U's seal first win At Eastleigh's expense



EASTLEIGH v SUTTON UNITED
SATURDAY 1st SEPTEMBER 2007

Blue Square South

Eastleigh went into this game on a high with four wins from five following their bank holiday Monday win over Dorchester at the beginning of the week, though this afternoon it was all about Sutton United.

The hosts crashed to their first home defeat of the new campaign as Sutton United comfortably held their own to record their first win.

They had their goalkeeper, Phil Wilson, to thank for his crucial saves throughout the match, as well as their two-goal match winner – Ross Montague.

Returning to the side for Eastleigh was Karim El-Salahi, back from suspension who took up a role in the centre of defence. Rob Marshall was still missing through injury, meanwhile Warren Ryan – goalscorer in that Dorchester win; was missing completely. Ellis Green was given his first start since the Bath City defeat.

It started off well enough for Eastleigh as they dominated the opening fifteen minutes and could well have found themselves in front within the opening stages were it not for the brilliance of Wilson as he thwarted a Damian Scannell blast that looked destined for the top corner.

Coming out of the blocks quickly, attacking from the off Eastleigh could well have gone ahead. A quickly taken free kick following a foul on Paul Sales saw Chris Piper take the free kick early to pick out Andy Forbes perfectly. Though the referee, pulled the Spitfires back for taking the kick too early, perhaps with a rolling ball.

Then came a fine moment on 3 minutes for the home side that saw a delightful flick on from Sales with the outside of his right boot find Scannell on the overlap with sublime precision. The two-goal hero just seven days ago in the Fisher game, burst through to unleash a thunderous strike and was denied only by a fine save.

Nicky Greene fired clean over Pullen's cross bar on seven minutes before Eastleigh again took the upper hand in terms of possession, once more, with Ellis Green stealing the ball from right back Asher Hudson in a decent position on the left before racing through on goal with sheer pace. Wilson was there again to make the block as Sutton United cleared their lines.

The Spitfires again came close on 22 minutes when Piper's delivery from deep found the run of El-Salahi in the penalty box but somehow evaded everyone and went out for a goal kick. The Eastleigh centre half just inches away from connecting for what would have been a certain goal.

Midway through the half, Sutton United had a chance of their own with Craig Tanner coming close from long distance with good footwork as he made his way from the right touchline, into the centre before drilling a crisp left foot effort just wide of the mark to beat the outstretched arms of Pullen.

At the opposite end, a long throw from Andy Harris saw Paul Sales help the ball on only for the ball to be half-cleared, as far as Piper on the edge of the area. Wilson spilled initially, but quickly gathered.

In the blink of an eye, Eastleigh found themselves a goal down as Wilson turned defence into attack with a hopeful long ball forward directly from this very Eastleigh move. A disastrous blunder from goalkeeper Jamie Pullen, fumbling the ball on the the edge of his area, saw ROSS MONTAGUE help himself to his first of the afternoon nine minutes before the break.

The goal coming thoroughly against the run of play, Eastleigh were made to rue their earlier missed opportunities to throw away their decent opening to the match.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-1 Sutton United

Straight from the kick off after that hammer blow of a goal at the close of the first half, Eastleigh set out their intention with an early, attacking move.

Piper and Sales combined to find Danny Smith, the ball was played back into Sales and met by an acrobatic volley. Unfortunately for the Spitfires, the former Salisbury marksman failed to get a clean strike on it and the keeper was left to make a comfortable save.

This liveliness from the hosts didn't last and it was Sutton United who soon found themselves on the front foot.

Damian Scannell was booked for dissent on 51 minutes, whilst The U's continued to threaten and look sharp. Warren McBean, in particular was posing all sorts of problems with his trickery down the left.

On the hour mark, yet another crucial save from Wilson saw Eastleigh still looking for a way back into the match. The Sutton stopper doing tremendously well to keep out an Andy Forbes header from point blank range, following a fine move.

Scannell, now operating on the left having switched flanks with Green moments earlier, delivered from the near touchline with a cross that sat up perfectly for Forbes; to create the opportunity. Not for the first time, Phil Wilson proved to be the hero once more for the visitors to somehow deny the Eastleigh striker. How different the outcome may have been had this turned out to be an equaliser? A crucial save.

Chasing the game, Eastleigh switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Ellis Green making way for player-manager David Hughes, directly after this opportunity.

Two minutes later, Sales looked to feed the ball through for Scannell, however superb defending from Hudson thwarted Eastleigh as he got across his man with great pace and strength to cut out the danger.

Soon after, on 68 minutes, came the goal that in reality gave United a strong hold on the encounter as the visitors doubled their advantage. McBean shook off the attentions of his marker Karim El-Salahi, before squaring for MONTAGUE who was left with an easy finish to slot home his and Sutton's second as he fired past a helpless Pullen from close range completely unmarked.

From here, you couldn't see fortunes turning favour, at 0-1 Eastleigh still had a chance, but it just didn't seem likely that there would be a way back now from two goals down.

Justin Bennett, replaced Sales following this goal, in what was probably his last match in an Eastleigh shirt for the foreseeable future following the agreement of his loan deal with Gosport Borough, which is set to begin next week.

Things very nearly took another turn for the worse, and you had to fear because as the clichรฉ goes, it was just one of those days for Eastleigh. Rushing a long way out of his goal, Pullen looking somewhat nervous, perhaps the earlier error playing on his mind, cut off a through ball from Malik Boari with Hudson the target.

The ball appeared to strike Pullen's knee, or lower chest though the visitors were determined it was his hand; in which case the referee would have had to weigh up if the goalkeeper was denying a goalscoring opportunity.

After deliberating with his assistant, Stephen Phipps the referee, brandished a yellow card for the incident.

Tanner fired the resulting free kick a whisker over the cross bar.

Scannell turned his marker, Darius Charles, with relative ease as the Eastleigh winger looked to make his mark on the game but his scuffed shot was dealt with and Sutton survived.

Time running down, Eastleigh used their last roll of the dice so to speak with Ian Oliver taking to the field to replace Anthony Riviere. This substitution seeing a slight reshuffle with Harris pushing into the midfield, Luke Byles reverting to centre half to accommodate Oliver at left back.

Eastleigh were throwing numbers forward but despite holding their opponents back, they had no luck. Chris Piper's piledriver demonstrating this, as it deflected off Forbes to change direction. Where on other days it may have flown into the net catching the keeper off guard, on this occasion the excellent Phil Wilson had no trouble.

A very frustrating afternoon at the Silverlake Stadium, saw IAN OLIVER provide a lifeline for home supporters as he drilled home a Danny Smith cross field pass, finding the net with the help of a deflection from Paul Honey five minutes from time.

Sparking a glimmer of hope for Eastleigh, Piper's left foot volley flew just wide of the mark following another dangerous ball in from Smith and Scannell's nod to the edge of the area.

Though, there was six minutes of added time, it was too little too late for Eastleigh as Sutton United used all of their experience and more, to keep hold of the ball in the final third with Eastleigh struggling to win the ball back.

Jason Henry and McBean both came close in the dieing stages to keep Pullen busy right to the final whistle.

All said and done, Eastleigh's run came to an end but we are still up in the top five. Well done to Sutton United who must be delighted to have come away from the Silverlake Stadium with three points, their first victory of the campaign.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-2 Sutton United

JAMIE MONTIGUE


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