The Recreation Ground is hardly ideal for away fans, who are squeezed into a corner of the stadium (if that's not too lofty a term for the unprepossessing home of the Shots), so we opted for seats in the Bill Warren Stand.
Unfortunately, even our seats had a somewhat restricted view due to the proximity of some kind of glass hospitality structure. Nevertheless, the view was good enough to see that our poor run of form was continuing, and we nearly went a goal down almost immediately when the shaky Garry gifted
Soares with a good shooting opportunity which fortunately came to nothing.
With Steve Fletcher restored to the starting lineup, we predictably adopted our usual tactic of lumping the ball in his direction. To be fair to the Big Man, he won most of his aerial challenges, but his flick-ons were either misplaced or not read by Pitman. And with Feeney unable to get into the game, it was hardly surprising that we created little goal threat.
The hosts, on the other hand, had a couple of nippy attackers in Jackson and Morgan who always looked likely to trouble our defence. And it wasn't long before Jackson drew a foul from Garry right on the edge of the box and full-back Sandell crashed the resulting kick into the top left-hand corner
after 21 minutes.
Soon afterwards, Igoe took a knock and was replaced by Bartley. Although this reduced any midfield creativity still further (our main problem at the moment), we at least looked a bit more combative in that department. The rest of the half was a fairly even, drab affair, but by the break we still hadn't troubled the Shots' keeper.
The second half was much more lively and, in the end, positively chaotic. We started much the brighter and soon had Aldershot on the back foot. We began winning corners and getting Feeney into the game, and were rewarded just after the hour mark when a penalty was awarded for a blatant shove on Fletcher. Pitman confidently dispatched the spot kick to the bottom right-hand corner. Game on!
We were now in the ascendancy but with the hosts always looking dangerous on the break. The entertainment value of the game increased dramatically, with tackles starting to fly in and yellow cards being brandished by the referee. Garry was lucky to avoid getting a second yellow for a challenge on the half-way line.
With barely five minutes to go, Jalal made a miraculous save from a close range volley from substitute Straker. Despite all the excitement, we were still looking good value for a point, but hopes were dashed seconds later when we failed to clear our lines and Straker cheekily back-heeled the ball into the net in the 87th minute.
A bitter blow, but worse was to follow. First, brawling broke out after Feeney was needlessly scythed down by the Sandell. Order had barely been restored, when Cummings was struck in the face by a ball thrown onto the pitch by the Shots' reserve keeper and responded by booting the ball into their dugout. More brawling, with stewards running onto the pitch. Total pandemonium and both miscreants eventually red-carded. Final whistle and dejected looking Cherries players and fans.
In the end, losing Cummings for three games could prove more costly than the points dropped. Also, too many players have lost their form and confidence and, with the embargo not likely to be lifted this season, Eddie will have to work miracles to keep us in the hunt. The only positive he can take was the spirited second half performance which we'll need to maintain in the upcoming games. It's worrying that we're creating so few chances, though.
AFCB: Jalal, Bradbury, Garry, Pearce, Cummings, Feeney, Hollands, Robinson, Igoe, Fletcher, Pitman
Subs: Thomas, Guyett, Connell, McQuoid, Bartley (for Igoe, 31 mins), Goulding (for Hollands, 91 mins)
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey