Torquay United v Aldershot Town – Match Preview – Saturday 2 December 2017
Tuesday evening’s 2-0 victory at Bromley saw Aldershot Town climb five places to top the National League. Gary Waddock’s men gave a real show of character after Ipswich Town loanee Adam McDonnell was sent off for a second bookable offence on 43 minutes. Goals from Bernard Mensah (his third in three games) and substitute Scott Rendell were enough to secure all three points at Hayes Lane. It was The Shots’ fourth straight National League victory and gave them a 100% league record in November.
Buoyed by the news that McDonnell (who will serve a one-match ban on Saturday) and George Fowler have extended their loan spells until 2nd January 2018, The Shots make the trip to Devon to take on a resurgent Torquay United side, who have won back-to-back games, including a 1-0 victory away to the then league leaders Sutton United.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
Waddock had to make one change to his starting eleven against Bromley, as Cheye Alexander (who limped off against Wrexham last Saturday) had not fully recovered from a slight knee injury. Jake Gallagher returned to the side to good effect, assisting Mensah’s goal, whilst Matt McClure came off the bench to set up fellow substitute Rendell’s second-half strike. With Shamir Fenelon withdrawn due to a knock at half time, Waddock could make a change up top at Plainmoor. Manny Oyeleke, so consistent for Town prior to the three-match suspension he has now completed, is also available for the trip to Devon.
Jake Cole is now close to returning following a hamstring strain, but with Reading loanee Lewis Ward keeping three clean sheets and conceding just one goal in his four games for The Shots, he is unlikely to be rushed back. Bobby-Joe Taylor is now fit and pushing for inclusion too, giving Waddock the right kind of selection headache for this match and the games ahead. Nick Arnold remains side-lined with a knee ligament injury that is expected to keep him out until at least March 2018.
Opposition – Torquay United:
Nickname: The Gulls
Ground: The Launa Windows Stadium, Plainmoor
Manager: Gary Owers
League Position: 22nd
The Gulls found themselves in a battle at the wrong end of the National League table and, with three matches to play, looked odds-on to be relegated. However, a maximum nine points from those final games saw them finish 17th. Ex-Shots striker Brett Williams scored crucial goals in those games to help preserve Torquay’s National League status.
Gary Owers was appointed Manager in September 2017, following the sacking of Kevin Nicholson. Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Owers began his playing career with Sunderland, making his debut in 1986 and playing in the 1992 FA Cup Final, in which Sunderland lost to Liverpool. In December 1994, Owers moved to Bristol City for a fee of £250,000. He spent four years there, before moving to Sam Allardyce’s Notts County in the summer of 1998 and then onto Forest Green Rovers in August 2002.
Owers was appointed manager at Bath City in 2003, and led them to sixth place in the Southern League Premier Division in 2005–06. Since then he has managed Forest Green Rovers and and been Assistant Manager at Aldershot Town, Plymouth Argyle and Gateshead. Owers is assisted by Martin Kuhl, who was Assistant Manager to Gary Waddock as The Shots won the Blue Square Premier championship in 2007-08.
The Gulls failed to win a game prior to Nicholson’s departure and took a while to register their first win under Owers. It finally came in fine style at home to Maidenhead United on Tuesday 3 October, when The Gulls ran out 4-0 winners. Last weekend, Torquay United won at Sutton United and backed it up with an excellent 3-0 home victory over Leyton Orient in midweek. Overall, they have won three and lost three of their last six league games. They have won just nine points from their eleven league matches at Plainmoor so far this season.
Those loaned out aside, just four players remain at Plainmoor from last season, incluing ex-Shots Damon Lathrope and Sean McGinty, plus midfielder Luke Young and striker Ruairi Keating.
Former manager Nicholson brought in twelve players during the summer: goalkeeper Ryan Clarke (Oxford United), defenders Ryan Higgins (Southport) and Josh Gowling (Grimsby Town), midfielders Jake Gosling (Bristol Rovers) and Jan Klukowski (York City) and, on loan, utility player Jordan Lee (Bournemouth), although he returned to The Cherries this week. Forward Jamie Reid has re-joined on loan from Exeter City and is joined by fellow strikers Jon-Paul Pittman (Harrogate Town), Rory Fallon (Plymouth Argyle) and James Gray (Glenavon).
Since taking the reins, Owers has brought in winger Josh McQuoid on a 3-month loan from Luton Town and striker Rhys Murphy from Forest Green Rovers. He has also sent a few players out on loan, made Sean McGinty his skipper and continued recently to freshen up his playing squad with the addition of Guy Gnabouyou, a French striker who has been playing recently in Finland.
Aldershot Town and Torquay United have faced each other on nineteen previous occasions, with the Shots having the edge by nine wins to five, plus five draws. The two sides have met twice already at The EBB Stadium this season. Back in August, The Shots won by the odd goal in five, and in October knocked The Gulls out of the FA Cup thanks to a 1-0 win with Rendell on the score-sheet.
United secured a valuable point towards their National League survival last season, also at The EBB Stadium, in back in April, Ruairi Keating scoring their goal in a 1-1 draw. In October 2016, Waddock’s team were thwarted almost single-handedly by Gulls’ keeper Brendan Moore (see above). His shut-out earned United a clean sheet and a point. The draw took Town’s unbeaten run against The Gulls to seven games (four wins and three draws). In the first meeting, last season The Shots won 2-0 down at Plainmoor, with Sam Hatton and Charlie Walker getting the crucial first-half goals; whilst the game at the EBB Stadium in March saw the two sides play out a tedious 0-0 draw. The last time the South Devon side beat the Shots was at Plainmoor in October 2012. A nineteen-minute Craig Reid hat-trick had given the visitors a 3-0 lead, but the hosts rallied to win 4-3, with Rene Howe netting the 89th minute winner. Perhaps the most memorable match between the two sides – for Shots supporters, at least – was the Blue Square Premier tie in March 2008, which saw Scott Davies’ famous 96th winner in the run-in to the title.
Saturday’s referee is Adrian Quelch, who has refereed 4 matches so far this season, showing 15 yellow cards and no red cards to date. He has not previously refereed Aldershot Town this season, but last season took the middle in three Shots matches: the game at Plainmoor plus the 3-1 home victory over Dagenham & Redbridge and the 2-1 win at Woking on New Years Day.
BBC Surrey’s Rob Worrall and a special guest will be covering the game on Saturday, bringing live commentary via the BBC Sport website or the BBC Sport App from 2:50pm. You can also contact Rob throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Get in touch by tweeting @RobShot66 or posting in the Aldershot Town Fans Facebook Group.