The Spitfires returned to winning ways as Josh Hare’s 56th minute header was enough to get them through a tricky away trip at FC Halifax Town.
Hare headed in a Yeates free-kick during the second half and Eastleigh once again showed their defensive capabilities to see out the result.
Ben Strevens was boosted for his visit to the Shay with the return of key defensive players. Max Stryjek returned in goal following being cup-tied last week in the FA Cup, whilst full-backs Josh Hare and Michael Green reclaimed their places on either flank.
Reda Johnson’s absence from the side meant Andrew Boyce started alongside Alex Wynter at centre-back, with Ben Williamson and Danny Hollands also getting starts in midfield.
Their opponents today, FC Halifax Town, lined up in a 4-3-3 formation; danger men Matty Kosylo and Dayle Southwell leading from the front.
As the temperature plummeted to a disappointing five above freezing, the Spitfires were looking to move closer to those top nine in the National League as they got the game underway.
It was indeed the visitors who set the early tempo. Gobern was taken down on the edge of the box inside the first minute before Yeates went close from the resulting free-kick’s rebound.
As the game edged towards the five minute mark the hosts began to shift momentum; Kosylo running at pace to put the Eastleigh defence under pressure.
Wide midfielder Jacob Hanson also caused the Spitfires some problems; setting up Jonathan Edwards in the box who’s shot is well blocked.
Whilst the pressure had certainly switched to the home side, Stryjek remained relatively untroubled as the game reached the ten minute mark, only having to collect a couple of high half-chances
Eastleigh soon got a chance of their own, a long ball sent up by today’s skipper Danny Hollands was headed down by McCallum into the path of Williamson. On the half volley the midfielder hit his effort just wide.
With the 20 minute mark looming the game began to even out; both sides saw a good portion of the ball, but neither goalkeeper was forced into anything too demanding.
The game continued in this manner for the next ten minutes, becoming scrappy at times as both sides grew frustrated at the resiliance of each team’s defence.
Michael Green was taken down by Edwards on the half-way line, before Hollands was alleged to have fouled Cameron King moments later – a pattern of events which typified the first-half.
It was Yeates who had the chance of the half so far. The Spitfires number ten found space centrally outside the penalty area and his long range-strike forced a great save from Sam Johnson.
The Spitfires then threatened again; Williamson broke free on the left flank, squared the ball to Yeates who shots into the ground and forced a save. The save fells to the feet of both McCallum and Gobern who couldn’t convert.
As the game continued to be a fiery one – Mark Yeates was booked for a foul just inside Eastleigh’s half – the Spitfires had another effort.
McCallum was fouled but took a quick free-kick, finding Hare on the right wing. Hare let fly and his powerful shot forced Johnson to spill the ball, but ultimately collect well.
Halifax looked to respond and had their fair share of corners to do so from, but most fell comfortably into the arms of Stryjek in the Eastleigh goal.
As the first half wore on neither side looked like they would break the deadlock, meaning at the interval it was all square.
Halifax got us underway following the break, with both sides looking to improve on their first half performances.
The opening few minutes suggested little had changed; Halifax called for a foul as McCallum went up fairly for a header whilst both sides’ defences stood strong as either side threatened.
Whilst the Spitfires started the first half brightly it was the hosts who were the more dangerous in the opening ten minutes of the second.
Hanson broke into the box and attempted to square it to Edwards who was less than three yards out. Luckily for the Spitfires a combination of Stryjek and Boyce helped the visitors to clear before a shot could come in.
The Spitfires responded in the best way possible. Yeates whipped a dangerous ball in from a free-kick on the right flank, which was met perfectly by the returning Josh Hare. Johnson got a hand to it, but the header had enough power to give Eastleigh the lead.
The game opened up following the goal, the visitors continue to threaten a shaky Halifax defence before the home side had a great chance to equalise.
Edwards looked as though he was through one-on-one with Stryjek before Wynter produces a superb sliding challenge to win back possession for the Spitfires. Moments later Kosylo twisted and turned into the Eastleigh box, but was out muscled by Boyce before he could produce an effort.
Stryjek remained calm and collected in the Spitfires net as Halifax pressured, collecting a Hanson cross before producing a Cruyff turn to get past the onrushing Edwards.
But with 20 minutes to go Halifax still had failed to seriously test the goalkeeper on loan from Sunderland; the Spitfires looking strong in defence as the sunlight reduced and the temperatures dropped.
On the 74th minute mark Halifax’s Joe Skarz went down with a head injury leading to both medics being called onto the pitch alongside a stretcher, causing a substantial break in play.
Skarz was forced off the field in the 78th minute, with everyone at Eastleigh hoping his injury does not prove too serious.
A touch of the tempo left the game following the injury, both sides taking a few minutes to rebuild the momentum that had built up before the foul.
With less than ten minutes to go the game began to open up once again. McCallum received the ball from a Halifax defender inside the host’s box, but was hounded out before he could let fly.
Minutes later Kosylo showed his pace and agility to break down the right wing, but he couldn’t get his cross in as Wynter blocks the ball with a challenge on the slide.
With only minutes remaining it was all Halifax as the home side pushed for an equaliser, but Eastleigh remained strong.
But Halifax will feel they should have grabbed an equaliser right at the depth. A lofted ball from the right flank was met by Josh Staunton in acres of space and only inches from goal. The defender somehow fires over.
It finished 1-0 to the Spitfires, who return to their winning ways in the National League.
– Adam Whyte