Eastleigh 2 Bromley 1.
THE relief was palpable around the Silverlake Stadium this afternoon as Eastleigh assured themselves of mathematical survival in the National League.
It was mission accomplished for director of football/caretaker manager Richard Hill as goals by Scott Wilson and Sam Matthews clinched a 2-1 win over in-form Bromley to haul the Spitfires over the line with two matches remaining.
Targetman Craig Allister who, like Hill, returned in February to help the Spitfires out of a crisis, said: “Going back to when the gaffer came in, what we’ve achieved from where we were is immense. No two ways about it, we were scrapping.
“I felt we deserved the win today. The energy and the way we played was spot on – and it has been ever since the gaffer came in. The desire can never be questioned.
“The workrate, day in day out, has been high for the last two months and it has to be the same next season.”
Eastleigh went ahead with their first shot of the game with nine minutes gone.
A dangerous move looked to have broken down, but the ball was swung in again from the left by Sam Matthews and, as Bromley tried to clear, they hit one of their own players.
Wilson was in like a flash, stretching a foot out and steering the ball beyond former Spitfires favourite Ross Flitney in the Bromley goal.
The Spitfires might have had another on 14 minutes but, with Michael Green’s low cross bobbling awkwardly, McAllister swiped the ball wide.
Bleary-eyed Bromley looked nothing like a side that had won their last three games, scoring ten in the process – Lee Minshull’s free header wide from a sixth-minute corner being the sum total of their early goal threat.
They finally roused themselves with half-time approaching, but shots by Blair Turgott and Jordan Higgs barely tested Eastleigh No1 Graham Stack.
Save for a couple of Bromley corners and free-kicks, it was a low-key start to the second half until Hakeem Odoffin’s inspired burst for Eastleigh was crudely stopped by Minshull on the right edge of the area.
Flitney failed to hold Matthews’ crisply-struck free-kick but the lurking McAllister couldn’t quite capitalise.
That was swiftly followed by easily the visitors’ best spell of the match with Stack tipping away Shane McLouglan’s goalbound header and Gavin Hoyte clearing off the line following an unsightly mix-up in the home area.
On 82 minutes Eastleigh looked to have victory comfortably in the bag when man-of-the match Matthews made it 2-0 with a sweet left-foot strike from the edge of the box following determined play by McAllister.
But that feeling of relief lasted only a minute as Higgs spectacularly hit back with an absolute screamer from 35 yards.
Hill’s troops had to defend for their lives in stoppage time, but two headers from Ravens skipper Jack Holland and a last-ditch shot by sub Bradley Goldberg came to nothing as Eastleigh jubilantly assured themselves a seat at non-League’s top table next season.
Eastleigh: Graham Stack, Gavin Hoyte, Michael Green, Sam Togwell, Paul Reid, Adam Dugdale, Sam Matthews (Ayo Obileye, 90) Ben Strevens, Scott Wilson (James Constable, 64), Craig McAllister, Hakeem Odoffin. Subs (not used): Matt Tubbs, Ross Stearn, Nick Hall.
Referee: Samuel Allison.