Hayes & Yeading 2-1 Eastleigh

Saturday 23rd February 2013

Blue Square Bet South

Match report by Paul McNamara

Two collective lapses in concentration, a plethora of spurned opportunities, and a determinedly resolute Hayes & Yeading side all combined to thwart Eastleigh’s attempts to maintain their recent revival in away form at Woking’s Kingfield Stadium.

The only fair criticism that can be levelled at the Spitfires’ performance is its lack of ruthlessness in the final third, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that even a point gained would have been a frustrating outcome at the end of this 90 minutes.

The ball spent much of the game’s early minutes in the air, with neither team able to piece together any quality possession. The first occasion on which Eastleigh were able to mount an attack of some conviction so nearly led to a fourth minute breakthrough – a foothold which you suspect would have altered the course of the afternoon dramatically.

Glen Southam started the move, nipping in front of Jerome Anderson to nick the ball and allow Mark Hughes to spread a floated pass to Dale Binns wide on the left. When Binns steered his cross to the near post, Craig McAllister’s attempt at goal, under severe pressure from the covering Tom Cadmore, ricocheted up on to the bar and away to safety.

Hughes was rapidly back into the action, but when he had a chance to shoot from 20 yards the midfielder screwed his right foot effort well wide of Brandon Hall’s left upright. The ex-Barnet man’s heavy involvement in the initial stages of proceedings was indicative of a first half in which he read play expertly, regularly using his anticipation to win the ball and prevent the hosts establishing any rhythm to their game.

Binns demonstrated a wonderful first touch to take Ross Flitney’s long kick into his stride before accelerating past Calum Butcher on the left and sending in another low cross which the vigilant Adam Bygrave did well to sweep away.

When Bygrave was less decisive with a headed clearance, Jai Reason was able to hit the visitors’ first effort on target, albeit the playmaker’s weak strike when afforded a generous amount of time on the ball drifted harmlessly into Hall’s hands.

After another Hayes slip, Sam Cox this time relinquishing possession cheaply, Corey King – playing in place of the injured Damian Scannell – had his first chance to run at home left-back Daniel Brathwaite and promptly glided past the defender before picking out McAllister with a fine cross. The forward met the delivery sweetly but placed his header beyond the right post.

Over 15 minutes had elapsed when the hosts first seriously threatened goal. Alassane N’Diaye pinched a ball from Southam and fed Tom Collins on the left. The striker drifted into the Spitfires’ area before angling a shot across goal and inches beyond the far post.

N’Diaye’s willingness to drop deep from his second forward role – something he started to do more as the Spitfires dominated much of the opening stages - was starting to cause some confusion in the Eastleigh ranks, with the centre-half’s unsure whether to step out and track the Frenchman, or leave one of the midfield duo to close his space. As the ex-Crystal Palace player broke at speed from a central area Hughes’ decided his only option was to halt the charge by foul means.

Southam played his best pass of the day 18 minutes in, an incisive delivery behind Brathwaite which was perfectly weighted for King to race onto. The young winger again found McAllister’s head, but when the target-man sent the ball back across goal there was no white shirt ready to capitalise.

Two minutes later and Southam ended a move which Hughes had started by robbing a hesitant N’Diaye of the ball with a far more accomplished challenge than his earlier trip. After possession had worked its way to Binns on the left, the lively wide-man showed his awareness by turning and rolling possession into his captain’s feet. Southam’s 25-yard strike was fierce but slightly off target as it fizzed past the left upright.

Hughes was perhaps fortunate to escape a booking when the referee chose to play an advantage after another illegal tackle on N’Diaye, but the Sptfires reprieve was brief as Dan Spence scythed down the marauding Anderson 20 yards from goal. N’Diaye’s free-kick flew through a flaky defensive wall, but Flitney’s handling was exemplary to gather the bouncing ball.

Chris Todd was next to make his presence felt on N’Diaye when he forcefully clattered through the back of the roving attacker just inside the home half. That was enough for Todd to receive the game’s first caution.

Almost instantly, Eastleigh were forced into making their first change of the afternoon. McAllister, whose aerial menace had undoubtedly been discomforting the Hayes’ central defensive pair limped off to be replaced by Lee Peacock. The substitute was at once into the action, latching onto a throw-in down the right before being carelessly stopped in his tracks by Brathwaite who was booked for his foul.

With a little over 10 minutes of the half to play, Butcher carried the ball right to left before hitting a superb pass with the outside of his boot into the advancing John Goddard. The winger sent over a wicked cross which the visitors were relieved to see fractionally evade an onrushing red shirt at the back post.

Peacock’s first sight of goal arrived after yet another low and accurate Binns delivery from the left. The veteran forward seemed certain to at least fire a strike at goal, but missed his connection with the ball entirely before Hayes were able to comfortably see off any threat.

Soon after, Collins pounced on some rare indecisiveness between Alex Lacey – the Luton man now returned to the Silverlake on a fresh loan deal and the second of two Eastleigh changes from last Saturday’s starting line-up, preferred at right-back to Mitchell Nelson – and Chris Todd. The forward was able to sprint onto a lofted ball threaded through the two defenders before switching sharply back onto his right foot and curling an effort beyond Flitney’s left post.

A hobbling King had the half’s most audacious effort after Hall had hared to the edge of his box to reach a through ball ahead of Reason, but could only scuff his clearance as far as the winger. Unfortunately, King’s bright attempt dropped into the vacant stand behind the goal.

With the interval approaching, Reason accepted the ball with his back to goal in the home area before turning strongly and smashing a goal-bound drive which Hall did extremely well to not only save, but also hold.

