Eastleigh sit unbeaten in fourth place in the Vanarama Conference Premier after a historic week that was topped off on Saturday with an epic 2-2 draw with Gateshead at the Silverlake Stadium.
The Spitfires proved once more against the Tynesiders that they are adapting to life in the non-league top flight and are a force to be reckoned with.
A side freshly promoted like Eastleigh, arguably, should be cannon fodder for teams like Gateshead, who finished third last term and were on the verge of promotion – losing in the Wembley play-off final to FA Trophy winner Cambridge United 2-1.
But that is testament to the strengthening that Eastleigh have done over the summer, which resulted in the bookies tipping Richard Hill’s side for another historic promotion.
What was on display against the Heed was a far more open and attacking match than either of Eastleigh’s opening two matches.
In the 3-0 win at Nuneaton Town, Eastleigh were in the driving seat and, in the 1-0 victory over Aldershot Town, the Spitfires’ defence never looked overly threatened.
In contrast, the Gateshead game was end-to-end and jam-packed full of attacking entertainment as one of the league’s powerhouses came to Stoneham Lane.
The highly compelling match saw Eastleigh concede their first-ever goal in the Conference Premier. Captain Dean Beckwith claims that accolade after flicking a header backwards into his own net. That saw Gary Mills’ team take a 1-0 lead with 20 minutes on the clock.
It looked briefly as if the visitors would start to build the momentum that saw them beat Wrexham 3-0 away on Tuesday and Torquay United 3-1 on the opening day.
But Eastleigh had other ideas and took a 2-1 lead into the break after a ruthless two-minute spell in front of goal that saw goals by Ben Strevens (above) and Jack Midson.
For the first the 34-year-old midfielder was on the same wavelength as Jai Reason. A superb chipped free-kick by his team-mate saw Strevens climb highest as he flicked a header looping over Adam Bartlett into the net.
Midson bagged his first goal after his summer move from AFC Wimbledon on 44 minutes. Despite playing through the pain barrier with migraine over the last two games, the 30-year-old ace was able to convert a Michael Green corner at the back-post with a header (below).
The Spitfires held on to their lead until the 55th minute when Alex Rodman latched onto another dangerous Maddison cross to level the match.
Green – who’d been so effective in creating goal-scoring opportunities from corners – was shown a straight red card for a wild tackle on Rodman with five minutes left.