Eastleigh 1-0 Chelmsford City

Saturday 16th February 2013

Blue Square Bet South

Match report by Jamie Montigue

Having seen off top of the table Salisbury City in midweek with a solid display and 1-0 victory, Eastleigh today found themselves up against another side hopeful of promotion in the form of high-flying Chelmsford City.

The same outcome resulted this afternoon as Richard Hill's side claimed their fourth consecutive win in the Blue Square Bet South to climb to sixth in the table at the end of play.

Momentum and form is all falling into place for the Spitfires with just over two months of the season left to play. Should Eastleigh continue to show the same high level of performances to grind out these wins consistently – a play-off place looks increasingly likely.

Eastleigh made two changes to the side who ran out winners on Tuesday night. Mitchell Nelson replaced Alex Lacey in defence, who was recalled by parent club Luton Town a few days ago. The second change saw Damian Scannell back in the side at the expense of loanee Adam Watkins.

There was no return to the Silverlake Stadium for former Eastleigh favourite and current Clarets leading goal scorer Jamie Slabber who missed out through suspension.

The game began with a decent ball across goal from Scannell in the 3rd minute only being half cleared by the Chelmsford defence. Nelson was on hand to pick up on the loose ball but dragged his shot wide of goal. Justin Miller headed over the bar for the visitors three minutes later from a half chance.

The afternoon ended prematurely for Damian Scannell who picked up a knock early in the game and had to receive treatment from physio Andy Cook. Scannell tried to continue but went down again clearly struggling with the injury and had to be substituted. His replacement, left back Michael Green, meant a reshuffle of the players was required for Eastleigh with Dan Spence switching to the right of the back four and Mitchell Nelson pushing forward into a right-sided midfield position.

Eastleigh were showing signs of their attacking threat and intent with Green starting an attack down the left with a pass to Dale Binns. Binns broke forward and crossed well to find Nelson who couldn’t steer his header back across goal.

The hosts threatened again in the 21st minute when Craig McAllister broke free to the left of goal and rolled the ball to his right in to a dangerous area. City's captain Kenny Clark missed the opportunity to make an interception with the ball slipping through the defender's legs. Nelson didn't anticipate the mistake from Clark as the ball rolled across goal and out towards the touchline; where goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook raced out of goal to make a clearance.

A good spell of pressure from Eastleigh saw a looping header from Mark Hughes comfortably saved from a corner, and then a couple of minutes later a Jai Reason cross found Dale Binns - who sent a header wide though the flag was up for offside anyway.

With 27 minutes on the clock, a quite unbelievable spell of play unfolded in the Chelmsford City penalty area. Eastleigh were really beginning to take the game to The Clarets as they looked to make their mark by opening the scoring. Dale Binns found a way through to get beyond the final defender only to be denied by a smart stop from Charles-Cook.

The ball didn't leave the penalty area for a good 30 seconds as Eastleigh had Chelmsford pinned in with their backs to the wall. Mark Hughes was then denied by an exceptional save once more from Charles-Cook before a goalmouth scramble ensued as City struggled to clear. Somehow, the score remained 0-0 at this point!

With the game being played at a frantic pace and high tempo, Eastleigh found themselves on the front foot with a glorious chance presented to them in the 29th minute. Jai Reason showed great strength to shrug off a challenge from Clark to then roll the ball across the face of goal only for a bobble in the pitch to prevent McAllister from finishing with the simplest of tap-ins.

In the 34th minute, a string of good passing from Reason, Binns and Nelson saw Eastleigh force a corner kick from which a Mitchell Nelson header was saved by Charles-Cook in the Chelmsford goal.

For all of Eastleigh's control, there was no separating the teams on the score board – that is until Eastleigh were awarded a penalty just before half time to give the Spitfires the chance to break the deadlock.

Mitchell Nelson proved to be a good outlet out on the right hand side thanks to his defensive qualities of winning headers in an advanced position and tackling high up the pitch. Nelson flicked the ball on with a header late in the half for Reason to chase a lost cause and win the ball. Mark Haines was punished for a foul on JAI REASON who picked himself up to fire home the penalty. Charles-Cook went the right way but the power took the ball past the keeper and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Chelmsford won a couple of corners as the half came to a close but Eastleigh were excellent value for their 1-0 head at the half-way stage, where they could have been two or three goals to the good were it not for the inspired performance of the visiting goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 1-0 Chelmsford City

Eastleigh almost made the perfect start to the second half as Dale Binns found the net with a good finish only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.

