Aldershot & Farnham may have been without three key players, but they still brushed aside Sittingbourne 4-3 to keep their place on top of the South East Premier League.

After the half-term break, this was always going to be an acid test.

But they underlined their class with a fine victory.

Coach Ian Jennings said: “There are always concerns about the depth of the squad and this justified those worries.

“Missing three key players for our squad is right on the cusp of not being able to compete.

“However, the resilience we showed was out of the top drawer and I always believed our structure, team ethos and a refusal to lay down was there in abundance.

“We are under no illusions that the top games are rapidly approaching but I am very proud of the fact we sit at the top of the tree.

“Time will tell as to just how good we are – but hopefully we will be competitive. We travel to play Sevenoaks this weekend and they will be another tough team – my feelings are they will provide the stiffest challenge we have had so far.

“Training has been tough this week but once again we will rise to the challenge.”

In unseasonably warm weather, the game began rather frantically and AFHC were soon behind to a well-taken Sittingbourne goal.

However, the Shots exploited a mistake in defence from Sittingbourne straight from the restart to win a short corner which was duly converted by Perry to level the score.

AFHC drew breath as players became accustomed to the unfamiliar positions they were playing as a result of missing team members.

Increasing pressure was exerted with a familiar pattern of a highly-organised, aggressive defensive press by the forward line of Frost, Smith, Chinn and Combes, well marshalled by Rushmere.

This system creates pressure that was excellently exploited by the midfield of Boot, McCafferty and Weston to win the ball back, a tactic that has worked to good effect this season.

Sittingbourne were duly forced to play long aerial passes which were consistently picked off with great skill by Herring and Wilkinson.

Waves of attacks followed by AFHC, with Groves settling into his new inside-right position before and after half-time, and by 15 minutes into the second half AFHC were 4-1 up through three more short corners scored by Perry.

Both teams tired in the heat and AFHC were guilty of losing concentration momentarily on two occasions as they pushed aggressively for a fifth goal.

Sittingbourne seized both opportunities to bring the score to 4-3 – a closer result than perhaps looked likely early in the second half, but a good win on the road that kept AFHC on top of the table.

Jamie Combes