Eastleigh 1-1 Thurrock


Blue Square South

Report by Jamie Montigue

Eastleigh went into this game riding high in second placed in the Blue Square South following five successive league wins and three consecutive clean sheets.

Emergency centre-back Andy Forbes reverted back to his preferred centre forward's role to accommodate debutant Neil Sharp at the heart of defence. The former Havant & Waterlooville and Cambridge City man who joined the club this week, was partnered at the back by Aaron Martin in the absence of the suspended Tom Jordan.

The Spitfires' second new arrival this week, loan signing Lee Roache, started the game on the bench.

The hosts made a positive start initially but fell behind as early as the ninth minute as Thurrock hit back.

A diagonal ball into the penalty area by Luke Byles saw a great leap and cushion header from Andy Forbes knock the ball into the path of strike partner Matt Groves whose looping header narrowly evaded the target in the opening minute.

Jason Matthews was called into action three minutes later when Che Stadhart picked up on a low cross from the right with his back to goal, where his snapshot saw the former Weymouth stopper at full stretch to keep the ball out. The follow up was then headed wide of goal from just a yard out, somewhat fortuitously for Ian Baird's side.

Disaster struck for Eastleigh when a quick breakaway from the visitors saw Thurrock's FOLA ORILONISHE take full advantage of the Spitfires defence being at full stretch as he coolly rounded Matthews (who found himself in no man's land, a long way out of goal), and tapped into an empty net for the opening goal in the ninth minute.

Taggart chipped the ball through for Andy Forbes down the left hand side soon after, but the prolific forward fired high and wide with his weaker left foot.

Eastleigh continued their search to find a way back into the game and came close as Anthony Riviere forced a save out of Joe Wooley with a side-foot shot from 12 yards following a fine knock down by Forbes.

Aaron Martin recovered well at the opposite end with a well-timed challenge in the penalty area to deny a Thurrock attempt on goal, whilst Luke Byles supported the youngster well with an equally impressive full-blooded last ditch tackle to avert any further trouble.

Martin and skipper Andy Harris won two important headers scrapping for possession in the middle of the park midway through the half and in so doing managed to create an opportunity for Tony Taggart, who sensed the goalkeeper was off his line and went for goal from all of 30 yards. Taggart's dipping volley was just an inch too high but this sparked a spell of pressure that saw Thurrock on the back foot.

On 27 minutes, Anthony Riviere became the victim of a vicious challenge by full back Andy Sambrook. The tireless midfielder writhed in pain in a heap on the floor but thankfully after some treatment on the sidelines was able to continue.

After a five minute spell of barren goalmouth action, Mark Wright came close for the visitors with a speculative effort from deep as he cut in from the left and fired just over, before Thurrock created an even better opportunity just minutes later. David Bryant ran clean through behind the Eastleigh defence as a long ball was flicked on by Stadhart only for a combination of a slightly heavy touch by Bryant, and the alert goalkeeping of Matthews, saw the keeper come out on top of this one on one situation as he saved low down at the edge of his area.

As the half wore on, still it was Hakan Hayrettin's side who looked the more likely to trouble the scoreboard. Andy Harris was caught in possession in front of goal and conceded a free kick for a foul on Orilonishe. Mark Wright stepped up to take the central free kick but curled his shot straight into the Eastleigh wall.

The last of the action in the first half saw Neil Sharp head the ball clear but only as far as Sambrook who fired narrowly wide of the target from 25 yards, though Matthews looked to have his angles covered on this occasion.

This was a poor half for Eastleigh by any standards but certainly an even bigger disappointment on the back of the superb form of late and the fact that Thurrock were outplaying the Spitfires on their own turf.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0–1 Thurrock

Barely 30 seconds into the half, Eastleigh came out all guns blazing and got off to the perfect start that they were looking for in response.
Calm, collected defending from Aaron Martin who displayed a solid presence that belied his years led to the goal as he squared the ball to his left for Luke Byles. The move was completed with a stunning pinpoint 45-yard through ball from Byles that saw MATT GROVES hold off his marker and fire through the legs of Wooley for a fine equalising goal.

Despite this start, Eastleigh breathed a sigh of relief in the 50th minute, when Rob Swaine's header from a corner kick was diverted by a Dave Bryant header towards goal from close range that looked to be heading in and would have were it not for Matthews standing tall and punching away from goal.

A teasing low cross from the right by Andy Harris saw Groves let the ball run across the six yard box where it hit Forbes unexpectedly before running out of play three minutes shy of the hour as Eastleigh looked to crank up the pressure.

Meanwhile Kenny Beaney curled a shot towards goal from range but found himself under pressure from Martin as the back-pedalling Matthews watched the ball safely over the cross bar.

Neil Sharp lined up a header from a dangerous Taggart corner delivery, though Thurrock's number one Joe Wooley was there to make a flying punch to clear the visitors' lines.

Groves may well have been in for his second goal of the afternoon due to a mistake by Lee Flynn, the Thurrock captain who headed the ball behind kindly into the path of Eastleigh's goal scorer. Groves, perhaps unaware of the space and time he had, decided to turn back on himself and the opportunity was gone.

Ian Baird handed Lee Roache his first appearance for Eastleigh in the 65th minute as Groves made way. Immediately the loanee showed impressive signs with a mesmerising run that had defenders left standing. Roache had the cross to match as he picked out Riviere, whose attempted overhead kick didn't quite come off.

The positive play rubbed off on the rest of the side and proved to be just the lift Eastleigh needed.

Andy Harris came extremely close with a ferocious free kick that whistled over the bar whilst Roache's terrific impact continued.

A neat ball into the area saw the former Barnet forward hit a very clean strike on the volley only for Wooley to get down low and save at his near post.

The troubles and headaches that Roache was causing to the Thurrock back line did not cease as the new addition showed another attribute to his game, sheer pace. Roache put Matt Paine under severe pressure and got to the ball first, where he was stopped abruptly by a blatant tug. The referee ignored this, perhaps as Paine was the last man and the frustrations showed from the Eastleigh bench and just about every home fan in the ground.

With fifteen minutes to play, a rare attack from Thurrock saw Bryant come on to his right foot and make room for the shot from the edge of the area. Neil Sharp got a crucial deflection on the effort as Matthews scrambled to his left watching the ball just past his post for a corner kick.

Eastleigh showed resilience in defence from a number of set pieces to soak up a little pressure towards the end of the game.

In the 83rd minute Andy Harris had a good chance from a free kick 25 yards from goal. The skipper struck it well but the shot hit a well-placed defender on the line before falling right on to the feet of Andy Forbes. The man who has provided sound cover for injuries and suspensions in defence and helped his side to three clean sheets in recent games, uncharacteristically snatched at the chance and fired high over the bar.

The scene was set with the scores level at 1-1 and three minutes of injury time remaining in this action-packed second half for a winning goal to settle the scores.

Despite both sides coming close, and Thurrock's Rob Swaine so nearly stealing the points for the visitors with a powerful header that was matched by a fine save from Matthews, neither side could find a winner as both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1–1 Thurrock


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