Eastleigh 0 FC Halifax Town 0.

THE good news for Eastleigh this afternoon was that they kept their first clean sheet in 27 National League games – a run stretching back to September 9.

The bad news was that they couldn’t break down a struggling FC Halifax Town side during a drab 0-0 draw at a bitterly cold Silverlake Stadium.

The Spitfires, sadled by the third worst defensive record in the league, were boosted by the long-awaited return of former Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City centre-back Reda Johnson after four months sidelined by injury.

It was only Johnson's eighth appearance of the season due to hamstring issues  and, in a change of system, Eastleigh boss Andy Hessenthaler opted to play three centre-back – Johnson, Andrew Boyce and Ayo Obileye - flanked by wing-backs Gavin Hoyte and Sam Wood.

The Spitfires made a positive start, forcing several early set-piece opportunities, before a sweeping move involving Sam Matthews, Paul McCallum and Cavaghn Miley ended with Chris Zebroski’s angled shot from the left of the area being turned behind for a corner.

It was a bit of a tentative start by Halifax, playing their first-game under new boss Jamie Fullarton, and they came under threat again on 13 minutes when Zebroski ran into traffic on the edge of the box and the ball came back to Miley who rifled it wide from range.

Eastleigh’s first foul, a crunching challenge by Sam Togwell on Michael Duckworth, earned the Eastleigh skipper a yellow card, but the Spitfires’ new-look defence were untroubled by a couple of follow-up set-pieces.

The Shaymen were also defending solidly and, with 20 minutes gone, there had been little excitement to warm up a sunny, but raw, late February afternoon.

AFC Bournemouth loanee Sam Matthews looked Eastleigh’s brightest spark and, on 24 minutes, he cleverly jinked his way into a shooting position on the edge of the box, but looped his effort well over.

After almost blanket Eastleigh possession, Halifax began to see more of the ball but they created little and, on 42 minutes, Zebroski nipped in to dispossess them and pick out McCallum in the box. But it didn’t fall right for the No9, or the supporting Matthews, and the chance was lost.

As the whistle called time on an uneventful first half, there was finally some drama as Halifax’s Shaun Tuton lost his rag and had to be dragged away by Johnson as players from both sides gathered round.

When things finally settled down, referee Sam Purkiss had a quiet word with Tuton and Eastleigh wing-back Hoyte, but no cards were shown.

Half-time: Eastleigh 0 FC Halifax Town 0.

Eastleigh goalkeeper Graham Stack, a mere bystander throughout the first half, came into the action with a bump when he collided with Ben Tomlinson as the pair challenged for a left-wing cross, but there was no damage done.

It was a brighter start by the Shaymen and the warning bells sounded for the Spitfires on 51 minutes when the pony-tailed Matty Kosylo breezed past two defenders inside the left of the area, forcing Stack to save his low, drilled effort his feet.

Eastleigh responded with a curled free-kick by Obileye, after Scott Garner had been booked for taking down McCallum, but it was easy pickings for Halifax keeper Sam Johnson.

Suddenly Eastleigh showed signs of taking the game by the scruff of the neck and Matthews’ deep cross, after his initial corner had been cleared, was so nearly forced in at the far post.

The Spitfires then had a failed penalty appeal when Togwell went down in the area and referee Purkiss had another big decision to make just seconds later when McCallum was caught square on shin by Jake Hibbs’ ill-timed challenge, but the offender got only a yellow card.

Arguably the Spitfires had an even better shout for a spot kick when McCallum looked to get a shove in the back as he tried to get his head to Matthews’ hanging cross at the back stick.

McCallum then did well to bring a loose ball under control in tight spade inside the area, but keeper Johnson dived bravely at his feet to save.

Eastleigh sent on Ben Williamson and Mark Yeates as fresh attacking options but when Williamson sent in a tempting ball from the left, Obileye’s wayward shot flew miles over.

Halifax then made a double substitution and, within two minutes of going on, their new loan signing Mike Fondop-Talom from Guiseley, had brought a decent save out of Stack.

As the game ticked into four minutes of stoppage time, Hoyte picked out McCallum with a cross from the right but the fit-again marksman headed over, bringing the curtain down on a frustrating afternoon for the Spitfires.

Eastleigh: Graham Stack, Gavin Hoyte, Sam Wood, Sam Togwell (Mark Yeates, 77), Reda Johnson, Andrew Boyce, Ayo Obileye, Sam Matthews, Cavaghn Miley, Paul McCallum, Chris Zebroski (Ben Williamson, 65). Subs (not used): Ryan Broom, Danny Hollands, Ross Flitney.

Referee: Sam Purkiss.

Attendance: 1,825 (92 Halifax)