Aldershot Town suffered their third consecutive defeat after losing 4-1 at Rochdale on Tuesday evening, with the FA Cup defeat sitting alongside their FA Trophy exit three days earlier. Those losses mean the Shots now have 22 league games remaining in their season, starting with this weekend’s trip to Welling United. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Andy Scott’s side certainly couldn’t be accused of a lack of effort at Spotland, but they ultimately came out second-best to a Rochdale side sitting sixth in League One. It was maybe telling that the home team’s two best players – centre back Rhys Bennett and hat-trick hero Matty Done – were both unavailable for the first game in North-East Hampshire. The result could have been very different had Aldershot Town held onto the 1-1 scoreline – given them by Dan Fitchett’s header – for longer than sixty seconds, although few Shots fans would have begrudged Peter Vincenti his goal. Rochdale certainly deserved the hard-fought victory, but the two late goals certainly gave the scoreline an undeservedly lop-sided slant to the home team.
Despite that though, it can’t disguise the fact that Aldershot Town have lost four of their last five games in all competitions, including their last two league games against Wrexham and Macclesfield Town. They’ve also only managed five goals in their last seven games, and need to find a return to the form that saw them lose just two out of ten games between 11 October and 25 November. During that spell, Andy Scott’s players also went four games unbeaten away from the Electrical Services Stadium, but, since then, heavy defeats at Wrexham and Rochdale have undone some of that good work. Overall, however, the Shots do have the tenth-best away record in the division, with thirteen points from twelve games.
There aren’t many better ways for a club to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary than with a promotion, and that’s exactly what Welling United did by winning the 2012-13 Conference South title. That triumph returned the club to the level it had last graced in 1999-2000, when the Wings were relegated after fourteen consecutive seasons in the non-league top-flight. Following that relegation, they spent four campaigns in the Southern League Premier Division, before becoming founder members of the Conference South, where they stayed for nine seasons. Last season saw the Wings finish sixteenth in the Conference, nine points above the relegation places.
The Kent side currently lie one place and one point below Aldershot Town in the Conference table, having played one game more than the Shots. They were in the relegation zone after one win from their first nine games, but their form has improved, garnering ten points from their last five league outings. The club have only lost one of their twelve league games at Park View Road in 2014-15, and that defeat was against league leaders Barnet. However, they have drawn seven of those games, meaning they have the fifteenth-best home record in the division. Defensively they’ve improved as well, keeping three clean sheets in their last six league games.
Earlier this month, however, the club suffered the shock of losing manager Jamie Day to local rivals Ebbsfleet United, who are currently in Conference South. Jamie Turner was appointed as caretaker-manager, with Day explaining his decision to BBC Radio Kent: “Welling is a fantastic club but has limited funds. It’s an opportunity I can’t turn down. They (Ebbsfleet) want to be a league club and I want to be a league manager. Welling gave me an opportunity at 29, and I’m sad to leave, but I feel it’s the right time to move on. I’ve had a fantastic time at Welling, but there’s an opportunity at Ebbsfleet to take the club higher and there’s the backing to do that.”
Andy Scott made three changes for the game at Rochdale, with Joe Oastler replacing Mark Phillips after missing two games with a fractured cheekbone. Chris Barker and Sam Hatton also started in place of Andre McCollin and Manny Oyeleke. Dan Holman started the game despite suffering from a virus, but was replaced by Dan Fitchett in the 63rd minute. The substitute’s first goal for the club in his eighteenth appearance since joining in the summer from Salisbury City could earn him a place in the starting eleven in Kent, with Oyeleke and Tristan Plummer also options for the Shots boss.
Andre McCollin will also be available this weekend after being cup-tied on Tuesday, but Aldershot Town will be without four injured players. Left back Anthony Tonkin has been out for almost three 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 at the beginning of November, whilst Joe N’Guessan has missed the last five games with an ankle problem.
The majority of Jamie Day’s squad stayed intact over the summer, but he did lose some key players from last season’s Conference Premier campaign. Seventeen-goal top scorer Ross Lafayette joined newly-promoted Luton Town, whilst fellow striker Kurtis Guthrie signed for Forest Green Rovers. Midfielders Lee Clarke and Loick Pires left for St Albans City, whilst Jack Obersteller also moved on from Park View Road and Blaine Hudson returned to Cambridge United after a season-long loan. This campaign’s top scorer, Harry Beautyman (eleven goals) left the Wings to join Peterborough United on loan last month, whilst first-choice goalkeeper Lee Butcher departed in September to concentrate on his full-time job. Amongst those who remained at the club were full-back Loui Fazakerley, midfielders Jake Gallagher and Joe Healy, plus youngsters Joey Taylor, Barney Williams and Sam Corne.
Following the end of last season, the Wings defence was strengthened with the arrival of Chris Bush (Hereford United), Jamal Fyfield (Grimsby Town) and Ben Jefford (Port Vale), whilst ex-Arsenal youngster Zac Fagan has adapted well to a defensive central midfield role. Forwards Kieron St Aimie (Chelmsford City) and Charlie Penny (Millwall) have impressed sporadically thus far, but Oxford United loanee Tyrone Marsh has managed six goals in his last ten league appearances. Former Shots loanee Jonny Henly (ten appearances last November and December) and Benjamin Büchel (on loan from Bournemouth) have vied for the goalkeeper’s spot, whilst fellow Cherries loanee Aristide Bassele signed in October. Day also secured the services of Crystal Palace defender Michael Chambers on a two-month loan deal.
Chambers missed the weekend’s 1-1 draw at Ebbsfleet United in the FA Trophy through injury, while Jamie Turner was also without fellow defenders Loui Fazakerley (knee) and Ben Jefford (hamstring). The caretaker boss will have Jake Gallagher available after serving a three-match suspension, but Joey Taylor starts a similar ban this weekend after a red card last Saturday.
Saturday afternoon sees just the third meeting between Aldershot Town and Welling United, with the Kent side winning the corresponding fixture on 24 September last year. Alex Dyer’s fifteenth-minute goal was the difference between the two sides, with the Wings deserving the victory. However, the visitors came very close to an equaliser with Jake Goodman and Lewis Young having efforts cleared off the line in the last ten minutes.
However, the Shots got a measure of retribution at the Electrical Services Stadium three-and-a-months later. On 28 December, Welling United took the lead five minutes into the second half, but had defender Blaine Hudson sent off in the 66th minute. The hosts took full advantage, scoring three unanswered goals through Brett Williams and a brace from Millwall loanee Aidan O’Brien.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Chris Powell from Dorset, who took charge of Aldershot Town’s 3-1 home win over Altrincham on the opening day of the campaign. So far this season, he’s refereed eight league games, showing 36 yellow cards and one red card.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for team news just after 2pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website at 2.55pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do on Saturday. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)
Plus, we want your reaction to the game between 5pm and 6pm on Saturday in ‘The Final Whistle’. Win, lose or draw, we want to hear from you throughout this season. Call us on 03459 57 00 57 and let your voice be heard.