Andy Scott says he is close to finalising his Aldershot Town squad for the forthcoming season – but has warned some of his trialists are entering the last chance saloon in order to earn a new deal.
The Shots boss was delighted with a number of young hopefuls during Friday night’s 3-2 defeat by an exciting Chelsea Under 21 side before running the rule over a selected few in a behind-closed-doors friendly against a full-strength Millwall on Tuesday afternoon.
Midield dynamo Naby Diallo became the first of his trialists to be handed a permanent deal after agreeing terms to a one-year contract on Monday.
And Scott reckons that opportunities will arise for several others, including youth-teamers Rob Gerrard and Matt Rudolph, when he takes his squad to Conference South side Staines Town on Saturday.
One of the positions up for grabs is a goalkeeper to compete with new signing Phil Smith for the No.1 shirt with ex-Barnet stopper Nick Jupp leading the way and not far off agreeing terms.
And Scott is also looking at another striker/winger as cover after new arrival Dan Fitchett suffered a hamstring pull against Chelsea which may rule him out of the start of the season.
“Other than that, we’re shaping up quite nicely,” Scott told the News & Mail. “We’re almost there but we need another first-team goalkeeper to compete with Phil Smith and, yes, Nick is someone who has done very well for us in the time he has been here.
“Losing Dan [Fitchett] is a blow. We didn't really need that in that area of the field so we’re looking at another striker/winger too now.
“We’ve got three games to go to make sure we have that right balance but I’m delighted with the nucleus of the squad we have. We’re in a lot better shape that last year, put it that way.”
Scott drew plenty more positives from their friendly with a full-strength Millwall side on Tuesday, managed by Ian Holloway and containing the likes of new signing Lee Gregory, Lee Martin and Scott McDonald.
Brett Williams found the target for the Shots in a 3-1 defeat with all the goals coming in the first half. Scott, though, was delighted with the workout.
“It was a really good test for us, we were really pleased with it,” Scott said. “Everyone looked fit, got good minutes in the legs and thankfully we came through unscathed too.”
Of those to impress was Diallo, 23, who has been training with the Shots having impressed against them last season for Conference South club Weston-Super-Mare in the FA Trophy.
“I came down for pre-season and I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “I prefer to play in central midfield, but I can do a job in a few other positions. I bring a lot of energy, strength and attacking play.
“The squad is looking good and I think we’ll do really well this season.”
And he took his place in midfield alongside Scott’s other new recruit last week, Kieron Forbes, who joined the club on loan from Forest Green Rovers until the end of January.
The 23 year-old playmaker has made 107 Conference Premier appearances in four seasons at The New Lawn, and earned four caps for the England C team which saw him named England C Player of the Year 2012-13.
“He’s an excellent addition for us,” Scott added. “He knows the league and has been successful with Forest Green and England C.
“He had a calf injury last year so just wants to play and show what we can do. We are delighted to have him.”
* Aldershot Town's game at Bristol Rovers, originally set for Saturday March 21, has been brought forward a day to Friday (ko 7.45pm).
The Shots are also hoping to move this season’s two fixtures against Forest Green Rovers, over the August and Easter Bank Holiday weekends, to Friday kick-offs.