Aldershot Town renew acquaintances with one of their oldest rivals on Saturday, as The Shots travel to The Soccer AM Stadium to face Basingstoke Town in a pre-season friendly. Kick-off is 3pm.
This is Basingstoke Town’s fourth warm-up game, following a 3-1 defeat against AFC Wimbledon, 3-2 victory against Reading U21s and, on Tuesday night, 4-1 versus Fleet Town.
After losing to Whitehawk in the two-legged Conference South Play-Off semi-final in May, manager Jason Bristow has signed his own new contract and retained many of the squad which enjoyed a run of just three defeats in the last 16 league games of their season.
Last week, Bristow’s side considered themselves unfortunate to lose to The Wombles, who came from behind to seal a late victory. Former Shot Louie Soares impressed in midfield for Basingstoke Town, with another ex Shots player, Will Salmon, introduced as a half-time substitute having signed from Met Police in June.
Conversely, Basingstoke came from 2-0 down to beat the Royals’ youngsters as they scored three goals in the final 11 minutes. Academy graduate George Hallahan – who last year reached the final of the Samsung Win A Pro Contract competition – scored two and created the winner after coming off the bench.
Still, though, Bristow was critical of his players, despite what he called “the late flurry of goals”. “We’ve got out of jail,” he admitted to the Basingstoke Gazette. “I don’t think we performed particularly well and the energy levels weren’t what they should have been. The quality wasn’t there and we conceded two horrendous goals. But this team doesn’t give up and we’ve scored three outstanding goals.”
Goalkeeper Aaron Howe, having left Woking in December due to persistent injury problems, has returned to the game with Basingstoke and marshals a defence now featuring fellow ex-Card Jay Gasson and Tom Bird, who was selected in last season’s Conference South Team of the Year.
In attack, former Torquay United winger Lloyd Macklin supplies the ammunition for Liam Enver-Marum – known to Shots fans in the colours of Woking and Cambridge United – and Chris Flood, the 19-goal top scorer who has recently signed a new one-year contract. Attacking midfielders Manny Williams and Shaun McAuley both also bring goals from deep, protected by tough-tackling defensive midfielder Jamie Brown.
Hinting at the Club’s ambitions for 2015-16, Flood explained: “I’m very happy to pledge my future to Basingstoke Town. This season’s been successful and a really enjoyable one to be part of too. The fans have been great to me and I’m looking forward to building on the success and taking it a step further next season.”
Captain and stalwart defender David Ray returns for his ninth season across two spells, alongside right-back Robbie Rice, the team’s longest-serving player now in his seventh season, and left-back Nathan Smart, who signed from Fleet Town in 2010.
The two sides have met 29 times in competitive fixtures, dating back to Boxing Day 1994, with The Shots winning twelve and drawing seven of the encounters. The Dragons have won ten times, including the last game, a Hampshire Senior Cup Quarter-Final in February 2008 settled by Scott Fitzgerald’s extra-time strike.
However, it was The Shots won on their most recent visit to The Camrose, with a 3-1 victory in an FA Cup second round replay in December 2006 in which Soares scored twice.