Eastleigh manager Richard Hill has praised the character of his side as they prepare for the biggest game in the club’s 68-year history.
The Spitfires will celebrate promotion to the fifth tier of English football if they avoid defeat against Basingstoke Town at the Silverlake Stadium tomorrow afternoon (3pm).
Form is very much on Eastleigh’s side as they have won every single home game in the Skrill Conference South since late November!
The club are hoping for a bumper attendance to help cheer them into the elite level of English non league football – just 11 years after they were a Wessex League club.
“Over the last 11 games we’ve picked up 25 points, including a six-game unbeaten run away from home,” said Hill. “To do that at this stage of the season tells you a lot about the character and desire of my players. “But we need to stay grounded and focused.”
Hill has also credited his squad for the way they have welcomed Lee Peacock into the fray.
The 37 year-old former Bristol City striker was beginning his coaching career at the Silverlake with some of Eastleigh’s age-group teams when he was approached by Hill last month.
It proved a shrewd move when he scored the winning goal within two minutes of coming on as a sub against Dover on Tuesday night.
“Although Lee had been around the club, none of the other players really knew him,” said Hill.
“They’ve been working their nuts off all season and it might have seemed that a new player was jumping on the bandwagon.
“So credit to them for accepting him because it can be difficult to bring new players in when we’re challenging for the title at this stage of the season.”
Peacock bundled in the first goal of his short-term deal from close range on Tuesday.
“His goal was our biggest of the season so far, it was down to instinct and experience,” said Hill.
“It was a goal I don’t think we’d have got from a 20 year-old, although he didn’t actually get the last touch – Chris Todd did!”
Peacock, a former Carlisle United trainee who went on to play for Mansfield Town, Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday in amongst lengthy spells with Bristol City and Swindon Town, will be in the squad against Basingstoke tomorrow. “When I asked him about registering he thought I was joking but when he realised I wasn’t he said he’d do anything he could for the club and he’s fitted in very well,” continued Hill. “Injuries meant I had to get someone in but they had to be of the right character.
“When I looked around for players there was nobody who made me think ‘he’ll make a difference to my squad’. “One or two were asking for deals for next season which I wasn’t prepared to do for players I didn’t know much about.
“But we already had an experienced footballer in the building so I just thought ‘why not Lee?’ “I’d got to know him quite well and over the last two years he’s kept himself fit. “If we need to use him we can and if we don’t it won’t be a big hardship for him.
“Don’t forget also that Dan Wishart’s come in [on loan from Alfreton till the end of the season] and been exactly the same.”
Hill is hoping for a more straightforward 90 minutes against Basingstoke, after struggling to break down play off chasing Dover before Peacock’s introduction.
“We played well against a side that didn’t try to play football,” said Hill. “They just tried to kick it as far as they can and when Plan A didn’t work, their Plan B was to kick it higher and further than before.”