Eastleigh 4-1 Tonbridge Angels

EASTLEIGH 4-1 TONBRIDGE ANGELS
Saturday 20th April 2013

Blue Square Bet South

Match report by Jamie Montigue

A second hat trick in as many games for Craig McAllister helped Eastleigh edge ever nearer to cementing a place in the play-offs for the Spitfires.

In the end it was a comfortable and resounding victory for the hosts, but Eastleigh had to come from behind to cancel out a Mikel Suarez opener halfway through the first half. Craig McAllister scored a header from a corner on the stroke of half time to ensure the scores were level at the break.

Eastleigh went on to produce a perfect second half performance with two more from McAllister and a Dean Beckwith goal sandwiched in between.

Should Eastleigh beat Truro City on Tuesday night, where admission is free for all spectators; Richard Hill's side will have clinched a top five finish and with it a shot at securing promotion to the Conference Premier.

There were four changes to the side that defeated Bromley on Tuesday night. Jai Reason and Mitchell Nelson were both suspended, whilst Chris Todd missed today’s game through injury. Coming into the starting line up were Andy Forbes at right-back in place of Nelson and Michael Green who returned at left-back having recovered from a knock.

After coming off the bench to score three in the space of just over 10 minutes as a second half substitute in midweek, McAllister filled the void left by Reason. New father Dale Binns returned to the side at the expense of Corey King.

Green found himself in an advanced position early in the game where the defender made a neat turn to spin on the ball and get a shot away that had to be deflected behind for a corner kick. From the resulting set piece, Mark Hughes had a shot blocked by former Spitfire Gary Elphick, who is now the Angels' captain; after Glen Southam crossed back into the area.

Another ex-Eastleigh player Chris Piper came on to replace Jon Heath, who picked up an injury in the 7th minute forcing the visitors into making an early change.

A crowd of 627 turned out to watch the game this afternoon and the Eastleigh fans behind the goal were certainly making themselves heard.

Michael Green tried a speculative effort in the 8th minute after good work by Damian Scannell, but the full-back drove his shot wide of goal.

A well-worked corner routine from the visitors including one player stepping over the ball at the edge of the area, saw Frannie Collin have an opportunity from 25-yards out only for the striker to fire comfortably high and wide.

Lee Worgan in goal for Tonbridge Angels scooped the ball up after a dangerous long throw-in from Eastleigh, then in the 23rd minute the goalkeeper was called in to action again. Southam's corner was swung in from the far side and just hit the top of Dean Beckwith's head before the keeper could catch the ball.

MIKEL SUAREZ put Tonbridge Angels in front with a 24th minute goal. Mark Lovell played the ball into the area from left to right, where Suarez controlled the ball and poked home from close range to find the net.

The visitors a goal to the good, went in search of doubling their lead after a powerful run from David Ijaha saw the midfielder surge into the Eastleigh penalty area. Ijaha held off a number of challenges showing sheer strength and managed to force a good save out of Ross Flitney.

Eastleigh stepped up their game and improved measurably as the half wore on. The steady and reliable Andy Forbes had a calm and composed game at right back and combined with Chris Zebroski to good effect in the 37th minute. Zebroski's clipped cross into the six-yard box was cleared off the line, not once but twice.

Tonbridge Angels were suddenly feeling the strain as Eastleigh looked after the ball and forced a number of corners late in the first half.

A Glen Southam free kick from just outside the area was also blocked and a couple of other efforts in quick succession came close as Eastleigh ramped up the pressure, which paid off on the stroke of half time.

CRAIG MCALLISTER was the man to make it count in front of goal as the in-form forward connected with a corner to head home an equaliser. It was a goal that changed the complexion of the game for the better heading in to half time.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 1-1 Tonbridge Angels

The second half begun as the first had ended for the hosts as Eastleigh were again celebrating a goal. CRAIG MCALLISTER profited from the work of Dale Binns as the wingers shot proved too hot to handle for Lee Worgan. McAllister was on hand to double both his and Eastleigh's tally for the afternoon to put the Spitfires in front for the first time in the game.

David Ijaha shot just over the top from 20-yards for Tonbridge whilst two minutes shy of the hour, Mark Hughes very nearly pulled off the spectacular with a flying volley from the edge of the area that went just wide of the upright.

The first Eastleigh substitution saw Adam Watkins replace Damian Scannell in midfield.

As the half progressed, Eastleigh continued to look comfortable on the ball and were dictating the play with a strong all-round display.

DEAN BECKWITH enforced Eastleigh's advantage with a third goal to open up a two-goal cushion. Worgan struggled to cope with an effort after the Spitfires pushed forwards with attacking intent, and couldn’t hold on to a shot. Centre-half Beckwith pounced to stab home the rebound as the ball fell invitingly into his path.

The football on display was easy on the eye as Eastleigh continued to look dangerous and dominant. Chris Zebroski, Craig McAllister and Adam Watkins all worked the ball nicely to the left for Binns, whose shot was charged down.

Gary Elphick chested down a high ball inside the area for the visitors with 70 played, where the skipper had time to turn and shoot but Ross Flitney was more than a match for the effort and saved low.

Thirteen minutes from time, sponsors man of the match Dale Binns placed a curling shot just the wrong side of the post having picked the ball up in a central position around 30-yards from goal.

Right to the end, Eastleigh were excelling in each area of the pitch and after an excellent team passing move - this particular passage of play concluded with Mark Hughes threading a ball through to Binns; though the ball ran out of play.

Dale Binns seemed to get better as the game went on and played a massive role in CRAIG MCALLISTER completing the rout in the 87th minute. Binns went on an exceptional run from a deep position on the right flank and just kept going until getting to the byline to supply the cross and provide an outstanding assist. McAllister was the recipient of the delivery and prodded home to provide the finish and seal a hat trick goal, incredibly his second in as many games.

It was McAllister's sixth goal in around 120 minutes of football after the target man added to hitting Bromley for three goals coming off the bench with a lethal cameo role.

Binns almost scored himself late in the game with another skilful run, this time down the left flank. Mark Hughes then stroked an effort towards goal which saw Worgan turn the ball around the post at full stretch to produce a fine save.

In the closing stages, Eastleigh could have extended their lead even further as Southam drove a low shot inches wide after a pass from Binns.

Young Bradley Fountain came off the bench for the outstanding McAllister who deservedly received a standing ovation for his efforts today.

Flitney kept out an attempt from Chris Piper in injury time, but the second half was all about Eastleigh and their attacking prowess.

The victory sets Eastleigh up nicely and leads us in to Tuesday night's home fixture against Truro City with a strong opportunity to further extend our season by reaching the play-offs.

Since the turn of the year, the momentum and points return has been right up there with the best in the division which is a credit to every body involved with the club from the management team to the players.

If Eastleigh can replicate what we saw today, in particular the second half, the Spitfires will stand in good stead for what lies ahead.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 4-1 Tonbridge Angels

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