Christchurch 0-2 Eastleigh

CHRISTCHURCH v EASTLEIGH

WEDNESDAY 1st AUGUST 2007
Pre-Season Friendly



In this penultimate pre-season friendly for Eastleigh, the Spitfires overcame Wessex Premier League side Christchurch by two goals to nil at Hurn Bridge.

David Hughes fielded a strong side, with just Steve Watts and the suspended Karim El-Salahi missing from the Gosport Borough starting line up. On an extremely positive note, Andy Forbes came back for the first time since the Portsmouth friendly.

The first opportunity came the way of Justin Bennett, who in a short space of time, has already shown his potential netting twice at the weekend, and looking sharp despite being out for a year and making a big leap to the Blue Square South.

Picking the ball up with his back to goal on the edge of area, the former Andover man spun well but hit a weak effort towards goal.

Warren Ryan, the Eastleigh full back very nearly caused a spot of bother in the ninth minute, when his cross-cum-shot appeared to be sneaking in at the near post from a tight angle. Former Eastleigh reserve stopper, Alan Walker-Harris flapped at the ball in desperation, turning the ball behind for a corner kick.

Eastleigh enjoyed total dominance in possession. Their best move saw a string of six or seven tidy passes as the visitors worked their way up the park, ending with Phil Cousins' low effort saved with relative ease.

Looking comfortable, the scoring was going to open sooner rather than later for Eastleigh. It was fitting that when it came, a certain ANDY FORBES, was the one to get it.

A long ball forward from Danny Smith, playing the unusual role of right back - the problem area (our main right back Chris Piper is still out injured), the Christchurch left back looked to head back to his goalkeeper but the ball fell short by a long way kindly into the path of Forbes, who took one touch before finding the back of the net with a decent finish.

It was as if he had never been away! What a perfect way to come back from injury, to get a goal to celebrate the recent news that the Eastleigh forward has put pen to paper to commit himself to the club for a further three years.

Skipper, Andy Harris, blasted a 25 yard free kick with ferocious pace only to be denied by the bravery of the Christchurch number 4, who had flung himself at the ball to deny Eastleigh a second.

Two minutes later, the Spitfires were on the prowl once more with another exciting move. A clever reverse pass from Anthony Riviere found the goalscorer Forbes onside, to the left of goal.

Unselfishly, and with a smart chipped pass back to the edge of the area – Forbes picked out his strike partner Bennett and it was his pile driver that produced a fine save out of Walker-Harris. The Christchurch keeper at full stretch diving to his right to tip round the post, bringing to an end a lovely flowing move from the visitors.

Long past the midway point in the half now, Phil Cousins clearly felt hard done by as the referee ignored claims for handball inside the penalty area. The former Portsmouth and Q.P.R youngster, weaved his way towards goal with incredible skill, balance and strength to hold off several opponents. Finally getting his shot away, the ball looked to have struck the outstretched arm of a Christchurch centre back, however, close to the incident the referee signalled for play to continue.

Into the last five minutes of the half, Bennett glanced a header narrowly wide of the mark from the lively, Ellis Green's right wing cross.

The first half proceedings came to an end with Eastleigh again on the front foot. Christchurch gave the ball away hopelessly with a poorly taken free kick in their own half. Justin Bennett helped himself, to intervene, and brought the ball forward with a pass out wide to Green. A first time delivery found Forbes who then teed the ball up nicely for Damian Scannell who had burst on to the scene.

With screams of 'hit it' echoing around the ground, the explosive winger steadied himself but failed to get hold of it as the keeper watched the ball safely wide.

HALF TIME: Christchurch 0-1 Eastleigh

The second half that unfolded, was very much stop-start football with several substitutions taking place.

A necessary thing of course, to look at different options and to plan ahead for the coming season, however it must be said that it didn't really do a lot for the game as a contest.

Brought into the action at various stages for Eastleigh were firstly, Darren Wheeler and Andy Puckett, direct replacements for Justin Bennett and Andy Harris. On the hour mark, Adam Roberts – who spent the best part of the 2006/7 season on loan at Andover, replaced the man of the moment Andy Forbes to join the attack.

Next, James Pullen was replaced by reserve keeper Andy Wynn in the 65th minute. The Eastleigh number one had very little to do, just like the Gosport game where the Spitfires were so good the Essex based stopper may as well have been a spectator!

It was not until midway through the half, that the first real chance of note came about. Adam 'Taz' Roberts, who did his best to lighten up an otherwise dull second half, broke down the left hand side with frightening pace to find Wheeler, slightly ahead of him. The latter's cross found Scannell unmarked in the centre, but Eastleigh couldn't take advantage on this occasion.

Young defender, Scott Gilham made his way to the field shortly after. Anthony Riviere, the man making way.

Seventy-three minutes had gone when a further substitution - Ian Oliver for Ellis Green, took place.

Wasting little time in making an impact, it was the latest substitute, IAN OLIVER, who doubled Eastleigh's advantage, and although it never was in doubt, tied up victory for the Spitfires in doing so.

The exciting prospect that is, Adam Roberts, again worked his magic this time down the right to create an opening, squaring for Darren Wheeler. Eight yards from goal, the former Weymouth man had his side-footed effort parried directly into the path of Oliver, who was on hand to turn the ball home from close range.

Coming to a close, the final substitution saw Aaron Martin another top talent from the second team, take the place of Rob Marshall in the heart of the defence, leaving just four players who completed the full ninety minutes: Warren Ryan, Phil Cousins, Danny Smith and Damian Scannell.

Next up for Eastleigh is their final preparation game against The Terras, Weymouth, before the real action begins on the 11th August against Cambridge City.

FULL TIME: Christchurch 0-2 Eastleigh

JAMIE MONTIGUE


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