Far Western FC, Kailali 3 Aldershot Town 0
Aldershot Town bowed out of the Aaha! RARAR Gold Cup against the tournament’s surprise package Far Western FC, but nonetheless gave an impressive account of themselves in tough conditions in Pokhara.
A side who earned a shock win against Armed Police Force in their first match, Far Western – a largely youthful team featuring several Nepal youth internationals – eventually ran out comfortable winners, but The Shots played with pride, commitment and showed dashes of quality.
Substitute Nawal Gurung – who has previous experience of playing in the Gold Cup with Sahara UK – said: “I am proud of the team. If that is the next generation of Aldershot Town players, I am excited for the future”.
In hot, sunny conditions, The Shots settled immediately and, with an industrious and disciplined display, looked comfortable as Far Western enjoyed periods of possession but ran into a red and blue wall. Restricted largely to long-range efforts – which goalkeeper James Stallon dealt with comfortably – FWFC initially appeared to lack the ideas to break down a defence marshalled superbly by captain Ben Hutchings and Jay Welch.
The Shots, too, threatened, as Ashley Bayliss robbed a hesitant defender only to be muscled off the ball amidst futile appeals for a free-kick, and Dan Mellors won the ball twice in a driving run which ended with him slicing an angled shot wide. In between, FWFC hit a shot into the side-netting, but this was a cagey affair of few clear chances.
It remained so until the final half an hour, when two substitutions changed the dynamic of the game. The Shots pushed Ben Hutchings into midfield, alongside his brother and the graceful Jamel Johnson, before Sunil Bal made a superb and decisive impact.
Played in by Hemant Thapa Magar, the Nepal Under-17 striker slotted a fine shot across Stallon to finally break the deadlock on 62 minutes. As the game opened up The Shots began to look more dangerous – with Josh Francis a renewed threat down the left – but Far Western’s quality also began to shine through.
Stallon made another fine save from Thapa Magar, but was helpless, on 81 minutes, to prevent the same player – the former captain of the Nepal Under 16s – from skipping past a couple of defenders and finishing in style.
Both sides exchanged missed half-chances before Far Western saved the best for last on 87 minutes. Neat passing on the edge of the box invited Dinesh Rajbanshi – another youth international – to send an angled shot flashing into the top corner from the corner of the box.
To their credit, The Shots remained fully committed to the final whistle, and left the pitch drained both mentally and physically. It was a harsh lesson, but more adventures lay ahead, albeit off the pitch, as Aldershot Town explore a fascinating and beautiful country.
ATFC: Stallon; Devanney, B Hutchings, Welch, Hughes; Mellors, Johnson (N Gurung), S Hutchings, Francis; Bayliss (Shade), Lewington (R Gurung). Subs not used: Jawor, Norton