Aldershot Town suffered their fifth consecutive defeat in all competitions after going down 3-1 at home to Barnet on Boxing Day, with the fourth straight league loss dropping them to 19th in the table. The Shots are back in action just 48 hours later as they make the short trip to high-flying local rivals Woking. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
The loss to Barnet was hugely similar, and not just in the scoreline, to the previous Saturday’s loss at Welling United. Once again, chances were created, but wasted, whilst defensive frailties re-surfaced once again. Andy Scott’s side started brightly, but fell behind after John Akinde got onto the end of a long pass, burst through the defence and flicked the ball past Phil Smith. A Sam Hatton corner was deflected in by a Bees defender three minutes into the second half to get the hosts all square, but, thirty seconds later, Akinde netted a carbon-copy of his first goal to put Barnet back in front. The Conference’s top scorer duly completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot in stoppage time after being brought down by Smith, a challenge that earned the Shots custodian a red card.
Six defeats and the goalless home draw with Rochdale have been the sum total of Aldershot Town’s last seven fixtures, with just four goals scored and fifteen conceded in those games. The away form has also taken a down-turn, with three consecutive losses and ten goals conceded at Wrexham, Rochdale and Welling United following a four-game unbeaten run on their travels. Overall, though, the Shots record of thirteen points from thirteen away league fixtures is the 14th-best in the Conference. Their current four-game losing streak in the league is their longest under Andy Scott, and the club’s lengthiest since six were lost on the bounce between 22 September and 20 October in the League Two relegation campaign.
Their opponents on Sunday secured a place in the top-flight of the non-league-pyramid for the first time in April 1992, a couple of weeks after the demise of Aldershot FC. Seventeen consecutive seasons at that level included five top-five finishes (ending in the runners-up slot in 1994-95 and 1995-96) and three FA Trophy successes between 1993 and 1998. However, the club faded over the next decade and were relegated to Conference South in 2009. Play-off defeats against Bath City and Farnborough followed, before they returned to the Conference Premier as champions in 2011-12. 97 points were accrued under former Dagenham and Redbridge and Weymouth boss Garry Hill, who took charge in January 2011.
Finishes of 12th and 9th followed, but the Cards have surpassed expectations with an excellent first half of this campaign. 43 points from 27 games sees them lying fifth in the division, whilst only Barnet and Torquay United have bettered the Cards’ 44 league goals. However, the Surrey side are without a win in four league games: losing to Macclesfield Town, Forest Green Rovers and Southport prior to a 2-2 draw at Eastleigh on Boxing Day. The Southport defeat occurred in their last game at Kingfield, but, before that, they’d won three home fixtures on the bounce. Overall, Woking’s tally of 22 points from thirteen games is the 12th-best record in the Conference.
The Cards will be hoping to complete a league double over Aldershot Town on Sunday, with long-serving forward Giuseppe Sole telling the Surrey Advertiser earlier this week: “To score a winning goal in any game is good, but to do it against Aldershot makes it ten times better. The game (the 1-0 win at Aldershot on 9 September) seems a long time ago now, but there was a great atmosphere as there always is…. (a league double) would be very nice, it’s never happened before. Woking versus Aldershot in both towns is a massive game. I go to college and one of the guys there supports Aldershot and that’s all he’s been talking about. I love the Christmas period because the games are local and they come thick and fast.”
Andy Scott made three changes for the Boxing Day visit of Barnet, with Jaydon Gibbs replacing Mark Phillips after the right-back recovered from a virus. Top scorer Brett Williams and Manny Oyeleke also returned to the starting line-up in place of Naby Diallo and Dan Fitchett, who both dropped to the bench. The Brentford loanee performed well on the right-hand side of the Shots midfield and should keep his place for the game at Woking. The game will also see a first Aldershot Town start for goalkeeper Dan Thomas, who came off the bench against Barnet. The 23-year-old played 27 times for Southern League Premier Division side Poole Town last season, whilst also making four appearances for Bournemouth in the 2009-10 campaign.
Thomas’ full debut will come as Phil Smith serves a one-match suspension, whilst Scott will most likely be without six injured players. Mark Molesley’s achilles problem has been described as a long-term injury, whilst Phillips injured a hamstring at Welling United. 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 seven games with an ankle problem.
