Aldershot Town finished their Bank Holiday weekend with a 1-1 draw at Torquay United on Monday, which, coupled with Friday’s point against Forest Green Rovers, keeps the Shots in the top half of the table. Another tough task awaits this weekend with promotion-chasing Grimsby Town visiting the Electrical Services Stadium. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
It could be argued that Andy Scott’s players put in their worst performance of the season on Monday afternoon at Plainmoor, especially so before half-time. Suddenly, a team that had only conceded three goals in their first four games, were far too open in their own half. In fact, the Shots were lucky to only be trailing by one goal at the break, with a block in the six-yard box by Sam Hatton to deny Duane Ofori-Acheampong proving especially crucial. The visitors were much better in the second half, mainly through winning defensive headers and improving in midfield, and deserved their equaliser through Joe N’Guessan. It was also good to see Aldershot Town try to win the game in the closing stages, rather than sitting back for the point, but the draw was probably the right result.
After picking up fourteen points from losing positions in 2013-14, the Shots garnered their first point from a similar situation this season. It was a strong display of character after falling behind for the first significant amount of time this season (the only previous occasion Aldershot Town trailed was to the last kick of the game at Eastleigh), which should prove another positive element in the club’s campaign. Another one is the club’s home form, which has seen the Shots pick up four points from their opening two fixtures. If you factor in last season’s results, then Aldershot Town have secured ten points from their last five home league outings.
Grimsby Town are currently in their fifth consecutive season in the non-league top flight having ended the 2009-10 League Two campaign in 23rd, thus ending a 99-year stay as a Football League club. Two 11th-place finishes followed before double disappointment in 2012-13. Not only did the Mariners lose a Conference Premier play-off semi-final 2-0 on aggregate to Newport County (after finishing fourth in the table), but they also lost the FA Trophy Final to Wrexham after a penalty shoot-out at Wembley. It was deja-vu all over again last season as Grimsby finished 4th again before a 4-2 aggregate play-off semi-final defeat against Gateshead.
The North-East Lincolnshire club are unbeaten so far in the 2014-15 campaign and currently sit 8th in the embryonic table with nine points from their opening five games. A trio of opening draws against Bristol Rovers, Nuneaton Town and Dover Athletic didn’t really hint at the demolitions to come over over the Bank Holiday weekend. A 6-1 win at Gateshead on Saturday preceded Monday’s 7-0 thrashing of the division’s bottom club, Alfreton Town. So far in this Conference season, no team has bettered the Mariners’ fourteen goals scored or two goals conceded. Grimsby Town will also look to continue their away form from last season, which was the second-best in the division.
Paul Hurst is the Mariners’ boss, having taken sole charge of the team on 6 September 2013, and he was delighted with the most recent victory. Speaking to the Grimsby Telegraph after Monday’s outing, he said: “I told the players in the dressing room after yesterday’s game that our season starts now… after the last two games, the lads are high on confidence and are really hungry. We’ve now got to try and keep that feeling going for as long as possible. I’ve been delighted with the players’ attitudes and their performance levels over the last two games. I’ve always said that I’ve got a good group of players and they’re showing that. Now they’ve got to produce those levels on a regular basis to give us a chance.”
Andy Scott made two changes to his starting line-up on Friday evening with Kieron Forbes and Anthony Tonkin replacing Mark Molesley and the injured Chris Barker. For Tonkin it was his first start of the season after starting ten of the last thirteen league games in the 2013-14 campaign. For the first time this season, however, it was a couple of Scott’s substitutes who had a scoring impact on the game. Dan Fitchett and Joe N’Guessan both arrived on the hour mark, with the latter netting the 71st-minute equaliser with some assistance from the former. It was the 19-year-old’s first goal for the Shots and may help him secure a place in the starting line-up for the visit of Grimsby Town.
