Near enough an annual event in the 10 years from 1998 to 2008, it’s hard to believe it’s been almost another decade again since the last Fleet-Aldershot Town clash.
With the Shots having been promoted and relegated in that time, and Fleet having done it the other way around, the intervening 10 years have seen mixed fortunes for both clubs since that memorable FA Trophy semi-final meeting. The Shots would no doubt rather focus on their league record at Stonebridge Road, where they never lost a Conference game and you have to go back to the Ryman years to find the last time Fleet defeated the Hampshire side in a league meeting.
“I’m not going to change anything from what we normally do,” Daryl McMahon said. “The players all know how we want to play and they’ll be ready for Aldershot. We have to raise our game… we’re at least as good, or better than most teams we’ve played. We just need to be more ruthless and more clinical.”
With Jack Powell having scored two goals in as many games and Danny Kedwell, who has a decent personal record against Aldershot, top scoring with four, the Fleet manager is determined his team will take the offensive.
The Shots may be 10 places better off than McMahon’s team at present but the points difference is only three and after several near misses, the boss is confident his side can land an elusive win providing they swerve the errors and misfortune that has seen them hauled back from a commanding position in each of their previous two league matches.
As the Fleet injury crisis eases (Jack Connors and Myles Weston were back in training and reported fit), so Aldershot’s seems to have got worse. Left-back Nick Arnold, once of Whitehawk, has been ruled out for most of the season with an ACL injury and former Maidstone winger Bobby-Joe Taylor pulled out of Saturday’s game with illness. This is just the tip of the iceberg for weary Shots manager Gary Waddock who also has Will Evans, Shamir Fenelon, Kodi Lyons-Foster, Bernard Mensah, Manny Oyeleke and loanee Will de Havilland on the injury list. Former Welling midfielder Jake Gallagher has also just returned from illness and is still regaining match fitness.
It has certainly affected Aldershot’s results. Having started the season with three wins, including a 6-0 thrashing of Guiseley, they have won just one of their last six games and fell victim to a Dover smash and grab on Saturday after dominating possession for much of the contest. Crowds have dipped, too, with Waddock bemoaning an attendance of 1,700 which, as any Fleet fan who visited the Rec regularly 10 and more years ago will know, that’s not what Aldershot would usually expect.
Nonetheless, the Shots will be backed in healthy numbers away from home as they always were and McMahon and his players are looking forward to the atmosphere under the Stonebridge Road lights. A win could also take Aldershot back to the top of the table, so it’s certainly not all doom and gloom for them.
Three loanees (George Fowler and Adam McDonnell from Ipswich, Fabien Robert from Forest Green) and a couple of youngsters (Matt Bozier, Luca Wrightman and Eoin Kirwan) have been drafted in to make up the numbers, but Aldershot can still boast firepower in Scott Rendell and Matt McClure.
With Connors and Weston back in contention for a starting place, plus Dean Rance and Kenny Clark already having made their comebacks, McMahon will have some decisions to make about his lineup. One player certain not to feature is Jean Yves-Niate, the central defender having been released, with that position now well covered once more.
Ticketing and car-parking arrangements for the game can be found here.