Eastleigh 1-3 Team Bath


Blue Square South

By Jamie Montigue

Eastleigh handed a debut to latest loanee, Ashley Carew who has joined on loan from Barnet, whilst fellow loan signing Jonny Dixon made his home debut having already played last weekend in the 1-1 draw with Braintree Town.

Luke Byles returned to the first team after being relegated to the reserves for disciplinary reasons last Saturday, having resolved his differences with manager Ian Baird this week.

Unfortunately the game was one to forget for the Spitfires with very few positives to come out of it as Team Bath ran out comfortable winners and gained ground on Eastleigh in the league table with two games in hand.

It was nice to see the sun shining for a change at the Silverlake Stadium on a fine afternoon after all of the bleak weather we have had recently, however Eastleigh were most certainly not shining as they put in a very off-colour performance and got all that their play deserved - nothing.

Shaun Benison picked the ball up on the left for the visitors inside the first minute of the game but his clipped shot/cross drifted wide of the mark.

Two minutes later Andy Harris played the ball down the line for Carew who was given his first chance to prove his worth to cover for Steve Clark who is thought to be out injured for around six weeks. The 6”2 versatile full back or winger made a positive run towards the byline where his cross was safely collected by goalkeeper Jake Meredith.

Team Bath provided the most potent threat and might have done better with an opportunity from a set piece in the fifth minute. A free kick on the far side saw a header at the far post find Matt Cooper who in turn nodded into the ground where Jason Matthews picked up the loose ball.

Only moments later Eastleigh failed to deal with another Team Bath free kick. Marc Canham's delivery was only half-cleared with the header away by Tom Jordan. Matt Thorne latched on to it but miss-hit his shot dragging the ball comfortably wide.

In the tenth minute, Jonny Dixon headed forward to the edge of the penalty area. Meredith ran out of goal to try and clear when Jamie Brown, whole-hearted as ever, was determined to get their first and won the challenge on the keeper to win a corner kick. From the resulting corner, Andy Harris found Neil Sharp who headed against a defender to win a further flag kick. Tony Taggart whipped in the corner on the near side but the ball was cleared to safety by the visitors.

The game had got off to a cagey start but neither side really looked like troubling the scorers.

Carew nipped past full back Greg Lake in the fifteenth minute and got his shot away only to see it wide of goal before Andy Harris came the closest to opening the scoring with a powerfully struck free kick that whistled inches wide of the post.

Midway through the half, Anthony Riviere chased hard having lost possession by the corner flag to pinch the ball back and win possession high up the field, before playing the ball into the box for Jonny Dixon, whose low shot was scrambled away for a throw.

Matthews was forced into his first real save of note in the 35th minute. Marc Canham let fly from 25 yards but was denied by the former Weymouth stopper who got down well to save low to his right.

In the space of a couple of minutes Dixon looked most likely to make something happen for Eastleigh as he was first played in by Tony Taggart where he made a great turn, six yards from goal in a tight space only for a perfectly-timed last ditch tackle to hook the ball away. The on-loan Brighton & Hove Albion forward who has scored goals at Blue Square Premier level with Aldershot, then nodded the ball narrowly wide from a decent ball in from the right.

Eastleigh were becoming more and more stretched as the half wore on with Takumi Ake and Ben Thomson providing priceless width and unrivalled threat down either flank for Team Bath. Just two minutes before the break Ged Roddy's side took the lead as BEN THOMSON stole in at the far post completely unmarked to plant a side-footed volley into the top corner from close range to break the deadlock.

The Spitfires went right down the opposite end directly from kick off with Tony Taggart, however with defenders backing off and the perfect opportunity to trouble the keeper, the winger failed to get hold of it as well as he knows he can as his driven shot hit the target but lacked the sort of power needed to beat the keeper.

Anthony Riviere was next to try and make amends to hit back quickly before half time as he made a strong surging run through the middle of the park with great skill and balance before being dispossessed on the edge of the area. The ball came out as far as Dixon who blasted high over the bar with Carew screaming for the ball to his right.

