Tonight saw FA Youth Cup action return to The Silverlake, as Aldershot Town’s academy made the 47 mile trip down the M3. Just under two weeks before their first team is set to visit in the National League.
Amongst the names making the most of their valuable game time was Lewis Waterfield, fresh off his stunning strike at AFC Bournemouth last month. Joshua Cotton started between the stick as the side were skippered by Lewis Beale.
After an initial bit of early defending it was Eastleigh who broke the deadlock within five minutes. Following a blocked shot by Liam Callaghan, Matt Simm picked the ball up on the right flank just inside the box. His cross was squared to Lewis Visioli at the back post, who finished into an open net.
Aldershot enjoyed the lion’s share of possession following the Spitfire’s early breakthrough, but the home side stood firm; a free-kick on the left hand flank was well dealt with by Eastleigh centre-back Jacob Tanswell. Mackenzie Hill was next to show his defensive capabilities; clearing at the back post as Aldershot seemed to find space in the box.
Eastleigh then came close to a second as Tanswell turned attacker, hitting the post from inside the six-yard box following a Spitfires corner. But it was the visitors who would be next on the scoresheet. Their number two picked up the ball just outside the penalty area and let fly, catching out every Spitfires player as it sailed into the top left-hand corner.
With 15 minutes gone and a stunning goal halting Eastleigh’s momentum it was Aldershot who were in the ascendancy. The visitors held the ball in midfield well and began to steadily build attacks as the first-half wore on.
Eastleigh’s only rest bite came through set pieces; Michael Wright delivered a couple of dangerous free-kicks in from both flanks. Tanswell was there again to meet a Wright cross but headed straight into the keeper’s arms.
The Spitfires had pace in attack, and looked threatening when utilising this as Callaghan and skipper Beale stormed forward. But Aldershot seemed unfaced; closing the gaps and ensuring Eastleigh could not regain the lead on the counter.
As the half hour mark approached it was the hosts who looked the more dangerous. Wright let fire from range but failed to test the goalkeeper. Whilst pace down the right-hand flank through Hill and Simm resulted in a several set pieces for the Spitfires, which always troubled the Aldershot defence.
As half-time approached, the game became more evenly matched with both sides having their share of the chances. But it was the visitors who would complete the comeback on the 36th minute mark.
The Spitfires failed to clear the ball as Aldershot bombed forward down their right-hand side, causing a flick on by the visitors’ number nine which was met by their number four. A turn and a shot into the bottom left corner from close range was enough to give Aldershot the lead.
For the remainder of the half the game was contested in midfield. Beale had Eastleigh’s best chance of an equaliser with five minutes till half-time. His long range strike was well saved by the Aldershot keeper.
But the teams went in at half-time with the score line 2-1 in favour of the visitors Aldershot Academy.
It was the leaders at the break who held the early momentum in the second half. Within three minutes of the re-start Aldershot could have been three ahead but for a glaring miss curled wide.
But Eastleigh’s defensive capabilities were more than up for the test. Ben Scorey did well to time his sliding challenge to perfection inside the box and prevent an Aldershot cross.
The Spitfires soon began to create chances of their own. With 53 minutes played Simm did well to wriggle away from his man after flicking the ball over his own head after being in a tight position. Simm found Beale in the box who turned the defender but saw his shot blocked.
A chance soon came for Callaghan, who broke free and seemed to be one-on-one before an Aldershot man came back to deny Eastleigh’s number nine. As the hour mark loomed, it was the home side in the driver’s seat.
The Spitfires’ first change of the game came in the 66th minute, with goal scorer Lewis Visioli being replaced by winger Mosese Tekei. The change followed the game’s first booking; a yellow for an Aldershot midfielder who came in from behind.
But the change did not affect Eastleigh’s momentum; three free-kicks in ten minutes sent in by Callaghan, Tekei and Waterfield worried the Aldershot defence, but did not bring the equaliser.
The third Eastleigh challenge following Ollie Smith’s introduction in the 75th minute was a force one. Lee Perrett went down on the halfway line and had to be replaced by Mason Goddard as the 80-minute mark came and went.
Despite the injury, the Spitfires continued to plug away. Substitute Tekei found space down the left-hand side but could only find the side netting from a tight angle. Tekei then produced a fine cross to the back post, threatening the Aldershot keeper how had to punch clear.
Eastleigh continued to plug away. With a minute left on the clock Tekei was involved again as he produced a superb diving save from the Aldershot goalkeeper. Seconds later the home side felt they deserved a penalty, but to no avail.
But it was Aldershot who got the third and final goal of the game, despite a dominant second half Eastleigh performance. Their number 16 broke free of the final man as the Spitfires pushed men forward, before finishing between the legs of Cotton in goal.
By Adam Whyte