In Eastleigh’s penultimate pre-season game ahead of the new league campaign, the Spitfires welcomed a youthful Southampton side to the Silverlake Stadium for this annual friendly.
There was a welcome return to Eastleigh for centre back Aaron Martin who signed for Saints from Ian Baird’s side last November. The commanding centre-back was named as captain for the evening and lead the back line well.
The game was decided by just a single, very-well taken Southampton goal, but for both sides it was a good work-out and a decent contest in front of a bumper crowd of 1,655.
Seventeen-year-old SAM HOSKINS scored what proved to be the only goal of the game when he combined to devastating effect with Ryan Doble. Hoskins looked lively throughout the game and took his goal well to round off a swift passing move from the Saints by firing past Gareth Barfoot and into the net in the 21st minute.
The goal came after a close and competitive opening to the game with Eastleigh’s best chance coming in the 16th minute when last season’s leading goalscorer Richard Gillespie was denied by the cross bar from a strong header, following a pinpoint cross from Staforde Palmer.
Goalscorer Sam Hoskins had a powerful low shot parried by Barfoot in the Eastleigh goal as the striker cut inside from the flank to work a shooting opportunity. The effort proved too hot to handle for the keeper, but the former AFC Totton stopper reacted well to gather the ball ahead of Anthony Pulis, who was ready to pounce on the loose ball.
Saints, having taken the lead, looked to stamp their authority on the game and increase their advantage. They came close to making it 2-0 when Ryan Doble had a stabbed shot cleared off the Eastleigh goal line midway through the first half.
Five minutes before the break, Jamie Slabber met Richard Graham’s cross from the left with a close range header but failed to trouble Polish goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski.
The youhtful Saints continued to impress however, as the half came to a close with many bright young talents showing a lot of promise in particular Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lloyd Isgrove threatening the Eastleigh full backs with their direct play, close ball control and pace.
HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-1 Saints
Eastleigh made just one change at the break with Jason Matthews replacing Gareth Barfoot in goal for the second forty-five.
There was little by way of goalmouth action in the opening stages of the second half as both sides cancelled each other out. The game suddenly picked up a minute shy of the hour mark when Isgrove drove forward, cutting in from the left side of the field before smashing a vicious strike towards goal.
The powerful shot from 25-yards had to tipped over the bar by Matthews.
Southampton made their first change with Tony Garrod replacing Oxlade-Chamberlain with an hour played. Hoskins dropped into the right of midfield to accommodate the striker, who joined Doble in attack.
In the 68th minute Jack Saville went on an attacking run from full back and the former Chelsea youngster played a one-two inside the penalty area to combine with Doble. Having done the hard work in breaking into the danger zone however, Saville failed to trouble the keeper with his shot from 6-yards lacking any power.
With 71 minutes played, Eastleigh came agonisingly close to an equalising goal as Jamie Brown met play maker Richard Graham’s delivery with a bullet header from a corner. Bialkowski made a sublime, instinctive save from point blank range to thwart Eastleigh and keep his clean sheet in tact.
Lloyd Foot replaced Ben Reeves in defence with the substitute slotting in at right back, allowing Jack Saville to switch to his favoured position of left back with twelve minutes remaining.
With the game coming to a close Jamie Brown had a decent chance for the hosts as he looked to fire home when given time and space in front of goal, but couldn’t keep his effort down as the midfielder smashed high over the top of goal.
Nine minutes from time, Jason Matthews made an excellent save to deny Tony Garrod who found himself one on one with the keeper. Matthews came out on top, making an important stop with his legs.
Richard Gillespie then had a looping header safely claimed by Bialkowski before Eastleigh gave a brief run out to former Salisbury City player Toby Osman.
Saints held on to their lead to end their pre-season with victory ahead of the all-important npower League One opener against Plymouth on Saturday.
For Eastleigh, it was a good exercise against a strong team of talented youngsters and also pleasing to see Aaron Martin look as confident and mature as ever playing professionally with the Saints against his former club.
Ian Baird’s side have one more friendly, this Saturday against Eastbourne Borough, before the eagerly anticipated league campaign gets under way.
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 0-1 Southampton
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