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Shots eye Hampshire semis

LEE Charles fired Aldershot Town to within one game of a return to the St Mary's Stadium with a killer double strike which delighted boss Terry Brown.

LEE Charles fired Aldershot Town to within one game of a return to the St Mary's Stadium with a killer double strike which delighted boss Terry Brown.

Charles netted ten minutes into each half to give the Shots a narrow victory over a resilient Eastleigh side to take the Shots into a two-legged semi-final with either Havant & Waterlooville, Andover or Bashley in March.

But this hard-fought clash at the Rec didn't go without disappointment as goalkeeper Gareth Howells continued his injury nightmare after hobbling off with a thigh injury, which could keep him out for up to two months.

And that coupled with slight injuries also sustained to Lee Holsgrove and Dean Hooper, presented Brown with an unwanted headache prior to Saturday's home clash with Boreham Wood (ko 3pm).

Brown said: "It's another nightmare for Gareth. This was his chance to prove himself but he has pulled a thigh muscle and will out for a bit.

"Thankfully for us, even though he was injured, he managed to pull off a very good save to prevent extra time, which, with the injuries we are picking up, we could ill-afford.

"I thought we played better with the 4-4-2 so we will be looking to run with that and to improve on it. But towards the end our front two were blowing a bit, I couldn't make any more changes and I was happy to hear the final whistle in the end."

Speaking about two-goal Charles, Brown said: "Lee took his goals very well and probably could have had another one or two. He seems to save his best performances for this competition.

"Lee can be a bit of a luxury at times - can drive you bananas - but he has the quality on the ball and he can hurt teams like he did tonight.

"It's a nice change for someone to say ‘pick me' and Lee has probably done enough to be given a chance for Saturday."

After Eastleigh scared the life out of Aldershot seven days ago — winning 1-0 before heavy rain abandoned the match on 52 minutes — Brown opted to play his strongest side, and they still struggled at times to contain the lively Jewson Wessex League leaders, who could surely hold their own in the Ryman Premier.

Things started well for the Shots with Charles latching onto a lovely one-two with Holsgrove on the left-hand channel before burying a shot wide of keeper Colin Matthews and into the far corner.

But the visitors are made of stern stuff and just before the half-hour mark, they found themselves level. David Asker threaded the ball through for David Laws and he made no mistake in rounding Howells before slotting the ball beyond the back-tracking Jason Chewins and into an empty net.

The Shots, playing some neat, crisp football, could and should have gone in front by the break with Charles netting again from close range, only to be flagged offside, and Matthews saving well to deny both Paul Moody and Jamie Taylor.

The Shots continued the charge after the break and in exactly the same time as it took them to score the opener, Charles bagged his and Aldershot's second.

Latching onto a crossfield pass by Moody, Charles took the ball in his stride, turned inside Stuart Kenna and bent a shot beyond Matthews and in off the far post.

Eastleigh gave it their all as they looked to force extra time but first Howells then replacement Nikki Bull, were in fine form to deny them.

Howells saved a certain goal with his legs to deny Sam Carter in the box - an incident which led to his departure - while Bull superbly tipped Danny Woods' looping effort round the post to put the Shots in the semi-final hat.

The injuries will hamper Brown's team selection against a tough Boreham Wood side, which ran them so close in the reverse fixture in November.

The good news is that new signing Ray Warburton comes back into the side, as should Paul Buckle, who was rested on Tuesday night.

Hooper and Holsgrove will undergo late fitness tests with transfer-listed Richard Gell and youngster Brett Cooper standing by.

SHOTS: Howells (sub Bull 70mins); Hooper (Cooper 59), Chewins, A Charles, Cousins, Holsgrove (Kuhl 80), Roddis, L Charles, D'sane, Taylor, Moody.

Ref: S Tomlinson. Att: 839.

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