Hatters Can’t Get Shot Of Unwanted Record, As Winning Run Is Wrecked At The Rec
The Hatters’ three-match sequence of pre-Christmas wins in all competitions came to an end at the Recreation Ground – a ground from which they have never emerged victorious in 26 attempts over the last 60 years – after Aldershot Town edged the encounter by the odd goal in three.
Devante Rodney’s strike shortly ahead of the hour cancelled out an early first-half opener from the ‘Shots’, who went on to claim all three points, and achieve a ‘double’ over County, through a winner that was awarded by Referee Richard Hulme after a flag had been raised for offside.
County took to the field on a mild mid-winter’s Hampshire afternoon, showing just one change from the line-up that had started the FA Trophy-tie against Blyth at Edgeley Park seven days earlier – with Sam Minihan recalled to the right-back berth in place of Dan Cowan. Nyal Bell and Sam Walker were named among the substitutes, having recovered from their respective hamstring and knee injuries.
The Hatters attacked from the outset, and could easily have gone ahead before half a minute had expired – but Tom Walker’s low cross from the left was skied over by Elliot Osborne, whilst off balance around the edge of the six-yard box.
Just four minutes later, Aldershot went close as an effort from Lewis Walker – one of four players bearing that surname across the two squads – was deflected around the right post by Ben Hinchliffe. And Max Hunt then headed beyond the same upright from the resulting corner.
Jordan Keane’s shot from 25 yards was cleanly caught by the hosts’ other Walker – goalkeeper Mitch – before namesake Lewis cut in from the left to sting the hands of Hinchliffe, with 14 minutes played.
Just past the quarter-hour mark, Lewis Walker made an even more telling contribution from the left flank – squaring to Mo Bettamer, who, in turn, picked out Craig Tanner in space to his right. The latter, making his home debut, finished cooly from 12 yards out to put the Shots ahead.
Mitch Walker punched clear Osborne’s far-post header from another Tom Walker cross on the left – before denying Tom Walker, following good work on the left by Frank Mulhern – and Osborne fired into the right side-netting, as County went in search of an equaliser. And at the other end, Aldershot’s advantage was almost doubled courtesy of a Hatter, when Festus Arthur’s attempt to clear a Tanner shot saw the ball spin wickedly and narrowly to the right of his own goal.
With half-time imminent, Mitch Walker again came to the hosts’ rescue – as well as preserving their lead – by tipping over a 25-yard strike from Keane.
HALF-TIME: Aldershot 1 (Tanner, 16), County 0.
Eight minutes of the second half had passed, before Tanner executed an initial chance following the resumption – with Hinchliffe doing well to tip beyond the far post the home scorer’s header from a cross by Jack Powell on the left.
Four minutes later, the Hatters were back on level terms, after the Shots failed to deal with Osborne’s free-kick into their area – and the ball fell to Rodney, who slotted past Mitch Walker.
But within another eight, and controversially, the hosts’ advantage was restored when Bettamer converted Lewis Kinsella’s cross from the left. A linesman’s flag originally adjudged Bettamer offside – only for the Referee to over-rule his assistant and award the goal.
Kinsella and Bettamer combined again to go close with 13 minutes remaining, when the latter’s looping header from the former’s cross floated just wide of the right post. And Powell lofted a shot from the left that ended up on the top of the net. But Aldershot saw the game out to maintain an unbeaten record against the Hatters since the club’s reformation in 1992, leaving County to head home north empty-handed.
FULL-TIME: Aldershot 2 (Tanner, 16; Bettamer, 65), County 1 (Rodney, 57).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan (S Walker, 79), Palmer, Arthur, Garratt; Turnbull (Capt.), Keane; Rodney, Osborne (Thomas, 71), T Walker; Mulhern (Bell, 61).
Unused Subs: Cowan, Ormson.
Attendance: 1,891 (202 representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.