Fine away day - Lewes 0-3 Eastleigh
3rd February 2007 - Lewes 0 Eastleigh 3
Report by Ray Murphy
Without hesitation, this was by far the best Eastleigh performance this season. With Franny Benali suspended and David Hughes suffering from a bout of sickness and Liam George injured, manager Jason Dodd was forced to make changes to his side. Ian Oliver returned to the left back position for his first Nationwide League start since October, Jamie Brown reverted to a central midfield role allowing Steve Forbes returning to the line up on the right hand side of midfield.
Lewes unbeaten in their last four fixtures welcomed two new signings to their ranks also. Goalkeeper, the seventh they have used in that position this season, Steve Williams from Wycombe Wanderers and former Crystal Palace and Middlesborough defender Dean Gordon, once subject to a £900,000 move between the two clubs.
The game was an excellent advert for Nationwide South football as both sides attacked from the opening whistle. Play switched from end to end with Eastleigh taking the early share of possession. A half volley from Steve Forbes on the edge of the box went wide in the opening five minutes and as the game promised goals the first one arrived on thirteen minutes. Darren Wheeler swept past Lewis Hamilton and flighted a ball into the six-yard box where Jamie Brown arrived to head home his first league goal for the club.
As play immediately switched to the opposite end a cross from Andrew Drury saw home striker Paul Booth with an open goal for the equaliser but a miraculous recovery from Karim El Salahi saw the ball skim away off the cross bar and keep Eastleigh one goal to the good.
The play never dropped from its high standards, a Gordon ball to the edge of the area was chested down by Simon Wormull into the path of Gary Holloway but his effort was just off target. For Eastleigh Wheeler having an excellent afternoon fired a twenty-five yard shot wide of Williams’ goal.
On twenty-seven minutes Danny Smith with his best performance of the season, threaded a pass into the path of Brown. Brown’s ball across the face of goal brought panic to the Lewes defence. Steve Watts was unable to drag the ball back to his favoured right foot but his effort was half cleared, the ball arrived back with Brown whose shot was somehow again clawed away by the Lewes defence, Smith reacting fastest to the rebound again only to see a Lewes shirt block the ball.
On the stroke of halftime another Gordon cross saw a good header from Booth but Jamie Pullen produced a good stop to keep Eastleigh ahead at the break. The start of the second half saw Lewes have an early attempt with Drury’s cross - punched out by Pullen the ball falling for Jamie Cade but his effort went wide.
Wheeler picked the ball up inside his own half, ran at the Lewes defence before firing a shot from twenty yards that was parried away by Williams. Eastleigh then managed to make the game secure by scoring twice in four minutes.
With sixty one minutes played, El Salahi’s long ball out of defence was perfectly controlled by the chest of Andy Forbes who then sent a high shot over the advancing Williams and although the keeper got a touch on the ball it still nestled into the corner of the net and gave Eastleigh the two goal advantage. Almost immediately The Spitfires added a third. Smith’s free kick allowed Wheeler to run the ball into the area before seeing another shot saved by Williams. It was only three minutes after the second goal that Andy Forbes netted again. Smith’s left wing corner to the near post saw Andy Forbes run and jump high to head home past a static Lewes defence.
The game was won by this point, Lewes started to have further attacks, Cade turned a cross from Chris Sharpling over the bar, Booth ran through and lobbed the ball over Pullen but again the effort went wide. Pullen made an excellent stop to thwart Drury and keep his clean sheet in tact.
With thirteen minutes to go, Wheeler got behind substitute central defender Stephen Robinson after the centre backs’ mistake on the edge of the area. Wheeler was about to get away from the marker when he was brought to the ground. The referee Mr Steve Child pointed to the penalty spot but after consultation with his assistant changed the award to a free kick on the edge of the box but dismissed Robinson for denying a goalscoring opportunity the defender only having been on the pitch for three minutes.
In the dying minutes of the game Smith’s ball into Carl Wilson-Denis saw the striker produce a high quality turn but his shot was just wide of Williams’ post. An all round good afternoon and excellent Eastleigh performance. With other sides at the bottom also picking up points on the afternoon the result was even more crucial.