Eastleigh 3-0 St. Albans
EASTLEIGH v ST. ALBANS
TUESDAY 31st MARCH 2009
Blue Square South
TUESDAY 31st MARCH 2009
Blue Square South
Report by Jamie Montigue
Sticking with the unbeaten eleven who heroically defeated AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, Ian Baird named an unchanged side as his Spitfires sought revenge for their heaviest defeat and worst performance of the season at Clarence Park, when St. Albans ran out 5-1 winners over Eastleigh back in August.
Both sides had been in good form coming into the game - Eastleigh in particular had found a winning formula with eight wins from their last eleven and just one defeat. Meanwhile tonight’s visitors St. Albans were unbeaten in their last eight ahead of this twice re-scheduled fixture.
In the opening stages of the game it was Steve Castle’s side who were most positive, at least to begin with. Hassan Sulaiman kept his width well on the right hand side and attacked with purpose down his flank whilst stretching the play.
Other than one moment for Eastleigh, when Tony Taggart was played in down the far side from a chipped through ball only to see Lee Butcher race off his line to collect and take off the playmaker’s foot, the visitors had the better of the play.
Following two set pieces in a row at one end for The Saints, a moment of inspiration from Taggart saw Eastleigh break the deadlock against the run of play in the 13th minute. The former Hawk’s supreme vision spotted JONNY DIXON in space to his right at which point Taggart unleashed a terrific reverse ball through the legs of his marker to find the on-loan striker.
Dixon continued to show precisely the quality player that he is with an Andy Forbes-esque finish to calmly stroke the ball home first time into the bottom corner and beyond the reach of the keeper for his second goal in as many games.
From this point on, there really was only one side in it. Eastleigh’s confidence shot up immediately and the immense back four of Warren Goodhind, Tom Jordan, young Aaron Martin who I cannot praise highly enough, and Luke Byles not to mention the sweeper keeper Jason Matthews who is the final layer of protection – just did not look like being beaten.
The best move of the game saw Eastleigh storm into a 2-0 lead with just 21 minutes played. Peter Adeniyi and Tony Taggart exchanged passes in the middle of the park as the hosts kept possession and then had the ability to penetrate the St. Albans side with a fantastic move. Taggart sprayed an excellent pass out to the left where Ashley Carew hit a beautiful early cross into the penalty area. JAMIE BROWN headed home to round off the perfect move with a perfect finish for his sixth league goal of the season.
Paul Hakim caught the ball full on the volley a minute later but cleared the stand with a poor attempt before Eastleigh took charge once more.
Eastleigh so nearly extended their lead to three goals, six minutes before the break. A long throw in by Byles down the left saw Dixon get behind the ball displaying good strength to hold off his defender, turn him and hook a dangerous ball across the face of goal with the outside of his boot in one swift movement. Taggart threw himself at it with a diving header only to be denied by Lee Butcher who kept the ball out diving at full stretch to his right.
Ashley Carew fired low towards goal from range following a 45-yard diagonal pass sprayed across the pitch from Adeniyi but Butcher kept the midfielder out diving to his left this time.
Continuing to show the maturity of an experienced pro centre back though in reality still just nineteen years of age, Aaron Martin slid in with a perfectly timed challenge on the stroke of half time to keep Sulaiman at bay after Hakim had pulled the ball back from the by-line to create a shooting chance. From the resulting corner, Ben Martin powered a towering header narrowly over the bar.
HALF TIME: Eastleigh 2–0 St. Albans
The attendance was announced shortly after the restart and the 567 was in stark comparison to the record league crowd, which was broken just four days earlier when 2,283 saw Eastleigh beat AFC Wimbledon by two goals to one at the Silverlake Stadium.
Former Spitfire Adam Everitt had a free kick on the far side cleared away by the Eastleigh defence early in the half before the frizzy-haired, temperamental defender lost his discipline two minutes shy of the hour when he got a good hold of Jamie Brown’s shirt and tugged him with a blatant foul inside the 18-yard box.
Referee John Busby was well-placed and quickly pointed to the spot. TONY TAGGART stepped up and made no mistake confidently despatching the penalty with a powerfully driven shot to the keeper’s left with the ball nestling safely in the bottom right hand corner to further impound the misery on St. Albans.
With Eastleigh more or less home and dry with a comfortable three-goal cushion, Ian Baird saw fit to make all three changes over a fifteen minute spell with Jamie Brown, Tony Taggart and Jonny Dixon receiving thoroughly deserved ovations as they were handed rests in place of Matt Groves, Steve Clark and finally Brett Williams.
Adam Everitt rose well to meet Hector Mackie’s 64th minute corner and watched on as his header missed the target by a close margin.
Eleven minutes from time, Eastleigh substitute Williams came closest to extending the lead with an exquisite turn to spin the defender before shooting left-footed from the edge of the area – an effort that had to be turned away past the post for a corner.
Some five additional minutes were added on as the 90 minutes came to a close, and still it was Eastleigh who had the better of the final chances.
Tom Jordan and Luke Byles played the ball out from defence with a couple of swift, neat passes before Adeniyi set Matt Groves free down the right with a typically well-weighted inch-perfect pass. Groves hit it early shooting across goal and forced a corner, from which Groves turned provided this time to lay the ball back to Pete who smashed a stunning dipping effort only a whisker away from finding the back of the net.
There was time for one last piece of action as Jason Matthews read the situation early and was alert to the danger to cut the ball out when Simon Martin was bearing down on goal.
When the final whistle came, it signalled a convincing win for Eastleigh who are now well on course for hitting their target of the playoffs and just four points behind the leaders.
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 3–0 St. Albans