Hayes 2-1 Eastleigh
Saturday 31st March - Hayes 2 Eastleigh 1
Report by Ray Murphy
With a disappointing performance Eastleigh slipped to a single goal defeat which at the end of the day leaves The Spitfires just four points above Hayes who still occupy the third relegation spot with fellow relegation haunted side Weston Super Mare having picked up a 5-1 victory on Saturday over Dorchester.
It was a strange Spitfires line up selected mainly as both Danny Smith and Jamie Brown were both unavailable owing to suspension. Andy Harris returned to the first team fold with Ian Oliver occupying a left side midfield position and Carl Wilson-Denis claiming his first start since the middle of January.
The game itself was never going to be classic. With so much at stake for both sides on a less than perfect surface and a swirling wind, which Eastleigh attacked with in the first half. It was a bright Eastleigh opening. Only five minutes had been played when Andy Forbes appeared to have been tripped just inside the penalty area. The ball though ran loose for Steve Watts who was brought to the ground by a challenge from Hayes debutant Jamie Jarvis and Eastleigh were this time awarded a penalty. Forbes despatched with a sweet drive into the keeper’s bottom right hand corner.
With the wind advantage and a good start the strong Eastleigh following in a crowd of 214 waited for more goals to follow. Shortly after the penalty a Steve West header from a Liam Green corner went just wide. Hayes were struggling with the wind assistance against them and the only real threat to the Eastleigh goal was on twenty minutes when a low cross from Liam Feeney suddenly drifted goal wards which saw James Pullen diving to his right to save at the near post.
Three minutes later and Eastleigh were back in the ascendancy. Oliver’s pass played in Wilson-Denis but the big striker fired high over the bar. Harris launched a long throw into the area on thirty-three minutes, which saw Hayes defender Gilbert Nuako inadvertently head towards his own goal and breathed a sigh of relief as the ball sailed over the bar with his keeper Kevin Davies beaten.
As the first half was nearing an end Eastleigh had two chances, which they should have taken. With seven minutes remaining Wilson-Denis and Steve Watts combined allowing watts a run on goal, Watts fired his shot into the side netting. A better chance fell for Forbes three minutes later. Green’s free kick found Forbes unmarked in the six-yard box but the Eastleigh leading scoring misguided his header away from goal.
Eastleigh were made to pay for this immediately. On forty-three minutes, Hayes’ long ball from defence from Peter Collins fell in behind the Eastleigh rearguard. Kieran Knight gained possession and laid the ball to the edge of the D where Josh Scott thundered a left foot drive that cannoned off the underside of Pullen’s crossbar and over the line for an equaliser.
The pace of the Hayes front men caused Eastleigh problems in the second half with the wind this time in their favour. Watts had missed another glorious chance having headed a Harris corner just wide six minutes into the second period before another Hayes breakaway led to what proved to be the winning goal. Nuako’s long driven clearance saw the Eastleigh defence marking high just inside their own half which allowed the pace of Scott to latch onto a loose ball. With Pullen seemingly unsure as to whether to stay on his line or complete the save at the striker’s feet, he found himself in no mans land as Scott clipped the ball past him for his second goal of the afternoon.
Karim El Salahi having been struggling all week with the flu had to make way eleven minutes into the second period allowing a return to the side for Robbie Marshall. Hayes were restricted mainly to long range efforts mostly from free kicks. On sixty-one minutes Knight’s free kick from an acute angle brought another low diving save from Pullen.
Two minutes later a Will Hendry free kick saw Pullen unable to hold the ball and it brought a fine sliding tackle from Marshall to avert the danger. Hendry drove another free kick this time safely into Pullen’s midriff ten minutes later.
Eastleigh went in search of the equaliser in the closing stages. Watts had a free kick from the edge of the box saved by Davies and their best chance of the half followed a Francis Benali cross eleven minutes from time which beat keeper Davies but a fine defensive header from Nuako from under his own bar prevented Forbes from applying the finishing touch.