Eastleigh 1-3 Dover Athletic

EASTLEIGH 1-3 DOVER ATHLETIC
Tuesday 30th April 2013

Blue Square Bet South - Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg

Match report by Jamie Montigue

Eastleigh crashed to a 3-1 home defeat in the first leg of their play-off semi final against Dover Athletic and ended the game with nine men having both Adam Watkins and Michael Green sent off.

Thanks to a 1-1 draw at Conference South champions Welling United on Saturday, the Spitfires finished fourth in the division to set up this two-legged play-off tie with Dover Athletic. Eastleigh came in to this play-off semi final in strong form on the back of an unbeaten run of nine games.

A night full of drama and intensity saw the crowd of 915 at the Silverlake Stadium witness four goals and two red cards this evening.

The Spitfires fell behind to a goal after just 20 seconds when Moses Ademola opened the scoring. Ben May then doubled the visitors' lead with a fine volley in the 18th minute in a first half that the Whites controlled for the most part.

In the second half, Chris Zebroski pulled a goal back for the Spitfires in the 66th minute. Eastleigh though finished the game with nine men as Adam Watkins was shown a straight red card after clashing with Ricky Modeste just minutes after coming on as a substitute. Michael Green was also dismissed for a second yellow card late in the game.

Daryl McMahon scored direct from a free kick in the 90th minute to beat Ross Flitney at his near post and restore Dover's two-goal lead at the end of the first-leg of this play-off.

Any late comers to the ground tonight would have missed the opening goal as MOSES ADEMOLA (who left Eastleigh for Dover earlier this season), prodded home with less than half a minute on the clock. Dover's blistering start caught Eastleigh off guard as a defensive error was pounced on by Ademola who calmly found the net to beat Ross Flitney.

Flitney was called upon moments later as he came off his line to deal with a Daryl McMahon free kick. As the Eastleigh stopper punched the ball clear, he caught Dean Beckwith who required treatment but was thankfully able to continue.

In the 6th minute, Mitchell Nelson played a wonderful ball over the top from the right-back position which split the Dover defence to find the run of Jai Reason. The visiting goalkeeper Mitch Walker was alert to the danger and raced off his line to deny Reason at the edge of his area, who was otherwise through on goal.

A Dale Binns cross was headed behind for an Eastleigh corner in the 12th minute, from which Nelson narrowly missed out on connecting with Glen Southam’s delivery.

The home crowd were stunned by a second goal for Dover Athletic with less than twenty minutes played. BEN MAY hit an excellent strike displaying perfect technique to chest the ball down and volley into the corner of goal from 25-yards. Flitney diving to his left, got a hand to the effort but couldn't stop the ball flying into the corner of goal off the post.

Eastleigh were struggling to get a foothold in the game as Dover continued to impress. Harry Ottaway came close for Dover in the 21st minute as he nodded wide when McMahon sent a free kick in to the box.

Midway through the half, Eastleigh were awarded a free kick approximately 30-yards from goal. Glen Southam rolled the ball to his left where Jai Reason left it for the left foot of Michael Green to strike. Dover Athletic's Dean Rance charged the ball down to keep the effort out.

The Whites could so easily have found themselves three goals to the good with just over half-an-hour played. A mix-up between goalkeeper and defender saw Flitney misplace a poor kick right in to the path of Rance, who immediately sent the ball back towards goal. The effort was on target and looked to be heading in, though to Flitney's credit – the Eastleigh stopper recovered to get back in the nick of time. The former Gillingham goalkeeper got down low, and at full stretch managed to get an important touch on the ball to tip the ball just inches past the upright.

Ten minutes before the break, Ben May fired in a fierce shot from a tight angle with his left foot. Flitney, who was in for a busy evening, reacted well to push the ball over.

Binns then did well on the far side to force a corner for Eastleigh after Reason nodded on a long throw by Nelson. Chris Todd almost got on the end of the set piece that followed.

Eastleigh made a double substitution before the half was out with Chris Zebroski and Alex Lacey being sent on in place of Damian Scannell and Dale Binns. As a result of the changes, the formation was also tweaked as Hill opted to play with three centre backs (Todd, Beckwith and Lacey) with Nelson and Green acting as wing-backs playing slightly higher to support the forwards Reason, McAllister and Zebroski. Hughes and Southam kept the midfield together as Eastleigh adopted a more attacking approach.

