Eastleigh’s season finished with the grandeur and style that had been missing for most of the 2017/18 campaign – it turned out to be a comfortable 4-1 victory away to Solihull Moors.
The first half, which included chances for both sides saw just the one goal, Sam Matthews’ driving effort found the bottom corner of Sheridon Martinez’s net.
The Spitfires flourished in the second half. Matthews completed his first professional hat-trick, before Paul McCallum also got on the scoresheet – the hosts did put the ball in the net, but it couldn’t dampen Eastleigh’s spirit.
The day started out rather drab and dreary, and with the backdrop of planes coming in and out of Birmingham International, the World Cup in Russia couldn’t come soon enough. Before the Spitfires could clock off they had one more mission, and that was to claim three points.
Both sides started brightly, but the game didn’t click into gear until the tenth minute. Alex Reid was played through on goal, rounding Mark Childs, only to be denied by a determined Gavin Hoyte, who cleared calmly off the line.
The Spitfires upped the ante by using the channels to their advantage. Michael Green, Chris Zebroski and Matthews all producing quality crosses, but none managed to find the head of an Eastleigh forward.
With 12 minutes of the first half left, the Spitfires dealt the first blow. Zebroski cut in from the left and threatened to shoot, before finding Matthews on the edge of the box, who slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
The Spitfires then nearly doubled their lead before the break but when the Eastleigh midfield moved the ball quickly from left to right finding Hoyte on the overlap, McCallum rose to meet the cross but he would be denied by the post.
The Spitfires started the second half in style, the ball fell to Matthews – the Bournemouth loanee went on one of his dazzling runs where the ball appears to be stuck to his foot, before unleashing a powerful shot which flew into the back of the net.
Seconds later, Eastleigh had a third, and Matthews had his hat-trick. A McCallum back-heel from inside the box was blocked, but Matthews was on hand, like a true poacher, to claim the match ball.
Eastleigh continued to pile on the pressure, causing havoc for The Moors defence – the home side only forcing Childs into one save in the opening 30 minutes of the second half.
The Spitfires’ continued pressure was rewarded with a fourth – Matthews cut in from the right, dinking the ball over the Solihull defence, finding McCallum at the back post to slot home.
Solihull did pull one back, Adi Yussuf’s thunderbolt strike would turn out to be only a consolation on an afternoon which belonged to the Spitfires.
One further positive was the introduction of young Ollie Dennett, the Academy graduate who signed first his professional deal less than 24 hours previous – who came on with 15 minutes remaining.
The result means Eastleigh finish the 2017/18 season on 56 points – 14th in the National League.