Eastbourne fight back to keep record in tact


Blue Square South

By Jamie Montigue

Today’s visit of Eastbourne Borough was all about one man – Damian Scannell who made his last ever appearance for the Spitfires.

The script was written for Damian Scannell to go out with a bang in his farewell performance for Eastleigh ahead of his switch to Southend United upon the opening of the January transfer window.

Scannell, who has electrified the crowds week in out for the Spitfires to earn himself a big move to the Football League, did just that for one last time at the Silverlake Stadium but couldn’t stop Eastbourne Borough from remaining the only unbeaten side in the Blue Square South.

Ian Baird was forced into making a handful of changes to the side who drew 1-1 with Basingstoke on Boxing Day.

Goalkeeper James Pullen, who only made his comeback from a month out after an ankle operation against Havant last Saturday, sat out the draw with Basingstoke after injuring his other ankle and was sidelined once again replaced by Ross Kitteridge between the sticks, who celebrated his eighteenth birthday yesterday. The Reading loanee was drafted in to not only cover for the injured Pullen but for Gareth Howells whose wife gave birth to a baby boy this morning.

Jamie Brown sat out due to a slipped disc, whilst Karim El-Salahi (ill) and Warren Goodhind (injured) were also missing from the squad. This meant a place in the starting eleven for Fitzroy Simpson, Peter Adeniyi and David Hughes. Matt Hann had to settle for a place on the bench where Chris Piper was also amongst the substitutes having missed the last three games.

The first action of the afternoon saw Allan Tait give Kitteridge an early touch of the ball when his clipped shot towards goal following Pat Harding’s ball in from the right, was comfortable for the Eastleigh goalkeeper.

Eastleigh were a constant threat with Damian Scannell full of tricks, pace and enthusiasm eager to leave a lasting impression on the Spitfires faithful. A ball forward by Fitzroy Simpson was chested superbly into the path of Scannell by Paul Sales, the soon-to-be Southend United player had defenders backing off left, right and centre and left them standing with a tremendous run but was unfortunate not to pick out Adeniyi with the final ball.

Both Sales and Luke Byles had efforts blocked in a matter of seconds. Firstly, Sales from an Adam Everitt corner kick, one which Scannell won by pressurising Marc Pullan, and moments later Luke Byles pouncing in the penalty area from a free kick was denied by a courageous block from Andy Atkin who had got back to make a vital defensive contribution.

Scannell might have been awarded a free kick with a quarter of an hour played. Having latched on to a through ball from Byles, the former Fisher Athletic man advanced towards goal and was seemingly dragged to the ground just outside the penalty area.

Nothing was given but this did not deter Scannell who merely brushed himself off and within the same minute was at it again skinning full back Neil Jenkins, rounding another marker before firing towards goal with his left foot. Lee Hook was equal to the shot diving low to his right.

After a couple of Eastbourne half chances, Eastleigh were still on top and looking comfortable. Anthony Riviere this time set Scannell free down the right who sent in an early cross that was helped on by Sales with a clever touch. The move pleasing to the eye was unlucky to have broken down as the ball was ever so slightly behind Forbes.

Fitzroy Simpson came close in the twenty-fourth minute, following yet more brilliance from Scannell. Frightful pace and quick feet was more than enough for Damian to shake off Jenkins, the Eastbourne full back already having his work cut out and in for a torrid afternoon with this tricky customer, the ball eventually came out to the edge of the penalty area. Simpson was ready and waiting and went for goal but the effort, though hit with good power and swerve with the left foot, was always drifting wide of the left upright.

It would have been very hard for the neutral at this stage to tell which team were unbeaten, such was the dominance from Eastleigh and off-colour performance from their visitors.

Things might have gone from bad to worse for Garry Wilson’s side who were made to look ordinary for the best part of thirty minutes, were it not for two exceptional clearances off the goalline.

Eastleigh would have taken a first half lead only for a well placed defender to clear off the line twice in a minute as the Sports struggled to deal with the dangerous in-swinging corners of Adam Everitt, and on the far side David Hughes.

