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Eastleigh Trophy triumph
Eastleigh marched into the last 16 of the FA Trophy this afternoon by taking their first ever Conference Premier scalp in the competition.
The Spitfires pulled off a notable 2-0 victory over Gateshead with a goal in each half from Jamie Collins and Stuart Fleetwood.
The Spitfires had to make do without goalkeeper Ross Flitney (eye infection) and defender Dean Beckwith (thigh strain), while Craig McAllister was again named on the bench after picking up a dead leg in training.
It was a somewhat nervy start for Gateshead keeper Adam Bartlett who, in the first few seconds, saw Will Evans’ long punt bounce over his head and behind and then had to back-pedal to clear Lewis Sirrell’s awkward, bobbling back pass.
Little was seen of the visitors as an attacking force until, in the sixth minute, Eastleigh lost possession from a free kick awarded for a push on Ben Strevens but the Tynesiders produced nothing to trouble Flitney’s understudy Jack Dovey.
Bartlett then confidently collected Damian Batt’s free kick after Jai Reason had been caught by Josh Walker ten yards into the Eastleigh half before the Spitfires panicked the visitors into conceding two successive corners.
Sirrell had to hastily intercept as Strevens tried to lay the ball off to skipper Glen Southam and, from Southam’s subsequent flag kick, towering defender James Curtis headed out for another.
Reason then tested Bartlett from distance before Gateshead responded with three decent chances.
First Colin Larkin cut in from the right and had a shot deflected behind at Dovey’s near post and then James Marwood glanced a header narrowly over.
With the Tynesiders suddenly turning the screw, Eastleigh then had to scramble away Walker’s downward header following a corner.
As Eastleigh responded, Strevens beat visiting skipper Ben Clark to a header and set Yemi Odubade away down the right. The ex-Gateshead man delivered a cross but it went behind Reason who had found space in the box.
As the visitors began peppering the Spitfires’ area with balls from the right, Craig Baxter’s acute, angled shot very nearly crept past Dovey into the far corner and then Walker hit a first-time volley well over.
The visitors had a penalty shout ignored as Batt blocked Marwood’s strike into the area and then it was Gateshead’s turn to come under a barrage of pressure.
On 27 minutes Fleetwood burst down the left, holding off Baxter, and drilled a deflected shot into the side netting.
Chris Todd attacked Southam’s corner but Gateshead just beat him to it and then Bartlett stuck up an arm to push Reason’s deep cross behind.
It was going to take a bit of magic to break the deadlock and it arrived on 33 minutes via Eastleigh’s experienced former Conference Premier midfielder Jamie Collins.
Strevens’ low shot was saved by Bartlett to his right but the keeper miscued his clearance and presented the ball to Collins some 20 yards out.
He played a short pass to Reason, who back heeled it straight back to Collins and the No 4 netted a glorious first time shot from just inside the area with 33 minutes gone.
Gateshead might have levelled five minutes later when former Everton man John Oster presented the ball on a plate to Walker but he drilled it wide.
The game was held up while goalscorer Collins received lengthy treatment but he hobbled through until half time and reappeared for the second half. Half time: Eastleigh 1 Gateshead 0 A timely interception saw Collins playing Fleetwood in on goal at the start of the second half and then, at the other end, Oster’s powerful strike from distance was too hot for Dovey to hold, Eastleigh clearing the danger.
Just after the hour Odubade looked odds on to double the Spitfires’ lead after great work by Reason but his shot was straight at Bartlett, who was able to block. Odubade was looking hungry against his old club and flashed the ball dangerously across goal after getting the better of Sirrell down the right.
The game went into a brief lull before Eastleigh livened it up again with another superbly worked goal.
Reason pick-pocketed Clark on the right of the area as he dwelt on the ball, Strevens chested it back to Reason who laid it off for Fleetwood to power the ball home.
On 77 minutes Dovey managed to get a touch amid the scramble for Baxter’s dangerous cross as sub Liam Hatch closed in and fellow sub Adam Boyes thumped the loose ball over.
On 84 minutes Eastleigh so nearly scored again when Fleetwood received a return pass from sub Craig McAllister and was on his way round the keeper when he was dispossessed by a great last-ditch interception by the men in lurid lime green.
As Gateshead tried to push up to rescue the tie, Eastleigh continually caught them on the break with Southam and substitute Romone Rose steering efforts wide and Fleetwood firing tamely at Bartlett.
Late on a similarly fine challenge by Dan Spence denied Larkin a close-range finish.
There was still time for ex-Saints youngster Dovey to play his part, turning over Baxter’s goal-bound free kick in stoppage time.
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