Eastleigh 2-1 Saints

EASTLEIGH V SOUTHAMPTON

SATURDAY 15th JULY 2006
Pre Season Friendly

This pre-season friendly between two neighbouring clubs saw the new era of Southampton Football Club kick off with a defeat to a very strong display from the Spitfires. Before kick off Dell legend Jason Dodd signed for Eastleigh in the most fitting environment – against the club where he played almost 400 games in 16 seasons of top-flight football.

Inside the first minute of the game Eastleigh were playing attractive attacking football. Most notably, Darren Wheeler the tricky winger who was causing the Southampton right back problems at an early stage. His fantastic run down the left wing saw him beat Alexander Ostlund and pull the ball back for Danny Smith, however the Eastleigh captain’s effort was slightly overhit.

Whilst Darren Wheeler was showing his pace and trickery for Eastleigh, the highly talented Nathan Dyer was doing much the same for the Saints. Dyer kept Ian Oliver on his toes from the off and nearly opened the scoring with a good effort early on.

The game was being played at a frantic pace and both sides had their fair share of possession. Despite Southampton having a near full strength side it was the Conference South team that struck first. A free kick on the left hand side was floated in by the excellent Wheeler to the back post and Eastleigh’s top striker, Andy Forbes, rose incredibly high to out jump the veteran Claus Lundekvam to somehow steer his header into the far corner of the goal with the Southampton keeper, Kevin Miller, left motionless.

Having only just seen the opening goal of the game, the ball was soon back in the net. This time it was Saints with the equaliser; meanwhile Eastleigh had barely finished celebrating! Southampton new-boy, Bradley Wright-Phillips showed signs of his Dad Ian’s finishing when he was quick to pounce on an uncharacteristic Chris Collins error. The Eastleigh centre back left his header way short of keeper Paul Musselwhite allowing the ‘Coca Cola Kid’, Wright-Phillips to chip the former Scunthorpe stopper with a delightful touch to tie the game only seconds after Andy Forbes header, for a goal 11 minutes into his Southampton debut.

Southampton began to find their feet as they piled on the pressure, firstly with an Andrew Surman free kick being well saved by Musselwhite and then a minute later the Eastleigh keeper was called into action once more when McGoldrick teed up goalscorer Wright Phillips whose effort was well saved and then scrambled away from danger.

In the 28th minute the home side could have gone ahead. An inch perfect through ball from the Eastleigh skipper, Danny Smith, gave Andy Forbes a glorious opening but he took one touch too many, giving the Saints defence time to recover.

Minutes after Eastleigh’s chance, Saints were down the other end looking to add to the score. Substitute Djamel Belmadi, who replaced the injured Nathan Dyer, crossed the ball in from the right and Collins stepped in to concede the corner. From it, the ball fell to Andrew Surman whose low drive from the edge of the eighteen yard box found its way through a crowd of players and thumped against the outside of the post.

Eight minutes before half time, Eastleigh defied all odds and for the second time in the match took the lead against their Championship opposition. Darren Wheeler, who incidentally was probably the man of the first half, stepped up to take an Eastleigh free kick 40 yards from goal. Noticing Kevin Miller off his line slightly, the former Weymouth winger hit a superb strike, which floated over the head of Miller and before the Saints keeper could get near it the ball was already over the line.

This goal only spurred on the Saints even more. Only the heroics of Danny Smith prevented Andrew Surman from the equaliser just before half time as the Eastleigh captain bravely put in a sliding challenge to block the powerful low drive.

On the stroke of half time, Musselwhite showed his class once more and in doing so helped Eastleigh go in at half time with the lead. This time his one handed reaction save denied Bradley Wright-Phillips his second goal of the match.

HALF TIME – Eastleigh 2-1 Southampton

The changes from both sides came thick and fast. Adam James and Richard Hodgson replaced Martin Thomas and Dave Town for Eastleigh whilst George Burley’s Southampton brought on Michael Poke in goal, following Kevin Miller’s two mistakes, in addition, Chris Baird and Jermaine Wright took to the field, with David Prutton and Alexander Ostlund making way.

Paul Musselwhite continued the way he left off in the first half with yet more top quality saves. Belmadi set up Saints’ new Argentine signing Marcelo Sarmiento who must have thought he had scored. Somehow Musselwhite palmed the ball away diving at full stretch to his left as the Saints looked to make amends for the two goals they conceded in the first half.

Five minutes into the second half the Eastleigh keeper was at the centre of things once more. A well worked move from the Saints, starting with Chris Baird’s long throw down the right touchline saw Wright-Phillips play the ball to his left to find David McGoldrick that created a fantastic goal scoring opportunity. However the 6 foot plus frame of Musselwhite flew out of goal to deflect the effort wide, as he continued to lead the way right from the very back.

Wright-Phillips looked like he would get the visitors back into the game as he pulled the trigger inside the penalty area, at which point Eastleigh substitute Adam James slid in fantastically well to bravely deny Southampton.

Southampton continued to threaten and were looking ever more dangerous as they came forward, however the Eastleigh defence were more than a match for their more illustrious opponents. The defending from the likes of Chris Collins and Rob Marshall at the heart of the back four, was brilliant to watch as they put absolutely everything into holding onto their 2-1 lead.

Having been replaced by former Saint David Hughes 10 minutes earlier, Steve Forbes took to the field for a second time to replace the injured Chris Collins, who as mentioned was solid at the back (forget the error in the first half!). This meant Danny Smith had to switch to centre back.

Eastleigh comfortably saw out the remainder of the game despite Southampton seeing a lot of the ball. This win definitely bodes well for the coming season and I for one was particularly impressed with the solidness of the Eastleigh defence.

To add to this incredible victory it was the clubs record attendance of 3,260. Of course we must thank Southampton for this and for bringing a full strength team with them.

Eastleigh in the end deserved the victory for their 100% effort all round making it hard for Southampton at all times. Both teams must now do their utmost to gain promotion from their respective leagues!

FULL TIME – Eastleigh 2-1 Southampton

JAMIE MONTIGUE

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