Aldershot Town stretched their unbeaten run to eight games with last weekend’s 2-0 victory at Wrexham, their first such result in the “old” and “new” clubs’ 21 visits to the Racecourse Ground. The Shots currently sit 8th in the table, just two points from the Play-Off places, and welcome Bromley to the EBB Stadium this weekend. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Whilst Aldershot Town eventually came out on top in North Wales, the home side had the better of the opening period. Izale McLeod headed over when well-placed after just three minutes, whilst Paul Rutherford forced a stunning save from Jake Cole nine minutes before half-time. At the other end, home keeper Chris Dunn saved comfortably from Bernard Mensah and Scott Rendell. The second half saw the Shots increase their pressure and tempo, with Dunn making easy claims from long-range efforts by Kundai Benyu and Jim Kellermann. However, Rendell flicked a glancing header into the Wrexham net from Nick Arnold’s cross in the 71st minute and Kellermann doubled the lead ten minutes later. The hosts failed to clear a corner and the former Wolves midfielder drilled his shot into the corner of the net.
Saturday’s victory meant Aldershot Town have gone eight league games unbeaten for the second time in the 2016-17 campaign, a feat they’ve not managed since the 2007-08 promotion campaign. During that magical season, they managed one unbeaten run of eight games and then an eighteen game stretch to round out the season. If they manage to avoid defeat against Bromley this weekend, it will be the Shots’ longest league unbeaten run since they went ten games without defeat (five wins, five draws) between 1 March and 16 April 2011 in League Two under Dean Holdsworth. The clean sheet at Wrexham was also their fourteenth of the season, which matches their total from the whole of the previous campaign.
Bromley Football Club was founded in 1892, switching between the Kent, London, Spartan, Athenian and Isthmian League before settling in the latter in 1952. They’ve won three FA Amateur Cups and were Isthmian League winners on four occasions, whilst their promotion via the Play-Offs in 2007 started a run of eight seasons in Conference South. On six consecutive occasions they ended the season between 11th and 17th before a third-place finish in 2013-14 (losing to Ebbsfleet United in the Play-Off semi-final) and the National League South title twelve months later. The Ravens finished 14th with sixty points in their first campaign at a national level, one place and four points above Aldershot Town.
The South East London side has had an improved campaign this time around, sitting 11th in the National League standings with 45 points from 33 games. That’s despite starting the season with seven league defeats from their first eleven outings. The Ravens’ had gone on an excellent recent run of five wins in seven league games, but they’ve then failed to win any of their last three. That run includes a draw at Tranmere Rovers and Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge in their last two games on the road. In total, Bromley have suffered seven away defeats this season, but they’ve only managed one clean sheet away from Hayes Lane in 2016-17, which came eleven games ago at Maidstone United.
Despite the loss, manager Neil Smith, who took charge of the club last February, was pleased with his side’s overall performance in midweek. He told the club’s official website: “To a man, the boys showed up and they gave me everything… we had five or six chances in the first half and if we’d put another one away I think that kills the game off. I’m disappointed with the result, but the performance and reaction from the players, I thought they were brilliant… I can’t ask for any more than what they gave me today, so if we do that again, I’m sure the results will come. We’ve just played a team that are second in the table, away from home, and for 45 minutes, I thought we dominated… I couldn’t have asked for any more.”
Gary Waddock made two changes last weekend, with Nick Arnold returning to the starting line-up in the left back position after an absence of almost three months due to an ankle injury. He replaced Bournemouth loanee Callum Buckley, who dropped to the bench. The Shots boss also added an extra man to his midfield with Jim Kellermann coming in for Matt McClure, who was also named amongst the substitutes. Not only did Kellermann score his first senior goal to make it 2-0, Arnold set up the opening goal for Scott Rendell, who notched his twelfth goal of the campaign. It’ll be interesting to see if Waddock reverts to 4-4-2 for the visit of Bromley and, if he does, whether Matt McClure, who scored in the last home game against Barrow, would return to the starting eleven.
