Spitfires suffer setback

Jamie Slabber scored a consolation against Welling

Jamie Slabber scored a consolation against Welling

Eastleigh’s play-off hopes suffered a set-back against promotion-seeking rivals Welling United at the Silverlake Stadium this afternoon.

Spitfires manager Ian Baird described the goals that his side conceded as “horrendous” and that the first half performance from Eastleigh was “as bad as it has been since Staines (4-1 home defeat) last November”.

The hosts only had themselves to blame in this top of the table clash with a rare poor defensive display, as Baird described: “The goals we conceded were horrendous by anybody’s stretch of the imagination.”

This afternoon’s heavy defeat perhaps surprisingly came on the back of a rich vein of form from Eastleigh in recent weeks. Prior to this clash with Welling, Jason Matthews had kept three consecutive clean sheets in an unbeaten run of four games that included three successive wins over Chelmsford City, Bromley and Bishop’s Stortford.

Baird was forced in to making two changes to the side that played out a 0-0 draw with Dartford on Tuesday night. Luke Byles came back into the starting line up in place of Brett Poate at left back, whilst Tony Taggart – who was missing through illness today, was replaced by the fit-again Anthony Riviere.

With just seven minutes played, an otherwise dull opening to the game came to life when Welling’s leading goal scorer Andrew Pugh put the visitors in front. A shot from the left of the Eastleigh penalty area was charged down but fell to the feet of ANDREW PUGH who fired a low, left-footed shot across goal and into the bottom, far corner with a tidy finish from a tight angle.

In response, Eastleigh from their first corner of the game saw Chris Holland head the ball back into the centre where Jamie Slabber nodded over the bar from ten yards out.

Welling hit back again with a spell of pressure that kept Jason Matthews busy – the Eastleigh goalkeeper having to punch away a cross from Jamie Day and then moments later rushing out well to save at the feet of Pugh.

ANDREW PUGH doubled the Wings’ lead in the 21st minute for his 16th league goal of the campaign. The Welling striker nutmegged Eastleigh captain Tom Jordan before dinking a shot over the on rushing goalkeeper Jason Matthews. Luke Byles had got back to just about keep the ball out on the goal line, but the danger wasn’t over as Pugh pounced on the rebound to make sure; prodding home his second of the afternoon.

Eastleigh had a couple of half-chances midway through the half when Slabber saw his header fly across the face of goal in the 24th minute, and soon after the target man and leading Eastleigh scorer, brought Richard Graham into the game with a strong piece of hold up play. Graham cut inside following Slabber’s lay off, only for his shot from just outside the area to fly comfortably high and off target.

Matthews was called into action moments later to prevent Jamie Day from making it 3-0 to the visitors. The Wings’ player-manager found space to the right of goal but his side-foot effort was soft as Matthews got down well to make the save.

Disappointingly, Eastleigh conceded a third goal with less than half an hour played. LUIS CUMBERS was presented the ball, almost as a gift from Jason Matthews following a back pass to the keeper from Bottomley. Cumbers did what all good strikers do in closing down the keeper and had the simplest of tasks in rolling the ball into an empty net. After the game Baird described another “horrendous” goal conceded as “one of those football bloopers”.

Towards the close of the first half, a wild shot from centre-back Chris Holland cleared the stand, whilst at the opposite end, Welling had the ball in back of the net again but this time it was ruled out for an infringement.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-3 Welling United

After a first forty-five to forget from the Spitfires, there was plenty of room for improvement as far as Eastleigh were concerned.

Two minutes after the break, a Richard Graham cross from the left found Anthony Riviere in the centre, whose shot was closed down and looped over the Welling goal.

In the 51st minute, a free kick by Jamie Day was curled narrowly wide of the post and two minutes later skipper Jack Parkinson let fly with an audacious attempt from distance that wasn’t too far wide of the post.

Eastleigh used all three subs with a triple substitution in an attempt to salvage something from the game in the 54th minute. Richard Gillespie came on for Mark Nwokeji, Shaun McAuley replaced Riviere and Warren Goodhind took the place of Ross Bottomley at right back.

Three minutes shy of the hour, Eastleigh’s Jamie Slabber forced Welling goalkeeper John Whitehouse into an excellent save. The stopper stood tall to keep out a powerful effort to the left of goal from Slabber, who got the ball back to follow up with another attempt on goal that had to be turned behind for a corner. Eastleigh steadily improved forcing three corners in quick succession, but couldn’t find a way through as Welling cleared a number of balls into the box.

Shaun McAuley came close with a fine shot from 30 yards that whistled over the cross bar as the Spitfires came knocking without success.

Luke Byles defended well to get an important touch at the far post following a cross by Loick Pires. Welling attacked down the right and the delivery from Pires would have found the head of Andrew Pugh, on a hat trick, were it not for Byles being in the right place to make the intervention.

Fifteen minutes from time, Jason Matthews made a great save to keep out Jack Parkinson’s powerful header from point blank range.

Richard Gillespie then had a left foot shot on target, but it was from too far out to cause much trouble for the Welling keeper, Whitehouse.

With three minutes left to play, JAMIE DAY killed off any hope of a miraculous Eastleigh comeback to put the game well and truly beyond doubt with a fourth goal for Welling. The player-manager finished superbly after controlling with one touch and then finding the top corner with a well struck half volley.

Welling nearly made it five, when Matthews passed to an oncoming Welling forward in the closing stages of the game. Tom Jordan had got back to spare any further embarrassment to get a foot to the goal bound shot.

JAMIE SLABBER scored a consolation goal for Eastleigh with the very last kick of the game, as he curled an excellent free kick expertly around the wall and into the net for his 15th league goal of the season.

Ian Baird reflected on a disappointing defeat: “They (Welling) would have thought at half time they can’t believe it. That’s the most disappointing thing to me the goals we conceded.

“We came out second half we had a bit of a go, they scored a good goal through Jamie Day, but when you concede three goals like that it is nigh impossible to get back in the game, it’s massively disappointing.

“As I said to the players, the first half performance was disappointing, the score line 4-1 was disappointing and the manner of the first half performance was disappointing.

“It’s disappointing to lose three points but we’ve got ten games to go, we’ve got 30 points to play for and that is the most positive thing I can say about it.

Eastleigh have a clear week now to recoup ahead of next Saturday’s visit to the Silverlake Stadium of Woking. Baird said: “We’ve got to fight, we’ve got to come back and we’ve got to come back with a bang.”

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-4 Welling United

@Jamie Montigue 2011

Read Jamie’s blog for all the latest news on the Spitfires here!

See Graeme Horobin’s Eastleigh FC photos here