EASTLEIGH revved-up for Tuesday’s visit to league leaders Bromley with an outstanding 3-1 home victory over Ebbsfleet in the Skrill Conference South this afternoon .
Jai Reason was the star of the show, netting two penalties and rounding off victory with a sumptuous strike against the ten-man visitors. The Spitfires reintroduced Michael Green and Yemi Odubade into their starting line-up after their seven-match winning streak was ended at Weston on Tuesday. Ebbsfleet, up to third, included two ex Eastleigh men, Osei Sankofa and Daryl McMahon in their starting eleven. The Spitfires made a promising start, but the difficulties of the boggy, far-end goalmouth were evident as early as the second minute when Jamie Collins was unable to dig the ball out of the mud after latching onto Green’s long throw.
The game proceeded at a fast and furious pace but, for all the competitiveness of the players, quality was lacking early on with both teams denied time on the ball and forced into hurried passes.
The first real chance took 15 minutes arriving when Jai Reason sent a free kick just over having been shoved to the ground in an aerial challenge with Fleet skipper Paul Lorraine.
The Kent visitors responded with a passage of passing football, ending with Eastleigh keeper Ross Flitney comfortably saving Michael West’s angled effort from the left. Eastleigh had Reason’s strength and determination to thank for breakin the deadlock with 20 minutes gone.
Unable to work himself an opening inside the area, he took the ball out towards the left touchline before laying it off and making his way back into the danger zone. As the ball was delivered back in, the No. 10 had Lorraine all over him as he raced to retrieve it and the referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot as the pair crashed to the ground.
REASON quickly composed himself to make it 1-0 from the spot, sending Preston Edwards the wrong way as he found the keeper’s bottom right-hand corner.
Eastleigh were starting to get on top of a tightly fought game and, having had a header deflected out for a corner, Odubade went on a strong run to the byline. But, as he slipped the ball back, it held up in the mud in front of goal and McMahon got across to clear. Ebbsfleet’s Billy Bricknell, who had been off the field having treatment on a head injury during Odubade’s foray forward, produced the visitors’ biggest threat to date on the half-hour.
His powerful, low shot squirmed out of the grasp of the diving Flitney, but Eastleigh right-back Dan Spence was alert to the danger as Ben May sought to capitalise.
There was another threat to Eastleigh on 39 minutes when May got the better of Spence on the left and delivered an inviting cross which West headed over.
On 42 minutes Glen Southam had Ebbsfleet back-pedalling with a determined run from midfield. But, just as he had the goal in his sights, Lorraine flung himself across to deflect the skipper’s thumping effort wide.
There was concern for Eastleigh in stoppage time when goalkeeper Flitney over-stretched himself attempting to punch away Chris Sessegnon’s deep cross. Thankfully he was able to continue after treatment.
Half-time: EASTLEIGH 1 EBBSFLEET UNITED 0 After a quiet start to the second-half punctuated by treatment to Eastleigh midfielder Collins, Ebbsfleet hit back with a 53rd minute bolt from the blue.
There appeared to be a suspicion of off-side as the ball was played forward to BRICKNELL who, having got in behind the Eastleigh defence, calmly lofted the ball over a stranded Flitney.
The Spitfires responded positively with Sankofa having to cut out a threatening cross by Green before Reason stung Edwards’s hands with a ferocious drive from the right. Their good work was rewarded on the hour when excellent play by Spence took him to the byline and he pulled the ball back to McAllister at the near post.
The big target man got the ball in the net at the second attempt, but the referee had already blown for handball on the line by the grounded Sessegnon, who was red carded.
A penalty was awarded and again REASON out-witted Edwards from 12-yards for his second goal of the game.
Four minutes later The Spitfires might have been awarded a third penalty when Reason’s fierce blast was too hot for Edwards to handle and the keeper appeared to catch McAllister as he closed in on the rebound. Then, just as the heavens opened and a fierce gust of wind shook the roof of the main stand, there was another big penalty shout from the home crowd for Michael Corcoran’s challenge on Odubade.
Ebbsfleet were buckling and, on 74 minutes, Eastleigh went 3-1 up when, following another good run by Spence and the outstanding REASON rounded off his hat-trick with an exquisite curled effort from the edge of the area. Reason went off to a hero’s reception and was replaced by young Sam Wilson with ten minutes remaining. Ten-man Ebbsfleet felt they were denied a penalty when Anthony Cook went tumbling in the box, but it was wishful thinking by the visitors who had been completely outplayed by the Spitfires in the second-half.