It has taken them sixteen long, hard years, but last night Aldershot Town were welcomed back into the fold of the Football League. Since the original club folded in 1992, the club has fought tooth and nail to win its place back amongst the top 92, and last night it became reality at last by virtue of a nervy 1-1 draw at Exeter City. As it turned out, they took 900 supporters down to Devon – not a bad number by any stretch of the imagination, considering that it’s quite a distance to travel, especially on a Tuesday night – and the result means that their match on Saturday against Weymouth now takes on the air of a party. They’re expected to sell all 6,000 tickets well in advance, and Weymouth, still in danger of relegation from the Conference, will be quietly hoping that the Aldershot players have already started to mentally plan their summer holidays.
We’ve done Aldershot on here before, so there’s little point in going over that ground again, but their eventual success does provide something of a cautionary tale for supporters of the likes of AFC Wimbledon, who may have been expecting their team to rise swiftly through the non-league ranks. Wimbledon are likely to finish in second or third place in this year’s Ryman League Premier Division, and there has been an element of dissatisfaction emanating from Kingsmeadow this season. The fact of the matter, however, is that Chelmsford City have been outstanding champions of that division this season, and the play-offs are, of course, something of a lottery. I commented on here before that is critical that they continue to battle away and do everything that they can in order to secure second place in the table and home matches for as long as they are in the play-offs. There are no guarantees of promotion, and their supporters would be better advised to mentally prepare themselves for another season in the Ryman League and treat the play-offs as an end of season bonus. Damage limitation for the brain, if you like.
The picture at the top of the Championship looks even more confused than ever. West Bromwich Albion won last night’s big Black Country derby match at Wolves last night. They’re top of the table and two points clear now with two matches left to play, but dropping points in either of their three remaining matches could yet cost them dear. Hull City have moved into second place after a 3-1 win at Barnsley last night, but with just three points separating Hull, Bristol City (who are just starting to fade), Stoke City and Watford, it’s still anyone’s guess who will go up. I’m sticking with West Bromwich Albion and Hull City (Albion have the best players, whilst Hull are the only team in the top five in anything like decent form) as my predictions to go up. The bottom of the table is no clearer. Leicester City are still in the bottom three, but anybody from them up to Norwich City in sixteenth place should still be nervously looking over their shoulders.
Finally, the Premier League. The game is surely now up for Chelsea, after Emile Heskey’s inexplicable last minute equalizer for Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge more or less gifted the title to Manchester United. It’s now looking likely that they will win the title at Stamford Bridge on the 26th of April. At the foot of the table, Bolton’s win against West Ham United on Saturday threw the cat back amongst the pigeons again. Fulham are four points clear of safety, which is probably a little bit too much to claw back with just four matches to play, but I honestly couldn’t tell you who from Reading, Birmingham or Bolton will join them. Just thinking about it is giving me a bit of a headache, to be honest.