On the stroke of 45 minutes Eastleigh put together their finest move of the half. Beckwith, who had started to decisively move out from defence and smother the threat of N’Diaye, did so again before swiftly finding King on the right. King executed a fine give-and-go with Reason before clipping another hazardous centre into the box. The retreating Cox couldn’t get a full head to the ball before it fell to Southam at the back post from where the skipper’s close-range shot was deflected behind.

The sight of Beckwith clamping down on N’Diaye’s growing influence was warming, evidencing as it did the growing stature of a side which is able to solve problems as they arise during a game. As has been the case since their arrival, both Beckwith and Todd at the heart of Eastleigh’s backline were near faultless here. Both won a huge number of headers, and time and again exhibited their terrific positional sense to snuff out potential trouble in their own area.

There remained enough time before the break for the Spitfires to find themselves up against 10 men for the third successive game, but on this occasion the opposing red card arrived in first half stoppage time rather than the game’s dying moments. Hughes headed a Hall goal-kick forward, where Reason flicked on into the path of Peacock. As the forward sought to find King with a first-time pass, the ball was prevented from reaching its intended destination by Brathwaite’s hand. For his intervention the home full-back received his second yellow card of the afternoon.

Southam crashed the resulting set-piece too high, but there was no doubting that the visitors finished the half as the team in the ascendancy.

With Hayes reacting to Brathwaite’s dismissal by sitting two banks of four stubbornly behind the ball, and with N’Diaye an isolated figure up front, Eastleigh had the onus placed firmly on them to find a tangible reward for all their fresh command of possession.

Having failed to test Hall in the first 10 minutes of the second period, the Spitfires were hit with the ultimate sucker punch. Anderson tenaciously won the ball on the right, which was all the encouragement Butcher needed to take the initiative and launch a rare break. When the impressive right-back was allowed to escape into oceans of space high up the pitch he picked out N’Diaye, the one team-mate he had available in the box. The attacker mis-hit his first attempt at goal but was fortunate to see the ball land back at his feet. Afforded the time to shoot again, the 22 year-old calmly placed his finish across goal where it nestled inside Flitney’s left-post.

The goal was the first time Hayes had committed any numbers forward in the second period, but their clinical edge starkly highlighted what the visiting display was missing.

Key to Eastleigh’s recent victories at Weston and Staines was their quick reply to falling behind. It was only some frantic last ditch defending which prevented a similar response here. Spence released Binns down the left, from where the winger found Reason at the near post. The Number 10 expertly guided the ball across goal where King looked set to score only to be denied by some fantastic defending. Binns soon had a chance of his own when he swivelled on Spence’s pass into the area, only to wastefully fire his left foot strike past the near post.

Between those incidents, N’Diaye departed to some less than complimentary chants from the travelling support. While it’s true that he may not be as good as Mario Balotelli, the French forward had undoubtedly left his mark on the afternoon.

With the Spitfires gradually ratcheting up the pressure, and Hall forced into another testing stop by Binns, the last thing anybody expected was for the hosts to extend their lead. Unfortunately that is precisely what happened on 68 minutes. Cox, standing alone in a cavernous gap in the centre of the park, took possession and was not pressed from any angle as he strode forward before unleashing a low 25 yard right-foot drive across Flitney and into the right corner. The sense of disbelief among the visiting contingent was palpable.

Aside from a Binns cross-shot which flew past the far post, Eastleigh didn’t lay siege to the home goal until, when with 15 minutes to play, Richard Hill made a switch to his tactics and personnel. Andy Forbes replaced Hughes, with the substitute joining Peacock in attack and Reason dropping into a midfield berth. The intention was clearly to maximise the influence of the hitherto relatively quiet Reason, by allowing him to take advantage of the considerable space available in the middle third.

The ploy worked in that Reason’s precise and reliable passing constantly sprang his wide-men into action, and utilised the width of the pitch. It was a skilful Reason back-heel however, which set King free on the right. The winger steered the ball back to Binns, but former Hayes & Yeading player drilled a left-foot strike well over.

The final Spitfires’ change on 80 minutes saw Mitchell Nelson on for Lacey, Nelson’s attacking instincts being perceived by Hill as yet another attacking avenue for his side. By now, Hayes were completely unable to keep hold of the ball, but their unerring discipline to retain a rigid defensive shape was laudable.

Still, Eastleigh chances were inevitably being created. Forbes headed Binns’ cross onto the bar then, with five minutes left to chase an equaliser, Todd emphatically smashed in from 10 yards to inspire some genuine Spitfires’ hope. The goal was preceded by Spence’s chipped ball into Forbes, whose first touch took the ball out of his feet and away from Hall’s dive. The ‘keeper still managed to get a block on Forbes’ attempt at goal before a scramble ensued which saw Reason hammer a shot against the bar and Todd eventually apply his thundering right boot to proceedings.

Rather than providing the anticipated barnstorming finish, the game’s closing minutes – including five added by the referee – proved the most exasperating of the afternoon. A mix of the Spitfires’ desire to hit the ball forward too quickly, Reason’s in-swinging delivery from the left missing King’s toe at the back post by centimetres, and Binns’ snatched effort past the post when well placed in the area, contributed towards an ultimately fruitless day.

This was a disappointing but not necessarily deflating encounter. It was by no measure a return to some of the poorer away performances this season.

Ask most Spitfires their ideal way of bouncing back and they might just suggest that they’d love the opportunity to wait a mere three days before beating Havant and Waterlooville in the friendly surroundings of the Silverlake. Win that and this defeat will recede quicker in the memory. It won’t be easy, but there remains nothing for this Eastleigh team to fear.

Hayes & Yeading v Eastleigh - 23.02.13 by Eastleigh FC


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