Play-off place secured! Eastleigh 3-1 Truro City

Tuesday 23rd April 2013

Blue Square Bet South

Match report by Jamie Montigue

Eastleigh tonight cemented their place in the Conference South play-offs for the second time in the clubs history with a 3-1 home win over Truro City in front of a bumper crowd of 1,320.

Starting 2013 at the wrong end of the division, Richard Hill's side have turned their form and their season around in dramatic style to ensure this fantastic achievement was possible.

The Spitfires have stormed up the table with 15 wins since the 8th January, and are currently on an eight-game unbeaten streak (seven of which were victories).

Craig McAllister had the perfect opportunity to open the scoring inside five minutes but saw his penalty kick well saved after Dale Binns was pushed in the area.

Midway through the half, captain Glen Southam fired his side in front with a stunning strike to find the top corner having beaten his man. The inspirational leader couldn't have struck the ball any sweeter from an angle to the right of goal with his left foot. The technique was sublime and generated great power to make the shot simply unstoppable.

Former Fulham striker Barry Hayles levelled the scores with an equaliser for the visitors six minutes before the break. Hayles intercepted a short back pass to round Ross Flitney and tap into an empty net to ensure it was all square at half time.

Second half goals from Damian Scannell and a 7th goal in just three matches for Craig McAllister set the Spitfires well on the way to victory on a memorable evening at the Silverlake Stadium.

From the side that beat Tonbridge Angels 4-1 on Saturday, there was just the one change to the starting eleven with Adam Watkins starting in place of Chris Zebroski. Both Jai Reason and Mitchell Nelson were serving the last of their two-game suspensions whilst Chris Todd was still unavailable owing to injury.

The game began with Eastleigh pushing forward from the first minute and being awarded a penalty kick with just four minutes on the clock. Mark Hughes pushed a neat ball through for Dale Binns to get into the area to the left of goal. The winger's run came to an abrupt halt as Binns was shoved to the ground leaving the referee little choice but to point to the spot.

It was the perfect opportunity to open the scoring and settle any nerves. Unfortunately Craig McAllister stepped up from the spot and placed a shot to the right, only for goalkeeper Paul Hider to go the right way and make a good save.

Determined not to let a penalty miss get in the way of matters at hand, Eastleigh – who knew before the game that winning tonight would mean reaching the play-offs; kept plugging away in front of goal.

In the 8th minute, Damian Scannell broke forward down the right and looked up to see McAllister in space to his left. Scannell's attempted pass instead looped up towards goal and was caught by the back-pedalling Hider.

Moments later Michael Green crossed well from the left and McAllister nodded just over the bar.

Green then had the chance to test the keeper from a free kick out on the right. The left-back went for goal with a powerfully driven effort that the Truro stopper spilled.

And so the game continued with Eastleigh having all of the chances. An excellent cross from Southam who cut inside on to his left foot was met by Mark Hughes in the centre, whose header was deflected behind.

A half chance fell to Alex Lacey as he headed wide of goal from a Southam corner.

In the 22nd minute Jordan Copp hooked a pass to Barry Hayles, who worked space well but his shot was tame and easy for Ross Flitney to keep out.

Several corners in quick succession followed for the Spitfires - starting with Andy Forbes winning possession of the ball high up the pitch. Adam Watkins latched on to the ball and nipped past a defender to win his side a set piece, from which Eastleigh's aerial presence was always a threat.

Glen Southam saw one of his corner kick deliveries pushed over the bar by goalkeeper Paul Hider in the 26th minute.

Having Truro under pressure for a spell was right where Eastleigh wanted their opponents to be. They forced home the advantage to make a good period of play count on the score board as the Spitfires took the lead and in some style.

GLEN SOUTHAM scored with one of the best strikes seen at the Silverlake Stadium this season with an effort that oozed class. The skipper who has led the team on with his passion and desire, unleashed a fierce strike on goal that found the very top corner. It was Glen's seventh goal of the campaign.

The free entry for all scheme was well received by all and few would disagree that if there was a fee to get in, Southam's goal would have been well worth the entrance fee alone!

