Just before Kevin Dillon left Aldershot Town as manager a fortnight ago he said all they needed to turn their fortunes round was a "spark".
Perhaps he was never a Scout but he may have been right. Dean Holdsworth, his successor, has taken three matches to reignite them. From the anxiety of 20th in League Two they rose to 12th and talking play-offs after a 95th‑minute 3-2 win over Crewe Alexandra. Seven points can do that. Holdsworth, hardly believing it was little more than a week that he has been in office, called it "a microwave month".Crewe, fifth at the start, led twice. The Shots had not won from behind this season nor scored three. They had not won at home in the league since 16 October. That and a Cup defeat at Dover put paid to Dillon. "It was a phenomenal game, full of passion," said Holdsworth. "They showed they've got character as well as confidence and spirit. There'll be some happy faces coming into work on Monday."
There were a couple of thousand leaving the EBB Stadium on Saturday. Aldershot have adopted this name in favour of The Rec which lent itself to mis-spelling. "It's got no future but lots of character," a club stalwart said of the ground. The PA, welcoming visitors, said: "We hope you enjoy the surroundings." Trees at both ends and one side explain the old name. South West trains could have dribbled stray clearances to Alton or Waterloo. A painter's pink and purple sky was backcloth to the home team's late celebrations.
Crewe are renowned for their passing game and Aldershot, after a draw at Bury and defeat of Bradford, showed the confidence to play them at it. Peter Vincenti, brought in by Holdsworth from Stevenage, should have capped a patient build-up inside three minutes but headed wide. Instead Danny Shelley rifled in a free-kick for Crewe. Wade Small soon equalised from Jermaine McGlashan's cross but Crewe enjoyed a half-time lead through Clayton Donaldson. Vincenti atoned when the ball squirted to him from a remarkable rat-a-tat of shots and blocks.
The climax was dramatic. McGlashan, a 22-year-old at his first league club, had been a flying thorn in Crewe's flanks all match. Now he chased a long clearance that Patrick Ada fatally let bounce beyond him. McGlashan beat him and the out-rushing Rhys Taylor for speed and the keeper, sold short, was sent off when trying to block with his chest but using his hand. Stephen Phillips replaced him in goal but Luke Guttridge's free-kick was too good. It was his fourth goal in five games. At 2-1 Crewe's Byron Moore, from an identical free-kick position, had found the roof of the stand not the net.
"We spoke about set pieces before the game," Holdsworth said. "It was fantastic quality." Guttridge played it down: "Fortunately it went in off the bar. The manager's big on motivation, big on togetherness. If you're enjoying it, you get an extra 10% out of yourselves."
Holdsworth, who stopped playing in 2008, has come from Newport County, whom he took into the Conference and left in fourth place. On 18 September they beat Mansfield, managed by his twin David, a first in football's top five divisions. Both have moved on. Managers come and go – more than a third in the league this season. In Aldershot's case clubs do.
In March 1992 Aldershot FC went out of business, the first club since Accrington Stanley in mid-season. Arsenal are next in line. A month later Aldershot Town were formed and in June were admitted to the Isthmian League Division Three. The original club's emblem was a football. The new one gave it up for a phoenix. Five promotions in 16 years took them into the league. Last May they lost in the play-offs. Now they are rising again. Dario Gradi, who first managed Crewe in 1983, said Aldershot "controlled the game". Grace survives on the league's lower rungs.
Holdsworth, in his first league appointment, said he was "so proud that Aldershot approached me". Besides Vincenti he has brought back a favourite, Tim Sills, from Stevenage. They will not want for height nor, it seems, for sparks. One season at Wimbledon, where Holdsworth played more games than anywhere, the chairman, Sam Hammam, offered him a Ferrari and a camel if he scored 20 goals. Unfortunately he was more camel than sports car. As a player his career had 19 spells in 22 years. As a rolling stone he is made for management.
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