Shots Pay Ultimate Price

The Aldershot News have reported that with just three minutes left of this petering out, one-sided contest, no-one could really blame boss Terry Brown for already contemplating a third successive home win.

Two-nil up and seemingly cruising to another three points, the loyal red and blue army were left heading for the warmth feeling happy and content, while members of the press waited patiently for the final whistle with the morning headlines already written.

Time therefore for a fitting reminder: This is Aldershot Town — nothing is ever that simple!
Yes, the Rec has been home to some bizarre encounters over the years but this must certainly take the biscuit!

Just how the Shots didn't claim all three points here and score a hatful in the process, not even Brown will ever know. This was there for the taking, two points most certainly thrown away.

Even with a Ryan Williams missed penalty in the first half and no fewer than four gilt-edged chances wasted, the Shots assumed control thanks to second half strikes from front pairing Tim Sills and Leroy Griffiths.

But in an amazing twist of fate, off-colour Canvey sensationally found another gear and with it, the back of the net twice in the dying minutes to leave the Shots boss livid.

“I can't believe we haven't won that, I'm gutted. I've been manager of this club long enough to know the game's never over until the final whistle and I was very disappointed in the manner of the way we conceded.

“I've questioned their mental strength because we've seen performances like that before where we've dominated games but for some unknown reason dropped deeper and deeper, while conceding territory in midfield. It's always a dangerous game to play.”

Brown's stony-faced performance in the post-match press conference fooled no-one. He's a proud man and a winner and this hurt him bad!

Victory here — a third straight at home — would have given the Shots the psychological boost of leapfrogging neighbours Woking into tenth place, while also moving to within seven points of a play-off berth with a trip to Altrincham to come this Saturday.

Now though, Brown must plod on and just pray that those two lost points don't come back to haunt him come the end of the season.

The wintry conditions gave the boss an immediate selection headache on Tuesday night with the subsequent icy pitch a key factor in delaying Darren Barnard's return to action.

The experienced Welsh left back suffered a slight calf strain and wasn't risked, although Steve Watson did come back to skipper the side following his recent groin strain and one-match suspension.

Meanwhile, new loan signing Gary Elphick from Brighton & Hove Albion slotted straight into centre back at the expense of John Brough, who dropped to the bench.

But disregarding the outcome of Tuesday's result, Brown has every right to feel encouraged right now.

This is undoubtedly the strongest his squad has been all season with the new additions of Elphick, Griffiths and Williams really giving the Shots an extra dimension.

Indeed, the performance on Tuesday was as good as anything seen for a while, and if this can be turned into points on the board, then Brown has every chance of leading the Shots to a third successive play-off berth.

He added: “Although I'm gutted about the result, I can't be about the performance because I thought we played well for the first 75 minutes.

“The first half was as well as we have played for a while, we created at least five open goals and on another day Sillsy would have had a hat-trick. I was absolutely gutted to go in 0-0 at half time.

“We never really got going in the same manner in the second half but the goals came and that should have been enough to win the game.”
Brown wasn't wrong — this really should have been a landslide.

Three times Nick Crittenden found the head of Sills with early corners from the right and, uncharacteristically he was off target each time — one wide left, one wide right and one over the top.

Crittenden, Williams and the marauding Gary Holloway in the centre, all contributed to lively forward movement from Aldershot, and, as a result, chances came regularly.

Both wide men stung the palms of goalkeeper Richard McKinney with fierce efforts, while the keen-to-impress Griffiths fired just wide after latching onto a Sills flick on.

But even those golden chances were eclipsed by the deadlock-breaking opportunity on 34 minutes when Canvey defender Joe Dolan clipped the heels of Williams just inside the box.

Referee Mr Scott pointed to the spot straight away but Williams' subsequent effort was poor and easily palmed away by McKinney.

Griffiths headed the wrong side of the upright from just SIX yards out, while Sills blasted high over the bar from 20 yards after Greg Heald had put him clean through with a towering header.

At the other end, keeper Nikki Bull was having an extremely quiet day — but that eventually was to prove his downfall.

His only action of the first half saw him forced to react to a dangerous low centre from ex-Shot Dwain Clarke — a sudden movement which aggravated a thigh injury suffered in training during the week.

The cold weather coupled with his inactivity between the sticks, caused the injury to seize and Bull is now a worrying doubt for the Altrincham trip at the weekend.

As Brown suggested, the second half never really saw the Shots reach the same heights, but instead it did bring a goal seven minutes into the re-start.

Williams floated over a ball over from the left and Sills beat McKinney at his near post with a deft flick header into the far corner.

Canvey's response was to mix it a bit and if Mr Scott had been in sterner mood he might have dismissed visiting midfielder Ben Sedgemore for a sequence of fouls and even Holloway for an over-the-top tackle on the same player for which he just got away with.

But with 15 minutes to go, the Shots looked to have wrapped things up when Williams won a free-kick wide on the left, swung the dead ball over finding Griffiths unmarked to head home his third goal in two games.

Crittenden might have made sure for the Shots with a stinging volley from the right channel which crashed against the top of the crossbar, but at that stage, it was felt a third goal would be a bonus more than anything.
Oh how we wrong were.

Suddenly, as a result of that complacency, the Shots stopped playing and Canvey found a new lease of life.

With three minutes left, substitute Mario Noto threaded a fine ball through to Minton, who cut inside his man and fired the visitors' first shot on target all night past a limping Bull, who had no chance.

Then, with just 40 seconds of the 90 minutes remaining, the Shots conceded a soft free-kick wide on the right. Minton swung the ball in and Sedgemore escaped his marker to head home unguarded from eight yards to the delight of the small army of Gulls fans in the East Bank.

This floodlit robbery may give Canvey bragging rights over the Shots following their 2-1 win at Park Lane back in August, but Brown must take heart from the plenty of positives on display in his bid for a late play-off assault.
This though, will hurt him for a while.

With thanks to the Aldershot News.