s players was displayed prominently in the space of six days. After drawing 0-0 with a Rochdale team 56 places above in the football ladder, they then proceeded to lose 1-0, also at home, to a team 55 places below them in the non-league pyramid. After the game, the Shots boss promised personnel changes in the January window and it’s not hard to see why. After early half-chances for Mark Molesley and Andre McCollin, Aldershot Town became ponderous and defensive sloppiness led to the visitors’ 34th minute goal. Aldershot Town improved after the break, but the Hillians defended with discipline, whilst the hosts failed to display any creative subtlety to break them down.
For the fourth home game in a row, the Shots had chances, but either failed to find the target or found the opposition goalkeeper in fine form. It’s also been the case that, on too many occasions, their final ball has been wasteful. Aldershot Town have only managed four goals in their recent run of one win in six games, with three of those coming in last month’s league win at Southport. After three home games in a week, it may even be a relief for the squad to get away from the Electrical Services Stadium. They lost their last away game 3-1 at Wrexham, but in the previous four games on their travels, the Shots had beaten Southport and Kidderminster Harriers, whilst drawing with Dartford and Portsmouth.
Having formed in 1907, Rochdale entered the Football League fourteen years later. They became infamous for their 36-year tenure in the fourth tier of English football between 1974 and 2010, but have had an unfamiliar, yo-yo existence in recent campaigns. The promotion from League Two in 2010 led to two seasons in League One that were ended with a 24th-place finish under John Coleman. The Dale finished 12th in League Two as the Shots were relegated, before securing another promotion with a third-place finish in 2013-14. Both promotions came under the leadership of Keith Hill, who returned to Spotland in January 2013 after an eighteen-month spell in charge of Barnsley.
The Greater Manchester side are currently sixth in League One, having moved into a play-off place with Saturday’s 4-1 win at Colchester United. That win ended a run of four games in all competitions without a win. However, Rochdale’s home results have been markedly worse than their away form this campaign, with nineteen of their thirty league points coming away from Spotland. The Dale have lost their lost two home games (conceding six goals in the process against Doncaster Rovers and Oldham Athletic), plus they’ve only kept one clean sheet in their last seven fixtures. However, only the division’s top three have bettered Rochdale’s 36 league goals.
On paper, the Dale’s 0-0 draw in Aldershot looked like a poor result for the visitors, but Hill begged to differ. After the game, he told the Manchester Evening News: “Aldershot was a massive test, and a massive challenge for us… It’s very difficult because you plan all week and we left four members of staff / players at home because of the virus, and we lost three overnight who travelled with us, so subsequently we changed the side and obviously we only had five on the bench … We were under severe pressure for the last ten minutes and our goalkeeper has stood up and absolutely made sure we go through to the next round, albeit we have to play a replay. But for eighty minutes it felt very comfortable.”
Andy Scott made three changes for the visit of Burgess Hill Town, with Jordan Roberts (starting at left-back), Manny Oyeleke and Mark Molesley returning to the starting eleven at the expense of Chris Barker, Naby Diallo and Sam Hatton, who all dropped to the bench. The Shots started in a 4-4-3 formation, but, after a woeful first half, they reverted to 4-4-2 at half-time. Barker came on for Andre McCollin, whilst Roberts moved into his more familiar left-midfield role. With injuries limiting Scott’s options, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team that began the second half on Saturday starting on Tuesday night.
Joe Oastler was absent once again after suffering a fractured cheekbone against Rochdale and must be highly doubtful for this week’s FA Cup tie. Left back Anthony Tonkin has been out for two months with a calf injury, whilst midfielder Damon Lathrope has been out for a similar length of time with a groin problem. Josh Scott will be out for the foreseeable future after scans revealed a broken metatarsal suffered in the home defeat against Gateshead last month, whilst Joe N’Guessan has missed the last four games with an ankle problem. Andre McCollin will also be unavailable having played in the competition whilst with Kingstonian earlier this season.
Keith Hill has kept the majority of last season’s promotion-winning squad intact, although nineteen-goal top scorer Scott Hogan was sold to Brentford for £750,000. Ian Henderson has netted nine goals this season, after scoring twelve times in 2013-14, whilst fellow forwards Jack Muldoon, Calvin Andrew and Barnsley loanee Reuben Noble-Lazarus have all attempted to take up the slack. The midfield is arguably Rochdale’s strongest suit, with Matt Done (top scorer with ten goals), former Shot Peter Vincenti (eight goals this season, bettering his total from the previous campaign), Matty Lund (nine goals last season), Stephen Dawson and Jamie Allen all having excellent campaigns thus far. Bastien Hery has also made a handful of league starts, whilst Tomasz Cywka arrived on loan from Blackpool earlier this month.
In defence, youth product Scott Tanser was the side’s only League Two ever-present in 2014-15 prior to Saturday’s fixture, whilst Rhys Bennett, Ashley Eastham and Blackburn Rovers loanee Jack O’Connell have all featured consistently in the back four. Ex-Aldershot Town defender Olly Lancashire (fifteen games in the 2012-13 relegation campaign), Joe Rafferty and Michael Rose have also all had starts in recent weeks. Last season’s first-choice goalkeeper was Josh Lillis, and he started the campaign as the number one, but Leicester City stopper Conrad Logan was signed on loan until January as injury cover.
After the illness and suspension issues for the first tie, Hill’s squad will be much closer to full-strength on Tuesday, with Done having completed three-match suspension, and Vincenti returning from a knee ligament injury. Josh Lillis has been out with a long-term ankle problem, but has been on the bench for the last two games. O’Connell is definitely unavailable due to the terms of the loan agreement with his parent club, whilst Joe Bunney (illness) and Rhys Bennett (tooth abscess) are also doubts for the game.
This is the ninth meeting between Aldershot Town and Rochdale, with the Shots having won two, lost three and drawn three. However, they’ve gone five games unbeaten, including the goalless draw in North-East Hampshire last Sunday. The home side certainly rose to the occasion, and were denied the win by some fine goalkeeping from Conrad Logan, who saved well from Dan Holman, Brett Williams and captain Glenn Wilson. The most recent Shots victory took place in December 2012, with the Shots winning 4-2 at home in a League Two encounter. Dani Lopez, Danny Rose, Peter Vincenti and Craig Reid scored for the home side, with Ashley Grimes netting twice for the visitors.
The most recent game at Spotland saw a 1-1 draw in March 2013, when Adam Mekki scored a late equaliser. However, the records of both Aldershot Town and Aldershot FC have generally been woeful at this ground. Prior to that draw, Rochdale had won six in a row at home against the Shots, with Aldershot Town losing both of their previous games at this ground, by the scores of 3-1 in October 2008 and 1-0 in August 2009. Coupled with that, Aldershot FC only managed three wins and seven draws in their 24 visits to this part of Greater Manchester.
FA Cup history
Fourteen months ago, Aldershot Town suffered the worst cup result in their history, being knocked out of the FA Cup by Shortwood United of the Southern League Division One South & West. After drawing 1-1 in Gloucestershire, the Shots then lost the home replay 2-1 after taking the lead. Despite that shambolic showing (against a side 65 places below them in the football pyramid), it’s easy to forget that they’d reached the Fourth Round in the previous campaign, with the undoubted star of the FA Cup run being Danny Hylton, who topped the competition’s scoring chart with eight goals in four games. Overall, the Shots’ record in the FA Cup has been excellent, reaching at least the Second Round in ten of the last twelve seasons.
Their journey to this stage of the competition began with a 2-0 victory over Conference rivals Torquay United. Striker Josh Scott scored once in each half as the Shots dominated proceedings at the Electrical Services Stadium. This earned Aldershot Town a plum First Round tie with League Two Portsmouth, which saw the two teams play out a 2-2 draw at Fratton Park. Jordan Roberts and Mark Molesley put the away side 2-1 up before they conceded a late equaliser. However, the replay ten days later saw Andy Scott’s side winning 1-0, with Molesley netting the vital 81st-minute goal.
Rochdale’s best FA Cup runs have seen them reach the Fifth Round on two occasions in 1989-90 and 2002-03. Last year, Dale reached the Fourth Round, beating Championship side Leeds United along the way, but their record before that had been exceptionally poor. Prior to last season’s run, they’d lost in the First Round in seven of the previous eight campaigns. In this year’s First Round, Rochdale drew 0-0 at Northampton Town of League Two, before winning 2-1 in the replay. 1-0 down with five minutes to go, the home side equalised through Reuben Noble-Lazarus, before Olly Lancashire scored the decisive goal.
Tuesday evening’s referee is Mark Brown from East Yorkshire, who has previously taken charge of four Shots away fixtures – a 4-0 win at Burton Albion in April 2012 (a game in which Peter Vincenti scored), a 2-2 draw at Droylsden in March 2008 (Scott Davies was sent off) and 1-0 defeats at Accrington Stanley in September 2012 (with Vincenti being red-carded) and Port vale two years earlier. So far this season, he’s refereed seventeen games, showing 31 yellow cards and four red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Aldershot Town’s record goalscorer, and current Commercial Manager, Mark Butler will be covering the game on Tuesday evening. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 7.05pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website (UK only) at 7.45pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do on Tuesday. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)