'Handy' Jordan sets Spitfires on way to seal historic win!

EASTLEIGH v AFC WIMBLEDON



SATURDAY 28th MARCH 2009
Blue Square South

Report by Jamie Montigue


A league record crowd of 2,283 packed into the Silverlake Stadium in their droves for this top of the table clash between league leaders AFC Wimbledon (with their huge away following), and Ian Baird’s Eastleigh.

Before last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Welling United, the last time Terry Brown's Dons had lost a league game had come some nineteen matches ago – ironically against the Spitfires back in early December 2008.

When today’s drama finally came to a conclusion it was the hosts who went home celebrating a massive three points, as Eastleigh became the only team to do the double over AFC Wimbledon this season.

Eastleigh have now trimmed the gap on the table-toppers to seven points with a game to spare whilst opening up a nine-point cushion over sixth-placed Maidenhead United - who have played a game more, as the Spitfires continue their push and momentum in search of cementing a playoff place. As the season comes down to the business end, things are looking extremely bright but nothing is guaranteed just yet.

The first half saw relatively few chances created as both sides cancelled each other out, though the visitors perhaps edged the opening forty-five minutes.

In the 4th minute, pacy forward Kezie Ibe looked favourite to get to the ball first from a knock down when challenged by Eastleigh keeper Jason Matthews, who had raced a long way out of goal. Both players tumbled to the ground before the danger was eventually cleared.

Former Eastleigh number one James Pullen was up against his ex-team mates and manager this afternoon and was given a typical Tom Jordan welcome. The commanding centre half and skipper clattered into the goalkeeper with a robust but completely fair challenge to get their ahead of Pullen. Just as Aaron Martin turned to shoot towards goal from the loose ball, the referee blew up for a foul.

Just under quarter of an hour had been played when both Ibe and Jon Main worked together to keep Luke Byles at arms length. As the ball dropped dangerously inside the six-yard box, Ibe pulled the trigger only to be denied by a splendid sliding block by the covering Martin.

Excellent movement by Main saw the striker steal in on goal in a good position when Jay Conroy’s sweeping cross from the right came in. The division’s leading goal scorer will be disappointed with the finish however as after doing the hard work, his volley was extremely wayward.

In this closely fought encounter thus far, the next opportunity came the way of the Dons. Chris Hussey curled a free kick all the way through in search of runners to the back post but Matthews was able to watch it safely wide.

Ashley Carew was looking the most potent and threatening attacking force in Eastleigh’s armoury. The versatile, skilful winger had come into the action more and more as the half wore on managing to get a couple of deliveries into the AFC Wimbledon penalty area and behind the opposition defence as the Spitfires began to use the ball and the width of the pitch to a better standard.


Neither keeper had been tested to this point with the first half drawing to a close, but Jon Main did come close in the 32nd minute when he broke the Eastleigh offside trap to race through down the left and fire narrowly wide of the upright.

Eight minutes before the break, Luke Byles produced a saving tackle of the highest quality to prevent Ibe a shooting chance on goal. When the strong and pacy forward charged into the box it looked ominous for Eastleigh until Byles burst on to the scene with a perfectly-timed and executed sliding challenge.

Both Warren Goodhind and Jamie Brown received yellow cards in the closing stages of the half. Brown can feel slightly hard done by for his caution as it appeared the whole-hearted forward performed an over-head kick and made contact with the ball when his marker Conroy put his head in and was accidentally caught.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-0 AFC Wimbledon

The opening five minutes of the second half produced more goalmouth action and efforts on goal for Eastleigh than the previous forty-five minutes altogether as the hosts made a very bright start.

Jonny Dixon, who was starting his first game in over a month due to injury, flashed a shot just wide of goal following a long throw on from the right. His best effort was yet to come as in the very next attack, Jamie Brown’s pinpoint header set his strike partner Dixon on his way to goal. The Brighton & Hove Albion loanee latched on to the knock down and hit a first time chipped effort that so nearly caught out the back-pedalling Pullen. The AFC Wimbledon stopper had done brilliantly to match the exquisite attempt by tipping over the bar in style to concede a corner and keep the scores level.

