Aldershot Town’s eight game unbeaten run came to an end in midweek with a 4-0 defeat to new league leaders Forest Green Rovers. Gary Waddock’s side has an immediate chance to respond, however, as they welcome newly-promoted Solihull Moors to the EBB Stadium on Saturday. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
Putting it simply, Aldershot Town were blown away on Tuesday evening by an outstanding opening 45 minutes from the visitors. They went 1-0 up after five minutes when Fabien Robert thrashed in a rebound, with Kieffer Moore firing in at the near post three minutes later to double the lead. The hosts’ best spell of the game came shortly after, with Jake Gallagher forcing a save from Rovers keeper Sam Russell and Iffy Allen hitting the bar in the 16th minutes. Shortly after, however, Will Evans was dismissed after clashing with Rhys Murphy. Robert made it 3-0 with a deflected effort in the 27th minute and Moore touched in a right wing cross in stoppage time to make it 4-0. It was damage limitation for the Shots in the second half, with Charlie Walker’s half-blocked effort after 63 minutes being the only shot on target for other side.
To say the result and performance was a surprise would be a masterpiece of understatement. An Aldershot Town side that had conceded one goal in nine hours at the EBB Stadium proceeded to concede four in 42 minutes as they suffered their first home defeat of the campaign. However, Gary Waddock’s players have recovered well following their two previous losses this season, winning the next two after the opening day loss at Barrow, and then winning three on the bounce after they were defeated at Braintree Town. Despite Tuesday’s defeat, Aldershot Town’s total of 25 points from their opening fourteen league games is their highest total since they accrued 31 in the 2008-09 promotion season.
Solihull Moors came into being following a merger between Moor Green, who were an original member of Conference North in 2004, and Southern League side Solihull Borough. The former club had played at the latter’s Damson Park ground following an arson attack in 2005 that left The Moorlands unusable and too costly to repair. It was also decided that a new ground wasn’t an option so the new club was officially started on 1 June 2007. The West Midlands club hadn’t finished above 7th in their first eight seasons in the National League North, but they exceeded expectations in 2015-16, when they finished nine points clear of second-placed North Ferriby United to take their place in a national league for the first time.
Moors have made a solid start to the season, sitting thirteenth after securing nineteen points from fourteen games. Their campaign can be split into three sections, with the newcomers picking up ten points from their first five games. Four straight defeats followed (conceding fourteen goals in the process), but they’ve bounced back with a five game unbeaten run. Their defensive play has improved, with just three goals conceded in that time. Only five teams have bettered their 22 league goals, with eight of those coming in their last two fixtures. Solihull Moors’ form on the road has also improved, with goalless draws at Lincoln City and Gateshead preceding last Saturday’s victory at Maidstone United.
Manager Marcus Bignot, who’s been in charge of the club since June 2011, has been working for that entire time without a contract. However, he expects that to change, telling the BBC Sport website last week: “I’ve always done it the old school way. The first agent I had was a big agency. The second was Eric Hall and that was all done on a handshake. I never signed anything. A handshake was as good as anything written down… I want to manage higher up one day, but I want to do it the right way. I must be the only manager in this league that’s not got a contract. It’s unsettling. The way the club is changing off the pitch (further off-field expansions are planned) I feel it’s only right I have some security.”
Gary Waddock was forced into one change on Tuesday evening, with Dion Conroy coming in to central midfield for the injured Liam Bellamy. However, following Evans’ red card, the Chelsea loanee slotted into the back four alongside captain Callum Reynolds. The game also saw a return to first team action for Jim Kellermann, who hadn’t played since suffering an ankle injury in the win at Dover Athletic at the end of August. He should have a place in the squad to face Solihull Moors, whilst the Shots boss may choose to freshen up his defence after the midweek drubbing. Jack Saville, who hasn’t played since the loss at Braintree Town in August, and Anthony Straker, who hasn’t featured in the last three Shots’ fixtures, are potential options for the starting eleven this weekend.
Bellamy, who injured his hamstring in the win at York City, won’t be fit for this Saturday’s game, whilst Will Evans will serve the first game of his three-game suspension. It’s the first suspension served by an Aldershot Town player this season, with the team as a whole picking up just 26 yellow cards in the first fourteen games of the season.
Marcus Bignot was able to keep the majority of his promotion-winning squad over the summer, including two members of the 2015-16 National League North Team of the Year – full-back Connor Franklin and eleven-goal attacking midfielder Darryl Knights. The Moors boss was able to keep his three main strikers – Akwasi Asante (twenty goals last season, seven this, including consecutive hat-tricks against Maidstone United and Southport), fourteen-goal Stefan Moore and Andy Brown (nine goals in 2015-16). Last season’s first-choice goalkeeper Danny Lewis also remained at Damson Park, as did defenders Theo Streete, Liam Daly and Jordan Gough, plus midfielders Ryan Beswick and Mark Byrne. However, Bignot did lose two other players named in the National League North Team of the Year – defender Michael Nottingham, who was also the club’s Player of the Year, joined Salford City, whilst centre-back Gareth Dean moved to Brackley Town along with midfielders James Armson and Adam Walker. Callum Gittings (AFC Telford United), Darren Byfield (became manager at Redditch United) and Junior English (Worcester City) have also left the club since the end of last season.
There were eight permanent arrivals for the club’s first National League campaign, including the ex-Cheltenham Town forward Omari Sterling-James, who has three goals this season. Fellow striker Harry White signed from Barnsley, whilst Nathan Vaughan arrived from Worcester City to challenge Lewis for the goalkeeper’s jersey. Jordan Fagbola (Northern Premier League Division One North side Colwyn Bay) and Jean-Yves Niate (French Fourth Division side AS Poissy) have been added to the defensive ranks, whilst Jamey Osborne (Redditch United), Shepherd Murombedzi (Hayes & Yeading United) and Charlie Morris (Boldmere St Michaels) give Bignot extra options in midfield.
The Solihull Moors boss will be without his captain, Theo Streete, until the New Year after he suffered a serious knee injury in preseason, but Andy Brown could return after missing the last three games.
This weekend will see the first meeting between Aldershot Town and Solihull Moors, who also never played a competitive fixture against the old Aldershot FC.
If he features on Saturday, Jake Gallagher will make his 50th appearance for the Shots, whilst Shamir Fenelon will make his 100th senior appearance if he plays in the same game.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Craig Hicks from Sutton, who took charge of the Shots’ 2-0 home victory against Wrexham in August. He also oversaw Aldershot Town’s 2-1 win at Braintree Town last August, as well as the 2-0 victory at Torquay United at the start of October 2015. This season he’s officiated in eight National League fixtures, showing fifteen yellow cards and three 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