Garry Hill was able to keep most of last season’s squad together, with seven players arriving on a permanent basis and only five leaving Kingfield. The main departure was Sam Beasant, who left to become first-choice goalkeeper at Stevenage, whilst defender Brett Johnson departed for Margate. Another keeper, Aaron Howe, retired earlier this month after spending most of the last two years battling serious injuries, including a broken pelvis suffered at Aldershot in September. Amongst those to have stayed with the Cards were defenders Adam Newton, Mike Cestor and Joe McNerney, midfield skipper Mark Ricketts and long-serving forwards Kevin Betsy and Giuseppe Sole. A quartet of former Aldershot Town players also stayed at Woking: fourteen-goal top scorer Scott Rendell (who became Aldershot Town’s youngest ever goalscorer in August 2003, then netted three goals in twelve games during a three-month loan from Reading at the end of the 2004-05 season), midfielder Josh Payne (35 games, three goals between January and December 2012), left-back John Nutter (six goals in 79 games from 2001 to 2004) and former youth forward Reece Beckles, who was released when the Shots went into administration in the summer of 2013.
The incoming players have significantly strengthened Hill’s options, with another former Aldershot Town player, Dean Morgan (four goals in eleven appearances at the end of the 2009-10 League Two play-off campaign), adding to the club’s attacking ranks after arriving from Wycombe Wanderers. Morgan is currently the Cards most in-form striker with five goals in his last nine league games. Midfielders Keiran Murtagh (Mansfield Town) and Joey Jones (Yeovil Town) were signed permanently after loan spells last season, whilst defender James Clarke and midfielder Theo Lewis arrived after Salisbury City’s expulsion from the Conference. Goalkeeper Jake Cole arrived from Plymouth Argyle, whilst left-sided player Chris Arthur is on loan from AFC Wimbledon until 4 January 2015. Ex-Aldershot Town goalkeeper Ross Worner (26 games between 2011 and 2013) is also on loan from the Dons, whilst Jack Marriott has struggled to match his form from 2013-14 (thirteen goals in 24 outings) after re-signing on loan from Ipswich Town.
Cole has been sidelined through injury since last month’s loss at Grimsby Town, but was on the bench for the Cards’ Boxing Day draw at Eastleigh. However, Garry Hill could welcome back Rendell (ankle) and club captain Mark Ricketts (injured knee ligaments at Aldershot in September) for Sunday’s game, but Mike Cestor (knee) will definitely be unavailable.
Since their first meeting in the FA Cup in October 1998, these two clubs have met each other on nineteen occasions, with the Shots winning nine (including the six fixtures prior to Woking’s 1-0 win in September), drawing six and losing four. That Cards’ victory earlier this season at the Electrical Services Stadium came courtesy of a stunning 35-yard free kick from Giuseppe Sole, which was the one true moment of quality in a game where both sides largely cancelled each other out. Last season, both games finished 2-1 to Aldershot Town, the latter of which at Kingfield, on Easter Monday, secured the visitors’ place in the Conference for another season. Mark Molesley got the decisive goal after Brett Williams and Brett Johnson had netted either side of half-time. Williams also scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the 2-1 win in North-East Hampshire on 26 August 2013.
Aldershot Town also have the historical advantage at Kingfield, winning on five of their last six visits to the ground, including twice in the 2007-08 promotion season. A Kirk Hudson goal secured a 1-0 victory on Boxing Day 2007, whilst Gary Waddock’s team also won 4-2 in an FA Trophy tie, a game which featured a John Grant brace, seventeen days later. The Shots last defeat at Woking occurred in front of the TV cameras, succumbing to a 2-0 defeat in October 2006 thanks to goals from Sole and Steve Evans. Overall, Aldershot Town have won five, drawn one and lost three of their nine fixtures in Surrey.
Sunday afternoon’s referee is David Rock from Hertfordshire, who took charge of the Shots’ 1-0 home win over Nuneaton Town in November.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Jon Howick, plus Woking press officer John Moore, will be covering the game on Sunday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM for full match commentary via the BBC Surrey radio frequencies and website at 1pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do on Sunday. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
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