In the 51st minute an acrobatic effort from Anthony Cook from 8-yards provided a comfortable save for Ross Flitney, who was rarely troubled in the Eastleigh goal.

Two minutes later, Chelmsford were carved open thanks to Jai Reason's strength to initially win the ball, and vision to find Craig McAllister with an excellent pass out to the left. McAllister continued the move by feeding the ball through for Binns; who in turn came close to doubling lead but fired a shot across goal and narrowly wide.

Binns was having a lot of joy down the left flank early in the second half as he continued to find time and space to get forward and trouble his markers by running at speed. A mention for Dan Spence who looked assured and steady throughout the game at right back. Spence made an important interception at the back before coolly playing the ball out of defence to set Binns away down the left to start another attack in the 56th minute.

With an hour on the clock the Spitfires came close to extending their lead through Glen Southam. The captain, who has led by example and drove the team on from midfield many times this season, let fly with a trademark strike from outside the area that forced Reice Charles-Cook in to making a strong save diving to his right.

Eastleigh looked strong across the pitch and looked to keep the visitors on the defensive with a diagonal ball forwards from Dean Beckwith to pick out Craig McAllister. The ex-Crawley forward made a good headed knock-down into the box that didn’t quite fall for his strike partner Reason.

It wasn't until the 64th minute that Chelmsford had a clear sight at the Eastleigh goal. The ball fell for Donovan Simmonds in the area, but the midfielder snatched at the opportunity and sliced his effort off target from close range.

The action continued straight away at the other end of the pitch with Eastleigh again looking to score. Jai Reason played a perfect pass to split the Clarets' defence in two and find McAllister in on goal. McAllister unfortunately failed to control the ball though as a good opportunity came and went.

Then, Binns held the ball up on the left before setting up Mark Hughes whose effort went a long way wide from outside the area. It was almost one-way traffic at times as Eastleigh came close in the next minute when Nelson played the ball into Southam. Charles-Cook, who put in a man-of-the-match winning display to keep the score down, once again denied Eastleigh and Southam with a save low at his near post.

David Bridges sent a shot towards goal for the visitors in the 68th minute but was denied by a good block from Chris Todd, who has made an immediate impact coming in to the team in recent weeks together with Dean Beckwith.

Eastleigh could have put the game beyond Chelmsford when Dean Beckwith played the ball over the top of defence where McAllister held off his marker Clark. Craig did the hard work well but couldn’t find the finish on this occasion as he shot tamely straight at the keeper.

As the game headed towards it's conclusion, a Jai Reason corner was met by a free header for Mark Hughes which was sent just over the top of goal. Meanwhile, Kyle Vassell, a second-half substitute, looked to get a shot away but again Chris Todd stood tall to casually chest the ball back to his goalkeeper Ross Flitney.

Ten minutes from time a hopeful ball forward by Justin Miller from right back was headed behind by Beckwith - inches past his own post.

Andy Forbes was sent on in place of McAllister for the remainder of the game, where he went up-front in a like for like swap – a position that has seen Forbes score so many goals in the past.

In the 86th minute a corner from Aiden Palmer hit the Eastleigh cross bar, but a free kick was given for a push on Flitney.

The game had a repeating theme throughout as Charles-Cook continued to shine between the sticks and come to the rescue for his team. A low, driven cross at pace from Binns troubled the Chelmsford defence and was sliced towards his own goal by Mark Haines. Somehow Charles-Cook got to the ball to tip around the post for a corner to show instinctive reactions.

In the final minutes of the game Reason sent a cross in to the box where Glen Southam had made a strong run to get in to the area, only to turn the ball just wide.

Chelmsford's afternoon ended with further disappointment as Mark Haines was shown a second yellow and ultimately a red card by the referee in stoppage time.

The damage had already been done by Eastleigh who had done more than enough to earn the three points and a second successive clean sheet.

Eastleigh are playing some excellent, effective football at this moment in time where they look a force to be reckoned with going forwards combined with a defensive solidarity, which has resulted in a winning formula. Long may it continue!

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-0 Chelmsford City

Eastleigh v Chelmsford City - 16.02.13 by Eastleigh FC


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