Eastleigh are through to the 1st Round of the FA Trophy for the first time since the 2007/2008 campaign.
That year the Spitfires went on to the second round where they were defeated by Conference Premier side Crawley Town. Having been eliminated at the first hurdle in five of the last six seasons in this competition, Ian Baird’s side had the task of navigating a potential banana-skin in the form of facing Ryman Premier strugglers Folkestone Invicta.
Following last weekend’s 4-1 drubbing at home; where Staines Town came to the Silverlake Stadium to defeat Eastleigh comfortably, Baird made a number of changes to his starting eleven for this afternoon’s cup clash.
Danny Smith returned to action having missed the previous two fixtures with a bout of flu and then suffering from shingles. Gareth Barfoot was preferred to Jason Matthews between the sticks after the experienced and usually reliable Matthews was unfortunate to make a couple of mistakes against Staines. Ross Bottomley played at right back with Warren Goodhind losing his place in the starting line up; meanwhile Brett Williams replaced the injured Jamie Slabber in attack to partner Richard Gillespie.
Opening the game fairly confidently, Eastleigh had the first shot at goal when Anthony Riviere’s effort from the edge of the area lacked sufficient power to be of any threat to Folkestone goalkeeper Jack Delo.
Moments later Brett Williams did well by the corner flag to beat his marker with good close control before getting into the penalty area and perhaps going down a little too easily. The young striker was involved again in the 10th minute when he headed comfortably wide from Richard Graham’s cross from the left flank.
The Spitfires’ early pressure paid off when they opened the scoring with 11 minutes played. Graham played the ball across goal where RICHARD GILLESPIE stole in unattended to turn the ball home from inside the six-yard box.
Having broken the deadlock, Eastleigh looked the more likely to extend their lead. In the 17th minute, Gillespie and Tony Taggart linked up neatly down the right to set up Riviere. The former Fisher Athletic midfielder latched on to Taggart’s pass only for his side-foot shot to be high and wide of the mark.
Midway through the half, Eastleigh broke up the pitch in numbers as they launched a counter attack on the Folkestone goal. The Spitfires defended a corner well and quickly worked the ball forward from defence to attack where they found four players against just one defender and the visiting goalkeeper. Brett Williams carried the ball into the final third of the pitch but delayed his cross slightly, which perhaps allowed the one defender to position himself and block a shot from Taggart when the ball was played in.
On the half hour, Williams whipped the ball into the danger zone with a deep cross from the right. The goal scorer Gillespie attacked the ball in the centre but couldn’t control his shot on this occasion.
A minute later, Taggart bamboozled the Folkestone defence with his trickery and fancy footwork to work an opening for a threaded pass into the box. Jack Delo read the situation well and just got to the ball ahead of Gillespie at the near post.
The closest Eastleigh came to doubling their lead came eight minutes before half time. A piece of individual brilliance from Williams saw the striker display great strength to hold off his marker before getting a shot away with his weaker left foot in a tight space. Only the foot of the post could save Folkestone as Williams’ shot crashed against the woodwork.
The last of the first half action saw the Spitfires remain in control without managing to penetrate. Taggart came close after being played in on goal by Graham, then, on the stroke of half time Graham sent another good delivery into the box. This time the cross was from the right of the penalty area where the ball sat up nicely for Tom Jordan; the Eastleigh skipper headed over the bar.
HALF TIME: Eastleigh 1-0 Folkestone
After the break Folkestone came out fighting and looked set to make a good go at coming back into the game. Gareth Barfoot had to be alert in the 51st minute to prevent an equalising goal by pushing the ball away from danger following an Invicta corner.
Robbie Kember then made a good run from midfield for the visitors and probably should have been awarded a free kick right on the edge of the Eastleigh penalty area as he was hauled down.
Slightly against the run of play, the Spitfires doubled their lead in the 56th minute when RICHARD GILLESPIE scored his and Eastleigh’s second goal of the game. A free kick on the far side evaded a host of players in the Folkestone defence with the ball finding its way to Chris Holland at the back post. The centre back played the ball across the face of goal where Gillespie was on hand to stab the ball home from close range – a typical striker’s goal.
Richard Graham rounded goalkeeper Jack Delo shortly after Eastleigh had made it 2-0. The winger’s approach play was excellent but Graham took his time to get a shot away; when he went to shoot, a covering defender had got back to make an important tackle conceding a corner kick.
From the resulting set piece, Eastleigh had the ball in the back of the net for a third time. Whilst Tom Jordan wheeled away in celebration, the referee’s assistant on the far side was waving his flag after spotting an infringement. After consultation with his assistant, the referee disallowed the goal for an alleged hand ball.
Just after the hour mark, Folkestone pulled a goal back in stunning fashion to give the visiting side a glimmer of hope. DARREN SMITH hit an unstoppable free kick around 30 yards from goal, to pick out the top right hand corner of Gareth Barfoot’s goal. It was a strike of sheer quality to peg a goal back.
Ian Baird made two changes during the second half with Shaun McAuley, and later Peter Adeniyi, given run-outs as they steadily return to full fitness.
In the 68th minute, Tony Taggart went on a strong run of dribbling that saw the on-loan winger skip past a couple of defenders before drilling a low shot narrowly wide of the post.
McAuley’s first impression on the game was to break away quickly from the halfway line before crossing accurately from the right. Richard Graham was left unmarked at the back post but failed to hit the target with his header.
Fifteen minutes from time, Danny Smith fired a shot towards goal that was deflected wide for an Eastleigh corner. At the opposite end of the pitch, Barfoot was almost caught out by a speculative effort from range by a Folkestone striker that bounced awkwardly in front of the keeper and flew wide of goal.
Into the closing stages of the game, McAuley threatened for Eastleigh with a snapshot to the right of goal which Delo got down well to, making a smart save.
Eastleigh came close to adding a third when McAuley again posed problems to the Invicta back line by lashing a powerful shot across the face of goal.
Two minutes of time were added on when Folkestone began to throw bodies forward in search of a late equaliser and salvaging a replay. Jack Delo, the visiting goalkeeper, came up for a late corner kick but Eastleigh soaked up the pressure to hold on for victory.
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 2-1 Folkestone
Photo: Eastleigh FC
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