Eastleigh 1-0 Salisbury City

EASTLEIGH v SALISBURY CITY
Tuesday 12th February 2013

Blue Square Bet South
Match report by Jamie Montigue

Eastleigh came into this local derby against league leaders Salisbury City with renewed confidence and an significant increase in form. Successive away victories at Weston-super-Mare and Staines Town has backed up the home form – which has seen comfortable wins over Billericay Town (5-0) and Farnborough (3-1) in the previous two matches at the Silverlake Stadium. Richard Hill's side were looking to continue where they left off in this eagerly anticipated encounter.

There were two new faces on show in the starting line up this evening with Dan Spence (formerly of Hayes & Yeading) playing at left back in place of Michael Green, who dropped to the bench; and Adam Watkins who has joined on loan from Luton Town, replacing Damian Scannell (who missed out through illness) on the right hand side of midfield.

Chris Todd and Dean Beckwith continued their pairing at centre half and Alex Lacey lined up at right back to complete the back four, with Ross Flitney behind them in goal. Glen Southam and Mark Hughes held the centre of midfield together with Dale Binns on the left hand side and Jai Reason playing off of Craig McAllister in attack.

A sizeable crowd were in attendance including a strong following of visiting supporters, all of which were treated to a lively start to the game. Salisbury City could have been one or two goals ahead inside the opening ten minutes as the match began at a frantic pace.

Ricky Wellard had a shot blocked as Salisbury broke down the left hand side in the second minute, meanwhile Eastleigh's right back Alex Lacey pushed forward to shoot in the sixth minute at the opposite end. The defender's effort was spilled initially by goalkeeper Will Puddy with Glen Southam looking to pounce, but the Salisbury 'keeper gathered the ball at the second attempt.

Blue Square Bet South leading goal scorer Jamie White was played clean through on goal for the visitors just a minute later only for the ex-Spitfire to be denied by a reactive save from Flitney.

Salisbury's left winger Elliot Frear made a good run down the left and crossed into the centre shortly after, to find White once more. The prolific goal scorer took a touch in front of goal before sending a shot narrowly wide of the post.

The pair combined again as the action continued frantically. Frear sent a good ball down the line that evaded the attention of the Eastleigh defence to find White once more bearing down on goal. Ross Flitney was alert to the danger to deny White at the edge of his area.

Still with just 12 minutes on the clock, Eastleigh captain Glen Southam executed an exquisite shot towards the top corner with power and precision where Will Puddy was at his best to make a stunning save to tip over the bar for a corner.

City's Chris McPhee had the next opportunity of the game as the midfielder carried the ball forward with players backing off ahead of him for things to open up. McPhee went for goal from 25-yards out but saw his shot from range saved well down low by Flitney.

Midway through the half, Jai Reason did well to win his side a corner and from the resulting set piece, Eastleigh could well have taken the lead. Craig McAllister found himself presented with a clear chance only for the target man to send a free header over the bar from 6-yards.

Ten minutes before the break, Reason dragged an attempt wide of goal from the edge of the penalty area as the Spitfires looked to finish the half on a positive note.

Ryan Brett worked space for a shot in the 39th minute and aimed for the top right hand corner but failed to hit the target or test Ross Flitney in the Eastleigh goal.

The last of the first half action saw Alex Lacey beat his man on the right but his cross was easy for Puddy to get to.

At the half way stage, there was to be no separating of the two sides - both of whom had chances. Salisbury were particularly lively in the opening stages but Eastleigh improved as the half wore on.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-0 Salisbury City

There were no changes from either side at the break. The first chance of the second half fell for Ryan Brett who controlled well inside the area to shoot into the side netting to the left of goal for the visitors.

In the 48th minute, a decent effort from Mark Hughes on the volley saw Will Puddy get down to the ball diving to his right to save by the post.

Eastleigh broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute after fantastic work down the left by skipper Glen Southam. Southam showed good control in a strong run before crossing into a dangerous area right along the face of goal. It was a difficult ball to defend against and had to be hacked off the line. The threat was far from over though as CRAIG McALLISTER picked up the pieces to get his head to the ball from close range and nod the ball into the net for his tenth goal of the season.

The Spitfires made their first change on the hour as Mitchell Nelson was introduced in place of Adam Watkins. The natural defender showed his versatility by operating on the right of midfield and not looking out of place. Nelson got forward well and offered an outlet but was also back defending when needed to make clearances from corners.

Having got their noses in front, Eastleigh had to manage the game and see it out against a well-drilled side who are not top of the league by chance – a task far easier said than done. To a man, each Eastleigh player worked hard to close down, shut off space, make interceptions and tackles to nullify any threat posed by Salisbury City.

A testing delivery into the area from Jai Reason evaded both the goalkeeper, and Dale Binns at the far post, who was looking to get on the end of the inviting cross.

Just past the hour mark, a diving header from Robbie Matthews provided a comfortable save for Ross Flitney.

In the 70th minute Southam picked out the run of Nelson on the far side, who cut in from the right and shot with his left foot but it lacked sufficient power to trouble Puddy.

An excellent run and shot from Jamie White, saw the forward spring to life out of nothing to force a fine save out of Ross Flitney. White travelled with the ball some distance before pulling the trigger and going for goal, where Flitney had to stand tall to turn the ball away.

Fifteen minutes from time Jai Reason was brought down just outside the area for a free kick, which the former Ipswich Town and Braintree player took himself. Reason came close direct from the free kick sending the ball just over the bar.

Mark Hughes continued to shine in midfield with a dominant display consisting of a lot of hard work that can sometimes go unnoticed. Hughes always seemed to be on hand to break up an attack with committed and well-timed challenges as well as using the ball well.

Dean Beckwith and Chris Todd were still winning numerous headers at the back ably assisted by young Alex Lacey and debutant Dan Spence who all played their part in keeping the visitors at bay.
As can be expected with time running down and Salisbury being a goal down needing to chase the game, Eastleigh had to soak up some pressure. Robbie Matthews was sent up front having played at centre half for the majority of the game and looked to make a nuisance of himself as City piled extra men forward.

In the 84th minute a fine cross from the left by White had to be headed behind for a Salisbury corner. Nelson was on hand to clear the ball up the pitch as Eastleigh worked to the final whistle to defend their lead.

Looking to catch Salisbury on the break, Eastleigh so nearly doubled their advantage late on following good work and dribbling skills from Dale Binns, who turned his marker twice before crossing. Craig McAllister got to the ball first inside the 6-yard box to poke an effort at goal but Puddy saved.

Four additional minutes were added on for stoppages at the close of the 90 minutes, which were made somewhat easier to get through for the hosts when Robbie Matthews was dismissed for a second yellow card after upending Binns with a rash challenge.

Eastleigh held on for an excellent three points and clean sheet against the table toppers to enhance their rapidly increasing chances of making a push towards the play-offs. The Spitfires have moved up to 7th in the table which is a marked improvement from how things were looking a few weeks back.

A significant upturn in form bodes well for the Spitfires who have earned 15 points from a possible 18 in their last six games. Richard Hill can be extremely proud of his players again tonight who dug in when they had to to secure the result. Eastleigh will be hoping for a fourth successive league win at home to Chelmsford City this Saturday.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-0 Salisbury City

Eastleigh v Salisbury City - 12.02.13 by Eastleigh FC

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