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Baird's crucial derby

'The next month is very important - but Basingstoke will be just as difficult as the teams at the top'

By Wendy Gee -

Ian BairdEASTLEIGH manager Ian Baird views tomorrow's trip to tenth-placed Basingstoke as more than just a prelude to 'bigger' challenges ahead.

With just 11 weeks of the season remaining, the seventh-placed Spitfires still have 19 league games to play in their quest for promotion from the Blue Square Bet South.

Their six remaining February games include tough assignments at home to leaders Braintree next Saturday (February 19) and second-placed Farnborough on Monday, February 28.

But having seen his side humbled 1-0 by Basingstoke at the Silverlake in October, Baird knows better than to take tomorrow's game lightly.

"The next month is very important because we're playing a lot of sides in and around us," he said.

"But I see Basingstoke as being just as difficult as Braintree, Dover, Farnborough, Chelmsford and Bromley.

"We conceded after ten minutes against them at our place and we weren't good enough to break them down.

"Basingstoke have had some good results, like their 3-2 win over Dover last Saturday, and some poor results like losing 4-0 at Chelmsford on Monday.

"But they've got a good manager in Frank Gray and we know it's going to be difficult."

The Spitfires can travel in confident mood after putting Saturday's FA Trophy nightmare behind them with a 2-2 draw at fourth-placed Ebbsfleet on Tuesday.

Baird's side have taken some flak for losing 3-1 to lower league Chasetown in the Trophy but, as Ebbsfleet boss Liam Daish acknowledged, they are a force to be reckoned with in the Conference South.

"Eastleigh were big, strong, physical and put good deliveries into the box," said the former Birmingham defender. "They had decent individuals who could hurt us, so it was a hard-fought game.

"Both sides went at it hammer and tongs.

"It was hard but fair and both sides showed they are amongst the better teams in this division."

Baird agreed: "Ebbsfleet are the best side we've played. They've got a Conference background, a Conference set-up and Conference players. They'll be there or thereabouts. But we can go to Basingstoke feeling more than confident.

"We've got the second best defensive record in the league, even though I'm still not happy with the way we're defending, and we've scored 29 goals in our last 13 league games."

Although leaders Braintree are ten points clear, Baird says the title race is not over yet.

"If you go back a couple of seasons, AFC Wimbledon were about ten points clear at this stage, but they nearly got caught before ourselves and Chelmsford fell away at the end," he said.

"There's still all to play for, but I'd like to be in Braintree's shoes, that's for sure."

Ross Bottomley (knee/thigh), Warren Goodhind (hamstring) and Richard Gillespie (hip) are almost certainly out tomorrow.

However, there's a chance goalkeeper Gareth Barfoot could challenge Jason Matthews for the gloves after making a quicker than expected recovery from an adductor muscle problem.

Left-back Luke Byles, shown a straight red card against Chasetown, will miss the Braintree, Dover and Maidenhead matches through suspension.


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Fixtures 2017/2018

Eastleigh will begin the 2017/18 season away at Bromley on the 5th August.

Richard Hill's Spitfires will face their first home match of the season against Sutton United.

First 4 fixtures -

5/8 @bromleyfc (A)
8/8 @suttonunited (H)
12/8 @Dag_RedFC (H)
15/8 @wokingfc (A)#Spitfires — Eastleigh FC (@EastleighFC) July 5, 2017
Last 4 fixtures -

7/4 @Wrexham_AFC (H)
14/4 @GatesheadFC (A)
21/4 @thesilkmen (H)
28 @SolihullMoors (A)#Spitfires — Eastleigh FC (@EastleighFC) July 5, 2017
🎄Christmas period -

23/12 @Dag_RedFC (A)
26/12 @TUFC1899 (H)
30/12 @wokingfc (H)
1/1 @TUFC1899 (A)#Spitfires — Eastleigh FC (@EastleighFC) July 5, 2017
Eastleigh's National League fixtures unveiled for 2017/18 EASTLEIGH will kick off the new National League season away from home.

AFC Fylde 2-2 Eastleigh

Ryan Broom scored twice to help maintain Eastleigh's unbeaten run, which now stretches to nine games in the National League.

Spitfires boss Andy Hessenthaler reflecting on the point said: “I think it was a fair result.

“The way we started the game was tremendous. We pinned them back and we got the goal.

“But Fylde are a good side. They’re young, they have very good movement and they take risks. It’s hard to stop their flow of play, but we dug in and defended really well.

“They equalised, but we responded straight afterwards with an absolutely fantastic goal. It was a sublime finish by Ryan who had an exceptional afternoon on his first start.

“It (Fylde's late equaliser) was a little bit frustrating when we were so close to getting all three points, but this was a good point and a valuable one against a decent side.

“My target when I took over was two points a game. I’ve had eight games and we’re actually two points ahead of that target with 18.

“We’ve now got to build on that …

Eastleigh 4-4 Bromley

Paul McCallum bagged a hattrick for Eastleigh in a rollercoaster 4-4 draw against Bromley at the Silverlake Stadium.

Richard Hill's reaction: “There’s been times when I’ve been accused of not entertaining people, but today we have – both teams.

“It was one of those crazy, crazy games you get two or three times a season.

“But today you’ve seen two teams that need to defend better. Most definitely my team need to defend better.

“We’ve had to score four goals to draw a game of football at home.

“For the first 25 minutes, we probably played as well as we have all season and there were spells in the second half when we played some decent, flowing football, but we can’t defend like that.

“Brett (Williams) has come on and changed the game, but we were always going to face a bit of an onslaught from them and we didn’t handle it well enough, we really didn’t.

“But then give us a bit of credit for fighting back twice.”
EASTLEIGH: Graham Stack, Gavin Hoyte, Sam Wood (Sam Matthews, 82), Danny Holla…

Eastleigh 0-0 FC Halifax

Eastleigh kept a first clean sheet in 27 National League games in a goalless draw at home against FC Halifax.

Eastleigh: Graham Stack, Gavin Hoyte, Sam Wood, Sam Togwell (Mark Yeates, 77), Reda Johnson, Andrew Boyce, Ayo Obileye, Sam Matthews, Cavaghn Miley, Paul McCallum, Chris Zebroski (Ben Williamson, 65). Subs (not used): Ryan Broom, Danny Hollands, Ross Flitney.

Referee: Sam Purkiss.
Attendance: 1,825 (92 Halifax)
Reaction from Andy Hessenthaler:
REACTION: @EastleighFC boss Andy Hessenthaler reflects on goalless draw with @FCHalifaxTown — BBC Solent Sport (@solentsport) February 24, 2018

Torquay 1-2 Eastleigh

Eastleigh secured back-to-back wins with a 2-1 win at Torquay to make it six games unbeaten. Ross Flitney saved a penalty late in the game to help preserve victory after goals from Sam Matthews and Gavin Hoyte for the Spitfires.

Reaction from Andy Hessenthaler and Ross Flitney: