Aldershot Town’s draw at Bromley stretched their unbeaten run to three games, although the general feeling on the final whistle was that it was two points dropped rather than one gained. Gary Waddock will look for his side to get back to winning ways on Saturday as they visit Braintree Town. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
For the opening 35 minutes, the Shots looked as impressive as they had done three days earlier against Wrexham. However, a mixture of Bromley moving up a couple of gears and Aldershot Town taking their foot off the gas allowed for the spoils to be shared. Scott Rendell tapped in Jake Gallagher’s cross after 14 minutes, whilst seven minutes later Matt McClure’s jinking run and finish put the visitors in the driving seat. Tobi Sho-Silva’s header halved the deficit just before half-time, with substitute Louis Dennis’ angled drive beating Mark Smith in the 74th minute. Between the two goals, Bromley left-back Joe Anderson headed a Jim Kellermann free kick against his own crossbar, whilst McClure’s 25-yard shot was pushed over by Alan Julian as the Shots finished strongly.
The concession of a lead on Tuesday night will be something that’s all too familiar to Shots fans from last season. Barry Smith’s team dropped 22 points from winning positions during the 2015-16 campaign, compared to just thirteen in the previous season. However, the draw did give Aldershot Town their first away point of the season. If they can get close to the 31 points they picked up on the road last season, which afforded them the 10th-best away record in the National League, then they should be in for a good campaign. Despite shipping two goals, the Shots’ record of three goals conceded is the fourth-best in the division. Only Tranmere Rovers, Forest Green Rovers and Gateshead have conceded fewer.
Most of Braintree Town’s 116-year history had been spent in regional and local leagues before four Ryman League promotions in ten years between 1996 and 2006 took the Essex club up to Conference South. Five years at that level ended with the Iron’s promotion as Champions in 2010-11, with their first two Conference Premier campaigns bringing finishes of 12th and 9th; they finished sixth, just three points from a play-off place, in 2013-14. An extraordinary 2015-16 campaign under first-year manager Danny Cowley saw the Iron finish 3rd in the National League table, but a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Grimsby Town in the Play-Off semi-finals dashed their Football League promotion hopes.
Last season’s success saw manager Danny Cowley tempted away from Cressing Road over the summer, with the former boss moving to Lincoln City. In his place came Jamie Day, the former Welling United and Ebbsfleet United manager, who spent last season as the assistant manager at Forest Green Rovers. However, he’s still looking for his first win with the club. The Iron drew their first two games against North Ferriby United and Eastleigh, before losing to Macclesfield Town and Maidstone United in the last week. Braintree Town have struggled for goals, with only Bromley and Torquay United having scored less than their three goals. Interestingly, all three goals have come in the last twenty minutes of games.
Day was upbeat about his side’s performance at Maidstone United, despite them going down to a 2-1 defeat. Speaking to the club’s website after the game, he said: “We conceded an early goal that naturally put us on the back foot as they came out of the blocks strongly and caught us unaware. We gradually managed to get ourselves back in the game and then we concede an offside goal that should clearly not have been allowed. But things like that happen in football and you need a little bit of luck along the way and that was in short supply this evening. I know it will come right and obviously a win will give so much confidence to all the players.”
Gary Waddock made two changes for the midweek visit to south-east London, with Anthony Straker preferred to Nick Arnold at left back, whilst Jim Kellermann started on the right-hand side of midfield instead of the injured Shamir Fenelon. It was a full senior debut for the former Wolves youngster, who will hope to keep his place this weekend. After both finding the back of the net on Tuesday, Scott Rendell and Matt McClure will surely retain their places in the starting eleven. For the former, it was his second close-range poacher’s finish in two games, whilst McClure’s goal was his first in eighteen games having not scored since 3 October 2015 for Dagenham & Redbridge against Mansfield Town.
Bernard Mensah limped off against Bromley, so his fitness will be assessed during the week, whilst Jake Cole and Shamir Fenelon, who were injured last Saturday, must also be considered doubts for the trip to Essex. However, the only definite absentee will be last season’s top scorer Charlie Walker. Whilst he won’t need surgery after damaging his ankle ligaments in pre-season, he will be unable to take part in any footballing activity for at least a month, meaning it’s looking unlikely that he’ll feature for the first team until mid-October at the earliest.
