Sales is back with a goal but 'Stoke pinch a point


Blue Square South

By Jamie Montigue

A bumper Boxing Day crowd of 879 watched on as Eastleigh came up against neighbours Basingstoke Town. Francis Vines’ high-flyers enjoying a great run sitting proudly fourth from the top in the Blue Square South.

The Spitfires meanwhile were somewhat dejected having gone into this game with a single goal defeat over local rivals Havant and Waterlooville at the weekend.

Paul Sales made a welcome return from injury and marked the occasion with the opening goal nineteen minutes into the game. Gareth Howells stood in for the injured James Pullen whilst Peter Adeniyi dropped to the bench.

Last season Eastleigh won the same fixture by a goal to nil at the Camrose under the then manager Jason Dodd - Andy Forbes giving the Spitfires an excellent Christmas present with a crucial three points that went along way to keeping us in the division.

A year on, it was the visitors who started brightly testing Howells with a half chance in the opening stages. Ben Wells came extremely close with a volley from the edge of the penalty area, as a Luke Byles header half-cleared Tyron Smith’s free kick.

Eastleigh’s first chance came in the sixth minute when smart approach play saw Paul Sales given time and space to bring the ball down on his chest to set up his captain Andy Harris to send a searching cross into the penalty area. Matt Hann was underneath it at the back post but scooped his effort wide with his weaker left foot.

Worryingly for the hosts, Basingstoke had split the Eastleigh defence inside the opening eight minutes through a delightful, measured pass from former Spitfire James Taylor to set Michael Charles free down the right hand side. Charles eased inside past Byles before firing an inch wide of the upright.

Just two minutes later, The Dragons were roaring once more. This time Charles set up Ben Surey with a simple square pass to his right, the latter firing a low driven shot that had Howells at full stretch to save low down at his near post.

Andy Forbes meanwhile connected with a deep cross from Harris following good hold up play by Damian Scannell on the near side, but Eastleigh’s top goalscorer was unable to control the header or trouble Chris Tardif.

Slightly against the run of play, Eastleigh took the lead from a dangerous Adam Everitt set piece. It was the left back’s corner that caused chaos in the Basingstoke area with Tardif coming for, but spilling the ball. This led to a sliced clearance from a yellow shirt which fell kindly for PAUL SALES who pounced on the loose ball to rifle his shot past a mass of players with his left foot and into the bottom corner.

A goal to the good, Ian Baird’s side looked the more likely to expand on the scoreline having a couple of chances and a good spell of possession in the final third.

Twenty-four minutes in, a long throw from Harris was flicked on by the goalscorer to the far post however nobody had ventured forward to take advantage.

Jamie Brown might have done better a moment later, Anthony Riviere having won possession stylishly in front of goal to create the opening for the tireless midfielder. Brown’s side footed shot was weak though from 18 yards and posed no problems at all for the one time Eastleigh goalkeeper.

Frustration was to follow as Damian Scannell was twice denied any further progress by the offside flag. The first call was tight but the second when Paul Sales had played the Southend-bound winger in behind the Basingstoke defence, looked to be harsh as Scannell seemed level with the last defender.

Matt Hann was also displeased to have a decision against him when cutting in from the left, shaping for the shot and curling towards goal. The move starting from a long kick by Howells saw the ball bobble high and harmlessly behind with the pacy winger claiming, albeit to no avail, for a corner kick.

The visitors became increasingly more involved with the half coming towards its end and caused a few problems for Eastleigh from a deep corner on the right hand side.

Tyron Smith acrobatically helped the ball back into play for Taylor to bring down and drill firmly against Jamie Brown who had made himself big to charge down the shot and deny an equaliser. There were a few shouts for handball but referee Stephen Phipps was well placed and saw no such infringement.

As the ball came back into the area from Matt Warner’s cross, Charles headed narrowly over the cross bar.

Eastleigh at the opposite end still did not rule out the possibility of a second goal before the break. Brown found himself in the way of Anthony Riviere’s well-struck shot from an Andy Forbes delivery to halt any such luck.

Howells was kept busy and had to be on his toes to tip over the cross bar four minutes from time as Charles rose well with Byles to get the header away - though a late offside flag made it meaningless.

