Sutton United v Aldershot Town – match preview – Saturday 28 April, 12.30pm
Aldershot Town make the relatively short journey to Gander Green Lane on Saturday to take on third-placed Sutton United in their final National League fixture. Following midweek results, The Shots go into the match knowing that a Play-Off place is now assured, although they can still finish anywhere between third and seventh. Victory at Sutton would guarantee third place and a bye to the semi-final stage of the Play-Offs with a guaranteed home tie. Please note that Saturday’s game is a 12:30pm kick off.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Competition for places on Saturday is high. Whilst long-term absentee Nick Arnold will not play again this season, manager Gary Waddock’s only other injury concern is Matt McClure, who limped off with a groin problem during the 1-1 home draw with Barrow.
Sutton United were formed in 1898. They started out playing in junior, local leagues, but progressed into the Athenian League in 1921; the Isthmian League in 1964; and the Conference in 1986. The team fell back into the Isthmian League in 1991. They appeared in the Conference for one more season, 1999-2000, and were founder members of the Conference South (now known as National League South) in 2004. United won the National League South in 2015-16 and since 2016-17 have competed in the National League.
Paul Doswell was appointed in May 2008, joining the Club after enjoying success with Eastleigh, where he gained consecutive promotions to guide them from the Wessex League through to the Conference South between 2002 and 2005. The Spitfires finished eighth and sixth in their first two seasons in the Conference South before he moved to take the manager’s job at Sutton United. In his first two seasons with Sutton United he took them to the Isthmian League Play-Offs, where they lost in the semi-finals both times, before winning the league in 2011-12. He also won the Conference South title with the club in the 2015-16 season after two attempts through the Play-Offs.
Sutton United finished last season in twelfth place in the National League. More impressively, they reached the 5th Round of the FA Cup before eventually losing at home to Premier League Arsenal.
The U’s began the 2017-18 season strongly, led the division on several occasions and have remained in the Play-Off positions throughout. Once 2018 kicked in, they remained unbeaten until 17th March, winning seven and drawing three in that spell. However, more recently, their form has dipped and they have suffered five defeats in their last eight National League games.
Doswell brought in three players from National League rivals Dover Athletic in the close season, as Aswad Thomas, Moses Emmanuel (currently on loan at Maidenhead United) and ex-Shots loanee Ross Lafayette (nine goals, plus three on loan at Maidstone United) all made the move from Kent to Surrey. Doswell also secured the services of vastly experienced central midfielders Kenny Davis (Boreham Wood) and Simon Walton (Guiseley AFC), who boast more than 500 Football League appearances between them. Another ex-Shots loanee, winger Keiron Cadogan has settled nicely into Doswell’s squad, scoring six times this season. However, their top scorer and key dangerman is Tommy Wright, who has netted fourteen goals in all competitions to date. Experienced midfielder Craig Eastmond (five goals) also plays a key role in Doswell’s team, as does Craig Dundas, who has eight so far. Two more recent signings have also made a strong impact at Gander Green Lane, with midfielder Tom Bolarinwa (returning to Sutton from Grimsby Town) scoring seven goals and Byron Harrison (loan from Barrow AFC) adding four.
Saturday sees the fifteenth meeting between these two sides, with the Shots winning six, losing four and drawing four. In the reverse fixture, back in October, The U’s turned in a strong performance and were a shade unlucky not to secure all three points at The EBB Stadium. Sutton twice led, through Louis John and Craig Dundas, only for Bernard Mensah and Scot Rendell to level matters.
Last season, Gary Waddock’s men went down 2-0 at Gander Green Lane, with ex-Shots defender Jamie Collins scoring both goals after Jake Gallagher was sent off just before half time. In the return match, at The EBB Stadium in March, The Shots reversed that result, thanks to an own goal by Will Puddy and a stoppage time second from Bernard Mensah.
Eight of the previous thirteen games between the sides took place in the Ryman League Premier Division between 1998 and 2003. The Shots managed a four-point haul against The U’s in their 2002-03 promotion-winning season, as Roscoe D’Sane scored twice in the 3-2 home win on Boxing Day 2002 and also netted in the 1-1 draw at Gander Green Lane on 21 March 2003 that secured the Shots’ promotion to the non-league top flight for the first time.
Aldershot Town failed to win any of their four Ryman League Premier Division games at Gander Green Lane, with the home side’s biggest win coming courtesy of a 5-0 victory in April 1999. There were also two First Round FA Cup games between Aldershot FC and Sutton United. The Shots won 4-0 in November 1963, whilst the Us caused the upset with a 3-0 home victory 24 years later.
Saturday’s referee is Adrian Quelch, who has taken charge of 15 National League matches so far this season, showing 48 yellow cards and one red card. He has refereed Aldershot Town twice this season – both draws, at Torquay United in December, and versus Bromley in February. He has not yet refereed Sutton United this season.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and Shots defender Nick Arnold will be covering the game live on Saturday. Tune-in to the BBC Sport website or BBC Sport App from 12:20pm for full match commentary. You can also contact them throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @RobShot66 and @narnold10.