Wrexham v Aldershot Town Match Preview – Saturday 24 February 2018
After picking up just one point from the back-to-back home games against leaders Macclesfield Town and Bromley, Aldershot Town hit the road again on Saturday, in search of their fifth consecutive away victory. The Racecourse Ground is the destination for Gary Waddock’s charges, as they come up against the division’s meanest defence.
Rob Worrall previews the action…
With Cheye Alexander (eye infection) and Shamir Fenelon (illness) returning to the matchday squad on Tuesday, with the exception of Nick Arnold – who continues to progress towards a return following his long-term knee ligament injury – Waddock should have a fully fit squad to select from this weekend. Fenelon, Scott Rendell and Bobby-Joe Taylor all came off the bench to good effect on Tuesday and are pushing for a recall to the starting eleven.
After 87 years as a Football League side, Wrexham were relegated to the Conference Premier in 2008. The closest they have come to a return to date is when they finished fifth in 2012-13, before losing the Play-Off Final against Newport County. The North Wales club were also beaten by Luton Town at the Play-Off Semi-Final stage in the previous two campaigns, with the loss in 2011-12 coming after finishing runners-up to champions Fleetwood Town. Then followed finishes of 17th, 11th and 8th. Last season, they finish 13th with 58 points, eight clear of the relegation places and 17 points off a Play-Off place.
Dean Keates made 601 appearances and scored 69 goals as a midfielder for a host of clubs, including Walsall, Hull City, Peterborough United, Wrexham and Wycombe Wanderers, from whom he was released by Chairboys manager Gary Waddock! Also released from Wrexham in 2015, he then returned to the club in October 2016, initially as Caretaker Manager after the departure of Gary Mills. This is his first managerial job in professional football.
The Dragons got off to a mixed start in the National League, losing three of their first five matches. Then followed an unbeaten run of eleven games, in which they conceded just three goals. Indeed, they had lost just once in sixteen league matches prior to visiting the EBB Stadium in November – only to fall to a 2-0 defeat to The Shots. The Dragons come into this match unbeaten in eleven National League matches, but have won just three of those games.
Keates made wholesale changes in the summer, retaining just five players from last season, including goalkeeper Chris Dunn and winger Paul Rutherford. He began the season with sixteen new Dragons, including an entirely new defence, which gelled quickly and to date remains the National League’s tightest defence, having conceded just 26 goals in 35 matches. The experienced Manny Smith (Gateshead) and Shaun Pearson (Grimsby Town) marshal the back four, with full backs James Jennings (Cheltenham Town) and Kevin Roberts (FC Halifax Town) either side of them. Midfielders Sam Wedgbury and Marcus Kelly joined from promoted Forest Green Rovers. Up front, Wrexham’s goal charts are currently led by Chris Holroyd, who has scored 12 goals since joining from Macclesfield Town. More recently, Keates has added Fleetwood Town loanee Scott Quigley to his strike force and he has chipped in with 4 goals in his first 6 appearances.
Saturday afternoon will see the tenth meeting between Aldershot Town and Wrexham, with the Shots losing four (including both in the 2015-16 campaign), drawing one and winning four against the Dragons. In November, goals from Bernard Mensah and Adam McDonnell saw Town pick up all three points.
Last season, The Shots did the double over the Dragons for the first time, winning both matches 2-0. Shamir Fenelon and Scott Rendell grabbed the goals at The EBB Stadium in August 2016 and, six months later, Rendell again and Jim Kellermann notched as Town became the first ever Aldershot team to win at The Racecourse Ground. The previous season saw The Dragons complete their own double. In November 2015, Wes York got the only goal of the game at the EBB Stadium, with Jake Gallagher receiving a second-half red card to compound the woes. Three months earlier, the hosts won 3-0 in North Wales thanks to goals from York, James Gray and Dominic Vose’s 90th-minute penalty.
Aldershot Town’s only other victory over Wrexham was a 2-0 home win in September 2013, when Mark Molesley got the opening goal of the game and Jordan Roberts came off the bench to net his first senior goal. The two sides also played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the same ground in April 2015.
The Welsh side also faced Aldershot FC on 34 occasions between 1961 and 1991, and the Dragons had the edge with sixteen wins to Aldershot’s eleven, plus seven further draws. Most of those fixtures occurred in the old Fourth Division, but six games took place in the old Third Division between 1973 and 1976. It’s also worth noting that The Shots had an excellent record at home against Wrexham, winning eleven and drawing three of the seventeen meetings at what is now the EBB Stadium.
Saturday’s referee is Thomas Bramall, who has taken charge of 13 National League matches so far this season, showing 32 yellow cards and four red cards to date. He refereed Aldershot Town’s 3-3 draw at Maidenhead United in October and the 0-1 home defeat to FC Halifax Town in December.
BBC Radio Wales will be covering the game live on Saturday afternoon. Tune in to the BBC Sport website or the BBC Sport App from 2:45pm for full match commentary.