Aldershot Town dropped to 7th in the National League table after coming away from Lincoln City with a point after a hugely entertaining, but ultimately disappointing 3-3 draw. This weekend, the Shots have just their second home league game in the past six weeks, with Macclesfield Town visiting the EBB Stadium. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Gary Waddock, as well as the fans of his team, must have experienced nearly every emotion on Saturday at Sincil Bank. The highs will have come from Idris Kanu’s bundled 10th-minute opener (after Scott Rendell’s header was parried by Paul Farman) and the outstanding second half display. Deservedly 2-1 down at the break after a pair of fine finishes from Nathan Arnold in the 21st and 30rd minutes (Jake Cole also saved well from a Matt Rhead header between the two), the Shots rallied to equalise through Cheye Alexander’s superb left-footed curler from the edge of the area after 51 minutes and Rendell’s instinctive angled strike with seventeen minutes to go. However, Rhead’s controversial 96th-minute equaliser from a right wing cross was followed by frustrated and angry protests from the players and the bench.
For Aldershot Town fans, however, the feeling was also a familiar one. Four times in the Shots’ last six games (the league games at Dagenham & Redbridge, Forest Green Rovers and Lincoln City, plus the home FA Cup tie against Eastbourne Borough), their side has conceded a crucial goal after the 81st minute. Ultimately, the goals have cost the team four league points and a Cup replay. However, Waddock’s side has been scoring late as well, with eleven of their last seventeen goals coming after the hour mark. The players will certainly be happy to be back at the EBB Stadium, where the Shots record of 22 points (seven wins and a draw) from a possible 27 is the best home record in the division.
Macclesfield Town were formed in 1874 and, for the fifteen years between 1997 and 2012, the Silkmen were held up as an example of how to survive in the Football League on small crowds and an uncompetitive playing budget. They even managed a solitary season in the third tier of English football in 1998-99. They initially struggled on their return to the National League and were nearly wound-up in the summer of 2013 with debts of £500,000, but the Cheshire side still finished 15th in the non-league top flight. The Silkmen over-achieved in 2014-15 with a superb sixth-place finish, just one point from the play-offs, but they slipped down to 10th place last season, fourteen points adrift of the top five.
Nine wins from their opening thirteen league games left the Silkmen 6th in the National League at the start of October. However, a run of three draws and three defeats from their next six outings has left them eleventh in the current standings. Fourteen of their thirty points have come on their travels, which is good for the eight-best away record in the division, whilst they’ve won five of their last eight games in all competitions away from Moss Rose. They also have exactly the same league goalscoring statistics as the Shots (25 scored and 19 conceded), albeit in one less game. However, they’ve struggled against the better sides in their league campaign, with their biggest win coming against 14th-placed Wrexham.
Club legend John Askey (168 goals in 698 games over nineteen seasons) has also led his team to a televised 2nd Round FA Cup tie at home to Oxford United next month. His assistant, Steve Watson, told the club’s official website: “I’m excited, Oxford are a good side and have had a good season last year. They probably haven’t showed the performances they would have wanted to this year, but I know a lot about them… They’re a very good side so it’ll be a tough game. We’re full of confidence; we played very well at Walsall. It wasn’t one of them FA Cup games where it was smash and grab, I thought we were the better team, so we’ll take a lot from that. But, there’s a lot of work to be from now till then.”
Gary Waddock made four changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Lincoln City on Saturday, three of which came in midfield. After seven games out with a foot injury, Dion Conroy started in central midfield in place of the injured Liam Bellamy, whilst Bernard Mensah and Idris Kanu were preferred to Shamir Fenelon and Iffy Allen, neither of whom made the squad. Matt McClure returned to the starting eleven to partner Scott Rendell, with Charlie Walker dropping to the bench. Rendell’s first goal in five games – his fifth of the campaign – moved him to the top of the Shots’ goalscoring list, whilst the first league goal of Kanu’s career secured him another place in the Aldershot Town record books. At the age of sixteen years and 343 days, he became the youngest player to score for the club in a league game.
