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PREVIEW: Aldershot Town

Ebbsfleet United are reaping the benefits of a tight-knit squad, says Daryl McMahon, having seen two of his midfielders pass the 200 and 100-appearance mark in the past couple of games. Andy Drury achieved 200 games in the 3-0 win at Barnet last week and Jack Powell made it 100 before that and the Fleet boss says it counts for a lot.

Ahead of the clash against Aldershot Town this Saturday, McMahon says that sort of experience is invaluable.

“It’s not just Andy Drury with 200 or Rancey. You look right through the side, even younger players like Jack Powell are past 100. We’ve got plenty of players well past their 100-game mark for this club and plenty approaching it, too. It’s not just about how many games played in their career but how many for this club. We’ve got leaders right through the spine of the team from Ashmore, through Winfield, Drury and Kedwell and all around them, too.”

Last week at Barnet, Fleet’s squad of 16 totalled more than 1,150 club appearances between them, with the midfield three of Drury, Powell and Rance boasting more than 500 of those alone. It’s part of McMahon’s desire to evolve his side rather than make wholesale changes each year.

“They play for the shirt, for the club and each other and they have a desire to do well,” McMahon said. “They know across the season, probably even across a busy weekend such as this one, that they all have a chance to perform. We play at such a high tempo and with energy that you need to use as many of the squad as necessary playing Saturday-Monday, then Saturday-Tuesday. Most of the players have seen some game time already this season and they’ll all be needed through the coming months.”

A clean bill of health now all but runs through the squad with only Kenny Clark still doubtful, giving McMahon more food for thought amid his much-publicised selection headaches, with two games in three days certain to see players given the opportunity to impress.

“Both Aldershot and Eastleigh have seen players come and go in the summer,” McMahon said, “but I expect them to be tough. Gary Waddock’s sides always play good football, he builds teams that play that way, and Aldershot have always been that kind of side, [with] attractive, attacking football.”

The Shots have misfired in the early stages of the season, their only points coming courtesy of a goalless draw at home to Barnet and a win over struggling Dagenham & Redbridge. Last weekend they equalled Harrogate Town until a second-half collapse saw the promoted side score two quickfire goals without reply. Waddock is convinced there’s no need to panic for his side yet, with the Shots still moulding a new squad after summer departures.

Waddock has had his share of injury problems, too, with former Fleet full back Marvin McCoy yet to appear and new captain Karleigh Osborne taken off at Solihull. On-loan goalkeeper Will Mannion has also been sidelined, meaning the experienced Jake Cole will likely start at the Kuflink Stadium.

Aldershot, who made the play-offs twice over the last two seasons, have lost player of the year Manny Oyeleke in the summer to Port Vale and also out the door have gone Cheye Alexander and Callum Reynolds (both Barnet), Will Evans (Chesterfield) and Jim Kellermann (AFC Fylde) amongst others. In have come a clutch of young players, including loanees from the likes of Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City and Ipswich Town as well as players such as Luke Wanadio who impressed against the Fleet for Dartford and Bromley. There is experience, however, with the likes of midfielder Luke Howell, who played alongside Corey Whitely and Michael Cheek last season, in from Dagenham and defender Josh Lelan from Crawley.

It will be a much-changed Shots side from the one that lost the play-off on penalties back in May, though there’s still firepower up front with the likes of Scott Rendell, Shamir Fenelon and Matt McClure very much part of the squad.

Waddock insists he has no thoughts of “revenge” following the heartbreak his side suffered in that shootout and is far more interested in his team clicking and attempting to repeat Aldershot’s 2-0 win in the corresponding fixture last season. The visitors have a good record at Stonebridge Road, with their only defeat in their past seven trips being the FA Trophy semi-final 10 years ago. And you have to go back to 2002 for the last time Fleet beat Aldershot on home soil in a league match, during our Ryman League title-winning season.

Saturday’s match is segregated and Aldershot fans should enter via the Swanscombe End turnstiles. Supporters are reminded to leave adequate journey time due to ongoing works and four-way traffic lights around the Kuflink Stadium. Please use Ebbsfleet International Car Park C (£3) if at all possible as roads around the ground, including the Thames Way Clearway, are subject to penalty charges.

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