Eastleigh picked up a valuable three points with a home victory over Thurrock on Saturday afternoon.
The Spitfires scored twice in the space of two minutes courtesy of centre backs Chris Holland and Tom Jordan to hand Ian Baird’s side a two-goal advantage at the break.
Experienced striker Lee Boylan pulled a goal back for the visitors three minutes shy of the hour but Eastleigh went on to seal victory.
Tony Taggart scored his tenth goal of the season with a controlled volley in the closing minutes after Jamie Brown’s stinging shot was parried by the Thurrock goalkeeper Joe Wooley.
Thurrock finished the game with ten men as Chris Bush was shown a second yellow card prior to Taggart’s goal, which settled the game.
Ian Herring was replaced in the starting eleven by Anthony Riviere in midfield, whilst striker Richard Gillespie earned a starting berth in place of Shaun McAuley.
Eastleigh were looking to bounce back from Tuesday night’s 3-0 home defeat to Farnborough and also wanted to avenge their 2-1 loss at Ship Lane in late January. A victory would keep Eastleigh up to pace with the sides challenging for a playoff spot – Ian Baird’s side still have a game in hand to play.
The first attempt of the game came when Lee Boylan was fouled just outside the Eastleigh penalty area in the sixth minute. The free kick that followed from Lee Flynn failed to trouble Jason Matthews in the Eastleigh goal.
A minute later Thurrock’s Danny Hockton had a good sight at goal but squandered his opportunity when picked out by an incisive through ball. The 32-year-old forward scuffed his shot with the outside of his boot straight into the arms of Matthews.
Thurrock continued their bright start to the game when Joe Carlos’ dangerous cross from the left was cut out by an important clearance by Luke Byles. The Eastleigh defender intercepted to clear the danger and begin a counter attack for the hosts.
Eastleigh’s first attempt on goal of note came on a quarter of an hour. Richard Gillespie’s clever pass split the Thurrock defence superbly to find Jamie Slabber in space to the left of goal. The Spitfires’ top goal scorer struck the ball cleanly but fired his left-foot shot hard and low into the side-netting.
Luke Byles was at his best to break up another Thurrock attack in the 21st minute following Matt Bodkin’s one-two exchange with Dean Cracknell.
At the opposite end, Eastleigh saw an effort come back off the cross bar when Jamie Slabber headed towards goal but it remained goalless mid-way through the half.
In the 28th minute, a sweeping move from the visitors saw one and two touch passing from Joe Carlos and Dean Cracknell to set up Boylan to the right of goal. Thurrock were thwarted as Boylan’s snapshot was well saved by Jason Matthews to keep the scores level.
The deadlock was broken by Eastleigh with half an hour played and it came from an unlikely source as centre-back CHRIS HOLLAND popped up with a fine finish to open the scoring. The former Bath City defender picked up a loose ball following an Eastleigh free kick and rifled an unstoppable right-foot shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Eastleigh wasted little time in building on their lead as they doubled their advantage just under two minutes later! Captain TOM JORDAN stole in at the back post unattended to meet a Tony Taggart cross and poke the ball home from close range much to the delight of the Eastleigh faithful.
Two goals in two minutes capped a productive first half for Eastleigh who were on course for three points at the halfway stage.
The goals knocked the stuffing out of Thurrock and Eastleigh came close to adding a third two minutes before the break when Richard Graham’s free kick was headed narrowly over the bar by Tom Jordan.
HALF TIME: Eastleigh 2-0 Thurrock
At the start of the second half, former Spitfire Matt Bodkin picked out Danny Hockton with a cross from the right but the striker’s header was wide when well placed.
Eastleigh’s first chance of the half came in the 52nd minute when Luke Byles found Jamie Slabber with a low delivery from the left. Slabber once again showed excellent feet and close control to turn and spin his marker before sending his effort agonisingly wide of the post with the keeper beaten.
Richard Gillespie was put through on goal soon after only for a heavy touch to let him down as he bore down on goal to give Joe Wooley the chance to claim the ball.
In the 55th minute, Chris Bush let fly with a good effort from 30-yard free kick, where he drilled the ball low with power. Jason Matthews dived to his left to get his body behind the strike well and clutch the ball to his chest.
Coming up to the 60-minute mark, Thurrock halved the deficit when LEE BOYLAN pulled a goal back for the visitors. The former Canvey Island hotshot who had scored a hat trick for Thurrock last weekend, received the ball to feet in the Eastleigh penalty area where his turn and shot beat Matthews to find the net.
Moments after conceding, Eastleigh saw an effort come back off the post when Slabber’s shot found its way to Gillespie who was denied by the woodwork. Gillespie had an even better chance in the 63rd minute following a terrific run and threaded pass by Taggart whose creativity and vision cut the Thurrock defence wide open to put ‘Gilly’ through on goal. The former Bashley striker didn’t make as good a connection with his striker as he would have liked, allowing Wooley to make a comfortable save.
Jacob Mingle nodded wide of goal for the visitors amongst a spell of sustained pressure from Thurrock. Jason Matthews was called upon to keep his side in front and handled the pressure of balls into the box showing a safe pair of hands.
Jamie Slabber headed wide of the target in the 71st minute as he met a cross from Graham in the centre.
The game was closely contested and delicately balanced at 2-1 to Eastleigh. The next goal would be important and so it proved.
Four minutes from time Thurrock were reduced to ten men when Chris Bush was shown a second yellow card for a sliding challenge on Danny Smith.
Eastleigh then came within inches of adding a third goal when Jamie Brown’s header across goal put the ball into the path of Shaun McAuley, the two substitutes combining well, but somehow the latter’s shot went wide.
In the closing minutes the Spitfires scored an all-important third goal to clinch the three points courtesy of TONY TAGGART, his fourth goal in five matches.
Shaun McAuley pulled the ball back to Jamie Brown whose powerful goal-bound shot was too hot to handle for the Thurrock goalkeeper. Taggart pounced on the loose ball with a controlled half volley to find the net and seal victory for the Spitfires.
FULL TIME: Eastleigh 3-1 Thurrock
@Jamie Montigue 2011
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