Eastleigh put in a solid, all-round display this afternoon to get back to winning ways in the Blue Square Bet South and climb to seventh in the table. Victory sees Ian Baird’s side keep in close contact with the teams in the play-off positions.
The Spitfires had the luxury of naming an unchanged starting eleven as they took on Dartford. Looking at the quality on the bench says a lot for the squad that has been assembled at the Silverlake Stadium with important players Gareth Barfoot, Ross Bottomley, Will Hendry, Brett Williams and Jamie Brown all having to settle for being named as substitutes. Of course this excludes the likes of Peter Adeniyi, Shaun McAuley and Brett Poate who are all still to come back from injury.
Inside the opening minute of the game, on-loan winger Tony Taggart won a free kick, which he took himself and saw the keeper Andy Young get behind his 30-yard strike.
Moments later, Taggart was involved again as he provided a cross from the right that was met by a diving header from Jamie Slabber. Eastleigh’s leading scorer was crowded out well by two defenders and the header went wide of the target.
The opening exchanges then saw both sides fighting for possession with the match becoming very much a midfield battle.
Dartford had the ball in the back of the net in the 13th minute, but the visitors were penalised for a foul on Eastleigh goalkeeper Jason Matthews.
Slabber then had a half volley from 20-yards that flew high and comfortably wide of the mark before at the other end, the visitors went on the counter attack. Lee Burns broke forward with purpose running at the Eastleigh defence before the ball came loose to Lee Noble who attempted a swerving shot with the outside of his boot that flew over the bar.
Six minutes later Tom Jordan flicked the ball on at the near post from a throw-in. Richard Gillespie was on hand to meet the ball with another header and came close from 8-yards.
There wasn’t a lot between the sides for a large part of the first half as both teams cancelled each other out; as a result there was little by way of goalmouth action. Richard Gillespie had done a lot of running in attack but with little reward for his efforts.
Finally the game came to life three minutes before the break when RICHARD GRAHAM popped up with a moment of inspiration. Jamie Slabber held the ball up well in the box to tee up Graham, who neatly side-stepped a challenge before planting an exquisite, crisp low drive into the bottom corner of goal beyond the keeper to break the deadlock.
Just prior to the excellent opening goal, the goal scorer crossed the ball for Gillespie who had a header saved.
It was a fine spell of pressure from Eastleigh to end the half on a high with the goal and successive corners to make Ian Baird’s team talk a whole lot easier at the break.
HALF TIME: Eastleigh 1-0 Dartford
Within a minute of the re-start, Eastleigh had their opponents on the back foot. Anthony Riviere made a run into the penalty area before striking the foot of the post with a diagonal left-foot shot across the keeper.
Richard Gillespie had a shot deflected through to the keeper soon after.
Eastleigh seemed to be growing in confidence by the minute and were now passing the ball around neatly; increasingly looking by far the better side.
Across the board, there were exceptional individual performances from Eastleigh but also as a unit the team looked strong and formidable. The defence, in particular Chris Holland and Tom Jordan, were impressive throughout the afternoon and rarely looked troubled. In the midfield, Danny Smith was as consistent as ever and played an excellent game battling for every ball alongside Riviere. Richard Graham and Gillespie also drew the plaudits for their contributions.
Past the hour mark, Graham attacked from the left hand side and cut in-field to shoot low towards the bottom corner. Dartford’s keeper had to be at his best to smother the attempt at his near post.
The Spitfires doubled their lead in bizarre fashion in the 64th minute. Tony Taggart back-heeled the ball into the path of Gillespie down the right, where the striker looked up and crossed into the centre. Paul Goodacre had the misfortune of turning the ball past his own goalkeeper in trying to deal with the cross, as the ball crept past the keeper and into the net.
Elliot Bradbrook came close at the opposite end for the Darts when a low ball came across Eastleigh’s six-yard box, but once again the Spitfires stood firm to keep their clean sheet in tact.
Baird made three substitutions in the closing stages of the game with Brett Williams, Will Hendry and Jamie Brown all getting run-outs.
Ten minutes from time Danny Smith volleyed a shot high over the bar. Five minutes later, Riviere had a cross in search of the unmarked Williams cut out well in front of goal.
The last of the action saw ANTHONY RIVIERE clinch victory in style, two minutes into stoppage time. Jamie Brown had clipped the ball neatly forward looking for Richard Graham when the Dartford keeper raced off his line to get to the ball first in an attempt to deal with the danger, only to head the ball straight to Riviere. The classy midfielder put an extra gloss on the victory with a third goal as he sent the ball back past the stranded keeper from 30-yards to nestle into the open goal.
Eastleigh were good value for the three points with an efficient display, and will look to kick on in the league by continuing to stay in touch with the playoff positions.
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 3-0 Dartford
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