From Hughes’ corner, Andy Forbes could hardly believe as he watched his header bounce back from goal with the goalkeeper Lee Hook beaten. Paul Sales went for the follow up and had his shot deflected for a further corner.

For the umpteenth time in the game, Scannell delved into his endless box of tricks and pulled out the stepovers as he sent across a delivery to the back post to find Sales. The experienced striker cushioned the ball to Forbes who had made a run to the near post but his diving header was inches wide of the target. Again, extremely unlucky.

Eastbourne had to wait until the forty-first minute for their best move of the half as Allan Tait combined with the captain Paul Armstrong but could not finish off the one-two with the end product well wide of the post in the end.

Kitteridge, who was in the main a spectator throughout the first half, was suddenly called upon three minutes later to tip over the cross bar preventing Andy Atkin’s swivelled shot from finding its way to the top corner.

Then, on the stroke of half time Andy Harris carelessly gave the ball away to Matt Crabb who brought the ball forward before firing towards goal. Kitteridge got a strong hand to it as the ball bounced up and around the post.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-0 Eastbourne Borough

In the opening stages of the second half, Pat Harding struck the foot of the post from a free kick on the far side. Kitteridge was beaten but the woodwork saved Eastleigh as the visitors began to show signs of their capabilities given half a chance.

Ian Baird’s men, who controlled the first half, opened the scoring on 57 minutes in true style. A moment of inspiration, pure brilliance and magic saw the wing-wizard Scannell drift past three defenders on the left hand side when there looked to be no way through. The 22-year-old’s cross found ANDY FORBES waiting in the middle who duly delivered with his header going in off the post. A sensational goal, it might be cliché but it really was worth the entrance fee alone.

Shortly after the goal, a sliced clearance from Ben Austin handed the hosts a corner kick, which Adam Everitt sent across with yet another top delivery that had to be punched over the cross bar by Hook.

A free kick from Everitt a minute later was headed towards goal by Sales but Hook displayed a safe pair of hands to prevent Eastleigh from doubling their advantage.

Things could not have been better for the hosts, everything was going to plan until Eastbourne did what they do best and got the result they wanted when the chips were down.

A quick fire double was the response from the visitors with strike partners Andy Atkin and Allan Tait scoring one apiece within the space of two minutes to undermine all of Eastleigh’s previous hard work.

Where Eastleigh’s goal came from nothing so to speak, Eastbourne’s first was as simple as a Pat Harding low cross from the right being turned in from close range by ANDY ATKIN who was on hand for the equaliser.

In-between Atkin’s goal and the Sports’ second, Fitzroy Simpson latched on to a loose ball from 25 yards but blazed wide hitting the ball on the up.

Second half substitute and former Spitfire Adam Wilde who had a brief spell here during the 2005/6 season, carved the Eastleigh defence in two with a delightful pass to create an opening a minute later, which ALLAN TAIT rounded off with a simple finish in front of goal. Eastleigh could do little but watch as their lead was snatched away in the blinking of an eye.

Conceding two soft goals so quickly was clearly a massive setback and Eastbourne were never in doubt from taking all three points from then on.

A deep cross from Jay Lovett proved to be tricky to deal with as Andy Harris could only slice behind his own goal to concede a corner kick. Lovett met Wilde’s corner with a header but failed to hit the target.

The second of Eastbourne’s goalscorers, Allan Tait sent Adam Wilde down the right who twisted inside and then out of Luke Byles before firing over the top with the outside of his left boot.

Matt Hann had Eastleigh’s best chance of salvaging a point when played clean through by a splendid David Hughes pass. Hann’s pace took the winger clear of the last defender but a combination of poor composure and excellent goalkeeping by Hook denied the former St. Albans man from finding a way through.

A double substitution from the Spitfires saw Chris Piper and Ashan Holgate sent on for Paul Sales and David Hughes.

The final action saw Ashan Holgate fouled to the left of goal, the free kick from Piper was sent in to a crowded penalty area but this was to be the last kick of the game.

For Eastleigh it may not have been the right result to end 2007, but the club must now look to the crucial clash with Basingstoke Town on New Year’s Day.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-2 Eastbourne Borough


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