Gloucester City 1-0 Eastleigh - FA Cup

EASTLEIGH v GLOUCESTER CITY
SUNDAY 7th OCTOBER 2012

FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

Match report by Paul McNamara

Eastleigh’s hopes of a memorable F.A. Cup run were ended by this frustrating performance at Whaddon Road.

The Spitfires didn’t look stretched at any stage but couldn’t assert their superior ability on dogged opponents.

When Gloucester scored after 11 minutes it was the first occasion on which they’d offered any threat.

Until that point Eastleigh had been in control without extending their hosts. Damian Scannell again started brightly – as against Hayes & Yeading last week - and was positive and direct whenever he was in possession.

That was all too rare an occurrence, however, as the visitors, instead of moving the ball about in the way we know they’re capable, sought to hit Craig McAllister and play off the forward.

McAllister was outstanding in keeping hold of the ball and bringing his team mates into play but as at Farnborough he found himself isolated too often.

Eastleigh’s midfield four were all guilty at various times of being laborious in their attempts to provide attacking support and consequently posed little genuine trouble to Gloucester’s physical and commanding centre-halves.

Tom Hamblin and Tigers’ skipper Matt Coupe both impressed but, in truth, were allowed to play in their comfort zone as the Spitfires slow tempo and lack of cohesion ensured the duo were never severely tested.

City were one-paced throughout their team and rarely caused Andy Forbes and Tom Jordan any difficulty. That made the sloppy manner in which the Spitfires fell behind even more galling.

In what is becoming a worryingly recurring theme the Tigers’ goal was scored from a free-kick at the edge of the Eastleigh box.

The award of the set-piece against Mark Hughes was harsh – one of a number of poor decisions given by an inconsistent referee.

As had been the case at Dorchester and Farnborough - when dead balls resulted directly in goals – Eastleigh’s defensive wall didn’t look convincing in its set-up.

Lewis Hogg’s free-kick wasn’t struck with any great power but Jack Dovey could only manage to push the ball straight to Hamblin who could barely believe his luck as, right-footed, he scored into an empty net.

At this stage there was no sense of panic. The feeling remained that it would only be a matter of time before the Spitfires imposed themselves and exposed the lack of mobility apparent in the home side.

The cause should perhaps have been helped when Gloucester midfielder, Jordan Goddard – on loan from Bristol Rovers - went into a crude challenge over the top of the ball on Scannell.

As it was Goddard escaped with a yellow card, a punishment Glen Southam also received for his reaction to the tackle.

When they did create any openings Eastleigh couldn’t find the quality needed to properly test Mike Green in the Tigers goal. Dale Binns in particular should have managed better than a weak left-foot shot after a direct run into the area.

The left-winger also headed the wrong side of the post when in the six-yard box as Eastleigh failed to capitalise on Gloucester’s inability to clear from a corner.

Despite their limitations, credit should go to the home side for their application and organisation. They had clearly studied the Spitifires and whenever Jai Reason received the ball he was surrounded by black and yellow shirts.

Similarly, McAllister’s touch and composure were tested all afternoon as he was subjected to close and physical attention, not all of it legitimate.

Any hopes that the Spitfires might start the second half with more purpose and guile were to prove misguided as much the same pattern we witnessed in the first-half was replicated.

Richard Hill after the match understandably spoke of not wanting to concede a second goal and leave his side with an uphill task, but his team were not pro-active enough when in possession.

Until Moses Ademola replaced Scannell on 66 minutes the only occasion on which Eastleigh came close was a tame Reason header over the bar.

Once Ademola – and Marvin Williams on in the 78th minute for Binns – joined the action Eastleigh started to play on the front foot, winning possession further up the field and threatening what by the end would have been a deserved equaliser.

Reason and McAllister’s link play was far more productive as their two livewire, direct and skilful wingers were quick to get forward and provide far more genuine options in the final third.

One move when McAllister demonstrated excellent skill to touch a long Dovey kick first-time back to Reason who then spread the ball similarly quickly out to Williams provided a snippet of what this Spitfires team can be capable of.

With Gloucester keen to protect their advantage and dropping increasingly deep the final stages saw the visitors enjoy their most sustained period of pressure.

Southam shot wastefully high after some clever, intricate play opened up the hosts.

Michael Green had been unsuccessful with a free-kick on goal early in the contest and when Eastleigh earned a similar chance towards the end – after yet another foul on McAllister was finally spotted - Reason took over the responsibility. His shot was disappointingly tame, floating as it did harmlessly over.

As the clock was running down, Green fizzed a long strike just wide. The referee and linesman both missed what appeared a clear deflection on the shot and awarded a goal-kick.

That poor decision was in keeping with many others as the home team earned some incredibly cheap free-kicks with Eastleigh seeking to work the ball into the box late on.

Jordan was unlucky to be punished more than once after he was moved up front in a last but ultimately vain effort to break through the determined hosts. The tall defender’s bustling presence caused his former Spitfires defensive partner, Chris Holland - playing at left-back here - some real discomfort after he’d been completely assured for the previous 80 minutes.

The 3 minutes of added time ebbed away without any genuine scoring chances being created by the visitors and so it was Gloucester’s players and fans who were elated at the final whistle. They’ll go on to face Chippenham Town – the Spitfires F.A.Trophy conquerors last season – and Eastleigh’s excellent travelling support on the day were left to rue what felt like a real chance to progress in this most famous of cup competitions slipping timidly away.
Gloucester City v Eastleigh - 071012

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