Aldershot and Farnham head coach Ian Jennings hailed a much-needed three points for his side after they won 2-1 at Eastbourne in the South East Premier Division last Saturday (February 4).
The Shots travelled with a weakened squad because of injuries and player unavailability, but Jennings was happy with the win.
“Without doubt player unavailability hurt us and once again it showed our vulnerability with the lack of depth in our squad,” said Jennings.
“However, I have to give credit to all the players, some of whom were playing out of position and others who were called up from the lower teams who performed admirably.
“The win was very much needed, battling against a poorly-umpired game, an agricultural side and an abusive home crowd, which the umpires failed to control.
“The performance was less impressive than the dedication to get the job done.
“Considering our lack of depth, inexperience in certain positions and an opportunity being given to another 17-year-old, we managed to get the job done despite all the distractions.”
Despite having the worst goal difference in the league, Eastbourne’s home form is currently keeping them out of trouble, so A&F weren’t expecting an easy game.
This was compounded by having Chris Boot, Daan Barron and James Treadgold all unavailable. This did, however, allow for Luke Upshon to make his first-team debut in midfield and Ed Rushmere to make his second guest appearance of the season.
It was no surprise that with the majority of the engine room missing, A&F spluttered along in attack throughout the first half.
Kevin McCafferty and Jamie Weston were those charged with attempting to replicate the success of the missing trio, but they struggled to make meaningful connections.
A&F carved out some decent chances as they looked to establish control of the game.
Tom Herring’s distribution from the back was varied and successful throughout the first half, often finding targets high up the pitch to move A&F forward. Stu Morhall found plenty of space on the right flank and crosses came into the D. Eventually, Scott Perry – having found himself in space in the inside-right channel during a long corner – delivered a ball that was diverted in by Jake Combes at the top of the D to give A&F the lead.
Eastbourne responded well. They won a string of penalty corners but were repelled through a combination of Weston’s direct defensive running, Conor Wilkinson sweeping up any leftovers and Hamish Hall in goal.
The team’s defensive effort all over the pitch was high and effective. The forward line were poaching the ball from the Eastbourne defence and preventing them from making major inroads down the flanks. Morhall and Perry picked off attempted passes in the wide areas and launched counter attacks.
However, it was a moment of individual brilliance that doubled A&F’s lead. Weston picked up the ball with his back to goal just outside the D, surrounded by Eastbourne defenders. He weaved his way into the circle and then calmly rolled the ball past the keeper and into the bottom corner.
The second half was a gritty affair. Despite warnings from the umpires, the crowd tried to unsettle A&F.
The Shots maintained their control and restricted Eastbourne, although A&F had to defend a lot of penalty corners.
A&F were defending well, so it was a surprise when Eastbourne halved the deficit.
A quick break and a nice ball inside the defence put the Eastbourne forward through, and his delicate lifted finish over the onrushing Hall gave the home side hope.
A&F had a chance to bury the game soon afterwards, with a quick break of their own following another ball pinched off Eastbourne’s defence. A&F had a four on one, but McCafferty couldn’t gather the ball and the chance was spurned.
The visitors were forced to grind out the win while Eastbourne threw everyone forward in search of an equaliser.
The attacks came in waves, but the defensive work was again sound and Aldershot and Farnham were able to close out the game to come away with the three points.
A&F host Sevenoaks’ second team at Heath End today (Saturday).