Baird: We need to stick together

By Wendy Gee 

MANAGER Ian Baird is urging his players to "stick together" after Eastleigh's season slumped from bad to worse with a premature FA Cup exit against lower league Oxford City at the Silverlake Stadium.

The Blue Square Bet South strugglers again counted the cost of missed chances and slip-shod defending as they waved goodbye to a £7,500 pay-out from the FA prize fund following a miserable 3-1 defeat.

Ex-Saint Steve Basham was a first-half hero and villian for Oxford, firing his side ahead but then missing the opportunity to put clear daylight between the sides when Gareth Barfoot saved his penalty.

Jamie Slabber, the Spitfires' top scorer last season, had better luck from the spot in the 66th minute, but that response was sandwiched between a second-half brace from Oxford's outstanding midfielder Darren Pond who deservedly fired the Evo-Stik Premier high-fliers into today's fourth qualifying round draw.

"They took their chances and we didn't - and, once again, we've defended poorly," summed up Eastleigh boss Baird. "Whether their first goal was offside, I don't know. It certainly looked it. And you could ask if Danny Smith was fouled in the build-up to their second.

"But no matter. We didn't have the quality in the final third to win the game and, once again, our flair players didn't produce.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow, but we've been here before with cup defeats by Burgess Hill and Bashley. I've said to the lads that we can't take any notice of anything else going on around this place. We just need to stick together.

"In football terms some people would call today a disaster and the only way to get out of it is as a unified group."

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