Aldershot Town v Tranmere Rovers match preview – Saturday 21 October 2017
Aldershot Town got back to winning ways in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round last Saturday, with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Torquay United. A tough First Round tie lies ahead, with The Shots being drawn away to League One leaders Shrewsbury Town, who currently boast the only unbeaten league record amongst the 72 EFL sides. On Saturday, The Shots return to league action and renew acquaintances with last season’s runners-up Tranmere Rovers at The EBB Stadium.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
With the exception of the injured Bobby-Joe Taylor (knee) and the suspended Jake Gallagher (the third and final match of his suspension since being sent-off against Dagenham & Redbridge), Shots manager Gary Waddock should have a fully fit squad to select from, with the possible exception of Matt McClure who is still carrying an ongoing injury. The Shots boss will await further news on McClure, but may be tempted to start Bernard Mensah, who has now come through consecutive forty-five & forty minute appearances in the last ten days. Although Chris Arthur has returned to training, Waddock has further boosted his defensive options with the loan signing of Bristol City left-back Cameron Pring.
Tranmere Rovers were formed in 1884 and were founder members of Division Three North in 1921. That started an unbroken 94-year spell in the Football League. A Division Three North title in 1937-38 led to one year in the second tier of English football, a level they returned to in 1991. Their decade in the Championship saw three Play-Off appearances and a League Cup Final defeat in 2000 to Leicester City. The Wirral side dropped into the bottom tier with a defeat on the last day of the 2013-14 campaign, before finishing dead last in League Two twelve months later. Their first National League campaign ended with a sixth-place finish, two points from the play-offs.
After a change of manager early on last season, Micky Mellon got Rovers firing again and he led the team to 23 wins from his first 36 games in charge. They peaked at the right time too, with nine wins from their last eleven matches going into the Play-Offs, where they defeated The Shots 5-2 over the two-legged semi-final, only to slip up at the final hurdle, at Wembley, where Forest Green Rovers pipped them to a place in the Football League. They enjoyed the best away record in the National League with 44 points earned from 23 games.
Rovers had a stuttering start to this season and found themselves languishing in 18th position after their first 10 matches. Their defence remained tight but, despite having six strikers on their books, scoring goals has been a real issue for them until recent weeks. Manager Mellon has been under real pressure, but the club has stuck with him and that decision is now starting to pay dividends, with Rovers beginning to climb the league table. They are currently 15th, but just four points off a play-off place, and they have also progressed to the First Round proper of the FA Cup, thanks to a 3-1 victory at FC Halifax Town last Saturday.
Mellon kept the vast majority of last season’s squad, but did lose a few key players, with Michael Ihiekwe and Cole Stockton making upward moves, to Rotherham United and Hearts, whilst Lee Vaughan and Lois Maynard opted to drop to National League North sides. Mellon released a further six, but kept twenty players and has added ten, including recent loan signings, winger Dylan Mottley-Henry (Barnsley) and striker Gerry McDonagh (Notts Forest). Other notable signings include midfielder Ollie Norburn (Macclesfield Town), defender Jay McEveley (Ross County) and striker Jack Dunn (Liverpool).
Last season’s two-legged Play-Off Semi-Final saw Tranmere win 5-2 on aggregate (3-0 at the EBB Stadium followed by a 2-2 draw at Prenton Park) with Stockton scoring three goals across the two ties and Bernard Mensah scoring a wonderful volley for The Shots in the second leg.
Prior to that, Town and Rovers had met 4 times in the National League, the first game taking place in September 2015 at Prenton Park, with the home side coming from behind to win 3-1. In the return game (February 2016), the sides played out a goalless draw. Back in September, Bernard Mensah gave Shots an early lead, before Andy Cook levelled the scores. However, a penalty from Scott Rendell and a blistering Will Evans volley earned Town a 3-1 victory.
At Prenton Park in April, the spoils were shared in a 2-2 draw. Matt McClure gave Aldershot an early lead, before the home side turned things around with goals from Stockton and Connor Jennings. Bernard Mensah’s left foot volley levelled the scores again before half time & The Shots returned home with a point.
The sides also met in two Second Round FA Cup matches in 2009. The first game on the Wirral finished goalless, before Rovers came through 2-1 in the replay, Oliver Bozanic scoring for Shots. Rovers played Aldershot FC in 32 league games, between 1961 and 1987, with all but four taking place in the old Fourth Division. Overall, the Shots won thirteen, lost twelve and drew seven of those fixtures.
Saturday’s referee is Neil Hair, who has taken charge of 10 National League matches so far this season, showing 25 yellow cards and 1 red card to date. He hasn’t refereed Aldershot Town this season, but has Tranmere (twice) – both away wins. Last season he took charge of 4 Shots games, which resulted in three wins and one draw.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and Shots’ midfielder Jake Gallagher 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. You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @RobShot66.