Preview | Aldershot Town (a)
The Magpies are back on the road this weekend when they make the trip south to Aldershot’s Recreation Ground, but they’ll be hoping they have a happier time than their last 3 visits.
The Shots have run out winners on all 3 occasions, with Notts scoring just 2 goals across all 3 games. Luke Williams’ men will be itching to set that one right, like they have on numerous occasions this season, and they’ll be confident they can, considering they have the best away record in the league.
Aldershot did appear to be on the rise under new boss Ross McNeilly, but 2 crushing defeats over the festive period put a stop to that. The Shots conceded 6 and scored just 2 goals in those 2 games, both lashed home by former Notts man Inih Effiong. They had kept 3 back to back clean sheets in all competitions before that, so they’ll undoubtedly be disappointed.
They have been dealt an added blow by the fact that midfielder Frank Vincent is ineligible to play this weekend, due to the terms of the loan agreement with Notts. Vincent had made 18 league appearances for the Shots and the midfielder had been an integral part of their improved performances.
As mentioned earlier 2 defeats over the festive period to Woking put paid to a 3 game sequence that saw the shots keep 3 clean sheets including wins against Gateshead away and at home to Southend.
Notts are now 16 games unbeaten in the league and have won 5 of their last 6 in all competitions.
Playing style rankings continue to show Notts excelling in most areas except long passes but the comparison for Aldershot really is quite shocking in that they rank very low in almost all areas. However, despite the numbers you can see they are a team that won't be hitting it long and will do their best to play the ball to feet and use their width when the opportunity arises.
McNeilly is quite stubborn in his set up using in a 4-2-3-1 formation. This will see him utilising the double pivot of Michael Klass and Joe Partington sat behind an attacking midfield 3 which, up until the second defeat to Woking saw Frank Vincent playing an advanced central role behind lone attacker Inih Effiong.
Similarly to how Notts set up this formation allows Aldershot to use their flanks when in position but with the added security of full backs in a back 4. That said one of the things The Shots do tend to do is squeeze that formation narrower when out of possession in an attempt to close the immediate spaces between the lines. However, this does leave big spaces for Notts to capitalise on down the middle and opposite side of the pitch if the play is being condensed to one flank.
Of course the difference between playing down the flanks with a back 4 compared to a back 3 is that your full backs can get sucked into playing to high up the pitch which can result in space in behind to benefit from. With a back 3 the wide centre backs can cover this space but with a back 4 it would mean a central defender or defensive midfielder being pulled out of position again leaving additional space to profit from.
Another look at left back Ollie Harfield shows us that when he does get back he actually tends to stay quite narrow as shown below.
Ultimately Aldershot are not a team that will be happy to sit back, especially at home, and this could work in Notts' favour, we have seen how opponents that like to play a more attacking game get undone by the fast and incisive play in attacking transitions from Luke Williams' teams.
Former Magpie Inih Effiong is the Shot’s top scorer, and whilst we didn’t see the best of him during his stay at Meadow Lane he has flourished down South. He has 8 goals to his name, including 2 in the last 2 games, and Effiong will be looking to get one over his former side.
Used as a left winger in the reverse fixture, pinned against Richard Brindley, it’s likely we will see Effiong revert to being the central striker. That’s where the 6ft 4" forward has operated of late, and it’s where he’s best utilised. When a side play to his strengths, as Aldershot do, he is a real threat. His size and strength instantly make him a handful, and his stature ensures he is a danger in the air too. Effiong hits the target with 48.98% of his shots, 8th best in the league, so he is the man most likely to test Slocombe this weekend.
Whilst Notts have the highest scoring left wing back in the league, Aldershot have the highest assisting. 24 year old Ollie Harfield has been immense going forward down that left flank, combining speed with a brilliant final delivery. Harfield has 7 assists to his name, the same amount as Ruben Rodrigues and Sam Austin, showing the esteemed company he is held in.
He has done all of this from left back in a back 4, which makes it even more impressive. The overall quality of his passing cannot be understated, and this is no more evident than in the Expected Assist charts. An Expected Assist is defined by Wyscout as ‘Expected assist (xA) value for a pass is a value of expected goals (xG) or the shot that this pass led to.’. Harfield currently has an xA of 6.7, with only Ruben Rodrigues (6.96) recording a higher value across the whole league. Clearly, Harfield has been superb with his final ball, and will be a constant threat down the left hand side on Saturday.