'Terra'fic end to Pre-Season

EASTLEIGH v WEYMOUTH

SATURDAY 4th AUGUST 2007
Pre-Season Friendly


With the league campaign just a week away, today was the ideal opportunity to get a final friendly in before the big kick off.

To my knowledge, Weymouth have never beaten Eastleigh at the Silverlake Stadium; certainly not in the past couple of seasons, and today proved to be no different.

Coming back into the side for Eastleigh, following the midweek friendly victory over Christchurch, were Karim El-Salahi, Ian Oliver, and Steve Watts.

Meanwhile, for Jason Tindall's 'Terras', former Spitfires favourite Stuart Douglas lined up to face his former club, amongst a strong look side. Former AFC Bournemouth midfielder, 36 year old Marcus Browning, who signed for Weymouth just days ago as a player-coach, came in to make his debut.

In what was a relatively quiet opening period, neither side could find a way through.

Weymouth, did however come within a whisker in the 6h minute, when Browning connected with the excellent Nick Crittenden's cross from the right. Beating Ian Oliver with good feet, the former Chelsea youth team winger and player of more than 250 games in the non league with Yeovil Town, Aldershot and Weymouth; delivered with his left foot to find Browning in the centre, but the header flew just inches over James Pullen's crossbar.

There were worrying signs for Eastleigh, as skipper Andy Harris felt his hamstring tighten with little over a quarter of an hour played. Heading straight for the tunnel, the former Weymouth man opted against taking any further part in the action as a precautionary measure. Hopefully it will be nothing more than this, as we could really do without the loss of such an influential character like Andy at this stage. Andy Puckett was his replacement, with El-Salahi reverting to centre half as the substitute slotted in at right back.

Eastleigh's first real attempt came about as a result of Damian Scannell's trickery and direct running as he was brought down 35 yards from goal. Steve Watts stepped up to take the free kick and beat the wall, but Jason Matthews in the Weymouth goal gathered low to his right to make the save.

For the second time in a matter of minutes, the Spitfires' most lively player on the park, Scannell, posed big problems to the visitors back line with a superb individual run from inside his own half. Evading numerous challenges, almost effortlessly with great pace, the former Fisher man poked the ball through looking for Forbes. Only a deflection at the last second could prevent the move from materialising.

Next, it was Weymouth who were looking to stamp their authority on the game with a couple of chances with the half past it's midway stage now.

Simon Weatherstone, the Terras captain, spotted Pullen off his line from all of 50 yards and in David Beckham fashion looked to beat the Eastleigh keeper with his speculative effort from the halfway line. However, watching the free kick sail safely high and wide, it would have taken something special from that distance to beat any goalkeeper.

A neat interchange between Browning and Crittenden found Stuart Douglas in front of goal, but from the edge of the area the former Eastleigh forward scooped the ball harmlessly over the cross bar.

The half came to a close with the home side on the up. Anthony Riviere played in Ellis Green who got in behind the Weymouth defence but perhaps went to ground too easily when the challenge came in.

Watts then beat the offside trap and, with white shirts filling the Weymouth penalty area, will be disappointed to have only managed to pick out the keeper from the byline.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-0 Weymouth

At the break Weymouth introduced five new faces, whereas Eastleigh remained unchanged.

Just a minute in, Paolo Vernazza's deep cross evaded a flailing arm of Pullen, presenting Gavin McCallum an ideal opportunity at the back post; though the highly talented youngster who impressed here at the Silverlake Stadium just last year playing for Dorchester Town, failed to take advantage heading behind.

The closest the game had come to a goal came in the fiftieth minute, from a typically well taken Ellis Green corner. Rob Marshall at the back post nodded the ball to Andy Forbes who glanced a lovely header towards the top corner, only for a saving header on the goal line from a well placed defender managed to evade the danger. So unlucky from the man who committed his future to the club just this week.

If this wasn't close enough to a goal, then Weymouth's response surely was just a minute later, as substitute Ashley Vickers struck the woodwork arriving at the far post to meet yet another splendid cross from Crittenden.

The game coming to life in an action-packed opening ten minutes, came to a halt when Stuart Beavon's heavy challenge on Pullen, saw the Eastleigh keeper in need of medical attention for a good couple of minutes. Making the most of the break, the majority of players used the opportunity to take some water on board in the heat.

When play restarted, David Hughes' men pressured Weymouth with successive corner kicks, Ellis Green's snapshot forcing the second, following good play from Danny Smith and Andy Forbes.

Darren Wheeler was brought on to replace Damian Scannell shortly after the hour mark, and wasted little time in making his presence felt against his former club. Winning free kicks out of nothing as his pace led opponents to mistime tackles, rewarded Eastleigh with valuable possession and, out of one of these very set plays came the deciding goal.

Straight from the training ground, an inch-perfect, precision delivery from Green, near to the left touchline, was met by an unerring finish from ANDY FORBES who slipped the ball past the keeper in style to break the deadlock.

Having fallen behind, the Terras did their best in finding an equaliser with another ex-Eastleigh centre forward Jefferson Louis producing the very best out of Pullen. A powerful header from the man who lasted a matter of months at Eastleigh before finishing the season at Yeading, was met by an equally impressive top-drawer save from the Spitfires' stopper.

With Eastleigh sitting deep, looking to preserve their lead, Weymouth were able to push forward. The majority of their play came from the right where Ian Oliver had his work cut out against the superb Crittenden, whose sublime crosses came flying into the Eastleigh penalty area one after the other.

A cushion header from McCallum at the back post from Crittenden's latest delivery, found Louis six yards from goal perfectly placed to find the net, surely? The end product that followed sparked good humour from the home fans as the player that they regarded as a 'flop' from his time at Eastleigh, cleared the stand when it looked easier to score.

Jason Tindall, the Weymouth manager, was banished from his place in the dugout by referee Justin Amey. Clearly the match official decided had put up with one too many hard words from the former Cherries stalwart.

Seven minutes from time, Justin Bennett replaced Andy Forbes who received a deserved round of applause for his efforts throughout the afternoon, not least providing the goal.

Looking highly organised defensively, though up against a lot of pressure from Weymouth, Eastleigh never looked like conceding and saw out the remainder of the game comfortably.

In the final stages of the game, Phil Cousins replaced Ellis Green before a final effort saw a very unlucky Steve Watts volley fly narrowly over the cross bar.

Ending pre-season as it began, with victory, I have no doubt David Hughes and his management team would swap that in an instant for a great start in the league next weekend.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-0 Weymouth

JAMIE MONTIGUE


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