Going in search of doubling their lead, an excellent pass from Dale Binns found the run of Scannell but the ball just got away from him as he was closed down.

In the 34th minute, Binns carved open another chance for Eastleigh as his cut back from the left fell for Watkins, whose side foot effort was saved by Hider.

Eastleigh continued to look dangerous in the final third. An enterprising move involving Hughes, Binns and Green saw the ball worked into the area for Scannell. The fans favourite looked to be tripped but tried to stay on feet before Truro were able to clear their lines.

Against the run of play, Eastleigh were undone by an uncharacteristic defensive error. BARRY HAYLES took advantage of a rare lapse in concentration in the hosts' back line to intercept a short back pass. The mistake was punished as Hayles went on to take the ball past the on-rushing Flitney before taking the ball closer to goal and rolling the ball into the unguarded net.

After the equaliser, Eastleigh had a couple more corners with Scannell seeing an effort deflected behind and Alex Lacey nodding wide having leapt the highest in the penalty area.

At the break the scores were level leaving the Spitfires with work to do in the second half if they were to secure a play-off slot this evening.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 1-1 Truro City

Eastleigh began the second half brightly with Damian Scannell curling a fine shot against the post from 25-yards out. The effort had the goalkeeper beaten but the ball hit the inside of the wood work before bouncing out to safety.

Still inside the opening five minutes of the second half, Eastleigh were given a free kick in a promising position. Michael Green hit a powerful free kick with a stinging, low drive that could only be parried Paul Hider. The effort was too hot to handle and the ball fell kindly for Alex Lacey, though the defender's header from close range was somehow kept out and cleared off the line.

In the 49th minute, Dale Binns crossed from the left to find Craig McAllister free in the middle. The in-form striker attempted a diving header that went just past the post.

Three minutes shy of the hour Adam Watkins caught the ball well on the half volley but the defence of Truro City stood firm and strong to block and protect their goal.

Just a minute later, a wonderful pass from Watkins down the left split the Truro defence to find Binns in space. Binns rolled the ball across the face of goal with pace but Scannell couldn’t quite stretch to reach it in the six-yard box.

After a period where stoppages threatened to interfere and disrupt the flow of the game. Eastleigh got the goal they were searching for when DAMIAN SCANNELL came alive in the box to stroke the ball home.

A free kick from Glen Southam wasn’t dealt with entirely allowing Scannell to react and get on the ball around 12-yards from goal. The ex-Southend United winger, evaded one challenge before composing himself and finding the net with a low finish much to the delight of the Spitfires faithful.

The atmosphere around the ground lifted in an instant as Eastleigh could sense and almost smell the play-offs – they were now within touching distance so long as the Spitfires could see the game out.

Since regaining the lead, Eastleigh never looked likely to concede in truth.

In the 72nd minute, a volley from inside the area by Adam Watkins was well blocked by the head of Paul Kendall.

Goal scorer Scannell then made a good run in field and picked out a pass to Watkins whose shot from 12 yards was kept out by a solid bit of defending from the visitors.

The partying and celebrations could begin for Eastleigh when CRAIG MCALLISTER added a third goal to surely seal the points and a precious place in the play-offs. McAllister had hit two hat-tricks in his past two games and got on the scoresheet again tonight to make it seven goals in three games. Andy Forbes got forward well before sending a high cross from the right in to the area, which McAllister attacked and headed home to find the net.

It was to be the last action of note in the game as Eastleigh comfortably saw out the remainder of the game playing confidently as they have been doing for some time now.

The final whistle brought to a close an evening that saw the Spitfires guarantee a top five finish, but the hard work doesn't stop now.

There is an away game at Welling United at the weekend before the small matter of playing a two-legged semi-final in the play-offs.

If Eastleigh can carry their momentum and effort into these games, there is no reason why we cannot go a step further than we did in 2009 when hearts were broken after a 6-4 aggregate defeat to Hayes & Yeading.

The players and management team deserve all of the plaudits that come their way as they have done Eastleigh FC proud to reach the play-offs. Here's hoping we can go all the way!

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 3-1 Truro City


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