Eastleigh secured an emphatic victory over promotion rivals Woking to enhance the Spitfires’ playoff credentials. It was a strong team performance from Eastleigh to beat a very in-form Woking team who had recorded eleven wins and a draw from their previous twelve league games.
Ian Baird’s side remain in eighth place but have played fewer games than all the teams above them and have narrowed the gap on the playoff positions to just two points with games in hand.
This afternoon was the complete reverse of the heavy defeat to Welling last weekend, which Eastleigh put well and truly behind them; with a massive victory over Garry Hill’s Woking.
The Spitfires made four changes to the starting eleven from last Saturday. Ross Bottomley dropped out of the squad completely and was replaced by Warren Goodhind at right back. Danny Smith came back into the side following injury to play alongside Ian Herring in the centre of midfield; Anthony Riviere started on the bench. Tony Taggart made a return to the starting line up at the expense of Peter Adeniyi. Meanwhile Shaun McAuley came into the side replacing striker Mark Nwokeji, who was injured today and is set to return to parent club AFC Wimbledon following a month’s loan spell at the Silverlake Stadium.
Eastleigh inflicted early damage on the Cards starting the game at lightning speed to go two-nil up with just four minutes on the clock.
TONY TAGGART struck first scoring inside the opening 60 seconds following a well-worked move across the pitch. Ian Herring passed the ball out wide to Shaun McAuley, who in turn got to the by-line and crossed from right to left. Richard Graham picked the ball up on the far side and sent another testing delivery into the Woking box with a looping cross that was brought under control by Taggart and fired past the keeper and into the net.
Incredibly, in an almost surreal start to the match, JAMIE SLABBER doubled the lead in the fourth minute scoring his 16th league goal of the season to score against his former club and put Eastleigh well in control so early in the game. The goal came about from a high ball into the box as Luke Byles’ deep free kick from was nodded down well by Chris Holland and Slabber did the rest prodding the ball home from close range. It was truly a dream start for Eastleigh.
Woking hit back in the 13th minute to reduce the deficit. ANDY BURGESS curled a long range free kick towards goal that went in off the post to beat Jason Matthews low to his right, despite the Eastleigh stopper’s best attempts to keep the ball out.
A minute later Eastleigh were back to threatening again after the slight setback of conceding. Ian Herring’s long throw was flicked on by Tom Jordan to the far post where Chris Holland connected with the loose ball but couldn’t quite keep his shot down.
Eastleigh continued to control the game and came close once more when Richard Graham brought the ball under control just outside the penalty area. The Eastleigh winger attempted a delicate lob over the Woking keeper Andy Little, who Graham had spotted off his line, but the effort was well saved.
With 28 minutes played, Graham played a low cross into the Woking box, which fell kindly for Tony Taggart who fired a powerful shot narrowly over the bar.
The outstanding Warren Goodhind, who performed excellently throughout the match, made a crucial intervention in the 32nd minute to make a terrific clearance to remove the danger. Craig Dobson had got down the right hand side and sent a cross into the Eastleigh penalty area at tremendous speed and precision. Had Goodhind not hooked the ball away, the visitors would have had a clear chance at goal to draw level.
Eastleigh held a well-earned lead at the break after starting the game in the best possible fashion with two exceptionally quick goals from Taggart and Slabber.
HALF TIME: Eastleigh 2-1 Woking
The bumper crowd of 877 were in fine voice to make for a good atmosphere inside the stadium to match the football that was on show.
Two minutes after the restart, Eastleigh forced a corner early in the second half. Tony Taggart’s set piece found the run of Chris Holland to perfection, but the commanding centre back nodded just wide of the target from 8-yards.
Woking’s Jay Davies fired comfortably over the bar in the 48th minute, before Jason Matthews made a vital save with the score still at 2-1. Andy Burgess’ header looked certain to find the top corner of goal to draw the scores level, but against the odds Matthews at full stretch kept the ball out. Had this effort gone in, who knows the end result may have been different; as it happened Eastleigh from this point went on to control the game and were the only side in it.
Jamie Brown made a welcome return to Eastleigh FC following a spell away at Winchester City. The target man striker came off the bench for Slabber, who picked up an injury that will need to be assessed. Brown was given a warm reception and quickly got into the thick of things with the type of whole-hearted performance that the Eastleigh fans have become accustomed to, having seen Brown play for the best part of four seasons.
Tom Jordan came close to extending Eastleigh’s advantage in the 52nd minute when Graham played the ball across the six-yard box, only for Little to make a brave save at the feet of the towering centre half.
Chris Holland then headed a Woking cross behind his own goal that went a couple of yards past the post for a corner, which Eastleigh went on to defend well.
The Spitfires restored their two-goal cushion when captain TOM JORDAN headed home a third Eastleigh goal from a Richard Graham corner on the hour mark. It was a crucial goal that helped to settle the score and increase the chances of Eastleigh claiming all three points.
In the 68th minute, Shaun McAuley was denied by the woodwork as his long range effort clipped the outside of the post. Eastleigh did add a fourth goal however, just two minutes later and it was no more than deserved for a dominant display.
TONY TAGGART completed the scoring twenty minutes from time to round off an excellent victory by scoring his second and Eastleigh’s fourth goal of the afternoon. Tony broke through on goal as the hosts counter-attacked from a Woking free kick and the winger slipped the ball neatly past Andy Little in the Woking goal.
Tom Jordan was named as the sponsor’s man of the match for another solid performance at the heart of the Eastleigh defence where he won every header and tackle. Taking nothing away from Jordan, special praise must also be given to Ian Herring who was superb in midfield with a combative, controlling display.
It was an excellent three points for Eastleigh who must now take this performance into another big game on Tuesday night; Ian Baird’s side travel to Welling United seeking revenge for their recent 4-1 defeat. Should Eastleigh perform to the level they did today, there shouldn’t be too many problems.
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 4-1 Woking
See Graeme Horobin’s Eastleigh FC photos here
Listen to live commnetary on match days on Radio Spitfire