Eastleigh 2-3 Dover Athletic


Blue Square Bet South

Match report by Jamie Montigue

The Spitfires' hopes of reaching a play-off place this season are now all but extinguished after a home defeat at the hands of Dover Athletic. Eastleigh have lost ground on fifth place in recent weeks with today's defeat meaning back to back home losses at the Silverlake Stadium, leaving Ian Baird's side without a win in three Blue Square Bet South games.

Eastleigh were without several key members of the squad including captain Tom Jordan, who suffered concussion in the Hampshire Cup semi-final win over Winchester on Wednesday. Also absent from the squad were suspended midfield-duo Danny Smith and Philip Appiah, injured Damian Scannell and influential midfielder Daryl McMahon who is still in Dublin due to family reasons.

Lee Peacock was drafted into the squad as a substitute having signed on non-contract terms until the end of the season. Four changes were made to the starting eleven from the side that drew 0-0 away to Bromley last weekend. Michael Green, Ian Herring (who recently returned from a loan spell at Chippenham Town), Jamie Brown and Jamie Slabber all came into the squad in place of Appiah, Jordan, Smith and Scannell. Seeing talisman Jamie Slabber back in the team was also very pleasing to the Eastleigh faithful, who were concerned last season's top goal scorer could be heading to Chelmsford City only yesterday.

Gary Elphick was named as captain in the absence of Jordan, whilst in terms of tactics the Spitfires lined up with two holding midfielders in Brown and Herring in front of a back four. Ahead of them were Chris Flood, who was given license to roam from midfield and provide some width, and Jamie Slabber, who was operating in a slightly deeper position in the hole where he looked to link the play and join front runners Bradley Bubb and Lee Phillips in attack.

Dover's George Purcell had two efforts in the opening six minutes of the game but both were off target.

In the 19th minute a run from Chris Flood saw the Eastleigh attack move on to Mitchell Nelson who in turn played the ball into Jamie Brown. Brown's shot from the edge of the area was then blocked by Ian Simpemba. Shortly after, an Ian Herring corner was met by a diving header from Brown, which was on target and had to be kept out by Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz in the Dover goal. At the same set piece, Gary Elphick appeared to be hauled down by a defender in the box.

Ironically after Eastleigh's momentary pressure, it was the visitors who opened the scoring. A 21st minute goal from BILLY BRICKNELL saw Eastleigh fall behind following a corner kick. It was a soft goal to concede as Bricknell was left to fire into an empty net at the back post after a rare mistake from young, on-loan Southampton goalkeeper Jack Dovey; who was caught in no-man's land in an attempt to claim the ball. Bricknell was left unmarked and found the back of the net with ease.

Glen Southam saw a long-range shot comfortably saved by Dovey in the 24th minute before the Spitfires hit back with an equaliser midway through the half just three minutes after conceding.

CHRIS FLOOD, who only made a return to league action last Saturday following a spell out through injury, delivered the goods in an all round impressive display from the versatile midfielder/attacker. Eastleigh created the goal well with Bradley Bubb slipping the ball into the area for Flood to run on to and apply a neat finish to beat the keeper from 8-yards.

Disappointingly, Eastleigh were only back on level terms for a matter of minutes as Dover restored their lead in the 28th minute through BARRY COGAN. In the space of eight minutes, three goals were scored and sadly for the Spitfires - two of those were for the visiting side (both of which came from set pieces). From what looked to be a harmless free kick towards the touch line on the left hand side and not far from the half way line, Cogan delivered a ball into the penalty area that somehow evaded a packed group of players and went all the way into the back of the net.

Towards the end of the half, Slabber showed good foot work to make space for a shot but on his weaker foot failed to control his shot. Seven minutes before the break Jamie Brown saw a volley well blocked after a cross from Michael Green was only half-cleared.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 1-2 Dover Athletic

With the Spitfires trailing at the break, the last thing the hosts would have wanted was to concede an early goal in the opening stages of the second half. In the 48th minute they did just that as BILLY BRICKNELL added his second and Dover's third goal of the afternoon to put a two-goal cushion between the two teams. A measured through ball over the top from Donovan Simmonds was misjudged by Gary Elphick and Bricknell was on hand to punish the Spitfires by collecting the ball and rounding Jack Dovey to find the back of the net.

Eastleigh steadily improved as the game wore on with Chris Flood a stand-out player being one of few positives about being 3-1 down.

Flood had a low shot turned behind for a corner in the 53rd minute and again a minute short of the hour mark, the former Dorchester Town player whipped a dangerous ball into the box from the right that was heading for goal, and had to be tipped over the bar from Jaimez-Ruiz.

Ian Baird's side were now looking the more likely to score as it was one-way traffic for large periods of the second half. From a lofted pass to the back post by Slabber, Lee Phillips saw his looping header come back off the cross bar with the keeper beaten.

Just six minutes after his introduction for Phillips, LEE PEACOCK scored a debut goal in the 69th minute by heading home from a Chris Flood corner. It was a great way for the experienced striker to introduce himself to the club and the impact I am sure that Baird would have been looking for. With the score now at 2-3, it was 'game on'!

Peacock came close to doubling his tally and levelling the scores sixteen minutes from time. The scorer of Eastleigh's second goal controlled a pass from Brown before prodding an effort goal wards with his right foot that landed just the wrong side of the up right.

Still there appeared to be only one team in the game despite the score line as Eastleigh continued to press and have more opportunities at goal. A free kick from Flood was attacked well by Elphick and saw the Dover keeper called into action once more to tip the ball over the bar. Into the last ten minutes, Slabber sent a header wide from Flood's pinpoint cross.

Dover were made to sweat until the last minute in a tense finale where there were several minutes of stoppage time added on. The last of the action saw Jamie Brown have an effort heading for the bottom corner pushed around the post to prevent a share of the spoils.

It was a story of Eastleigh knocking on the door and asking all the questions in the second half, but only after they had fallen 3-1 behind did their dominance come. The damage of conceding some poor goals in the first half ultimately cost them the points in this five-goal encounter.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 2-3 Dover Athletic
Dover - 170312


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