Eastleigh’s penultimate game at the Silverlake this season saw them edged out against Ebbsfleet 1-0 after Paul McCallum’s penalty miss meant Kenny Clark’s header was enough for the Kent side to claim all three points.
The game opened up after a tentative first half when a penalty was awarded to the Spitfires after Matthews was tripped halfway through the second. However, ‘keeper Nathan Ashmore matched McCallum’s penalty low down to his left.
Substitute Jake Powell, who probed the Eastleigh defence with through balls in the second half, finally saw a delivery of his come to fruition. His corner into the box was met by Clark who powered home with his head to give Ebbsfleet an unassailable lead with only nine minutes to go.
Spitfire boss Andy Hessenthaler was absent from the game due to illness, but the Spitfires still made three changes from their previous match with Gateshead when Sam Wood, Paul McCallum and Sam Matthews came in for Michael Green, Ben Williamson and the injured Harvey Read.
Ebbsfleet started the brightest only a couple of minutes in when ex-Spitfire Luke Coulson wriggled behind the Eastleigh defence, but Ross Flitney was a match for the forward’s effort only for the rebound to be cleared off the line by Gavin Hoyte moments later.
It was Eastleigh’s turn to attack next when Sam Wood latched onto Mark Yeates’ flick back, but his low powerful effort from the edge of the 18-yard box was blocked.
Again, Coulson threatened the Spitfire goal as he got in behind Broom, but the midfielder did excellently to get back and nick the ball away from the Ebbsfleet man just before he was about to pull the trigger inside the box.
Clark foreshadowed his later effort with a header midway through the first half when his goal-bound effort looked like it was creeping just inside the post, but the fingertips of Flitney kept the scores level.
Flitney yet again denied Ebbsfleet with a fine diving save when Corey Whitely let fly from outside of the box, but the Eastleigh keeper miraculously clawed the ball out of the top corner.
Just before the half was over the Spitfires could have gone into the break ahead when McCallum nodded the ball back to Matthews, who shifted the ball onto his favoured left foot but his shot was blocked by one of the three brave Ebbsfleet defenders who lunged in the way.
Spitfires came out the blocks the quickest after the break and Matthews almost engineered a goal for himself when he skipped beyond a couple of Ebbsfleet players, but his low shot was yet again blocked.
Moments later and Eastleigh threatened again through Ryan Broom’s deviously deep cross to the back post, but it was headed behind by Ebbsfleet captain Dave Winfield as Reda Johnson and McCallum lurked nearby.
The Spitfires had Cavangh Miley to thank for keeping the score level on the hour mark when Flitney didn’t connect with a ball into the box, but Danny Kedwell’s on target header was cleared by the head of Miley to the relieve of Flitney.
With 66 minutes gone the Spitfires were gifted a golden chance to take the lead when Matthews was tripped in the box, but Ashmore guessed correctly low to his left to deny Eastleigh the lead.
Substituted on, Jack Powell made his first impact on the game when he threaded through an inch-perfect pass for Whitely, who forced Flitney into a fine save to deny the energetic forward.
Jack Powell’s next delivery proved decisive for Ebbsfleet when his corner landed on the head of Clark, who rose the highest to head the ball beyond Flitney in the 81st minute.
Deep into stoppage time, Yeates delivered a Spitfire corner, with Flitney in attendance in the opposition box, but Ebbsfleet cleared to seal the victory.
Ebbsfleet stretch their unbeaten run in the National League to 11 while the Spitfires are home again on Saturday when they take on high-flying Macclesfield Town in front of the Silverlake crowd for the last time this season.