Eastleigh’s third consecutive game at home saw the Spitfires up against Welling United this evening; where the hosts missed out on a good opportunity to return to a playoff position as their poor home form continued.
After tonight’s result, Eastleigh still haven’t won at home since their 4-0 thrashing of lowly Weymouth back in early February.
Player-manager Jamie Day’s Welling side came to Eastleigh on the back of two wins to make it three on the spin tonight and draw level on points with Eastleigh in the table with a game in hand.
Ian Baird’s side had ended a run of three straight home defeats with a draw at home to Bath City on Saturday, but were looking to get back to winning ways on home turf this evening – it just didn’t happen and Welling thoroughly deserved their victory.
The Spitfires had the better of the first half with Richard Gillespie coming close with a backward header that struck the underside of the cross bar. Tony Taggart also forced a decent save out of the Welling keeper Charlie Mitten as Eastleigh looked to take control.
Welling meanwhile had a couple of breaks of their own, especially on the counter attack where they made full use of Tom Whitnell’s pace up against Eastleigh’s high defensive line.
Young striker Jay Folkes made his debut for Eastleigh having signed from the Glenn Hoddle Academy this week. Anthony Riviere returned to the starting line up following a spell on the sidelines with injury. The two changes from the weekend’s draw with Bath City included Ross Bottomley coming out of the side following surgery on his thumb, and Shaun McAuley dropping to the bench.
Eastleigh were the first side to threaten with a Peter Adeniyi half-volleyed cross into the danger area being turned just wide of goal by Folkes in the opening stages of the game.
At the opposite end, Tom Whitnell found a bit of space on the left for a shot which was well kept out by a perfectly executed sliding challenge from young Eastleigh defender Luke Wilkinson.
Whitnell again posed problems to Eastleigh’s back line with his movement off the ball. This time in the 21st minute the striker found himself clean through on goal only for Billy Lumley to do enough in smothering the ball at the edge of his penalty area to mop up the immediate danger.
Moments later, Michael Deane’s delivery from a free kick couldn’t have been much better placed at pace, as the ball zipped through a host of players flying narrowly wide of the up right and just needing a touch to turn the ball goal wards.
Eastleigh had their best chances of the game soon after with the aforementioned Gillespie header that cannoned back off the woodwork following the striker getting ahead of his marker to meet an accurate cross from the right.
Tony Taggart was the first Eastleigh player to really put Mitten to the test with a dipping volley from 25-yards that forced the Wings’ keeper into his first save of the game.
Baird’s side were on the up it seemed and appeared to be heading for the break the better side seeing more of the ball. Ashley Nicholls drove forwards from the engine room in the middle of the park to send a low cross into the six-yard box. Gillespie again lost his defender by getting to the ball first but couldn’t quite find the contact needed to steer the ball into the back of the net from close range at the near post.
A lapse in concentration just before the break saw the visitors open the scoring against the run of play when Eastleigh were poor in defending a soft free kick into the box. Welling captain JACK PARKINSON took full advantage to bundle the ball home from close range and give his side the upper hand.
HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-1 Welling United
At the beginning of the second half, Eastleigh made their first change with Ian Oliver coming on to replace Brett Poate at left back.
Welling seemed to take momentum from taking the lead at the end of the first half, by beginning the second forty-five where they left off. The visitors certainly came out of the blocks the fastest and looked most likely to add to the score line.
In the 50th minute, Lee Clarke rifled home a shot from outside the box to find the back of Lumley’s net, though Eastleigh were saved on this occasion by the referee’s assistant who had his flag up for an earlier offside.
It wasn’t long before Welling came back to attack the Eastleigh goal again with Sam Hurrell breaking free down the left hand side. The winger drove a decent effort across the keeper looking for the far bottom corner, but saw his shot fall just wide of the target.
The Wings certainly made a lively start to the second half having a good spell of pressure by keeping Eastleigh on the back foot.
Six minutes shy of the hour, Ian Oliver had a cross from the left loop up and onto the top of the Welling cross bar, before Welling came calling again with a deflected Michael Deane shot rolling safely through to Lumley.
Welling continued to impress in their hard work at passing the ball to feet and more noticeably at nullifying Eastleigh’s attacking force by severely restricting the home side’s chances going forward.
Lumley had to be on his guard to prevent Welling racing into a two-goal lead from a Michael Deane corner kick that led to a clear opportunity at goal, at the far post.
Ian Oliver forced successive corner kicks with a couple of testing crosses as the game wore on. Eastleigh came closest to drawing level in the 70th minute when Luke Wilkinson rose unchallenged from a Taggart delivery, only to head high over the bar from just six yards out.
The centre back showed the ability and skill of a centre forward a minute later when the Portsmouth loanee combined with Riviere before making half a yard of space to turn and strike the ball cleanly from distance. Mitten found himself having to dive to his right to keep the shot out with a good, solid save.
Eastleigh drew level with their best move of the game when a trademark run on the right from Tony Taggart saw the winger cut inside on to his favoured left foot and flight a delightful, pinpoint cross into the middle. RICHARD GILLESPIE needed no second invitation and glanced a fine header beyond the keeper and into the corner of goal for the equaliser.
Getting back into the game with just over ten minutes remaining, Eastleigh perhaps should have kicked on or at least held on for a share of the spoils but neither occurred as Welling restored their lead within a matter of minutes.
Dean Cracknell missed a glaring opportunity with a free header from an Anthony Finn cross immediately after the goal. The miss didn’t mean a lot as TOM WHITNELL raced clean through despite claims for offside, where he finished sublimely with a nonchalant chip over Billy Lumley. The Eastleigh keeper was caught in two minds whether to stay on his line or come out, and in the end he was left stranded by his defence as Welling led by two goals to one.
With ten minutes still to play, the game wasn’t quite over as Anthony Riviere stole in at the far post when attacking substitute Sam Butler’s inviting cross only to nod the ball into the side netting.
LEE CLARKE put the game beyond any doubt to ensure the visitors left Eastleigh with all three points. Wilkinson attempted a headed clearance which went up in the air and behind the defender allowing the Welling striker to race forwards and finish with aplomb in the 90th minute scoring the Wings’ third goal of the night.
There was still time for Taggart to have a header cleared off the line for the Spitfires and a couple of goalmouth scrambles from late Eastleigh corners but it was Welling who had done an emphatic job in the end to see the game through.
It was a disappointing way to end the night having worked hard to get back in the game at 1-1 and then conceding so soon after Gillespie’s leveller. The third goal added insult to injury and really, the home form needs to improve if we are to have any chance for a late push for the playoffs this campaign.
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1–3 Welling United