Pressure mounted on the Dons when Aaron Martin hooked a lofted ball back into the danger zone from a deep corner. Tom Jordan launched himself forward with a diving header but couldn’t direct the ball anywhere close to troubling the keeper.

From the Spitfires’ perspective, Ian Baird would have been very encouraged by the flying start that his troops had made, and it proved to be a sign of things to come but only after a brief spell from the visitors.

Warren Goodhind failed to get hold of a clearance that sliced wickedly towards his own goal and looked to be sailing into the net past Matthews. Fortunately it was a good couple of yards wide of the post and out for a corner.

AFC Wimbledon were rewarded a mysterious free kick for an alleged foul by Jordan moments later and from it Jason Matthews had got in a good position to get his body behind Chris Hussey’s strike and hold the ball well.

It wasn’t long before Eastleigh were back on the front foot as livewire Carew sent a teasing ball across goal that had to be punched clear and out for a corner by Pullen.

The opening goal of the game sparked a lot of controversy as TOM JORDAN met Tony Taggart’s in-swinging delivery quite clearly with the use of a hand to find the back of the net! Probably the only two people in the ground who failed to notice this were those that matter most - the referee and his assistant. These sorts of decisions tend to even themselves out and it just so happened that this one went Eastleigh’s way much to the dislike of AFC Wimbledon who disputed hotly but to no avail. In all fairness, had this been the other way round I am almost certain Eastleigh would have felt the same way, but that is football.


That said, the referee’s decision is final and the game goes on as the Spitfires looked to build on their 1-0 advantage.

With the Dons somewhat rattled and frustrated it was Eastleigh who continued to press with Taggart having a shot blocked by Ben Judge, which was closely followed by a curling effort from Dixon that proved to be just a little too high.

Ashley Carew, who in my eyes was a strong contender for man of the match, hit a ferocious, stinging 35-yard pile driver which baffled Pullen due to the amount of power and swerve on the ball. The ex-Eastleigh keeper did well to get something on it to keep out the fine effort out by chesting away to the left of the area where he was then forced into a second stop to push away Taggart’s follow up.

The chances were coming thick and fast now with Tom Jordan squandering a glorious opportunity from a mere two yards at one end, before in the blink of an eye Matthews was called upon for the first time in what seemed an age. The former Weymouth stopper produced a flying stop to keep out second half substitute Danny Kedwell’s shot from the edge of the area that was heading for the top corner.

It was at this point that the unusual but not unheard of event of the referee having to be replaced due to a hamstring injury. One of his assistants took the whistle but this left the dilemma of finding someone to run the line which resulted in a long delay from action before the issue was eventually resolved.

Once the game had restarted, Eastleigh wasted no time at all in getting back in their stride and finding their rhythm. A mesmerising run from Carew inside the area to the left of goal, saw the former Barnet midfielder leave markers for dead with his fancy footwork and pinpoint cross. JONNY DIXON made no mistake with a fine close range finish to double the Spitfires’ advantage.


Eastleigh made all three substitutions in the final ten minutes with Steve Clark, Brett Williams and Matt Groves all taking to the field to replace Taggart, Dixon and Brown.

With seven minutes remaining ELLIOT GODFREY pulled a goal back for the Dons with an unstoppable volley that nestled into the top corner leaving Matthews absolutely no chance. This goal certainly made things all the more interesting to set up a tense finale.

So much added time appeared to come from nowhere even taking into account the delay whilst waiting for a new referee’s assistant, and it was these painful, seemingly never-ending seconds and minutes that kept coming which only added to the nerves and nail-biting from Eastleigh.

Groves volleyed wide from a Williams flick-on before the inevitable onslaught from the visitors arrived.

Kezie Ibe must have thought he had levelled the scores with a dramatic equaliser as he did everything right with a header from point blank range but Matthews responded with a stunning one-handed diving save to his right to somehow keep the ball out. A couple of corners and set pieces followed but Eastleigh had soaked up the pressure and held on for a memorable win.
 
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 2-1 AFC Wimbledon


Match pictures by Jozef Montigue

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