Aldershot have consistently been one of the best attacking sides in the division this year. Their fluent passing game has also made them perhaps the most attractive side to watch in the league, but some recent results have been a little disappointing.
Their eye-catchingly heavy loss to Macclesfield last weekend can be explained away: they had a centre back sent off early on while conceding a penalty, and as they therefore found themselves both a goal and a man down against the league leaders with 85 minutes left, their game plan was left in ruins.
Perhaps of more concern was their midweek draw at home to Bromley. Uncharacteristically, they struggled to break down the visitors and needed an injury time goal to avoid defeat.
Aldershot’s play is characterised by swift interchange of players in attacking positions. They line up in a 4-2-3-1, with the three attacking players in the second line exchanging positions to good effect. It’s hard to imagine that they’ve executed this better this season than they did against Wrexham last November, when their attacking movement troubled the division’s best defence more than any other side has during the campaign.
However, there was a fundamental difference between the Bromley match and how they lined up last November. Nicke Kabamba is much more of a fixed reference point up front, whereas in November Shamir Fenelon offered more movement and willingness to switch positions up front. Kabamba is more of a presence in the air, and therefore offers Aldershot the option to mix things up and go long, although it should be pointed out that Bromley’s central defenders dealt with him well in this respect, and he was withdrawn ten minutes into the second half.
Aldershot were able to bring the experienced Scott Rendell off the bench on Tuesday, and he brings a different set of qualities to the attacking role. He is strong and able to hold the ball up with his back to goal and bring other players in. He is also a good finisher, as Wrexham would know as he has scored prolifically against us over the course of the last decade. Fenelon is also an option, having been on the bench in recent games.
Aldershot have also lost Bernard Mensah to Bristol Rovers during the transfer window, who brought genuine pace to their attacks. To replace him they brought in Josh McQuoid on loan from Luton, who slotted into the fluid shape behind the striker from a starting position on the right. He often popped up in central positions, either interchanging with Fabien Robert or coming inside to offer space for forward movement from left back, Lewis Kinsella, who was more likely to look to get forwards than Cheye Alexander on the other flank.
James Rowe’s starting position was on the right flank, and despite being right-footed, he regularly came inside to occupy a more central role off the main striker, where he was keen to shot from range. His lateral movement is very good, and in the course of a move he has the mobility and pace to pop up in different attacking areas, making him difficult to track.
Robert was outstanding against Wrexham in November. On that occasion his starting position was on the flank, but he was constantly dropping central and deep to find space to receive the ball, and create pockets further up the pitch which team mates could run into. He is predominantly right-footed and quick, with a good first touch and a low centre of gravity which allows him to change direction sharply both when turning on the ball and when dribbling at defenders.
Earlier in the season, Aldershot looked to use early diagonals from their full backs to find the wide attacking players early while in space, but they seemed to deploy this tactic less against Bromley. As a result, they sometimes found themselves passing the ball around in front of a packed defence, trying to find space to exploit, while the visiting back four stuck rigidly to their positions and refused to be pulled out by Aldershot’s movement.
In midfield Adam McDonnell and Fabien Oyeleke are both strong, mobile players. McDonnell likes to drop between the centre backs to start moves with passes from deep, while Oyeleke is energetic and enjoys challenging for loose balls in the middle of the pitch.
The midfield duo will be assisted by the second line when the ball is lost, with the player who was in a central position dropping back to make a third man in midfield.
It was clear that Bromley were trying to target right back Alexander throughout the match last Tuesday. They regularly looked to loft high balls in behind him, as he is not particularly pacey and they felt they could spring a runner in behind him into a crossing position.
Aldershot were lacking centre back Will Evans in midweek after his early dismissal at Macclesfield last Saturday, but having served his suspension he is likely to return to the starting line-up, probably in place of Callum Reynolds, who is not fully recovered from an injury.