By Simon Walter -
Eastleigh hit a late equaliser to earn an FA Trophy replay against Chippenham Town – but their best result of the weekend was off the pitch.
The Spitfires went 1-0 down at the Southern Premier side to a goal from their former player Toby Osman, son of ex-Saints and England defender Russell.
But Richard Gillespie’s late header ensured the sides will try again at the Silverlake Stadium at 7.45pm tomorrow, with the winners set to play either Weymouth or Havant & Waterlooville in an away tie in the First Round Proper.
Whatever the result in the replay, the good news for Eastleigh fans is that the club’s long-term ambitions have been given a significant boost.
Eastleigh’s board decided at a meeting on Saturday morning to “recommend to the shareholders acceptance of an offer from Bridle Insurance Limited for the purchase of a majority shareholding”.
Bridle Insurance, which is based in Witney, Oxfordshire, have been the backers of Glenn Hoddle’s academy in the past and are also the shirt sponsors of League Two Oxford United. They have long-term plans to help upgrade the Silverlake Stadium into a Football League ground and finance additions to the squad – starting this week.
The news has given a huge lift to everyone involved in the Conference South outfit.
Managing director David Malone said: "The board meeting couldn't have gone any better.
"Bridle have a five-year plan to get the ground up to League standard and us into the Football League.
"We've currently got a safety certificate for a 3,000 capacity, which meets Conference South regulations, and we would need to have a ground capable of holding 4,000 and 5,000 for promotion into the Conference and League Two respectively.
"But Bridle are looking at financing a 7,500 all-seater stadium.
"We're delighted and will be meeting soon to discuss how to constitute the board.
"But their chief executive Stewart Donald and chief operations officer Neil Fox would both come on to the board as directors, and their wish is for Paul Murray to remain as chairman and for myself to remain on the board.
"They've made it clear they want to retain other shareholders and have already addressed a review of our playing budget.
"We're already looking at the market place to see if there are players out there and available who can improve what we've got.
"We would hope to do something this week."
Two other parties also expressed an interest in investing in the Spitfires this month.
Malone added: "The other two have said that if we need further investment they would still be interested."