Barker missed the game at Torquay United with a calf injury, but could feature this weekend, whilst Mark Molesley (tendonitis), Dan Fitchett (hamstring) and Tristan Plummer (hamstring) are all playing their way back to full fitness. Midfielder Sam Hatton (77 games, three goals for the Mariners from 2012 to 2014) will be desperate to play and do well against his former club on Saturday.
Paul Hurst used his first pre-season in sole charge of the Mariners to re-tool his squad, making some very canny signings in the process. Seven permanent signings have been made, most of whom have good experience in the Conference. Alan Connell (Northampton Town) and Jon-Paul Pittman (Wycombe Wanderers) were brought in to bolster the attacking ranks, but Connell departed earlier this week after failing to find the net in three appearances. Jack Mackreth (Macclesfield Town), Craig Clay (York City) and Scott Brown (Southport) are good options in midfield. Another former Southport player, defender Toto Nsiala was also snapped up by Hurst, whilst left-back Carl Magnay should strengthen that position. Attacking midfielder Nathan Arnold has arrived on a season-long loan deal from Cambridge United and centre-back Andrew Boyce is on loan from Scunthorpe United until early-October.
The Grimsby Town boss has allowed eleven players to leave since the end of the 2013-14 campaign, a number of whom were first-team regulars. As well as Sam Hatton’s departure from Blundell Park, there were also exits for ex-Aldershot Town winger Alex Rodman (Gateshead), strikers Liam Hearn and Andy Cook, midfielders Scott Kerr, Joe Colbeck (both Bradford Park Avenue) and Andi Thanoj, plus centre-back Clayton McDonald. However, there are plenty of familiar faces in the Mariners’ 2014-15 squad, such as goalkeeper James McKeown, defenders Paul Bignot, Aswad Thomas and Shaun Pearson, midfielders Craig Disley (twelve goals last season), Scott Neilson and Patrick McLaughlin, plus strikers Lenell John-Lewis and last season’s fifteen-goal top-scorer Ross Hannah.
Hannah hasn’t featured so far this season after injuring his thigh over the summer, but he may be available for the game against the Shots this weekend. Nathan Arnold is doubtful with a calf injury, whilst Aswad Thomas will definitely be missing after suffering a broken tibia earlier this month.
This Saturday sees the seventh meeting between Aldershot Town and Grimsby Town, with the most recent taking place in North-East Hampshire last October. However, most Shots’ fans will want to forget that game after goals in the opening 54 minutes from Lenell John-Lewis, Ross Hannah and Liam Hearn gave the Mariners a 3-0 victory. Earlier last season, the Shots’ first game back in the Conference Premier saw them impress in securing a 1-1 draw. Joe Oastler’s debut goal gave the visitors the lead, before Hannah’s contentious penalty levelled the game. The previous four encounters had seen one victory for either side and a pair of draws, both of which came at what is now the Electrical Services Stadium. As well as a 1-1 draw in January 2010, Aldershot Town came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in December 2008, thanks to a Scott Davies brace.
Aldershot FC also had a decent record against Grimsby, winning eight, drawing eight and losing just six of the 22 ties between the two clubs. They had a superb home record as well, winning six, drawing four and losing just once against the Mariners in North-East Hampshire. Their only home loss was a 3-0 defeat in a game played in the old Third Division in April 1976.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Rob Whitton from Essex, who took charge of three Shots’ games last season – the goalless draw against Kidderminster Harriers in March, the 2-1 FA Cup home defeat against Shortwood United last October and the 1-0 defeat at Welling United in September 2013. Last year, he officiated in 21 Conference Premier games, showing 63 yellow cards and five 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 for team news just after 2pm, followed by pre-match interviews and full match commentary via the BBC Surrey website at 2.55pm.
We also want your thoughts on how you think the Shots will do against Grimsby Town. Let us know on the day via the following methods:
Text: 81333 (please start your text with the word ‘Radio’)
Plus, we want your reaction to the game between 5pm and 6pm on Saturday in ‘The Final Whistle’. Win, lose or draw, we want to hear from you throughout this season. Call us on 03459 57 00 57 and let your voice be heard.