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Spitfires shot down by Angels

EASTLEIGH 1-2 TONBRIDGE ANGELS
TUESDAY 20th MARCH 2012

Blue Square Bet South

Match report by Jamie Montigue

For the most part, it was an end-to-end, open game - one that Eastleigh looked to be edging on the balance of play. The result didn't entirely reflect the performance as the Spitfires went down to a third straight home defeat, but the manner of the loss was disappointing and a bitter pill to swallow.

Conceding twice in the last ten minutes (having led 1-0 for the majority of the second half), Ian Baird's side were undone in stoppage time by a killer blow.

Bradley Bubb had opened the scoring three minutes after the break before Tonbridge's Frannie Collin struck a penalty against the cross bar in the 68th minute. It looked as though Eastleigh would go on to seal victory to end a poor run of form, but the visitors drew level with nine minutes remaining through Joe Benjamin. Lee Browning then condemned the hosts to further misery as the Spitfires' lead evaporated with virtually the last kick of the game.

Looking at the positives, the overall performance from Eastleigh up until the final ten minutes of the game was good with some neat, attacking moves and passing a joy to watch at times. Young Ben Wilson, who came in for the injured Michael Green at left back, was excellent throughout the game especially taking into consideration it was Ben's first start in the league since the opening day of the Blue Square Bet South season versus Basingstoke Town.

Three changes were made to the starting line up from the side defeated 3-2 by Dover on Saturday. As mentioned, Wilson came in for Green. Lee Peacock made his first start in place of Lee Phillips whilst instrumental midfielder Daryl McMahon made a welcome return to the side. McMahon, after a short absence, came in for popular striker Jamie Slabber - who departed for Chelmsford City today and incidentally scored on his debut for his new side tonight.

Eastleigh began the game well with Bradley Bubb and McMahon linking up well in the early stages to force a corner kick. From the resulting set piece in the sixth minute, Andy Forbes rose high above the Tonbridge defence to power a header towards goal that had to be cleared off the line.

Just after former Eastleigh midfielder Chris Piper fired over Jack Dovey's goal, the Spitfires worked the ball well with McMahon at the heart of it. The attack eventually lead to a free kick when Mitchell Nelson was brought down. McMahon's free kick was played short to Ian Herring, who played the ball low into the penalty area. Bubb reacted first in the six-yard box but fired his shot wide of the post.

McMahon saw plenty of the ball for Eastleigh and had two attempts in the 16th and 17th minutes. His first went comfortably wide and the second saw the former Boreham Wood player cut inside, getting the ball on to his left foot, only to scuff a tame shot straight at Lee Worgan in the Tonbridge goal.

It soon became apparent that Tommy Warrilow's side could possess a threat on the counter attack, particularly through the quick and tricky customer in Nathan Koranteng down the left hand side. Dovey had to be alert to Koranteng in the 19th minute by racing off his line to put the ball into touch after it looked as though the Angels were through on goal.

Worgan, the Angels goalkeeper, similarly had to be on his toes to keep out the Spitfires. Bradley Bubb played a defence-splitting pass to find the run of Chris Flood, who was denied by a brave stop from Worgan at his feet.

In a game not short of opportunities to score at either end of the pitch, Chris Piper was the next to come close midway through the half. Dovey was called into action to turn the ball over the bar for a corner after Piper's dipping shot towards goal from the edge of the area was heading in.

With 27 minutes played, Andy Forbes made an important intervention to cut out a Koranteng cross. Eastleigh then had another chance of their own in the same minute but Peacock slammed his shot high over the goal.

Koranteng again provided cause for concern for Eastleigh in the 32nd minute with a teasing, low ball into the danger area from the left that narrowly evaded Frannie Collin at the far post, who was stretching for the ball.

A corner from Rory Hill landed on top of Dovey's net in the 36th minute, whilst five minutes before half time, Eastleigh came close from a free kick. McMahon delivered the ball into the centre where both Gary Elphick and Lee Peacock attacked the ball well and had the beating of Worgan, who was lost. The header went just wide.

There was time for one more chance for each team in the closing stages of the first half. Firstly, Chris Piper flicked the ball over the head of Ian Herring and sent a half volley off target. Eastleigh then had an even better chance on the stroke of half time. Gary Elphick, up for a set piece, rolled the ball across goal for Bradley Bubb who pulled the trigger but was denied by a fine save from Worgan to keep the scores level after an eventful first 45.

HALF TIME: Eastleigh 0-0 Tonbridge Angels

Eastleigh began the second half well with Bubb looking to put the Spitfires on the front foot. Andy Forbes played a good ball over the top, which Bubb took into his stride before lifting a chipped pass into the box only to find no one up there with him.

BRADLEY BUBB then opened the scoring in the 48th minute after a trademark combination with Daryl McMahon. McMahon's inch perfect through ball cut through the Tonbridge defence where Bubb raced through to beat the keeper and notch his 10th Eastleigh goal in just 12 appearances for the club.

Dovey saved a swerving Rory Hill shot by watching the ball all the way in the 52nd minute. Eastleigh then put together an intricate passing move a minute later that culminated in Bubb and Lee Peacock combining to good effect. The latter hit a shot from the right with the outside of his boot that wasn't too far away from goal.

Chris Flood was picked out with a good pass from Jamie Brown in the 61st minute but saw his effort saved by Worgan. Meanwhile Frannie Collin couldn't keep his shot down when he had a sight at goal.

A penalty was awarded in the 68th minute when Gary Elphick was adjudged to have dragged Mikel Suarez to the floor. Collin stepped up to the spot from 12-yards but smashed his penalty with plenty of power against the cross bar as Eastleigh breathed a sigh of relief and held on to their slim advantage.

Collin fired over from a 72nd minute free kick and Chris Flood was then denied by some good defending as Tonbridge deflected his goal bound shot for a corner.

Ben Wilson was standing out and drawing plenty of plaudits from the supporters who appreciated his effort and hard work in a strong performance from the youngster.

Unfortunately for Eastleigh, Tonbridge equalised with nine minutes remaining. Chris Piper inadvertently played a one-two off the referee's back-side before threading a pass down the right flank to find Collin, who got to the by-line. The ball was then cleared off the line by Mitchell Nelson but substitute JOE BENJAMIN was on hand to slam home the loose ball to peg the Spitfires back.

McMahon had a shot blocked in the 90th minute and then found Brown from a corner who couldn't steer his header in.

With virtually the last kick of the game in the third minute of stoppage time, Tonbridge Angels scored their second goal to turn the game on it's head and seal all three points. Piper was instrumental in the goal with a fine pass over the Eastleigh defence to find LEE BROWNING who had stole in unattended to beat Dovey from just a couple of yards.

FULL TIME: Eastleigh 1-2 Tonbridge Angels
Tonbridge 200312

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