From the Olympic Stadium to the East Bank, a trip down the leagues to see a possible FA cup winner ?
After a good start to the season which has tailed off a little, the Shots are sitting just outside the play offs. Torquay however are languishing at the root of the conference table, and not really having a good time of it.
That said this is the cup and upsets do happen when the pressure is off. The winner gets to go into the hat for the 1st round real and are 2 games away from a massive financial win if they can get that grailesque draw at Old Trafford in the 3rd round.
First impressions on my first trip to the Rec Ground for a while (since here in fact), was the pitch. Fantastic condition, and very lush. Credit to the groundsmen and credit to the funding from the Chelseas U-23 team. Though quite what Eden Hazard thought a few weeks ago about the bits surrounding the pitch might be interesting.
From my point of view, the ground itself is more than fine for this level and probably the next two above, and we took up our spot on the East Bank (behind a goal, which always confuses someone who hears East side and thinks large stand with a tunnel) .
To my left there (in the South Stand ?) were the visitors for the day and fair play to them. I could think of better things to do on a Saturday than a 10 hour round trip to watch a qualifier, but there they were, all 156 of them. Well played, ladies and gents.
The game itself was a surprise to me. Both teams kept the ball close to the pitch and no one was sending down long balls. All in all both teams seem to want to play football, with Aldershot getting on top in the early exchanges. What became apparent however, was that linkage between midfield and striker were not great. The Shot’s striker, Scott Rendell seem to make himself very easy to mark, by continually running in straight lines with his defender. One yard either way could have opened things up but they were restricted to crosses and corners.
The visitors took hold for the last 10 minutes of the half, and suffered a similar lack of confidence in front of goal.
The second half was more of the same, but as Wilfred Zaha was tearing up Chelsea from the bench, Bernard Mensah joined the fray to do the same for Aldershot. The former Watford man (2 appearances in 2 seasons) filled in the other space that wasn’t being used, central midfield. With both teams using the wings it was wide empty and just needed a body in there to advance the play and get quality balls forward, which he did.
Late on in the game this led to a cross that for once Rendall got up to and performed a textbook header back across to score. One nil. Job done. Shrewsbury in the next round.
To summarise, not the worst way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but £17 quid for the FA Cup is a bit steep.
UPDATE: Thanks for all the visits from shotsweb. I would appreciate a couple of comments if you think I have misrepped anything (or heaven forbid got it right)