The only absentee for Saturday’s win at Wrexham was central midfielder Liam Bellamy, who had an operation earlier this month on the knee ligament injury he suffered during the game at Forest Green Rovers on 5 November. He’s not expected to return until mid-April at the earliest. Kundai Benyu went off with a knock to the calf in the latter stages of the Wrexham game, but is expected to be fit for Saturday’s fixture.
Neil Smith had managed to keep the vast majority of the key members of his squad together over the summer, but a number have departed the club during the course of this campaign. Goalkeeper Alan Julian, defender Rob Swaine, midfielder Max Porter, plus strikers Adam Cunnington and Alex Wall have all moved on from Hayes Lane over the last few months. The main loss for the Ravens over the summer, and it was a key one, was Moses Emmanuel (formerly Ademola). The striker signed for Dover Athletic after top scoring for Bromley last season with twenty goals, although only three came in 2016. Fellow strikers Adam Birchall (retired) and Pierre-Joseph Dubois (Welling United) also left the club, whilst midfielder Ali Fuseini joined Margate. Departing from the defensive corps were Sean Francis (Welling United), Aaron Tumwa (Margate), Ugo Udoji (Tonbridge Angels, season loan) and Paul Rodgers.
Earlier this month, Ross Flitney joined from Whitehawk to replace Julian, whilst experienced defender Alan Dunne arrived from Leyton Orient. Brandon Hanlan has four goals in five games since joining on loan from Charlton Athletic, whilst Jordan Wynter (Barton Rovers) has been a versatile squad member. There were seven arrivals following the end of the 2015-16 campaign include exciting midfielders Blair Turgott (Leyton Orient, leads the team with twelve goals in 2016-17), Connor Dymond (Crystal Palace) and the former Whitehawk winger Dave Martin. George Porter, who spent last season at Welling United, and Tobi Sho-Silva (Charlton Athletic, seven goals this season) have been added to the striking corps, whilst Daniel Johnson (Ryman League Division 1 South side Herne Bay) has provided an additional option in the defensive third of the pitch. Amongst those players who returned for Bromley’s second season in the National League were defenders Jack Holland, Ben Chorley and Joe Anderson, midfielders Lee Minshull and Jordan Higgs, plus strikers Bradley Goldberg and Louis Dennis.
George Porter (injury) and Dave Martin (disciplinary reasons) were both unavailable for the Tuesday evening trip to Dagenham & Redbridge, but could be in contention to face the Shots on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon sees the twelfth meeting between these two sides with the Shots winning six, losing twice and drawing on three occasions. Back in August, these two sides drew 2-2 at Hayes Lane, with Scott Rendell and Matt McClure giving the visitors a 2-0 advantage. However, goals from Tobi Sho-Silva and Louis Dennis earned a point for the Ravens. On the last day of 2015-16, a Charlie Walker brace and a Sean Francis own goal gave the Shots a 3-1 win in Barry Smith’s last game in charge, whilst in October 2015 at the EBB Stadium, Walker scored again to give the home side the lead in the 38th minute. Jack Holland equalised with a fine goal three minutes later before Jake Gallagher received a second-half red card.
Overall, Aldershot Town have won four, drawn one and lost one of their six home games against Bromley, scoring twelve goals in the process. In December 1998, Gary Abbott netted in a 3-0 Ryman League Premier Division victory, whilst Tim Sills scored the only goal of the game for the Shots in an FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round tie on 22 October 2005. Aldershot Town also won 3-1 in the FA Trophy in November 1998 and the Isthmian League Full Members’ Cup in October 1995. The Ravens only win came by a score of 2-1 in the second leg of the Isthmian League Cup Semi-Final in April 1999. However, the Shots won 4-3 on aggregate before beating Boreham Wood to win the trophy.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Sam Allison from Wiltshire, who took charge of the Shots’ 2-0 home win against North Ferriby United in August. So far this season, he’s officiated in fifteen National League fixtures, showing 47 yellow cards and no red cards.
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