Promotion heartache - United steal the show


Blue Square South - Play off Semi-Final Leg 2

Report by Jamie Montigue

In this second leg of the Blue Square South playoff semi-final, Eastleigh struggled to build on their fantastic 4-2 lead from Tuesday night’s win at Church Road.

Hayes & Yeading United showed passion and commitment from the very start this afternoon; scoring goals at crucial times to see them progress to Thursday night’s final (where they will meet Hampton & Richmond Borough). The Spitfires meanwhile were left to rue missed opportunities, if’s, but’s and maybe’s though in reality despite the final score and looking at Eastleigh’s season collectively; it has been the club’s best season yet.

The game started well enough for Eastleigh as Brett Williams went up for the ball with Delroy Preddie in the opening minute with the striker beating the visiting goalkeeper to the ball in the aerial battle. As the ball dropped, Williams looked to chip over the keeper’s head with a cross from the right however Preddie plucked the ball out of the air well to cut out the danger before yelling furiously at the assistant referee - clearly feeling that he was impeded by the aforementioned challenge.

In the fifth minute, a long drop kick from Jason Matthews saw good pace from Williams to get on to the ball and strike it early only to see his effort fly comfortably wide of the mark.

A minute later a blocked shot deflected back into the path of Peter Adeniyi who spotted Preddie off his line and went for goal accordingly as his sliced shot from 30 yards went close.

Ian Baird’s side continued to probe and search for the all important first goal of the game which so nearly came in the seventh minute with their best chance yet. An excellent left wing cross from Williams picked out Anthony Riviere who steamed in at the back post unattended only to see his downward header off target.

In the opening quarter of an hour, Eastleigh’s central defensive partnership of captain Tom Jordan and Aaron Martin were flawless in the air as they dominated winning all the headers.

With twelve minutes on the clock, the Spitfires came even closer to adding to their first leg advantage as Riviere sliced a volley against the post with Preddie beaten. As the ball bounced back out Jamie Brown was unable to steer his header goal wards.

A further cross from the left by Williams was this time met by Ashley Carew full on the volley from 18 yards out but the former Barnet midfielder couldn’t keep his attempt down.

The visitor’s first signs of getting into the game came just after the quarter of an hour mark with Staforde Palmer first having a shot blocked by Jordan, soon after energetic right back James Mulley made a sweeping run down the right and was denied by Jason Matthews at his near post with a good effort from a tight angle.

Tom Jordan got an all-important intervening touch to prevent Palmer getting on the end of a one-two he started with Scott Fitzgerald in the Eastleigh penalty area. Jordan’s interception was heading towards goal at speed at which point Jason Matthews came to the fore showing blistering reactions to get down and make the save from his own centre half and turn away for a corner. From the resulting set-piece the Eastleigh number one claimed the ball extremely confidently under pressure showing safe hands.

Still with only 21 minutes played Palmer headed narrowly over from a right wing free kick.

Anthony Riviere was replaced prematurely by Gavin Heeroo two minutes later.

Matthews smothered a Fitzgerald header from a Dale Binns cross before a clumsy challenge on Jamie Brown produced a poor free kick from Ashley Carew that was hit straight at the wall from a great position.

Eight minutes before the break, Brett Williams carried the ball forwards speedily getting to the edge of the penalty area before hitting the ball sweetly with his left foot. The ball was heading towards the top right hand corner of goal and had to be kept out by a diving save from man of the match Delroy Preddie.

A dangerously short back pass from Steve Clark so nearly let Palmer in on goal in the 44th minute though Eastleigh escaped and Clark’s blushes were spared as Matthews just about got there first to hook the ball clear.

At the end of the half, three additional minutes were added on by the fourth official and Hayes & Yeading United took full advantage by piling on the pressure and finding the back of the net.

Firstly Palmer had a great chance from a free kick but was denied at point blank range from Matthews though the flag was up for offside anyway; Matt Groves then replaced the injured Brett Williams who took a knock earlier in the game.

Successive corners and free kicks followed one after the other as Eastleigh were pegged back, and with the three minutes already up by over half a minute, STEVE PERKINS stole in at the back post from a well practiced corner routine to head home with the last piece of action to pull United to within a goal of levelling on aggregate.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0 (4) - (3) 1 Hayes & Yeading United

After what seemed like a never-ending penalty shoot out at half time with Craig Lisher donning the gloves on his 18th birthday, the teams both took to the field again with Hayes & Yeading clearly much the happier side following their late goal just before the break and were looking to take this momentum forward to draw level.

For Eastleigh - without the attacking threat and pace of Williams and drive from midfield dynamo Anthony Riviere, the game plan appeared to be to sit a bit deeper and try and hold on to the one-goal lead.

That said, it was the hosts who had the first chance of the half when Matt Groves held the ball up well to find Brown whose drive from outside the area was well held by Preddie in the 47th minute.

Dale Binns came close at the opposite end two minutes later when Matthews got down well to palm the strike across goal around the post for a corner.

