Kelly on target as Maidenhead United pick up useful point at Aldershot

Aldershot Town 1, Maidenhead United 1

Maidenhead United took a small but potentially significant step towards survival as they earned a 1-1 draw with Aldershot Town at the Recreation Ground.

The result actually saw the Magpies fall a place to 20th in the National League table, thanks to Southend United’s 1-0 win over Weymouth, but they edged a point further clear of the dreaded bottom three and now have a four-point gap over Weymouth with a game in hand.

Had their Christmas and New Year games with Wealdstone not both been postponed due to COVID cases in the Stones’ camp, Alan Devonshire’s side may well have been further clear of trouble heading into their next league game at home to Chesterfield on Tuesday, January 18.

This was another well-earned point for the Magpies, who have also drawn away at Southend United and beaten promotion chasers Bromley in recent weeks.

Josh Kelly put the visitors ahead just before the interval with a shot that deflected past the hosts’ keeper. He might have added to that lead with a shot that went inches wide of the upright in the 58th minute, but Toby Edser levelled matters with 25 minutes to play and neither side was able to find a winner in the closing stages.

Perhaps the Magpies have on loan goalkeeper Daniel Gyollai to thank for that after he made crucial late stops to deny the Shots from scoring a second.

United don’t have the best of recent records on their travels to play Aldershot. Their last victory came way back in 1997, when both teams were battling to get out of the Isthmian League, while they haven’t scored a goal at the Recreation Ground since Jamie Cook found the net in the Magpies’ 2-1 FA Cup defeat back in 2004.

They were long overdue a result, and a goal, and thankfully they got both thanks to another committed and resilient display.

The sides traded chances in an even first half, with Glover forcing a terrific save from Gyollai in the 17th minute and Dan Sparkes forcing Mitch Walker into a save with a shot from distance a few minutes later.

Nathan Blissett, the scorer of Maidenhead’s only goal in their 1-0 win over Bromley on December 28, was forced off through injury in the 37th minute, with Emile Acquah coming on to take his place. Shaun Donnellan came close with a free header in the 42nd minute but Walker comfortably saved. It seemed likely the first half would be a goalless affair when the fourth official indicated there would be three additional minutes, but Kelly netted seconds before the referee was set to blow his whistle with a shot that deflected beyond Walker.

The Magpies held the Shots at arms’ length in the early stages of the second half and missed a terrific chance to strengthen their hand when Kelly dragged another effort just past the post in the 58th minute.

It proved a turning point in the game, with the Shots levelling matters less than 10 minutes later. Edser was the first to react to a deflection in the area and smashed the ball into the far corner on his return from injury.

The Shots might have won the game but for a string of fine saves from Gyollai. In the 71st minute he turned away Harris’ shot from range, while Harris was denied again a few minutes later as he looked to turn home Kinsella’s cross.

Joshua Fawole almost marked his Shots debut with a goal in the 76th minute but his sliding effort from Glover’s cross came back off the post and was forced behind for a goal kick.

Having been on the ropes for a spell Maidenhead came out punching in the final minutes with Sparkes seeing an 81st free kick deflected behind for a corner.

United now have another 10 days before welcoming Chesterfield to York Road on January 18. Chesterfield might have seen Halifax Town – who the Magpies host on January 22 - steal top spot from them but they did manage to score against European Champions Chelsea in a 5-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup.

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