The Spitfires goalkeeper was a mere spectator in the very next minute when Basingstoke were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area. Warren Goodhind was adjudged to have fouled Taylor, and with it picked up the first yellow card of the game. Tyron Smith shaped up to shoot and hit it sweetly with great dip, bend and swerve with a shot that crashed off the frame of the cross bar much to the relief of the helpless Howells.

In injury time the Spitfires were queuing up to double the advantage with Scannell providing some wonderful late chances for his team. A bicycle kick from Sales was cut out but Scannell was able to deliver once more for Brown this time who was denied by Tardif at point blank range. The Basingstoke defence in disarray, Sales went for the follow up and should have done better despite getting his shot on target.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 1-0 Basingstoke Town

During the break a Basingstoke fan by the name of Jack delighted the crowd with silky skills to record an incredible 49 ‘keepie uppies’ with a square ball in the competition held by Blue Square to continue the entertainment.

Back to the action, Eastleigh made a fairly decent start to the second half with nice movement and approach play from Riviere and Scannell seeing the Spitfires into the Basingstoke penalty area but unable to find a way through.

Sean Hankin headed behind to concede a corner following Jamie Brown’s clever reverse pass and from it Adam Everitt went direct for goal. Whether intentionally or not the delivery wasn’t too far away from finding the net.

Two minutes short of the hour mark Damian Scannell was withdrawn due to an injury. David Hughes was the replacement but one cannot help but wonder if that is the last we have seen of Scannell in Eastleigh colours ahead of his switch to the football league upon the opening of the transfer window at the beginning of January.

A driving run from Riviere saw the former Fisher midfielder combine with Brown before Tardif could intervene and cut out the danger with brave goalkeeping at the feet of the Eastleigh man.

Gareth Howells did extremely well to thwart Ben Wells in the 65th minute, pushing the winger’s shot around the post having got a firm glove to the low driven attempt.

Baird was forced into making a second change when the excellent Paul Sales had given all that he had for the cause but felt tight after six weeks on the sidelines with little training before today’s game. Ashan Holgate the like for like switch.

The game took an ugly turn when a Basingstoke fan got himself escorted from the ground for twice throwing the ball directly at the face of the Eastleigh goalkeeper, when asked to return the ball.

It sparked emotions on the pitch as well with tackles flying in. Adam Everitt was penalised with a yellow card for his part in a scuffle with James Taylor whilst the Dragons’ forward escaped without punishment.

Basingstoke eventually found an equaliser when Taylor went down so easily, deceiving the referee into giving a free kick on the edge of the penalty box.

TYRON SMITH, who had struck the woodwork at the close of the first half, this time went one better with an unstoppable set piece. A David Beckham like one-step run up came complete with a belting strike right out of the top drawer and into the top corner to leave Howells standing.

There were no clear-cut chances despite a surge of late pressure from Eastleigh. The hosts were clearly desperate to record a win and not satisfied in having to settle for a draw but nothing materialised.

Wells might have won it for the visitors a minute from time when Howells’ quick throw in search of Holgate saw Wells creep up with great pace to catch Holgate off guard and unawares. The Basingstoke winger’s floated cross-cum-shot went beyond the goalkeeper and narrowly over the cross bar.

Even then there were chances for either side with Michael Charles turning Byles in front of goal, but the wrong way. Had he gone to the left he would have been clean through for a one-on-one situation but he chose to turn right and instead picked out Wells but the shot was comfortable for Howells.

Three late corners from Everitt were to be the last opportunities Eastleigh would have to get three points on Boxing Day. Forbes was underneath the first but an excellent defensive header on the goalline stood in his way before second half substitute Peter Adeniyi’s through ball was dummied by Riviere and deflected behind for a further flag kick just ahead of Forbes.

Again the delivery was threatening, right into the danger zone of a packed six-yard box where Tardif punched behind. The action came to a close with Jamie Brown’s off-target near post header.

Next up an equally challenging game here at the Silverlake Stadium to an unbeaten Eastbourne Borough side this Saturday. The Spitfires can take heart from their 3-0 victory earlier in the season to league leaders Lewes, who came here unbeaten just as Eastbourne will. A good omen perhaps as we look to end 2007 with a bang!

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-1 Basingstoke Town


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