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Aldershot Town 1-1 Maidenhead United

TABLE-TOPPERS Aldershot Town were rocked by a goal eight and a half minutes into injury time by Magpies defender Andy Morley, thus preventing Terry Brown's men from moving seven points clear at the top of the Ryman League premier division.

ONLY time will tell how crucial Tuesday night will be in the title run-in.

With the match somehow running into the 99th minute and the Shots hanging on for dear life, Maidenhead full-back Andy Morley netted what could be the goal to make or break Aldershot's season.

As it stands, Morley's 20-yard strike has cost the Shots two vital points in their promotion bid, while handing Canvey Island a lifeline.

But it's how Terry Brown's men recover from this setback which will probably determine the destiny of the title.

Yes, Stafford Browne's second goal in as many games helped extend the lead at the top to five points and confidence can be gained from the fact that the Shots did not lose a game where they played poorly.

But, if Morley's goal plays on the mind and Canvey continue their charge, it could give Brown and a couple of thousand Shots fans a few extra grey hairs as the season draws to a close.

Just how referee Simon Hollick awarded nine-and-a-half added minutes, only he will know.

A horror knee injury to goalkeeper Nikki Bull would have contributed to at least four of those minutes as he was worryingly stretchered off following a collision with Gary Channell.

But although Shots fans will point to that as a major contributor to the result, they will also be the first to admit that they did not deserve to claim their sixth successive victory.

Contrary to Saturday's fine win at Harrow, the Shots, welcoming back Ray Warburton and Jason Cousins to the side, looked jaded and lacked fluency, culminating in a second half which saw them register not one shot on goal.

Boss Brown was unimpressed. He said: "I'm obviously bitterly disappointed with the result but I don't think we got any more than we deserved.

"That was a bit like the pre-Christmas Aldershot. We looked nervous, we looked edgy and I didn't think our midfield performed to anything near the level they have been in recent games.

"I'm very disappointed also that we didn't have the mental strength, not only to see the game out, but to be a little more committed to sealing the game positively in the second half.

"We carried one or two poor performances today and I'm going to be looking to lift the boys with a more positive spirit towards Saturday because we have a great opportunity to bounce back."

Brown's main concerns for Saturday's visit of basement boys Hampton & Richmond Borough, surround the fitness of Bull, who is still undergoing treatment to assess the extent of the damage to his knee.

But in Gareth Howells he has a replacement who would walk into most other sides, and someone desperate to put an injury-hit season behind him.

Howells will also be aware that, despite the result on Tuesday night, he has a defence in front of him in prime form. One slip-up all night, from Warburton resulted in Morley's goal, but, in fairness, it was only their third in their last eight league games.

The Shots started soundly enough, and when Browne finished off their fifth half chance of the evening with just 15 minutes gone, another victory looked to be on the cards.

Like Saturday's opener, the goal had an element of fortune to it - keeper Richard Barnard smacking the ball hard on the back of Jeffrey Orlando's head 20 yards out, leaving Roscoe D'sane in acres of space just inside the box.

His first effort was well dealt with by Adam Durrant but his second, a delicate chip into the six-yard box was well headed home at the near post by the diving Browne.

Prior to that, after just 31 seconds in fact, D'sane might have scored himself with a cross-shot which just missed the far post and the out-stretched legs of Browne and Paul Buckle, while Stafford somehow shot at the keeper when through one-on-one.

Unfortunately, however, that was about it for the Shots as the Magpies hit back. Danger man Andy Cook twice went close with shots, firstly saved well by Bull and then pulled wide of the post.

Striker Adrian Allen then should have done better from 10 yards out after latching onto Paul Kelly's through ball, turning inside Warburton, only to fire hopelessly over.

Despite the boss delivering words at half time, the second half started in the way the first finished - scrappy, edgy and without any kind of rhythm.

Apart from a couple of brief forays in the Maidenhead half resulting in good defending by Durrant to deny Buckle and the referee refusing advantage with Browne clean through, it was a half played largely in the central third with the visitors showing more invention without really testing Bull.

Substitutes Ryan Ashe and Craig Webster went closest before Channell and Bull clashed in a shocking 87th collision which left the keeper motionless on the ground and the Magpies striker fortunate to escape any kind of punishment.

With Bull's injury in mind and the watch now showing five to ten, the Shots just wanted to see the game out but still no whistle came.

Even conceding a free-kick right in the Maidenhead corner wasn't enough as the Magpies launched one last assault.

A long ball forward was mis-judged by the head of Warburton, leaving Channell in a bit of space on the edge of the box.

His chipped centre was half cleared by Cousins to the feet of Morley, who smacked the ball with his left foot past a beaten Howells and into the corner of the net, reducing the Rec to silence. Of course, the whistle followed seconds after and two points had been lost.

But as Brown said, Saturday represents a great opportunity for the Shots to get back on track with all-but-relegated Hampton visiting the Rec on the back of 22 league defeats this season and just two wins.

Anything but a win in this one will do more than just raise an eyebrow, a few tea cups might just go a-wandering also!

SHOTS: Bull (sub Howells 87mins); Hooper, Chewins (Hammond 67), Cousins, Warburton, Sterling, Roddis, Holsgrove, Browne, D'sane (L Charles 83), Buckle. Not used: A Charles, Perkins.

Ref: S Hollick. Att: 2,013.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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