Then came the real hammer blow. 1-0 down at the break wouldn't have been the best but would certainly have been within reach to turn the game around in the second half, should it have stayed this way. Unfortunately Team Bath took a strong foothold in the game with a sucker punch in the first minute of injury time added on at the end of the half, to give them something to hold on to, meaning Eastleigh would be forever chasing and it was always going to be a long way back from here.

Thomson this time turned provider with a cross from the left to find TAKUMI AKE at the far post who was left with the simplest of finishes to complete a quick fire double as Team Bath made the very most of launching a counter attack and doubled their lead.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-2 Team Bath

Shaun Benison really should have put the game beyond doubt just a minute into the half, and would have done had his header found the back of the net to make it 3-0 and kill the game off effectively for Eastleigh. Thomson once more provided the cross as he continued to torment the Spitfires defence finding Benison a mere 4 yards from goal in the clear. The striker's header though resulted in an embarrassing miss.

Matters were made worse for Eastleigh as they lost captain Andy Harris to injury early on - Warren Goodhind, his like for like replacement at right back.

Team Bath's Matt Townley came close with a looping header from a Thomson corner kick before a very frustrated Jamie Brown made way for Matt Groves on the hour mark.

Takumi Ake continued his fine performance and was a constant thorn and menace to Eastleigh all game long with endless running, and nearly added to Eastleigh's woe with a further goal as he cut inside, skipped past Carew and fired wide with his left foot.

Ian Baird reverted to three at the back with Luke Byles switching to a more advanced position as Eastleigh sought to try and find a way back into the game.

Anthony Riviere had his header plucked out of the air with ease by Meredith from a Taggart cross and then in the 72nd minute, it was game, set and match to Team Bath.

MATT COOPER netted the visitors third goal of the game following a lovely piece of play from that man Ben Thomson whose trickery allowed room for the cross to pick out the front man who ran in unattended to score one of the easiest goals he is ever likely to score. It was becoming frustrating and deeply disappointing to see Eastleigh play so poorly at home.

Eastleigh finally started to show some character towards the end but it was far too little, too late. Brett Williams came on for centre back Neil Sharp and showed glimpses of his ability with some nice touches in his brief cameo substitute appearance.

Thirteen minutes from time, Jonny Dixon lofted the ball into the box from the right where Riviere threw himself at the ball with a flying header. At first sight, it looked as if the effort was going to be a big miss as he failed to make the cleanest of connections, when suddenly the ball hung in the air and dipped at the last second. Jake Meredith read it well to save underneath his cross bar.

Williams lashed the ball across goal a minute later putting the ball in exactly the right place, where it is extremely difficult to defend, however the set up evaded Dixon in front of goal.

It wasn't until deep into the final ten minutes of the game that Eastleigh had mustered their best attempt on goal in a very bleak and second rate performance. Young forward Brett Williams was again involved as he headed on neatly into the path of Matt Groves. The substitute and former Dorchester Town striker volleyed towards goal and hit the target to force a good save out of Meredith.

Team Bath could have made the scoreline look incredibly one-sided with three minutes to play as Mike Perrott slipped the ball through the Eastleigh rearguard only to see Benison's poor finishing spare further Eastleigh embarrassment.

The game was already long won by the visitors when JONNY DIXON came away with his first goal for his new club, one of very few positives from the afternoon's events at the Silverlake Stadium watched by a crowd of 544.

It was a mere consolation goal but Dixon took it well as Groves helped the ball on, and the loanee striker who has been brought in to cover Andy Forbes' sorely missed long-term absence, took his chance well placing the ball to the right of the goalkeeper.

Deep into injury time Riviere was felled just outside the box. Tony Taggart's effort was very impressive and deserved a goal. It was struck with such venom and accuracy but was met by an equally brilliant save by Meredith who pushed the ball on to the cross bar. Groves pounced but couldn't find the back of the net.

Eastleigh will have a lot work on their hands to improve in time for the visit of Bath City on Tuesday night if they want to go some way to make amends for their below-par showing this afternoon and get three points on the board to maintain their push for the play offs.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1–3 Team Bath


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