Ian happy to ride his luck for once

By Wendy Gee 

IAN Baird felt some of the luck that has deserted him as a non-League manager was repaid at Thurrock on Saturday.

Heading into the last two minutes of normal time at Ship Lane, the Spitfires were on course for a reasonably satisfactory 1-1 Blue Square Bet South draw.

But in a bizarre act of generosity, Thurrock keeper David Hughes saved a Graeme Montgomery shot, stood up and allowed the ball to wriggle out of his hands and into the net.

Ecstatic Eastleigh couldn't believe their luck and, to celebrate, they scored again in stoppage time to secure the unlikeliest of 3-1 victories and pull eight points clear of the second-to-bottom hosts.

"We were a bit fortunate," admitted Spitfires boss Baird. "It was 1-1 and in the 89th minute their goalkeeper, who only looked like a young boy, went down and saved a Montgomery shot. He had the ball in his hands and I turned away thinking he'd saved it, but then unbelievably he's thrown it in the net.

"It was lucky for us but, like I said to the lads, they'd no need to feel embarrased about it. We've had to take plenty of bitter pills and this was one of those days when all the good things happened in our favour.

"There's a saying that it doesn't matter whether you're a good manager or a bad manager as long as you're a lucky manager!"

Eastleigh's good fortune began in the 21st minute when Thurrock's Paul Terry - brother of England and Chelsea skipper John - hit the post with a 20-yard free kick.

Five minutes later the visitors took the lead when Montgomery's corner was headed home by Jamie Slabber.

Thurrock were the better side after the break but, having been awarded a penalty for Jamie Brown's foul on Alex Osborn, they were foiled again when debut-making Saints loan keeper Jack Dovey saved Glenn Poole's spot kick.

Five minutes later the Essex side levelled when Drew Broughton headed powerfully home from a corner.

But Hughes's moment of madness undid their good work and Eastleigh cashed in with a second Slabber goal set up by Brown.

Dovey, brought in as competition for Gareth Barfoot, impressed on his first appearance for the club.

"For a 19-year-old playing in the Conference South, he equipped himself very well," said Baird.

"I spoke to Gareth and said he needed competition because he reacts better under pressure. When he was in competition with Jason Matthews, he came out on top.

"That's as much as I've said to Gareth, I remember once asking Alan Ball why he'd dropped me and he said: "I don't tell you why I pick you either!"

Reflecting on a vital result Baird said: You can't underestimate how important it was. We'd probably have been happy with a point."


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