RICHARD Hill has stepped down as Eastleigh boss to concentrate full time on his director of football role.

His right-hand man Andy Hessenthaler has taken up the first-team manager's reins, assisted by player/coach Ben Strevens.

The Spitfires are labouring 18th in the Vanarama National League and exited the FA Trophy at Ebbsfleet on Saturday.

Excluding the Hampshire Senior Cup, they have gone eight league and cup games without a win, but there is no suggestion Hill was asked to stand aside.

The 54-year-old has been fighting fires off the pitch ever since his February return to the club, which was reeling from the successive departures of managers Chris Todd, Ronnie Moore and Martin Allen in the space of seven whirlwind months.

Having led the Spitfires into the National League during a highly successful first spell at the Silverlake, Hill answered an SOS call from chairman Stewart Donald with Eastleigh under serious threat of losing their top-flight status.

Appointed director of football, Hill also took on the managerial duties on a temporary basis and successfully steered the Spitfires to 15th place – seven points clear of the drop zone.

His position as team boss was made permanent at the end of the season when former Gillingham, Dover and Leyton Orient manager Hessenthaler, 52, was unveiled as his No2.

Hessenthaler’s presence has been a godsend to Hill. Without it, he would have struggled to find enough hours in a day to juggle on-field and off-field issues.

“I’ve been trying to do two roles, but I was manager and I’ll take the blame for what’s happened on the pitch,” said Hill. “Although perhaps the biggest thing I should be blamed for is leaving the club in the first place.

“But what happened in the two years after I left was not my fault and you can’t blame Stewart Donald either because all he’s ever done is support the people who work for him and back them.

“Has this season been successful on the pitch? No.

“But was it a success when I came back last season? Yes - and I still maintain that keeping Eastleigh in the league was the biggest thing I’ve achieved in football.

“I brought Hess in knowing he could take over and he’s had a few months now to see the football club. He’s been involved on the player recruitment side, as has Ben Strevens and Paul Reid (head of recruitment), and they’ll run that now.

“I could have stayed on as manager, but we all agreed this was the right time to start getting a structure in place going forward. I’m doing what I believe is best for the club.”

Eastleigh CEO Mark Jewell commented: “Now seems to be a logical time to make the change.

“Richard brought Hessy to the club at the start of the season. He has a great track record, is well liked and has fitted in extremely well.

“It goes without saying that we have every confidence in him.

“This will allow Hilly to move, full time, into his role as director of football.

“There is a lot to do, both on and off the pitch, and I very much look forward to working with them both, in their new roles.”