Aaron Martin headed wide from a corner in the 50th minute but Hayes & Yeading broke up the pitch with the ball coming across to James Mulley on the right flank who came inside only to fire wide with his left foot.

Garry Haylock’s visitors, needing one more goal to draw level switched to three at the back in favour of more attacking options as Will Hendry entered the fray.

Just after the hour mark, Palmer nodded wide from a Binns’ corner. The Eastleigh nerves evidently began to show soon after as Matthews spilled the ball under pressure from Fitzgerald at the edge of his penalty area as Clark stepped in to mop up the danger.

Ashley Carew then got away with what could have been a catastrophic howler in the next phase of play as he knocked the ball back in the direction of his keeper completely oblivious to the appearance of Fitzgerald who should have done better in front of goal when the suicidal back pass came in. Thankfully Matthews stood tall to deny the centre forward and spare the midfielder’s embarrassment.

Once again the Hayes & Yeading threat from corner kicks returned temporarily and from one such set piece Gavin Heeroo was relieved to see his backward header go behind, albeit by a matter of inches.

Better play from Eastleigh saw a corner of their own headed towards goal by Tom Jordan on 67 minutes though the commanding skipper’s diving attempt was off target.

With men behind the ball trying to contain Hayes, it was perhaps inevitable that Eastleigh would find themselves under a bit of strain in the latter stages of the game as more bodies were thrown forward in an attempt to rescue the tie.

A debatable free kick was given against Heeroo nine minutes from time and an even more dubious refereeing decision followed. The kick was taken far too quickly and booted straight at Heeroo. Paul Forrester immediately pointed to the penalty spot for an alleged hand ball, though in my opinion it was extremely harsh and ball to hand at best. WILL HENDRY stepped up confidently to despatch the ball to Matthews’ right and incredibly for United bring the tie level at 4-4 on aggregate. A superb fight back.

Four minutes from time Martin had a header cleared off the line as extra time loomed.

Luke Byles blazed wide of goal as the ball dropped to him 25 yards out as the referee signalled an end of the 90 minutes soon after.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 0 (4) – (4) 2 Hayes & Yeading United

In the first half of extra time it was clear Hayes & Yeading were on the up and carried their momentum forward clearly delighted to have got this far after the first leg.

It took just three minutes for the visitors to find the back of the net for a third time. SCOTT FITZGERALD found himself with time and space to the right of goal as tired Eastleigh legs set in at the back with the striker hitting the ball across goal, a shot that slipped agonisingly through the grasp of Matthews and trickled over the line. Cue the wild celebrations of the delighted Hayes & Yeading following.

Looking slightly bleak but not impossible at this stage, Eastleigh fans were beginning to feel the pain and just hoping for a response.

Eastleigh went up the other end where Brown played the ball across to Adeniyi whose low driven shot was so close to finding its way into the bottom corner of goal.

Baird’s final substitution saw Trevor Challis replace Heeroo.

Hopes all but faded away for the Spitfires as SCOTT FITZGERALD completed a brace turning the tie completely on its head as he tapped in all too simply at the back post from a well-worked set piece.

Now needing a miracle to come back from two goals behind, Eastleigh were given a lifeline as Jordan was shoved to the ground in the penalty area. Memories of Tuesday night’s penalty miss were hanging over Tony Taggart, and sadly, brave though he was to put himself forward again, Delroy Preddie made an outstanding save to keep the Spitfires out and with it all but end the Spitfires’ promotion dream.

Deflated Eastleigh had the stuffing taken right out of them as Hayes continued to keep possession.

At the beginning of the second half of extra time, Eastleigh lined up with Challis, Martin and Clark at the back, Adeniyi and Byles in the middle and a five man forward line including Brown, Jordan, Groves, Taggart and Carew in a last ditch attempt to resurrect the game.

The visitors continued to ask questions of Eastleigh more often than not as Matthews had to be at his best to keep out Hendry and then Palmer in quick succession.

Eastleigh had a fantastic chance to pull a goal back as Groves and Taggart combined neatly in front of goal but were denied by a splendid one-handed save from Preddie. The ball was not clear as Groves pounced on the rebound though somehow Hayes & Yeading stood firm and scrambled the ball away.

Both Groves and Brown were thwarted by Preddie late in the game, though the damage was already done and time was up, at least for this season.

Congratulations to Hayes & Yeading United who were only the third team to beat Eastleigh at the Silverlake Stadium in the league this season (Dorchester Town and Team Bath were the others), and showed terrific character and fight to earn their place in the Blue Square South playoff final from their performance today. They will now face Hampton & Richmond on Thursday to battle for a place in the Blue Square Premier.

Let’s not forget what a fantastic year it has been for Eastleigh to be on the brink of promotion, it was just sad for it to end this way having got so far.

Bring on next season, where we can start again with renewed optimism and push to go one step further.

AET: Eastleigh 0 (4) – (6) 4 Hayes & Yeading United

Match pictures by Jamie Montigue

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