Aldershot Town extended their unbeaten run to seven games – their longest unbeaten run in four-and-a-half years – with Saturday afternoon’s 3-0 home victory over Gateshead. Despite the win, the Shots have dropped to 8th in the National League table ahead of this weekend’s long trip to recently-relegated York City. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
It may have been the Shots’ biggest home win since they beat Tamworth 6-0 in December 2013, but it wasn’t quite as comfortable as that scoreline suggests. The best chance of the first half fell to the visitors’ Wes York, who was clean through, but prodded his shot wide in the 12th minute. The hosts struggled to create chances as well, with Liam Bellamy having their only shot on target. Iffy Allen curled in a fine goal from the edge of the box, whilst ten minutes later Matt McClure was fouled in the area by James Bolton. He picked himself up and dispatched the spot kick for a 2-0 lead. Substitute Reece Styche (on two occasions), Danny Johnson and Paddy McLaughlin wasted good opportunities for Gateshead, before Charlie Walker turned in Josh Wakefield 93rd-minute cross to secure the three points.
If they manage to avoid a loss at Bootham Crescent, Aldershot Town will notch up their longest unbeaten streak in the league since they went ten games without defeat in League Two between 1 March 2011 and 16 April 2011. Defensively, Gary Waddock’s side have been outstanding this season, with their tally of just nine goals conceded in twelve games, leading the way in the National League. On Saturday, they also notched their fifth clean sheet of the campaign, a total only bettered by Dagenham & Redbridge and Chester, who have managed six apiece. The Shots are unbeaten in their last three away games, with the win at Dover Athletic being followed by come-from-behind draws at Boreham Wood and Southport.
York City were initially formed in 1908, before being liquidated in 1917 and reformed five years later. An 82 year unbroken spell in the Football League was ended by relegation in 2004, which started an eight-year stint in the non-league top flight. That ended with a Play-Off Final win over Luton Town, whilst they also won the FA Trophy that season, under Gary Mills. Their second season back in the Football League saw the Minstermen finish 7th, before losing in the 2013-14 League Two Play-Off semi-finals to Fleetwood Town. The following season saw an 18th-place finish before a 2015-16 disastrous campaign saw the North Yorkshire side finish bottom of the table with just seven league wins and 34 points.
The struggles have continued again this season, with York City sitting eighteenth in the table with just twelve points from their opening twelve fixtures. Their last four games have seen them fail to score, whilst picking up just one point thanks to a goalless draw at home to Tranmere Rovers. The overall form at Bootham Crescent has been solid, with the Minstermen winning three, drawing two and losing just one of their home games, conceding just three goals in the process. That’s a total that only the Shots, Wrexham and Dagenham & Redbridge have bettered. Their last home fixture saw a 1-0 defeat against Dover Athletic, but they netted eight times in home wins prior to that against Solihull Moors and Woking.
The poor form has seen manager Jackie McNamara, who took over last November, considering his position after the weekend’s 2-0 loss. He told the York Press: “I’ve told the players that I am very, very frustrated. It’s all about the importance of performances and victories for myself, the chairman and the club… that’s something I need to look at in terms of my position, because I’m really disappointed. You’re trying to get through to them, but some of what we’re saying seems to go over the top of people’s heads. I believe we are capable of beating Barrow and winning every game in this division, but it’s getting that across to the players so they understand the importance of things because, if they don’t, I won’t be here.”
Gary Waddock made four changes to his starting eleven at the weekend, with Liam Bellamy (achilles and ankle problems) and Bernard Mensah (tonsillitis) both returning to the squad after missing the club’s two previous outings. Nick Arnold and Iffy Allen also came into the line-up, with the latter scoring his first goal since he netted for Torquay United on 5 April. Those additions meant Dion Conroy, Josh Wakefield and Scott Rendell dropped to the bench, whilst Anthony Straker missed out completely. The game was also notable for Charlie Walker coming off the bench and netting his first goal since missing almost two months with an ankle ligament problem, whilst Matt McClure’s penalty gave him his first goal at the EBB Stadium, having previously netted on the road at Bromley and Boreham Wood.
With Mensah, Bellamy and Jim Kellermann (who’d missed four games with an ankle injury but wasn’t selected in the squad to face Gateshead) all returning to fitness, it means that, barring any knocks in training this week, the Aldershot Town manager will have a fully-fit squad from which to choose on Saturday.
