James Meir takes an in-depth look at Barnet's 2014/15 Conference Premier rivals...
After Aldershot FC folded in March 1992, Aldershot Town was founded during the summer of that year and began life competing in the Isthmian League Division Three. Since then, the club has enjoyed much success in the lower leagues and gained promotion to the Football League in 2008 after winning the Conference with a record 101 points, only equalled last season when Luton Town stormed to the title. Relegated in 2012/13 with Barnet, the Shots will want to make a return to the Football League as quickly as possible.
Last season, Andy Scott’s Aldershot endured an underwhelming campaign following their relegation, finishing 19th on 51 points and only surviving on goal difference. This was mainly due to the fact that they were deducted 10 points early on in the season for entering administration, without which they would have finished 15th, comfortably clear of the relegation zone.
Key players include 2013/14 player of the season Chris Barker, previously of Cardiff and QPR. The experienced central defender helped keep 11 clean sheets throughout last season. In addition, 26-year-old Brett Williams top-scored for the Shots last season with 24 goals, the third highest total of any player in the league. These players alongside summer signings of Dan Fitchett from Salisbury and former Crystal Palace defender Glen Wilson, also from Salisbury, mean Andy Scott’s men certainly have a strong squad going into the 2014/15 campaign.
Barnet found the Shots to be difficult opponents last season, drawing 3-3 at the Recreation Ground with Harry Crawford scoring an 88th minute equaliser after coming back from 3-1 down. At The Hive, Barnet suffered a disappointing 3-1 defeat. Although level at half-time, two quick-fire second half goals gave the Shots the three points.
Formed in 1959 after a merger between Alfreton Miners Welfare and Alfreton United Football Clubs, the present Alfreton Town still play at North Street, a ground provided for them by the council. They made their way through the leagues and finally got promoted to the Conference in the 2010/2011 season as champions. This came after two years of heartache after losing in the play-offs the two previous seasons, finishing 3rd on both occasions.
The 2013/2014 season proved to be a positive season for the Reds, with Nicky Law’s men finishing 11th after a play-off push faded towards the end of the season. This was mainly due to a three point deduction for fielding an ineligible player, without which they would have finished level on points with the Bees.
Barnet have done a fair amount of summer tradiing with Alfreton, signing 25year-old striker John Akinde who found the net 18 times in 42 appearances last season. In addition, Barnet also signed midfielder Dan Bradley who caught the eye of Martin Allen while playing for Alfreton against Grimsby Town, showing great pace and athletic ability on the right side of midfield. The Reds have done business of their own, with the pick of their signings being experienced 27-year-old midfielder Jake Sheridan on a one-year deal from Conference rivals Lincoln City and 29-year-old versatile defender Duane Courtney from Tamworth.
Last season, Barnet lost at North Street 3-1. Having gone 1-0 down, Keanu Marsh Brown levelled just after the break but Alfreton regained the lead five minutes later and completed the victory late on. At the Hive, Dani Lopez’s wonder strike gave the Bees the three points in a 1-0 victory.
Founded in 1891 and nicknamed either the Robins or Alty, Altrincham joined the Northern Premier League in 1968/69 as founder members. In 2009, Australian cricketing legend Ricky Ponting became a major shareholder after striking up a friendship with club chairman Geoff Goodwin after his coach company “Go Goodwins” obtained the contract with the ECB to drive the Australian Cricket team between matches. They gained promotion to the Conference last season after finishing 3rd in the Conference North, with Lee Sinnott’s men winning the play-offs.
This summer they have signed 25-year-old winger Ryan Crowther who helped FC Halifax reach the play-offs last season, having been released previously by Fleetwood Town. Other notable players include last season’s Conference North top scorer Damien Reeves, scorer of 14 goals, and their match winner in the Play-Off Final, Greg Wilkinson, who came on as a substitute to score in the last minute of extra time.
Barnet have only ever met Altrincham six times, with two wins, two draws and two defeats. The last time the two sides met was in March 1991 in the Conference at Moss Lane where Altrincham ran away 4-1 winners.