Aldershot Town suffered their third defeat in six league games last Saturday, going down 2-1 at league leaders Forest Green Rovers. Looking to get back to winning ways, The Shots face another tough game this weekend as they visit promotion-chasing Lincoln City. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
When Jake Gallagher slotted in his first goal of the campaign in the 89th minute, after good work from Idris Kanu and Nick Arnold, the equaliser was met with complete delirium in the away end at The New Lawn. However, three minutes later, Christian Doidge’s superb header snatched all three points in the cruelest of fashions. The goal was the result of a vastly improved second half display from Aldershot Town, which saw Matt McClure miss two decent opportunities after coming off the bench. The opening 45 minutes had seen a tentative display from Gary Waddock’s side, marred by poor passing in the attacking third, plus Doidge’s first goal of the game after 16 minutes. The Shots’ only goalbound efforts of the first half saw Shamir Fenelon’s cross-cum-shot saved by Sam Russell, with Iffy Allen shooting wide from the rebound.
Whilst The Shots’ results have slipped in the last month, the performances have generally remained good and they still remain 6th in the National League table. It’s also worth noting that four of their five league defeats in 2016-17 have come against sides currently in the top five, including two against Forest Green Rovers. They’ve also lost two in a row away from home, but those have come against Rovers and third-placed Dagenham & Redbridge. Late goals have certainly been the order of the day for Aldershot Town in recent weeks, with ten of their last fourteen goals coming in the closing thirty minutes of games. However, three of the last five goals they’ve conceded have come after 80 minutes.
Formed in 1884, Lincoln City are currently participating in their sixth successive National League campaign, following relegation in May 2011. It was a sorry demise for the Imps, who had spent all-but-one of the previous eighty seasons (the exception was 1987-88) in the Football League. They famously made the Play-Offs for five straight campaigns between 2002 and 2007 whilst managed by the late Keith Alexander, but failed to secure promotion to the third tier on each occasion. The Lincolnshire side has failed to finish in the top half of the table in any of their campaigns back in non-league, finishing 17th, 16th, 14th, 15th and then 13th in 2015-16, nineteen points from the play-off places.
The Lincolnshire side have made an outstanding start to this season, sitting second in the table with 36 points from eighteen games. They’re unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, plus the Imps have the best goalscoring record (36 goals) in the division. They’ve managed three wins and two draws in their last five games at Sincil Bank since they lost 2-1 against Barrow on 17 September. Their home form in the National League has been strong, with five wins and two draws from their nine outings, whilst only Dover Athletic can better their tally of twenty home goals. Lincoln City are equally capable at the other end, having kept seven clean sheets in their eleven home games in all competitions.
Danny Cowley took over as the Imps manager in May after leading Braintree Town to the National League Play-Offs in his first season at this level. His side’s impressive form saw him linked to a similar position at Grimsby Town, but he told the Lincolnshire Echo last week: “I won’t be the next Grimsby manager, I can promise you that. Nicky (Cowley, his brother) and I are fully committed to Lincoln City. All of our focus is here… We’re ambitious and we want to manage at the highest level, that’s a fact. But ambition lies in following through a journey and finishing something we’ve started… We’re trying to transfer our part-time model into a full-time model and we need time to be able to see it through.”
Gary Waddock made three changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Forest Green Rovers on Saturday, all of which came in midfield. Liam Bellamy and Iffy Allen were both promoted from the bench, whilst Shamir Fenelon returned after missing two games with an ankle problem. They replaced Idris Kanu (who featured at The New Lawn after coming on for Allen at half-time), Bernard Mensah and Josh Wakefield. Fellow midfielders Dion Conroy (badly cut foot) and Jim Kellermann (completed a three-game suspension) were available, but not included in the matchday squad, so the Shots boss certainly has plenty of options for the game at Lincoln City.
Mensah wasn’t included in the squad to take on Forest Green Rovers because of a facial injury, but he’s scheduled to return to training this week. Meanwhile, Walker (eye) and Bellamy (knee strain) both picked up knocks on Saturday and will be assessed further during the week. Waddock will be hoping that both will be available for the weekend trip to Lincolnshire.
Despite last season’s mid-table finish, Danny Cowley chose to retain a large number of last season’s squad. Arguably the most important was last season’s 23-goal top scorer Matt Rhead, who was retained despite asking to be placed on the transfer list over the summer. He has eight goals this season already. Other key players that have remained at Sincil Bank include goalkeeper Paul Farman; defenders Luke Waterfall, Bradley Wood, Lee Beevers and Callum Howe; midfielders Alan Power and Terry Hawkridge, plus forward Jack Muldoon (ten goals in 2015-16 for the Imps). Amongst those who moved on from the Lincolnshire side were striker Liam Hearn (Ilkeston Town, eleven goals last season), midfielders Matt Sparrow (Gainsborough Trinity), Conner Robinson (North Ferriby United) and Greg Tempest (Nuneaton Town), plus defenders Chris Bush (Chelmsford City), Nat Brown (Boston United) and Tony Diagne. Former Shots captain Craig Stanley was also released by the club at the end of September.
Unsurprisingly, Cowley returned to his former club for personnel reinforcements, snapping up England C midfielder Alex Woodyard, left back Sam Habergham and winger Taylor Miles. He strengthened the Imps attacking ranks with the captures of Nathan Arnold (nine goals for Grimsby Town in their 2015-16 promotion campaign), Adam Marriott (Stevenage), Theo Robinson (Port Vale), Harry Anderson (on loan from Peterborough United until 1 January) and Jonny Margetts (Tranmere Rovers). Margetts, however, has since moved to League One side Scunthorpe United after netting five goals in his opening seven appearances. Former Dover Athletic centre-back Sean Raggett has boosted the defence, whilst highly-rated midfielder Elliott Whitehouse signed last month from Nuneaton Town.
Whitehouse should return to the squad this weekend after being cup-tied for Saturday’s game against Altrincham, whilst Miles (broken ankle) and Marriott (elbow) were unused substitutes in that games after absences through injury. However, Lee Beevers is a long-term loss due to a serious knee injury.
Saturday sees the thirteenth meeting between Aldershot Town and Lincoln City, with the North East Hampshire side having a slight superiority, winning six, drawing one and losing five of the previous twelve meetings. Four of the last seven games have been won by the away side, with the Imps winning 2-1 at the EBB Stadium last November. Jack Muldoon netted a deflected winner with ten minutes to go. The Lincolnshire side completed the double in March of this year with a 2-0 home win courtesy of Jamie McCombe and a Joe Oastler own goal. The only two other home victories in that stretch both came in 2014-15. Brett Williams got the only goal of the game at the EBB Stadium in September 2014, whilst the Lincolnshire side got their revenge the following January with a comfortable 3-0 win.
Williams also got the only goal of the game on Aldershot Town’s visit to Sincil Bank in the 2013-14 campaign, when his second-half penalty earned all three points on 12 October 2013. That was one of the Shots’ excellent run of results at the ground, with Aldershot Town winning on three of their six trips. The Lincolnshire side’s only other win came in October 2009, when Sergio Torres scored the only goal of the game. Incredibly, Aldershot FC had an even better record at Sincil Bank, managing four wins and five draws in their last nine visits dating back to April 1969. Aldershot FC’s overall record against Lincoln City saw them win thirteen, draw eleven and lose nine of the 33 fixtures.
If he features on Saturday, Charlie Walker will make his 50th league appearance for the club.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Martin Coy from County Durham, who took charge of the Shots’ 1-0 win at York City last month. So far this season, he’s officiated in seven National League fixtures, showing 26 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