Aldershot Town manager Tommy Widdrington couldn’t hide his disappointment after the Shots fell to a 2-1 defeat at Rochdale in the National League on Saturday.

Jack Barham gave the Shots the lead but goals from Jimmy Keohane and Kairo Mitchell completed the turnaround for the home side.

“It’s like a kick in the stomach,” said Widdrington.

“I thought we were really good in the first half.

“We controlled the game and controlled the tempo.

“I always thought we were going to be a goal threat and we’ve got ourselves in front, but the two goals we’ve conceded we’ve got to be disappointed about because they were probably preventable.

“The first one I thought there was a genuine appeal for handball because of the way our players have reacted nearer the incident.

“In fairness to Rochdale I thought they got themselves on the front foot in the second half, got their attacking players in the game quicker and they gave us problems.

“We blocked and we defended quite well but we just didn’t use the ball as well as we have over the past couple of months. When we win the ball back we’re usually good for a lengthy spell of possession, but I don’t think we did that well enough. We were too urgent to get the ball forwards on occasions.

“Rochdale got the ball to the wide men and the front men quicker than they did in the first half, so they asked questions of us as a defensive unit – not just the lads at the back, the whole team.

“We ran out of a little bit of puff in the middle of the park – which is understandable – and we didn’t get tight enough to press like we did in the first half. We had it spot on in the first half but we didn’t get it right in the second.

“Ultimately someone’s switched off for the winner because he had a free header inside the six-yard box. We can’t be doing that.

“Everyone who’s watched us this season knows we’re an attacking threat – whether that’s at set plays or fluid plays. Jack’s taken his goal really well. Lorent’s unfortunate not to have scored – he’s had a couple of good efforts blocked.

“I think we’ve played better than that and not won games but I think we should come away with something because of the way we played in the first half of the game.”

The Shots started brightly at Rochdale as Josh Stokes sent an early tester to home keeper Louie Moulden with a powerful half-volley that needed to be turned behind in the second minute.

The visitors found joy on multiple occasions in hitting Rochdale with fast-paced breaks. A dangerous Ollie Harfield cross from the left was headed clear with Barham storming into the area and looking to head home.

The home side almost took the lead in bizarre circumstances. Ryan Glover’s cross was blocked by Cian Harries and the ball looped over Jordi van Stappershoef from a tight angle, but the Dutch stopper was able to tip the ball over and spare his side’s blushes.

The Shots took the lead in the 37th minute. A corner looked to have been dealt with by Rochdale but Harries won the ball back and found Lorent Tolaj. Tolaj squared to Barham, who controlled the ball well and finished even better.

But, just five minutes later, Rochdale would level the game. Keohane provided the finishing touch after some penalty area pinball. Aldershot’s claims of a handball in the action fell on deaf ears.

The hosts then began to push forward in search of a second goal. Jesurun Uchegbulam sent an effort just wide of the post in the 57th minute.

Van Stappershoef was at his best to deny Mitchell ten minutes later. A short free-kick from Adam Clayton found Mitchell on the edge of area and he turned to a clear sight at goal but the Dutch stopper superbly denied the Rochdale attacker.

But in the 79th minute, Mitchell did find the back of the net. A short corner was eventually delivered and Mitchell was on hand to head home from a few yards out.

Tommy Willard’s introduction injected some fresh legs into midfield and he came close to finding an equaliser in spectacular fashion when he dribbled forward and unleashed a powerful effort that was just wide of the mark.

The Shots pushed forward in search of a late equaliser and Willard did well down the left to make it all the way to the byline, but Coby Rowe’s effort from his low cross was blocked.

Samuel Carter