Jackie McNamara was undoubtedly the busiest National League manager over the summer, signing 22 players since York City’s relegation was confirmed, whilst seeing the overwhelming majority of his players depart the club. Midfielders James Berrett (five goals) and Luke Summerfield (eight goals) joined Grimsby Town, whilst Russell Penn moved to fellow League Two side Carlisle United. Fellow midfielders Kenny McEvoy and Josh Carson also left the club. Former Shots defender Dave Winfield joined National League South outfit Ebbsfleet United, whilst fellow defenders Femi Ilesanmi (Boreham Wood) and Taron Hare (North Ferriby United) also departed. Ten-goal top scorer Vadaine Oliver is on loan at Notts County until 7 January, whilst fellow strikers Michael Coulson (seven goals, Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone), ex-Shots trialist Jake Hyde (Stevenage) and Emile Sinclair (Altrincham, then Bradford Park Avenue) have moved on from Bootham Crescent. Long serving goalkeeper Michael Ingham joined Northern Premier League Division One North side Tadcaster Albion after eight years at the club, whilst last season’s first choice goalkeeper Scott Flinders has recently signed for Macclesfield Town on a month-long loan deal. That means only midfielders Danny Galbraith, Matt Dixon and Callum Rzonca remain at the club from those who played for York City last season.
The wholesale changes have occurred throughout the side, starting with a pair of new goalkeepers in Kyle Letheren (Blackpool) and Luke Simpson (Watford). In the defensive ranks, Lanre Oyebanjo (Crawley Town) has returned to the Minstermen, whilst Shaun Rooney (Dunfermline Athletic), Matt Fry (Braintree Town), Jack Higgins (Stalybridge Celtic), Alex Whittle (Southport), Ben Clappison (Hull City), Josh Robinson (Irish Premiership side Crusaders) and Ben Barber (Chester) also joining the club. The midfield ranks now include Simon Heslop (Wrexham), Clovis Kamdjo (Forest Green Rovers), Aidan Connolly (Raith Rovers), Kaine Felix (Boston United), Daniel Nti (Worcester City) and Franklyn Clarke (Dorchester Town), whilst there’ll be a familiar face upfront for the North Yorkshire side. 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), returned to Bootham Crescent over the summer to be joined by fellow forwards Yan Klukowski (Newport County), Scott Fenwick (Hartlepool United), Fraser Murdoch (Crewe Alexandra), plus loanees Jake Wright (Sheffield United) and Justin Johnson (Dundee United).
The York City boss has been hampered by injuries this season, with Oyebanjo (calf) and Galbraith (heel) failing to feature at all so far. Klukowski (calf) and Justin Johnson (back) are also doubtful for this weekend’s game, whilst Shaun Rooney went off at Barrow with a shoulder injury. However, Ben Clappison, who missed that game through illness, should be available to face the Shots.
The Shots and York City have faced each other on ten previous occasions, with the first eight taking place in the what is now the National League. However, the last two meetings were in Aldershot Town’s 2012-13 League Two relegation season. The game finished goalless at Bootham Crescent in January 2013, whilst the Yorkshire side secured a comfortable 2-0 win at the EBB Stadium in September 2012, thanks to second-half goals from Matty Blair and Jason Walker. Of the ten prior fixtures, the Shots have won four, lost five and drawn one, with three of those victories coming in the first three meetings. The only win since came in September 2007 when Scott Davies and Rob Elvins scored in a 2-0 home win.
Aldershot Town have only picked up four points from their five visits to North Yorkshire, with their sole victory coming thanks to goals from Tim Sills and Steve Watson in a 2-0 victory in February 2005. The Shots even failed to win there in the 2007-08 promotion campaign, with Richard Brodie opening the scoring in the seventh minute. Aldershot FC didn’t fare much better at the ground, losing eleven, drawing six and winning just five of their 22 fixtures at Bootham Crescent. Their overall record against the Minstermen saw them win thirteen, draw thirteen and lose eighteen of the 44 meetings.
If he plays on Saturday afternoon, Will Evans will be making his 100th National League appearance.
Saturday afternoon’s referee is Martin Coy from County Durham, who’s in his fourth season on the National Referees list. So far this season he’s officiated in three National League fixtures, showing ten 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