When it became clear that the subject of this website had to expand beyond the Championship, our main concern was whether we would be able to cover ‘the likes of Aldershot’ with the same enthusiasm as, say, West Brom or Reading. Reluctant to spend hours researching clubs and players that we weren’t familiar with, Lanterne Rouge and I agonised over which direction the site should take before stumbling across two new co-writers.
We may have plastered over the cracks with our new signings, reducing the extent to which we’ll need to Google our spare time away, but it was with intrigue when I noticed earlier today that Didcot Town, my local team, were up against the Shots in a friendly at the Loop Meadow this afternoon. After umm-ing and ahh-ing about whether to fork out £9 for the luxury of acknowledging that my metamorphosis into a football spod is just about complete, I plunged my way towards the Meadow in the hope that I might at least spot the next Gylfi Sigurðsson.
Arriving minutes into the game, my first thought was that Aldershot’s front man was a bit special. Gliding across the pitch, seemingly without his feet even leaving the ground, Marvin Morgan looked capable of doing it all on his own. Equally comfortable holding up the ball as a target man, or spinning off the last man’s shoulder, the pacy Mancunian drove down the channels at will and it was a wonder that his team didn’t score in the opening 45 minutes. A subsequent piece of research reveals that ‘Marv’ has been subject to several enquiries from other clubs. Judging by his title role this afternoon, I wouldn’t be surprised if he joined Scott Donnelly in starting the season elsewhere.
The lissom Morgan was disappointingly replaced at half-time, so my attention was more equally distributed in the second half. One player who’d caught my eye previously, but for all the wrong reasons, was trialist Kevin McLeod. One of those players you get in every Sunday League dressing room, McLeod’s the type that, were he your teammate, you’d never be quite sure where you stood. One minute he’d be giving you a playful noogie, the next a good nutting from behind. Exuding an air of wilful confidence, he demanded the ball at every turn and looked offended whenever it didn’t arrive at his feet. A Brighton-supporting in-law once said that McLeod ‘liked a drink’. Judging by his portly gait and general lack of pace out on the wing, not much has changed since his brief stay on the south coast.
Aside from being dominated by my perhaps irrational aversion to Aldershot’s left-footed winger, I enjoyed the arrival of striker Danny Hylton. A completely different player to Morgan, the man he replaced, Hylton’s dishevelled appearance reflected an aesthetic approach. If Morgan was all about pace and unadorned athleticism, then Hylton’s qualities were marked by a cheeky back-heel here and a curling shot from the outside of the foot there. Whether the two could play together in the vanguard is doubtful, but if Morgan does exit then I’d be curious to see how Hylton would fare in his absence. A quick-fire hat-trick that followed Reece Connolly’s opener suggested that he’d be worth a try.
4-0 it finished. Manager Kevin Dillon wouldn’t have learned a great deal since Southern Premier outfit Didcot were poor opposition, but this afternoon’s game was, for this correspondent at least, rather noteworthy. Before now we worried about getting up for the ‘likes of Aldershot’, but the contentment that I drew from today proved that we needn’t be.