Words by Josh Lowe
The Clarets welcomed Vanarama National League side Aldershot Town to the Melbourne Stadium in the Emirates FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round where only five league spaces in the pyramid separated the two sides. City’s exceptional form put them as slight favourites as Mark Molesley’s struggling Shots looked to get into the first-round proper for the first time in 4 seasons. A hard-fought win for Chelmsford though saw the Clarets overturn the Shots for a place in the next round, their first since the trip to Gateshead in 2017.
Robbie Simpson’s men faced Cheshunt last weekend as well as a midweek outing against Stansted FC where there were numerous changes. Kai Yearn, Frankie Terry and Tom Blackwell all dropped to the bench from the game against Cheshunt as a back 4 formation was favoured. Harry Lodovica led the line with Charlie Ruff keeping his place after his goal last weekend. A promising sign for the Clarets was the return of Cameron James to the bench who has been both suspended and injured in recent weeks.
The ground fell silent before kicking off as the 2 teams paid respect to not only Mick Pullen, a lifelong fan of Aldershot but John Galley, who was the serving Chelmsford Mayor and whose death deeply saddened everyone at Chelmsford City. Aldershot started the better of the 2 teams as they applied pressure and utilised captain Inih Effiong’s aerial presence in trying to get through the City defence. The Clarets gradually grew into the game and forced the opposition’s keeper Luca Ashby-Hammond into a few saves.
For the second week running City had to deal with the threat of a long throw this time from Aldershot’s Tyler Cordner’s. However, once again Dave Winfield and Ade Oluwo were on par with them. From a Shots misplaced pass, Winfield stepped up and passed to Charlie Ruff who spread the play to the right-wing allowing Simeon Jackson to compose himself before delivering a delightful ball which was met by the head of Ruff, who had sprinted from the halfway line into the box to put his diving header past Ashby-Hammond. City’s hard work had paid off as with just under 20 minutes of the first half to play the advantage had been gained.
The first half action did not end there as City kept the pressure up with Dave Winfield sending his volley over the bar after Jackson’s cross sat up in the box. Not long after and Simeon was involved again as he flashed a ball across the box but just out of Harry Lodovica’s reach. Aldershot threatened to come forward, but City broke with a Charlie Ruff ball splitting the visitors back line only for Lodovica to fire his effort over the bar.
Aldershot ended the half well as they had a series of attacks heading towards Ovie Ejeheri’s goal but nothing that was not turned away. Rather notably, Ryan Glover passed through the defence an attempted to fire a low cross in, only for Ade Oluwo to intercept before Ejeheri claimed and nerves were settled. Aldershot came close once again at the end of the half with Justin Amaluzor’s effort needing to be tipped over the bar by Ejeheri, which rounded out the first half.
The second half got underway, and Aldershot were quick out the blocks as Ody Alfa got the better of Eduino Vaz and crossed to the head of Ryan Glover only for Ovie Ejeheri to produce an extraordinary save from a matter of yards out, keeping the tie 1-0. The Clarets went up the other end and applied pressure with Henry Ochieng looking to score for the second game in a row, only for Ashby-Hammond to save rather easily. The counterattack was attempted but nature came to Chelmsford’s help as the wind carried Ashby-Hammond’s long kick all the way and out for a goal kick.
City continued their free-flowing style of play and after some tricky footwork, Jamie Yila cut inside and laid the ball to the feet of Liam Trotter who had a first time shot well saved by Ashby-Hammond, before the Shots cleared up field.
With just over an hour played, Charlie Ruff attacked on the left-hand side, before laying back to Eduino Vaz who had his cross cleared. The ball fell to the feet of Henry Ochieng as he played to Harry Lodovica who excellently back heeled to Ochieng, for him to stroke his effort past Ashby-Hammond and to double the Chelmsford lead. For the second week in a row, the Clarets led 2-0 courtesy of goals from Ochieng and Ruff.
They say you are mostly likely to concede after scoring which nearly became reality for City but great backtracking from Jamie Yila prevented Ryan Glover from testing Ovie Ejeheri. Not long after and yet again a chance for Glover as he was 1 on 1 with Ejeheri, only for some incredible defending from Eduino Vaz as he swept the ball clear, preventing what could have been Aldershot’s pathway back into the game. Both sides turned to the bench next as Jamie Yila was replaced by Tom Blackwell and Ody Alfa left the field for Harry Panayiotou.
Aldershot tried to impose an attacking stance on the game as they looked for something to try to fire them into the first round. Tyler Cordner next came closest as his header went wide of the post. City had to dig deep as the Aldershot attacks continued with Glover trying his luck next, only to fire his effort over Ejeheri’s bar. Effiong forced another superb save before Chelmsford had the chance to kill the game as Blackwell set up Jackson who somehow sent his effort over the bar with a close range volley.
However, City survived the few remaining minutes and there was a sense of relief and joy as the game came to an end, firing Robbie Simpson’s men into the FA Cup first round proper for only the second time since 2012, with the potential of a football league side having to face the Clarets next. As for Aldershot, the trip back to Hampshire was dreaded and subsequently, Shots boss Mark Molesley was relieved of his duties Saturday evening.
Chelmsford City (4-2-3-1): Ejeheri, Barnum-Bobb, Winfield (C), Oluwo, Vaz, Ochieng, Trotter , Yila (Blackwell 77), Ruff (Dunne 86), Lodovica, Jackson (James 90+2)
Unused subs: Marsden (GK), Yearn, Terry, Wilkes
Man of the Match: Charlie Ruff
Aldershot: (4-3-3) Ashby-Hammond, Davies, Cordner, Jordan, Harfield, Davis (Willard 64), Vincent, Glover, Amaluzor, Alfa (Panayiotou 72), Effiong (C)
Unused subs: Fisher (GK), Bettache, Phillips, Mullins, De Lacy-Turner
Bookings: Glover, Davies
Referee: L Wood