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Eastleigh tipped as favourites
EASTLEIGH have been tipped as Skrill Conference South favourites by the man who led his team to the title last season.
Jamie Day, manager of Welling United, says he can’t see past the Spitfires and their impressive trio of new attacking signings – Stuart Fleetwood, Ben Strevens and Yemi Odubade – when analysing who will inherit the Wings’ crown, writes WENDY GEE.
But, while Eastleigh boss Richard Hill has no real objection to being weighed down with the ‘favourites’ tag, he still believes tomorrow’s opening day visitors Sutton United are the team to beat.
“I’ve got a lot of time for Jamie Day as a young, up-and-coming manager and, when I read what he’d said about us being favourites I texted him and said ‘thanks very much for putting extra pressure on me!’” smiled the Spitfires chief.
“But the fella’s given his honest assessment of our league and, if it wasn’t us he was tipping for the title, it would be someone else. My honest opinion is that Sutton are the favourites.
“They’ve done some very good business and brought in two proven goalscorers in Jamie Taylor (signed from Lincoln City) and Dale Binns.”
Binns, a key cog in the Eastleigh machine that reached the play-off semi-finals last term, is one of several ex-Spitfires in the Sutton ranks.
Us boss Paul Doswell, mastermind behind Eastleigh’s rise from the Wessex to the Conference South, has also signed right-back Mitchell Nelson from Hill’s 2012/13 side. He joins Anthony Riviere, Jamie Slabber, Marvin Williams and Ali Fuseini at Gander Green Lane.
Deep down, though, Hill must be quietly confident he has built an Eastleigh side to be reckoned with.
“Are we one of the favourites?” he asked. “Well, we are because everyone’s saying we are. All I can do is sign people I believe are good players.
“Strevens, Fleetwood, Jamie Collins and Odubade haven’t achieved what they have without wanting to win things. It’s the same with Chris Todd, who’s battled through illness, Dean Beckwith who’s had a League career and Glen Southam who’s won things. Whether we’ve got the mental strength to cope with being favourites may depend on whether we get on a roll or not.
“Eastleigh probably didn’t show that mental strength to start with last season, but we did towards the end when the results started to come.”
Collins (calf), Southam (groin) and Todd (hamstring) are all expected to feature tomorrow despite taking knocks in last Saturday’s North Leigh friendly, but midfielder Will Evans (knee) will miss the start of the campaign and is awaiting the results of a scan.
Doswell, who has never led Sutton to victory at the Silverlake, said: “I’ve watched Eastleigh three times in pre-season and I know it’s going to be a really difficult game.
“Last season we had six points after nine games and missed a play-off place by two points, so if we can do better early on in the season it will give us a chance.”
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