Bellamy, who missed the game thanks to a knee strain he picked up at Forest Green Rovers, may be available to face Macclesfield Town. If he is, Waddock should have a fully fit squad from which to choose this weekend.
Askey, who has been in charge since April 2013, still has a number of familiar names in his squad from last season’s midtable finish, but they did lose some key performers, most notably 29-goal top scorer Kristian Dennis. After the finish of his season-long loan deal from Stockport County, he completed a move to League One side Chesterfield. Midfield lynchpin Paul Turnbull (Barrow), attacking midfielder Danny Whitehead (seven goals, returned to parent club Wigan Athletic), first choice goalkeeper Shwan Jalal (Wrexham) and striker Reece Styche (Gateshead) also left Moss Rose. Amongst those who remained at the club were defenders George Pilkington, Andy Halls, Neil Fitzpatrick, Neill Byrne, John McCombe and Dan Cowan; midfielders Danny Whitaker (leads the Silkmen with seven goals this season), Paul Lewis and Danny Rowe, plus attackers Chris Holroyd (six goals so far this campaign) and Jack Sampson.
There have been seven permanent arrivals at the Silkmen since the end of the previous campaign. Askey strengthened his midfield ranks during the summer with the arrivals of Kingsley James (eleven goals for FC Halifax Town in 2015-16), Ollie Norburn (Guiseley) and John Roberts (Accrington Stanley), whilst Craig Ross (Whitehawk) is the new number one goalkeeper. Ryan Boot signed on a short-term loan deal from Port Vale last week to act as his back-up. Jack Mackreth (Tranmere Rovers) and Mitch Hancox (Birmingham City) add quality in wide areas, whilst striker Sam Madeley arrived from FC United in September to add a further option in the attacking third. The Macclesfield Town boss added a familiar face to his squad earlier this week with the arrival of Richard Brodie, who scored five goals in 26 games for the Shots last season (although he failed to find the net in his final nineteen appearances, and subsequently had his contract cancelled by mutual consent at the end of January 2016). The York City striker has signed a loan deal that will keep him at Moss Rose until 1 January.
The Macclesfield Town boss could be without Paul Lewis this weekend after he was stretchered off in the first half against Forest Green Rovers, whilst Norburn has also missed games in recent weeks. However, Chris Holroyd could be available to face the Shots after suffering a groin injury at the end of October.
Aldershot Town and Macclesfield Town have faced each other on fourteen occasions, with the Shots winning three, losing five and drawing six of those encounters. Both games last season were won by the away side, with the Silkmen winning 3-0 at the EBB Stadium last September in a game where Jake Gallagher received his marching orders. Back in January, goals from Alfie Pavey and Damon Lathrope gave the Shots a 2-0 victory at Moss Rose. In fact, no home side has won any of the last five encounters. The previous fourteen games have been short of goals with just 25 goals and three goalless draws.
Macclesfield Town have got an impressive record from their seven games at the EBB Stadium, winning three games and also drawing on three occasions. Mark Molesley got the only goal of the game in the Shots’ sole victory on 7 September 2013, whilst last season’s 3-0 win was preceded by a 1-0 victory (Danny Whitaker with the goal) for the Cheshire side in December 2014. In October 2011, Aldershot Town lost 2-1 to the Silkmen, whilst this fixture had previously seen two 0-0 draws in November 2009 (ex-manager Kevin Dillon’s first game in charge) and February 2011, as well as a 1-1 tie in January 2009.
Saturday’s game will be Gary Waddock’s 150th in charge of Aldershot Town. Overall, the Shots have won 73 (for a winning percentage of 49%), drawn 32 and lost 44.
If he features on Saturday, Charlie Walker will make his 50th league appearance for the club. Meanwhile, Scott Rendell is on 249 National League appearances and 99 National League goals, whilst Jack Saville will reach 100 National League appearances if he plays this weekend.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Thomas Bramall from Sheffield, who is in his first season on the National Referees list. So far this season, he’s officiated in twelve National League fixtures, showing 38 yellow cards and two 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