As the half came to a close, both Mitchell Nelson and Alex Lacey had efforts blocked from inside the Dover penalty area in quick succession.

The visitors took a comfortable two-goal cushion into the half time break as Eastleigh were undone by Ademola's early goal and Ben May's volley.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-2 Dover Athletic

In stark comparison to the quick fire start to the first half, the second half took a while to get going with the first chance of note not coming until the 57th minute.

Daryl McMahon whipped in a free kick which was headed over the bar by Ben May and narrowly off target.

Just after the hour mark, Mitchell Nelson played a good pass in to the feet of Jai Reason, who with his back to goal spun his defender well only for Mitch Walker the Dover goalkeeper to thwart the attack by picking up the loose ball in the area.

Eastleigh were steadily improving and won a free kick when Reason tried to find a way through but was blocked off unfairly by Ian Simpemba.

Glen Southam sent the ball to the back post from the free kick, which caused mayhem in the Dover area as Craig McAllister nodded back across goal. CHRIS ZEBROSKI was on hand to slam the ball home from a couple of yards to give Eastleigh a way back into the game.

Ian Simpemba smashed the ball against the cross bar from close range after an attempted Eastleigh clearance deflected dangerously across the face of goal in the 71st minute. The Whites' captain reacted athletically to turn and crash an improvised effort against the woodwork.

A minute later, Eastleigh made their third and final substitution by bringing Adam Watkins on for Mark Hughes.

Watkins looked to get Eastleigh on the front foot by flicking the ball up after Reason teed it in to his path. As the ball sat up nicely for a shot, Dover again stood firm to deflect behind for a corner.

Chris Todd saw a header well saved by Mitch Walker from Reason’s corner.

Things were about to turn sour for the Spitfires as Eastleigh were reduced to ten men. Adam Watkins was shown a straight red card by the referee for trying to get the ball back off of Ricky Modeste. Watkins raised his arm and was adjudged to have struck out as Modeste went to the ground clutching his face.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Eastleigh had a good spell of pressure and looked the most likely to score as the game came towards its conclusion.

With 78 played, McAllister cushioned a header to Zebroski, whose shot was blocked for a corner. Zebroski rose highest in the centre to meet Southam’s delivery but headed just over.

Eastleigh then came within inches of drawing level as the Dover cross bar was rattled. A sublime effort from Jai Reason which was disguised as a cross, came back off the frame of the goal with the keeper beaten from all of 30-yards.

Mitch Walker was suddenly the busier of the goalkeepers and had to be at his best to keep his side in front. Pinball ensued inside the visiting penalty area with the ball eventually being scrambled away as McAllister looked to shoot. Then Walker missed claiming the ball from a Reason cross as the ten men of Eastleigh looked to force an equaliser.

Two minutes from time Walker did extremely well to keep out a Craig McAllister header from point blank range by standing tall in the middle of his goal.

When it looked as though Eastleigh had a strong chance of levelling the scores, the game finished on a double low.

First, former Spitfire DARYL MCMAHON beat Ross Flitney from a free kick to the right of goal. McMahon struck the ball towards the near post with his left foot with the ball appearing to go through the legs of Flitney as Dover restored their two-goal advantage.

To add to Eastleigh's misery and woe, Michael Green was shown a second yellow card for an innocuous challenge meaning the Spitfires were left to see out the remainder of stoppage time with nine players.

The situation at the half way stage in this play-off match-up is far from ideal from Eastleigh's point of view but it is certainly not out of the realms of possibility that the Spitfires can make amends from a disappointing evening at the Silverlake Stadium.

Stranger things have happened in football than overturning a two-goal deficit so with another ninety minutes to play, this play-off is far from over despite Eastleigh having their work cut out to turn things around in the second leg at Dover on Saturday.

BELIEVE! It can be done!

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-3 Dover Athletic

Eastleigh v Dover Athletic - BSBS Playoff Semi Final 1st Leg - 30.04.13 by Eastleigh FC

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