As Terry Brown prepares to take his Aldershot side back to his old battlefield tomorrow at Hayes, the manager will be without one soldier who appeared to be a certain signing earlier this week.

Southend striker Barrington Belgrave had all but put pen to paper on Monday — much to Brown's eager delight — however, a late development in the breaches of the third division club's hierarchy, put paid to the biro making any contact with the necessary paperwork.

A dismal run of form for the Essex side, and the resulting sackings of manager Rob Newman and his assistant David Crown, all but ended the Shots' hopes of having their man in the ranks as their promotion chase continues to take pace.

Southend's first-team coach Stewart Robson — who is now taking charge of first team affairs at Roots Hall — will not allow any of the club's players to leave the league strugglers, much to the dismay and disappointment of Brown.

"At 4pm on Monday we had all but agreed terms," claimed the Shots boss. "But then the management team were sacked and quite rightly the caretaker boss wanted to keep what he has got so he can have a look at them all.

"It now looks like he (Belgrave) will be playing against York on Saturday and in fairness to him that is what he wants because he would like to be playing league football."

Belgrave had been the subject of interest from other non-league clubs, notably Hereford and Kettering, but appeared keener on the move proposed by the Ryman leaders rather than of one straight into the Conference.

Brown, celebrating a year in charge at the Rec this week, added: "It's very disappointing. However, we will continue with our search and we are still hoping to bring in a League player.

"We have had so many knock backs to be honest. But there will be somebody coming in and he will be hungry enough to want to develop and go back into the Football League with Aldershot."

After Tuesday night's semi-final success over Andover, the manager was focussing his attentions on the visit his side will make to Hayes, knowing that three points would be a must but not easy considering the way his former club are playing at the moment.

"Hayes is going to be possibly the toughest and most difficult of the 11 games we have left," said Brown. "I'm not saying that just because I am the former Hayes manager but I know just how motivated they are. This is the fixture that they have been looking forward to all season and they are the current form horses along with us.

Everything is geared up for a difficult cup-final at Church Road."

The thought of making the short trip to Heathrow not only appears to be a difficult one on the form paper, but one that Brown is not looking forward to for other reasons.

The boss added: "It's not something I have been looking forward to doing because I was a supporter there, a player and then a manager and I have a great affinity with the club. I never want Hayes to lose apart from this Saturday when I will be the happiest man in the world as we desperately need the points."

But is Brown expecting a good reception? "From some fans I think that I will get absolutely slaughtered, but that's the nature of football.

Hopefully the fans there will remember the good days and the championship. We had great times but I am very happy to be with Aldershot now and we need to make the next step up and Saturday's game is part of that step.

"The players have to match Hayes' commitment. They (Hayes) have turned over many big-time charlies over the years and we need to make sure we aren't one of them."