Portsmouth v Aldershot Town – FA Cup First Round, Sunday 9 November, 2pm
The Shots have reached the FA Cup first round for the 10th time in 11 years, and now face a mouth-watering Hampshire derby against a Portsmouth side who won the Cup just six years ago. Steve Gibbs previews the action.
Aldershot Town suffered a first defeat in five matches last weekend, as Gateshead’s Rob Ramshaw stole an injury-time winner at the ESS, but since the hugely-frustrating defeat at Chester on 7 October, The Shots have looked a far more cohesive and dangerous team. Injuries continue to disrupt Andy Scott’s preparations, though, with Manny Oyeleke, Damon Lathrope, Sam Hatton, Mark Phillips, Josh Scott, Anthony Tonkin, Tom Derry, Joe N’Guessan, Andre McCollin, Chris Barker and Mark Molesley also enduring time on the sidelines in recent weeks. However, the arrival of Dan Holman, on loan from Colchester United, has further galvanised Aldershot Town, who must believe that better results will soon follow their improved performances.
The 2-0 FA Cup fourth qualifying round defeat of Torquay United was a display full of purpose and passion, and a replica would serve The Shots well at Fratton Park against a Portsmouth team finally finding themselves on something of an even keel after several tumultuous, painful seasons in freefall.
FA Cup winners in 2008, and again Finalists in 2010, Pompey’s fall from grace has been as fast as it has been ignominious. Promoted to the Premier League in 2003, and finishing as high as eighth during a seven-season stint in the top flight, their unfortunate double of relegation and FA Cup Final defeat in 2009-10 heralded, within three years, a drop into League Two, two periods of administration and near bankruptcy.
In fact, Pompey’s last victory in an FA Cup tie was that 2010 semi-final win against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Since then, they have lost all four matches.
Now, in 2014-15, manager Andy Awford has guided his team to ninth in League Two and the fourth-best home record in the division. They are unbeaten in their last five League games at Fratton Park – since a 1-0 defeat against Newport on 30 August – and, in all competitions, boast a home record of just two defeats in 10 matches.
Away form, though, is less impressive, and would provide The Shots will ample optimism for any replay. With the fifth worst record on their travels, they have won just once and scored only three goals.
Two other statistics for the hosts maybe point to where the game will be won and lost: when they score first, they usually win, but are yet to come from behind to take all three points; and half of their League goals have come after the 60-minute mark.
Last Saturday’s 3-0 home win against struggling Carlisle represented one of Pompey’s best performances of the season, and reaffirmed the value of Awford’s recent return to a 4-4-2 formation. Midfielder James Dunne’s knee injury aside, the same team are likely to face The Shots, as Awford promised home fans that he would not be fielding an under-strength XI.
“It will be the strongest team I can pick. It won’t be fringe players or anyone playing because they need a game,” he told the Portsmouth News, before revealing that captain Ben Chorley will return from the stomach bug which laid him low last weekend. “It’s very important for us and it will be treated as if it were a League Two game. We will be all guns blazing trying to get the right result.
“If we can produce the levels that we have shown over the past three games, we will be fine – I have no doubt about that. But that is the challenge for the players: to find that consistency again and continue it. Confidence is a massive thing in football. I think we are becoming a very good team at home, so we are confident we can get the job done.”
Top scorer is ever-present winger Jed Wallace, with seven goals, three ahead of much-maligned striker Craig Westcarr, who scored his first goal in two months against Carlisle in a superb personal display.
Portsmouth are also able to call upon the vast experience of Nicky Shorey (Reading and England), Johnny Ertl (Crystal Palace and Sheffield United), Paul Robinson (Millwall) and Danny Hollands (Chelsea and Bournemouth), plus former Exeter City and Crawley Town goalkeeper Paul Jones, and defender Joe Devera, who won League Two with Swindon Town.
In attack, 20 year-old Miles Storey has joined on a season-long loan from Swindon Town to augment the firepower of former Rotherham United targetman Ryan Taylor, Ricky Holmes (ex-Barnet and Chelmsford) and Westcarr, who counts Cambridge United, Kettering Town and Notts County among his clubs after making his Nottingham Forest debut aged just 16.
Left-back Dan Butler, who enjoyed an impressive loan spell with The Shots last season, has mainly been used as a substitute by Awford, but Adam Webster – another familiar face at the Electrical Services Stadium – has been out for a month with a knee injury.
All three of Awford’s loan signings – Robinson, Storey and Crystal Palace defender Alex Wynter – have been cleared to play, along with Andy Scott’s quintet of loanees, Mark Phillips, Dan Holman, Manny Oyeleke, Joe N’Guessan and Kieron Forbes.
Scott is hopeful that Oyeleke and Phillips will be fit to return to his squad, as will Sam Hatton, although Josh Scott, Anthony Tonkin and Damon Lathrope are unlikely to feature.
Aldershot Town have never faced Portsmouth in a competitive fixture. Aldershot FC, though, enjoyed a healthy rivalry over 43 years from the outbreak of World War Two. The two sides met 19 times between 1939 and 1945 and became embroiled in some titanic battles, including two 4-4 draws, a 4-3 Pompey win at the Recreation Ground and, in May 1941, two meetings in a fortnight: Pompey won the first, a Hampshire Senior Cup Semi-Final, 10-5 after extra time, before The Shots exacted revenge with a 9-2 League win which included hat-tricks for England internationals Jimmy Hagan and Tommy Lawton!
33,000 fans saw the first post-war meeting, an FA Cup 3rd round tie in 1958, which Pompey won 5-1, but it was the mid-70s and early 80s which saw the fixture gain real momentum. Neil Warnock scored in both legs but still The Shots lost a League Cup tie 3-2 on aggregate in 1975-76, before Alex McGregor scored in both games as Pompey won an FA Cup 1st round replay at Fratton Park the following season.
The clubs have met just four times in the League, with Aldershot recording only one win, a 3-1 away victory on New Year’s Day 1980 thanks to Micky French and two goals from Andy Needham.
The last encounter, in December 1982, also brought an away win, as 13,250 watched Dale Banton (2) and Les Briley seal an FA Cup second round victory. A certain Neil Webb – who went on to play for Nottingham Forest, England and, of course, Aldershot Town – scored for Portsmouth.
Sunday’s referee is Paul Tierney from Lancashire. In 15 games this season, he has shown 49 yellow cards and four red. Tierney last took charge of a Portsmouth game almost a year ago, in a goalless draw at Hartlepools, having previously overseen their 1-0 Championship win at Leicester City in March 2011. Earlier that season, in November 2010, he refereed The Shots’ 2-2 draw at Hereford United.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison will be joined by Portsmouth and Aldershot FC legend Steve Claridge for full live commentary of the game on Sunday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM, or visit the BBC Surrey website, for team news just after 1pm and plenty of pre-match interviews. There will then be full commentary of the game from 2pm via the following methods:
Radio: 104.0 & 104.6 FM
BBC Sport website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/29941797 – UK only
TuneIn Radio app: Live Event 14 – UK only
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Pompey. Let us know on the day using:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)