It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get to the Silverlake Stadium, home of Eastleigh FC, two years in fact Google Maps reminded me as I checked out how long the journey was going to take.
Despite Barnet having a home game against Wrexham but with limited time these days to make games elsewhere and having managed to take in three Bees games so far, it was time to head west courtesy of a complimentary ticket from the Spitfires boss Ben Strevens, an offer that was made the last time I spent time in the ex-Bees front man’s company.
It’s fair to say the Spitfires have not got going yet this season, a two game struggle past Isthmian League Folkestone Invicta in the FA Cup preceded this National League game, also fair to point out Strevens has missed key players through injury already this season but most are either now in contention or on their way back.
The Robins arrived in Hampshire in very good form that has propelled them into the play-off positions, last season saw them finish a creditable 17th in their first season back in the National League top division, my last viewing of them was a 3-2 home defeat by Barnet after squandering a two goal lead towards the end of the season.
A win for the home side would be much needed whilst the Robins were hoping to keep themselves in amongst the division’s top guns. It was the visitors who struck the first blow, just five minutes into the game centre half Jake Moult opened the scoring to groans all around me from home supporters, fearing another half where the Spitfires needed to wait for the opposition to score before they got going.
It took a good ten minutes for the home side to settle and begin to play their football, the Robins however looking dangerous when coming forward. Eastleigh thought they were level on 20 minutes, a melee in the box from a set piece saw Jake Hesketh strike the underside of the bar but not over the line.
Chances did start to come for the home side, notably Tyrone Barnett firing over and having another blocked, but keeper Matty Gould wasn’t called upon to make a save as the visitors went into the break with a one goal lead, Spitfires frustrated but not out of it.
Whatever Strevens said at half time had the desired effect as his side started the second half very strongly from the off and the pressure told just six minutes in.
A corner from the impressive Tom Whelan eventually found the head of substitute Danny Hollands at the far post and the ball was headed back past Gould for the equaliser.
With their tails up the Spitfires nearly made it two minutes later, Ben House’s smart shot was tipped round the post by Gould. As it was, there wasn’t long to wait for a second goal for the home side, a free kick superbly curled home by Whelan from all of twenty-five yards out, Gould given no chance from the moment it left the midfielder’s boot.
The goal certainly seemed to jolt the visitors a little, unsure whether to sit back and defend for a time or take the game forward in the hunt for an equaliser, in the end doing neither nor for a period of the second half.
The home side seemed to lose some momentum when Barnett was substituted and House withdrawn into a more right sided midfield role for the remainder of the game which gave the visitors the impetus to attack and try as they might weren’t able to break through the stout defending from the home side and the three points stayed in Hampshire, a result that puts the Robins just outside the play-off places and lifted Eastleigh up one place above Torquay.
A much needed win for the home side who have yet to find their consistency this season, impressive performances from Whelan and Vincent Harper who at right back grew into the game well and kept Matty Kosylo quiet in the second half. Ben House despite not being on the scoresheet put in the kind of performance that makes me see why scouts constantly have him on their radar while Whelan and Hesketh were both constantly probing and wanting the ball.
Kosylo was the best outlet for the Robins, but faded in the second half as the visitors struggled to get into the game straight after half time and with Eastleigh dealing better with the Altrincham front line than the previous forty-five, they struggled to get back into the game.
Made a nice change to head to a National League match, indeed a match where being a complete neutral almost makes for a different kind of watching if you follow what I mean, more relaxed I guess, but not for those in the dug-out’s……………..