IT was an afternoon that would have made Derik Brooks proud as his beloved Eastleigh took positive strides forward both on and off the pitch.

The opening of the club’s new 550-seat stand extension and a fourth National League win on the bounce – 4-3 against Hartlepool - was a fitting way to honour the Spitfires’ founder and president who passed away earlier this week at the grand old age of 94.

Until recently it looked as if the ambitious ground developments at the Silverlake Stadium were in danger of leaving the playing side behind as the Spitfires' pedigree squad struggled to convert their elusive talent into points.

But, try as he might to play it down, new boss Andy Hessenthaler has created a growing belief that the play-offs might just be achievable after all.

Once again the Spitfires did not convince defensively as they twice fell behind to a cash-strapped Pools side who are without a win since the middle of November.

Going forward, it was a different story, however, as menacing marksman Chris Zebroski crowned a man-of-the-match performance with the first hat-trick of his career.

It means the free-scoring Spitfires having netted 13 times during a perfect 12-point January, pushing Hessenthaler’s great entertainers to within seven points of the play-off promised land.

A banner bearing the words “Forever thankful. One Derik Brooks” was poignantly unfolded in the centre-circle as an impeccable minute’s silence was observed before kick-off in tribute to ‘Mr Eastleigh'.

Derik wouldn’t have approved of the defending that gifted Michael Woods two goals in a difficult first half for the hosts.

But, of late, Eastleigh have developed a ‘you score and, we’ll score more’ mentality, suddenly making the Silverlake an irresistible place to be.

Giant defender Ayo Obileye snuffed out Hartlepool’s first with a header that deflected in off teammate Sam Togwell and the Spitfires equalised on the stroke of half-time when Zebroski nodded in Sam Matthews’ deep corner at the back stick.

By and large the second half belonged to Eastleigh whose fitness levels did them credit on an increasingly heavy pitch.

Zebroski put them ahead for the first time on 65 minutes after Ben Williamson had knocked down Mark Yeates’ cross at the far post.

Eleven minutes later the 31-year-old ex-Torquay, Bristol Rovers and Newport County powerhouse was at it again, capitalising from close-range after sub James Constable had stretched to steer Matthews’ deep delivery back towards goal.

A quality 88th-minute strike by Conor Newton gave Hartlepool late hope, but their afternoon ended on a dismal note when skipper Craig Magnay picked up a second yellow for dissent with Pools convinced they should have had a penalty for handball.

Eastleigh boss Hessenthaler was thrilled for hat-trick hero Zebroski declaring: “He was man-of-the-match by a country mile. He didn’t stop running all game. Where he gets his energy from, I don’t know, but it’s fantastic for us.

“Again, I’m disappointed with the goals we’ve given away, but we look such a threat going forward.

“The character of the squad is fantastic – not just the 11 on the pitch, but the boys who are coming on and in the dressing room itself. They’re all fighting to keep this run going and, if we do, it may take us to where we set ourselves to be at the start of the season.

"I wasn't fortunate enough to meet Derik Brooks, but I have realised the impact he had on the club and I'm just glad we got a win for him today."

Emerging afterwards, matchball in hand, Zebroski said: “That was my first hat-trick and it was a perfect hat-trick too – one with the left foot, one with the right and a header.

“We’re creating a lot of chances and scoring a lot of goals at the moment. We’re conceding a lot too, but it’s exciting.

“As an attacking player, I’m buzzing. The more goals, the better,” he smiled.

Eastleigh are due to host AFC Bournemouth U21s in the Hampshire FA Senior Cup on Tuesday (7pm).

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 (not used): Ryan Cresswell, Frazer Shaw.

Referee: Richard Hulme.

Attendance: 2,154 (250 Hartlepool)