IN front of a bumper crowd of 5059 Aldershot Town relived bygone glory days on Saturday when they not only held Third Division Bristol Rovers to a goalless draw at the Recreation Ground but could easily have won.
A local newspaper had promised a "ring of steel" around the town to combat supposed hordes of hooligans. Aldershot's tireless defence set up their own ring of steel and consistently snuffed out the challenges of the nippy Bristol forwards. Gareth Howells was a tower of strength in goal and Shots' defenders were never outclassed.
Sadly, Aldershot rarely looked really dangerous up front and when striker Mark Watson had an open goal in front of him in the dying seconds of normal time he slid the ball harmlessly to the keeper.
Nevertheless Aldershot can feel proud of this monumental effort and of featuring in the FA Cup second round draw. On Tuesday they travel to Bristol for the replay and should their 2001 West Country odyssey bear fruit they will be off to the seaside. Their opponents will be either Plymouth Argyle or Whitby from the Heartbeat country of north Yorkshire.
The match was a robust encounter and the physios spent a lot of time on the pitch in the first half -when 50 minutes were played. But it was always played in a good sporting spirit and both sets of fans followed suit.
By half time there had been few real goal attempts and many thought the second half would see Bristol slip into top gear. The fact that they never did was due to sterling defence work. As the minutes ground on with no sign of a breakthrough it was Aldershot who had the lion's share of the play. Both sides brought on a couple of pairs of fresh legs but the deadlock was not to be broken.
A 0-0 draw does not sound entertaining but this game always held the crowd's interest. Now Shots will hope to repeat their achievement of 1970 when they drew with Rovers at the Recreation Ground in the Second Round of the Cup then went to Bristol and won. Aldershot have been allocated 1276 terrace and 333 seats for the replay at the Memorial Stadium in Bristol. Any tickets remaining after regular fans have been satisfied will be on general sale at the ground from 10 am tomorrow (Friday).