Another day, another draw!

Tuesday 20th February - Sutton United 2 Eastleigh 2

Report by Ray Murphy

Eastleigh failed to gain their second double of the season having beaten Sutton United 1-0 at home back in September, but did gain their third consecutive draw and earned a run of five games without a defeat. It was also only the fourth time this season that they managed to score more than once in a Nationwide South league fixture.

The game was not inspiring; the ball spent a lot of time in the air with neither side producing much quality football. Steve Watts came back into the side following a one-match suspension with Jamie Brown being moved to a midfield role and Steve Forbes being the unfortunate one to miss out from Saturdays line up at Bognor Regis.

Eastleigh started well and went a goal ahead on eleven minutes. A route one play saw Watts flick on a header right into the path of Andy Forbes for the striker to lob Sutton goalkeeper Gary Hogan who was way off his line and put the Spitfires ahead with his eleventh Conference goal of the season.

Eastleigh could only hold their lead for seven minutes. Despite having played well for the opening minutes the goal spurred the home side into a more physical approach, which seemingly put Eastleigh out of their stride. On eighteen minutes a long throw from Richard Harris saw the Eastleigh rearguard unable to clear the ball out of the box. Finally Paul Honey managed a strike on goal for Sutton to which James Pullen dived to his right to parry the ball only for Warren McBean to fire home the equaliser.

Five minutes later and another Harris long throw was the assist for Sutton’s second goal. The launched throw finally arrived at the near post for Matt Gray to head past Pullen to put the home side ahead. Eastleigh were second best for the rest of the half. Sutton only had a couple of chances, Harris saw a header from an Alan Bray corner go over the bar whilst on the stroke of half time Gray jinked an opening on the edge of the box but his effort was saved by Pullen.

Eastleigh started the second half again much the better side. They started passing the ball around. They immediately created a couple of chances. Darren Wheeler’s lifted shot from the touchline was cleared away off the line by Sutton defender Lewis Gonsalves, then a Wheeler cross saw a David Hughes header pushed away by Hogan.

Eight minutes into the half and Eastleigh were deservedly level again. Forbes had been fouled on the edge of the box and Watts stepped up to fire a free kick off the inside of the post for his second goal in Eastleigh colours.

The good work seemed almost undone three minutes later as Gray was wheeling away after netting following yet another Harris long throw but the flag from the assistant brought relief for the Spitfires as an infringement had been spotted and a free kick awarded.

The play from the early part of the half again degenerated into a long ball game. Chances were few for both sides but the home side seemed content to settle for a point long way before the end of the game.

Gray had another effort with a shot after Harris had won an aerial battle but his flashed shot was off target whilst Eastleigh’s best attempt of the half came from a Brown header from a Danny Smith corner that went wide.

In the closing stages Sutton had two good opportunities. Pullen saved a curling effort from Ross Gaynor and again Pullen had to save in the last minute from a Bray header.


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