Saviour Sales! Eastleigh fight back to win from 2 down
EASTLEIGH v MAIDENHEAD UNITED
SATURDAY 1st MARCH 2008
Blue Square South
SATURDAY 1st MARCH 2008
Blue Square South
By Jamie Montigue
Paul Sales was Eastleigh’s superstar saviour in this game of two halves.
Eastleigh made just one change to the side who beat Welling United by three goals to one last Saturday. Karim El-Salahi was recalled from Sutton United following his loan spell away from the Silverlake Stadium to fill the void left by injured centre back Chris Collins.
Maidenhead United were today’s visitors to the Silverlake Stadium, Johnson Hippolyte’s men boasting a very impressive away record this campaign and looked to demonstrate that sort of form this afternoon also.
As early as the fourth minute, the Magpies were threatening with Lee Newman firing just wide of David Wilkinson’s post having linked up well with strike partner Manny Williams. A good early attempt, one, which signalled Maidenhead’s intent at this very early stage in the game.
Four minutes later, a dangerous ball in from the left-hand side saw Adam Everitt let his touch get the better of him. The ball ricocheted high leading to the Eastleigh left back bringing more trouble on himself than was necessary, causing the former Cambridge City man to slam behind for a corner kick. A powerful header from Grant Cooper flew inches wide of the upright as he connected with Ashley Smith’s delivery on the near side.
The warning signs were out already. Sure enough, in the ninth minute JACK BRADSHAW opened the scoring to send Maidenhead into a 1-0 lead. Carl Wilson-Denis, who played for Eastleigh last season, held the ball up inside the penalty area before playing a simple ball to his left to find Smith. Smith’s delivery was pinpoint as he picked out the unmarked Bradshaw who was gifted a free header at the far post to head home from close range.
The Spitfires were far from at the races and were made to look distinctly average at best, anything but a side donning a Blue Square South play off spot. The lacklustre half from the Spitfires continued as Maidenhead doubled their lead to silence the Eastleigh following who watched on in despair as their side fell apart before their eyes.
JERMAINE HINDS stole in at the near post to steer a well-placed header into the bottom corner from Smith’s free kick. This was Smith’s second assist as Maidenhead made things look worryingly easy. The set piece was awarded in the first place for a needless foul by Everitt, for which he was punished by a yellow card.
Up to this point Eastleigh had struggled to get out of their own half against their highly organised opponents, and had not managed to trouble Louis Wells in almost half an hour. The closest they came to an ‘attack’ would have been Mark Marshall’s splendid free kick on the near side, towards the corner flag, where he was initially fouled. Whipping the ball across with pace, the perfect delivery for someone to just get a touch on, evaded everyone going through a crowd of players.
Things improved slightly but not dramatically, with Paul Sales showing great technique with a dipping shot from 30 yards that Wells watched carefully to save.
Only a minute later, Wilson-Denis might have made it 3-0 only for a splendid save by Wilkinson. Muscling his way through, the ex-Eastleigh striker poked the ball towards goal from 8 yards but was denied by an instinctive reaction stop from the on-loan Crystal Palace goalkeeper, who made just enough contact to palm the shot from point-blank range on to his cross bar.
On a rare occasion that the hosts had got forward, Chris Piper had a shot well blocked by two defenders sliding in to protect the Maidenhead goal. El-Salahi followed up, though the danger was cleared.
A corner kick from Eastleigh saw Wells spill Everitt’s delivery. Both Sales and Piper pounced but neither could turn the ball goalwards.
In the closing moments of the half leading up to the break, Wilkinson looked uncharacteristically edgy as he dropped a cross from which the visitors so nearly capitalised. The ball was rolled back to Williams who drove behind.
The Eastleigh stopper then miss-kicked with Wilson-Denis pressurising though thankfully nothing came of it.
Anthony Riviere was brought down just outside the box by David Clarke to win a free kick in a very good position on the stroke of half time. Mark Marshall could only manage to fire straight into the wall.
HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-2 Maidenhead United
Thankfully, the second half told a completely different story and whatever was said at half time certainly fired up the hosts who pulled one back instantly through ANTHONY RIVIERE, just four minutes after the restart.
Warren McBean rolled the ball down the left hand side for Marshall who got to the byline as he opened his stride to beat the right back for pace and then send over a cross with his weaker left foot. Riviere burst into the area to slide in at full stretch at the back post to pull a crucial goal back for the Spitfires. This goal not only reduced the arrears but gave Eastleigh a way back into the match with renewed hope to go on and get a result. The timing was highly important to get the goal early on to settle the nerves, leaving them a good forty minutes to turn things around.
Ian Baird could not have received a better response after a pretty poor first half by Eastleigh’s standards.
Andy Forbes was introduced not long after the goal, making his return from injury as he replaced McBean and looked sharp despite his lack of games.
It wasn’t long before Baird made his second substitution bringing on David Hughes for Everitt.
Tactically, Eastleigh had got it spot on this half. Forbes and Hughes coming on proved to be a masterstroke also.
The Spitfires had improved and upped their games no end and got their just rewards with an equalising goal from PAUL SALES two minutes shy of the hour. Eastleigh’s saviour Sales came to the rescue in this game of two halves, shooting on the turn from the edge of the area to pick out the corner of goal.
Still the urgency was there and had improved if anything since Riviere’s early second half strike. Mark Marshall raced forward on the break curling a good attempt just around the post, David Hughes also had a penalty shout snubbed.
Eastleigh kept plugging away determined to get a third goal. Karl Murray played the ball into Riviere who turned to get a shot away that was well saved by Wells on 69 minutes.
Andy Forbes came extremely close to finding that goal as Piper pulled the ball back, rolling across to provide the delivery to match his positive run down the left. Forbes was well placed but the chance went begging.
Into the last ten minutes, Matt Hann was brought on for Karim El-Salahi, and it was the former St. Albans winger who played a part in the winning goal as his cross went behind for a corner kick.
Saving his best until last, PAUL SALES bagged his second of the afternoon in style, with a sublime overhead kick five minutes from time. A goal well worthy of winning any game as Eastleigh got out of jail from their dismal start but it was no less than deserved following a completely different performance and attitude in the second half to take all three points.
Unfortunately the referee took the shine off of this victory by giving Luke Byles his marching orders for a second yellow card despite clearly playing the ball.
Eastleigh’s character and will-to-win was there for all to see in the second half as they completed an excellent comeback. These two sides will do battle once more next weekend at York Road in the second game of the back-to-back fixtures with the same opponents.
This win has lifted Baird’s men to fourth in the table.
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 3-2 Maidenhead United