As many predicted, the Play-Off semi-final defeat and Danny Cowley’s departure saw a number of last season’s key personnel leave Cressing Road. Amongst the thirteen players to leave Braintree Town were England C midfielder Alex Woodyard, left-back Sam Habergham and winger Taylor Miles, who all followed Cowley to Lincoln City, whilst skipper Kenny Davis (nine goals last season) and centre-back Matt Paine joined Boreham Wood. Fellow defenders Mark Phillips (an ex-Shots loanee), Matt Fry and Mitch Brundle joined Ebbsfleet United, York City and Gateshead respectively, whilst Remy Clerima also left the club. Forwards Dan Sparkes (Torquay United), Anthony Edgar (Woking) and Sean Marks (Maidenhead United) also departed the Iron for pastures new. Only three senior players remained with the club – last season’s top scorer Michael Cheek (seventeen goals), fellow forward Simeon Akinola (nine goals in 2015-16) and midfielder Chez Isaac.
Jamie Day raided his former club over the summer to make four of his seventeen signings, with midfielders Harry Lee and Sam Corne, and defenders Barney Williams and Zach Fagan arriving from Welling United. He’s also snapped up the experienced pair of striker Lee Barnard and centre-back Jon Ashton from League Two side Crawley Town. Jack Midson (Eastleigh) will join Barnard in the striking corps, whilst Jamie Butler (Hemel Hempstead Town) Ross Fitzsimons (Bolton Wanderers) and Sam Cowler (Ryman League Division 1 North side Brightlingsea Regent) will compete for the goalkeeping places. Other defensive reinforcements have come in the shape of Ian Gayle (Dagenham & Redbridge), Jerome Okimo (Stevenage), Jake Goodman (Margate, one goal in 26 games on loan at Aldershot Town in the first half of the 2013-14 campaign), Craig Braham-Barrett (Dover Athletic) and Quade Taylor (Bolton Wanderers). Rohdell Gordon (Stevenage) and Josh Rees (Nottingham Forest) give Day additional midfield options.
Ashton will be suspended for the visit of Aldershot Town after being sent off against Maidstone United on Tuesday evening, but the Braintree Town manager will have Jamie Butler back after he completed a one-game suspension. Chez Isaac may also feature after missing the last three games through injury.
Aldershot Town and Braintree Town have met on twelve previous occasions, with the Shots winning seven, losing three and drawing two of the meetings. In hindsight, the two 2-1 wins against the Essex side were two of their best wins of the 2015-16 season, which is especially true when you factor in that the Shots trailed 1-0 in both games. On August Bank Holiday Monday, goals from debutant Charlie Harris and Richard Brodie in the final twenty minutes gave the visitors all three points at Cressing Road. On Easter Monday, it was Omar Beckles and Nathan Ralph who helped Aldershot Town to an impressive victory in front of their home fans after Simeon Akinola had given the Iron another lead.
Prior to last season, the Shots had failed to win any of their four previous trips to Braintree, with two draws and two defeats. In April 2015, Sam Hatton gave the visitors the lead before Dan Sparkes equalised just before the hour mark, whilst former Aldershot Town loanee Dan Holman’s 3rd-minute goal gave Braintree Town a 1-0 win in March 2014. Aldershot Town also managed a 0-0 draw when the two teams faced off in a Ryman Premier Division fixture in April 2002, whilst they lost 2-1 in a game in the same division eight months later.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Dean Treleaven from West Sussex, who took charge of the Shots’ 2-1 away defeat against Woking in January, as well as the 3-0 home loss against Forest Green Rovers in October. This season he’s officiated in one National League fixture, showing one yellow card and one red card.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Saturday afternoon. Tune in to 104.0 & 104.6 FM or DAB from 2.10pm for team news and pre-match interviews, followed by full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website and BBC Sport app from 2.50pm.
You can also contact us throughout the afternoon via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @gavindenison and @bbcsurreysport