Aldershot 3, City 2

Graeme Lee’s shirt had to be washed at half-time because there was so much blood on it.

City may have given the new white away kit its first airing but the skipper made sure there was still plenty of claret.

Lee was already on his third jersey by then after suffering a deep head wound following a clash with Rhys Day’s elbow.

He eventually had five stitches put in after playing the second half in Terry Butcher style with his bonce covered in bandages.

Lee was still a bit groggy as he boarded the bus for the long haul home. His team-mates knew the feeling after going down to a late wonder goal – and that just added to the big defender’s headache.

He winced: “I’ve had better days. The injury just knocked me for six, especially in the heat. It was a deep cut and kept bleeding. As soon as I got a little touch it would start again.

“They had to wash out the blood at half-time and the shirt was still wet when I put it back on – that wasn’t a bad thing. But it was a frustrating game all round. They scored two world-class strikes and there’s not much you can do about it.”

Like Huddersfield, the last time City’s rearguard was breached, the quality of the goals was stunning. Unlike Huddersfield, City had been right in it up until the second substitute Scott Davies decided to let fly from 25 yards.

Hopes of equalling the four-win start of 1979 vanished in the thin air Rhys Evans was left grasping as a left-foot thunderbolt curved wickedly into the corner of the net.

The same weekend a year ago saw City beaten by an equally fine late finish at Barnet but that is the only similarity.

Aldershot are a good side, flying on the crest of a promotion wave. One defeat in 28 on their own ground since last August tells its own story.

This was no case of City just turning up and expecting their hosts to roll over obligingly. As Wayne Jacobs had warned, any side run by renowned midfield scufflers Gary Waddock and Martin Kuhl will get in your face from first minute to last.

Like Morecambe last season, Aldershot look capable of doing more than just make up the numbers.

A draw would have been about right and the six-hour trek home on the team bus offered plenty of time to think about the chances that got away.

None better, of course, than the penalty which Peter Thorne scorned after Joe Colbeck caught full back Anthony Charles day-dreaming.

Thorne will be the first to admit it was a weak spot-kick, and Nikki Bull saved easily, but City’s top scorer is entitled to be cut some slack after his five-goal August.

Thorne fired his first league blank, though it still needed a couple of decent stops from the impressive Bull after the spot-kick blunder.

Omar Daley also could and should have got something from a couple of trademark bursts into the danger zone. One was thwarted by the tackle of the day from Day; then he created blind panic from Chris Blackburn’s errant back pass but could only nudge the loose ball the wrong side of the post as he pounced on Bull.

But this was destined to be Aldershot’s afternoon. The pre-match fanfare about City’s flying start was drowned out by the non-stop enthusiasm of the Recreation Ground faithful.

They were rewarded with a first league win on the premises for 17 years. The fans won’t have to wait so long for the next one.

Aldershot were certainly the better side for the first 45 minutes but, for all their possession and keenness to have a pop at goal, they lacked a cutting edge.

City were more clinical and showed them how it should be done with a ninth-minute opener that came straight off the Apperley Bridge training ground.

Paul Heckingbottom fired in a low corner which Colbeck ran at and left. His dummy threw out the entire Aldershot defence as Paul McLaren came charging in to plant the ball past Bull from the edge of the penalty area.

Lee had already made his first trip to the sidelines for patching up by then and City had their hands full keeping the precious lead intact.

Matt Clarke made two good tackles on Marvin Morgan and Evans carefully palmed away a lob from the former Woking striker after his back four switched off from Scott Donnelly’s long punt forward.

Aldershot’s defence had obviously not learned their lesson and nearly paid the price from a second corner which McLaren fired into the side-netting. But with Lee again needing treatment, City’s plans were thrown into turmoil by the sight of Clarke collapsing in the centre circle.

His problematic calf is the latest in a long line of injuries for a player who has come on leaps and bounds as the enforcer at the back. Clarke’s presence will be missed, though Mark Bower will be desperate to grab his chance after being stuck on the bench for the previous four games.

Stuart McCall’s problems in the middle of defence prompted a bout of musical chairs as Lee Bullock took up temporary duty at left back, with Heckingbottom shuffling across to the middle.

But City stood firm as the home shot count continued to rise and Evans pulled off a blinding save in added time at the end of the half to push away John Grant’s shot on the turn.

Half-time brought little respite from the heat, both weather-wise and that generated by the hungry home side, and Aldershot’s pressure was rewarded within three minutes of the restart.

Shot number 13 turned out to be unlucky for City as Kirk Hudson’s blocked effort came out to Ben Harding to thrash an unstoppable drive into the top corner. It was a stunning goal but little did we know what was to follow.

The equaliser lit the fuse for the mayhem to follow as chance followed chance at both ends.

Aldershot should have been ahead just after the hour when Morgan nicked the ball past Lee to send Hudson clear. Evans made himself as big as he could but it was still a horrible miss from the midfielder, who dragged the ball wide.

That let-off loomed even larger three minutes later as Charles took his eye off a routine clearance and let the ball roll under his foot. Colbeck swooped on it and the left back’s recovery touch was a second too late, clipping man instead of ball.

But Thorne’s penalty was easily saved and, with City still retreating, Aldershot stormed to the other end where Morgan tapped in after Evans had only parried from Davies.

The game had turned in an instant and suddenly questions were being asked about City’s character. The answer was emphatic as Bullock’s instinctive close-range header ensured parity again almost immediately.

Both sides knew the win was there for the taking. Thorne and Daley were foiled; then Lee’s crucial interception in City’s six-yard box blocked out Danny Hylton.

Ricky Newman clutched his head in frustration after finding a clear opening and placing his side-foot shot just inches wide of the target.

Daley again went close for City before Davies took matters into his own hands with a spectacular solo effort that he will probably never better.

And there was nearly a fourth deep in stoppage time as Bower and Evans got in a tangle and were left helplessly watching Hylton’s cross-shot roll across the unguarded net.

Great entertainment; wrong result. Now all eyes are on Elland Road where, hopefully, any opposition efforts at goal will be a lot more mundane.