Eastleigh 4 Hartlepool Utd 3.

FREE-SCORING Eastleigh twice fell behind but still had enough goals in the tank to see off hard-up Hartlepool United 4-3 at the Silverlake Stadium this afternoon.

It made it four league wins on the bounce and eight games unbeaten for Andy Hessenthaler's reborn Spitfires who are fast becoming the great entertainers of the Vanarama National League.

After an opening nine minutes as unexciting as Hartlepool’s dreary grey away kit, the visitors – without a win in nine league games – seized a shock lead.

The sponge-like playing surface, which had soaked up a morning’s worth of drizzle, was partly to blame for the Spitfires’ undoing as central defender Andrew Boyce struggled to stay upright after the ball had bounced off teammate Gavin Hoyte inside the area.

Pools Conor Newton fed Nicky Deverdics who squared for the unmarked MICHAEL WOODS to sidefoot the ball wide of keeper Ross Flitney.

For a side knee-deep in problems on and off the park, Hartlepool were spraying passes about nicely.

But Eastleigh gradually powered their way back into the game and, after Chris Zebroski had had an effort snuffed out for offside, they drew level on 23 minutes with a third goal in two games by defensive titan Ayo Obileye.

The Spitfires won a corner following a goalmouth scramble brought about by some enterprising play from young midfielder Cavaghn Miley.

Pools keeper Scott Loach denied Sam Matthews before some frantic Pools defending kept Zebroski and Williamson at bay.

But there was no escape for the visitors as OBILEYE met Mark Yeates’ corner with booming header which deflected in off skipper Sam Togwell.

Six minutes later Hartlepool nosed their way back in front with another goal from that man Woods.

This time Eastleigh were undone by Carl Magnay’s cross from the right and, although Flitney managed to palm away Deverdics’ near-post flick, the ball sat up nicely for WOODS to head in from close-range.

It could soon have been 3-1 to the visitors, but Louis Laing headed a gift chance well over from a corner.

Eastleigh pressed again, but fit-again top scorer Ben Williamson lost his footing at a key moment, Loach punched away Yeates’ fiercely delivered free kick, Matthews curled one over and then he and Williamson just failed to reach successive deliveries into the box.

But, with the half-time whistle imminent, the Spitfires drew level when Matthews’ pinpoint corner from the right was headed in by the unmarked ZEBROSKI at the far post.

Half-time: Eastleigh 2 Hartlepool 2.

Woods came within inches of completing a hat-trick for the visitors, skidding a shot just wide of Flitney’s right-hand post with just under a minute gone in the second half..

As the stadium scoreboard signalled 46 minutes, the 2,154 crowd began a minutes’s applause for Eastleigh's much-loved president Derik Brooks who founded the club in 1946 and passed away earlier this week at the grand old age of 94.

There had been an impeccably observed minute's silence in his honour before kick-off.

Deverdics wasn’t far away either for Pools, dipping a long-range effort over from distance before Eastleigh posed some danger of their own in an increasingly open game.

Matthews wasn’t quite tall enough to reach Williamson’s cross and then the impressive AFC Bournemouth loanee midfielder exchanged passes with Hoyte and drew a smart stop from Loach who turned his low, drilled effort over.

On the hour Matthews played a starring role again, picking out Miley with a near-post cross that the Channel Islander headed just wide.

Miley then brought another save out of Loach before the wave of pressure eventually wore Hartepool down with 65 minutes gone.

Yeates found the far post with a deep cross from the left and Williamson knocked it down for ZEBROSKI to hook over the line for 3-2.

It got better still for the Spitfires – and ZEBROSKI – on 76 minutes when the muscular No11 thumped in his hat-trick goal from close range after Matthews deep delivery from the right was squeezed back across by substitute James Constable, fresh on for Williamson.

To their credit, Hartlepool never stopped fighting and, after Flitney had saved well with his feet to deny sub Devante Rodney, the never-say-die visitors set home nerves jangling by making it 4-3 in the 88th minute with a peach of a strike by NEWTON, expertly finding the top corner from the edge of the box.

The announcement of five minutes’ added time didn’t help matters and it took some brave defending by Obileye to keep out Newton – albeit that the big man was then fouled by the frustrated Newton who got a booking for his troubles.

The game ended in controversy when Hartlepool were convinced of a handball as Eastleigh defended Deverdics’ dangerous cross. Referee Richard Hulme disagreed and, as a band of Pools players protested, skipper Magnay got a second yellow for arguing.

Eastleigh: Ross Flitney, Gavin Hoyte, Sam Wood, Sam Togwell (Danny Hollands, 84), Ayo Obileye, Andrew Boyce, Mark Yeates (Ryan Broom, 83), Cav Miley, Ben Williamson (James Constable, 74), Chris Zebroski, Sam Matthews. Subs: Ryan Cresswell, Frazer Shaw.

Referee: Richard Hulme.

Attendance: 2,154 (250 Hartlepool)