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We're much maligned by everyone - Baird

By Wendy Gee -

IAN Baird admits it deeply disappoints him when his Eastleigh team are written off as a 'long ball side'.

The Spitfires, away to Bishop's Stortford tomorrow, have everything to play for in the Blue Square Bet South, sitting just a point outside the play-off zone in sixth place.

By Baird's own admission they didn't get the ball down and play the football they are capable of during Tuesday's 1-0 home win over Bromley.

But the ex-Saint is sick and tired of people constantly knocking his side - including some of Eastleigh's own fans.

"We've got (top scorer) Jamie Slabber 99 per cent out with a calf strain tomorrow, but luckily Richard Gillespie is fit again, and with Mark Nwokeji and Shaun McAuley, we've got plenty of options up front," said Baird. "But it doesn't matter which way we set up, we're always going to be criticised.

"It disappoints me that people call us a long ball side, it really does. I use it as a weapon to spur us on, but our lads just don't get the credit they deserve.

"The Bromley performance was not as exhilarating as it might have been, but we were exhilarating against Dover a couple of weeks before that and A, we got no praise for it, and B, we didn't get any points.

"Against Bromley we still didn't get any praise, but we did get the points.

"Eastleigh are much maligned by everyone - not just opposition managers and supporters, but even some of our own fans.

"Physically we're a big side and I think that's got something to do with it and I also think criticism from the past has stuck with us when everyone thought of Eastleigh as big spenders."

Baird can just about stomach the flak thrown from outside the Silverlake, but he is hurt when it comes from within.

"You'll never get anywhere in sport unless everyone's pulling in the same direction," he said.

"If I look at the team on our doorstep, Havant & Waterlooville, they seem to be pulling together, but there are always one or two nigglers at Eastleigh who love to criticise.

"It's not just me who notices it, the players do too.

"They read and hear negative things and yet we've played some fantastic football this season without ever getting the praise we deserve.

"We've got 13 massive games to go and we're all desperate to get into the play-offs. It's time everyone started rowing in the same direction."

Eastleigh owe Stortford a beating tomorrow having lost at home to them on the opening day of the season.

Despite creating a stack of chances, the Spitfires were beaten 2-1 by the Hertfordshire visitors, who sit 16th.

"I seem to say it all the time, but this is a defining month for us," said Baird. "After the disappointment of losing against Braintree and Dover, we've bounced back with six points out of six against Chelmsford and Bromley.

"We now play Stortford tomorrow and go to Dartford on Tuesday and it's a chance to get ourselves back in the play-off places."

Midfielder Anthony Riviere (groin) joins hamstring victims Danny Smith and Warren Goodhind on the missing list tomorrow, while Ross Bottomley faces a fitness test on a dead leg.

Fit-again Luke Byles will be pushing for a start after impressing as a sub against Bromley.

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