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Play-off hopes boosted with third successive win


Blue Square Bet South

Report by Ray Murphy

For the second season running Eastleigh came away from Woodside Park with a single goal victory. This was not the most convincing of Eastleigh displays but at this stage of the season a win is vitally important more than the performance. It is the same circumstances for the home side as Stortford had only managed one victory in their last thirteen matches and have now failed to score at home in their last four matches. Disappointment for them seeing manager Mark Simpson removed from his position after the match.

Eastleigh had to give late fitness tests to Ross Bottomley and Jamie Slabber who both came through them whilst Danny Smith and Warren Goodhind are close to returning to the squad from their hamstrings injuries. Anthony Riviere was also missing with a groin injury. This meant the first start for Eastleigh for Mark Nwokeji who again showed his lethal pace in the opening half. Stortford, trying to end their poor run, brought in midfielder Phil Anderson from Billericay Town and striker Dan Morris who had netted four goals in their previous two reserve team Capital League fixtures.

Eastleigh camped inside the Stortford half for the opening stages and were never troubled in the opening half. In the first five minutes Richard Graham drove a shot over the bar and ex-Eastleigh goalkeeper Ross Kitteridge saved from a Chris Holland scissor kick. Nwokeji used his pace to get in behind full back Mo Habu but only fired into the side netting.

On nine minutes Holland’s header at the far post from a Tony Taggart corner was deflected off the line. Two minutes later Brett Poate's free kick saw Tom Jordan beat Kitteridge to the ball and his header went across the face of goal, but Jamie Slabber only managed to turn his header back in to the keepers willing arms.

The early pressure finally paid dividends on sixteen minutes. A Richard Graham corner was driven too far but collected by Taggart who delicately chipped the ball back into the six-yard box where Nwokeji glanced a header into the net for his second goal in two games.

Holland saw another header from a Graham free kick just wide after twenty-three minutes then four minutes later the home side had their best if not only chance of the half. Reece Prestedge curled a free kick round the defensive wall across the six-yard box with no one being able to apply a finishing touch - Jason Matthews, the day before his thirty-sixth birthday, collected the ball unchallenged.

Play broke straight to the opposite end where Pete Adeniyi laid the ball into the path of Slabber but a bobble on the pitch at the last minute only saw the Eastleigh leading scorer fire his effort over the bar. On thirty-two minutes a quickly taken free kick from Graham saw Nwokeji with a chance for his second goal of the afternoon but he shot wide of the target.

Stortford started the second period having to replace skipper Ben Bowditch suffering with a thigh strain, changing their system bringing on striker Steffan Gaisie. The home side were a different issue to deal with in the second period.

With early cautions at the start of the second period for both Gaisie and Poate from separate incidents, the half turned into a somewhat scrappy affair. Ian Herring's long-range effort on fifty-five minutes was saved by Kitteridge then three minutes later Holland’s header from another Taggart corner was cleared off the line by Aiden Palmer.

On sixty-two minutes a Prestedge corner for Stortford saw Habu head wide then two minutes later the home side arguably missed their best chance of the afternoon. With Eastleigh upset at not having a free kick awarded for them for a foul on Ross Bottomley, Michael Bakare laid the ball inside the area to Tony Garrod who seemed to guide his shot beyond Matthews seemingly to nestle just inside the post but agonisingly for him the ball went just the other side with the stretching Gaisie unable to claim a finishing touch.

Stortford had more opportunities in the second period but were too often let down by some poor passing or some excellent defensive work by Bottomley, Jordan and Holland. Slabber shot over again with fourteen minutes remaining and Graham saw Kitteridge save another shot three minutes later.

Despite an added four minutes of stoppage time Stortford could not pierce the Eastleigh defence and another three important points in the play off race was brought back down to Hampshire.
Bishops Stortford - 120311


  1. Jamie Montigue10:50 pm

    3 successive wins, maximum 9 point return for the week and two clean sheets in a row! Keep this form up and grinding out the results, we'll be in the play offs without doubt.


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