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McAllister winner ends Hill's birthday boredom
RICHARD Hill brought up his half-century by masterminding league leaders Eastleigh’s fifth straight win in the Skrill Conference South.
But Hill – who turned 50 on Friday – would have preferred to have celebrated in more extravagant style instead of feeling his side had been straight-jacketed by Hayes & Yeading in a slender 1-0 victory.
Craig McAllister headed the all-important decider on 54 minutes from Jai Reason’s corner to keep the Spitfires a point clear of Bromley at the top.
But, with a crowd of 1,202 taking advantage of free admission at the Silverlake, had hoped there might be more entertainment on offer between two in-form sides.
Under the guidance of former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland defender Phil Babb, Hayes had won their last three games.
But, ironically, it wasn’t until after they had had right-back Anthony Furlonge dismissed for a second bookable offence shortly before half-time that the visitors showed any sense of adventure.
“I was bored on the touchline,” admitted Hill. “We had so much possession and we could perhaps have been better in the final third and got in a few more crosses. And, when we did get crosses in, we could have been better on the end of them.
“But when a team just sits in there like that, what do you do?
“From the very start Hayes didn’t really try to win, they just came to contain us and it’s very difficult when there are so many men behind the ball and they just condense play and leave no space.
“There was a case to be made for ‘do we try and turn them around and get in behind them?’, but they were playing that deep that the ball would have run out of play!
“It might have helped if the pitch had been slicker and allowed us to play with a bit more tempo, but we were forever waiting for the ball to come.”
Leading up to the game, Babb had suggested Hayes would try and catch Eastleigh on the break.
He had told his local press: “They’re a powerful side, but they like to push forward and that leaves gaps. We’ve got quite a bit of pace in our side so that might play into our hands.”
But when push came to shove, Hayes were so preoccupied with shackling the Spitfires that they rarely ventured out of their own half until the 37th minute when Furlonge fatefully got his marching orders.
Already on a caution for petulantly kicking the ball away, the former Stevenage teenager initially did well to get past Michael Green and into the Eastleigh box. But he let himself down with a late challenge on Dean Beckwith who had come across to cover and was punished with a second yellow by Tewkesbury referee Derek Eaton.
Up to then Eastleigh had made all the running with Ben Strevens testing Hayes ’keeper Mikel Ruiz with an early header from Green’s long throw and then Ruiz springing to his left to turn away McAllister goal-bound effort from Strevens’ deep cross.
In between, Strevens appeared a little fortunate to avoid a card when, in fending off Kelvin Bossman, he caught the Hayes striker in the face right in front of the visitors’ dugout. But despite a posse of players gathering round, ref Eaton let him off with a verbal warning following consultation with his linesman.
Yemi Odubade was next to threaten but, having held off visiting skipper Dean Inman, he flashed a shot across the face of goal and wide. That was to prove the former Gateshead marksman’s last contribution as he limped off injured to be replaced by holding midfielder Jamie Collins, who had been named the bench following a slight groin strain.
As Eastleigh continued to dominate, McAllister’s goal, which rebounded in off the upright despite Ruiz’s best efforts to save it, should have been the prelude for more.
But, from out of nowhere, ten-man Hayes upped their game and created three chances in quick succession. Having comfortably dealt with Bossman’s 20-yard strike, Spitfires ’keeper Ross Flitney then pulled off two outstanding saves. First he brilliantly finger-tipped Frankie Merrifield’s 30-yard blast onto the crossbar before turning the dropping ball over and then he smartly diverted away substitute Kamaron English’s low shot as it threatened to sneak in at the near post.
Trouble averted, wide man Romone Rose’s arrival in place of Stewart Fleetwood brought Eastleigh back to life and they finished in the ascendancy to see out a hard-fought win.
“Once we’d got our goal, we didn’t have to force the play,” said Hill. “I was bored but, like I’ve said many times, there’s more than one way to win a football match.”
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