BEN Stevens is having no luck whatsoever in his quest to become permanent manager of Eastleigh.

Once again key players have been missing from training as he prepares to lead the Spitfires to FC Halifax Town on Saturday looking to ward off a third straight defeat in his interim spell in charge.

Skipper and central defender Reda Johnson won’t travel, having returned to his native France following a family bereavement.

Left-back Michael Green has had time off after becoming a dad, although he and right-back Josh Hare (bruised toe) will hopefully be available.

Goalkeeper Max Stryjek, whose loan from Sunderland has been extended to December 22, has missed training through illness and frontman Chris Zebroski won’t feature at Halifax or, in all probability, in Tuesday’s home game against Leyton Orient (October 30, 7.45pm) due to personal issues.

Zebroski’s absence was one of several behind-the-scenes issues Strevens had to deal with in build-up to last Saturday’s costly FA Cup exit at home to Hampton & Richmond.

Afterwards he refused to defend the players for a poor performance, adding: “There’s pretty much no chance of me getting the job now because of stuff that’s out of my hands.”

Getting back to training this week has been a tonic for the 38-year-old, however.

He took the players to a boxing gym on Monday to work on upper body strength and said: “I feel a lot more level-headed and positive now.

“In the lead-up to Saturday, I’d had a lot of stuff to deal with away from football and not many managers would have been in that position.

“Then, for the performance to be as it was, I was frustrated afterwards, but the players who took the brunt of it are the ones who put themselves forward and were out there trying to perform.

“I’m with these lads every day and I see the hard work they put in. They’ve been first class, every one them, but ultimately we’ve lost the last two games and people judge you on that.”

Eastleigh have filled one club vacancy, appointing long-standing supporter Stuart Solly as secretary.

As for the manager’s job, Strevens said: “The application process closed last Friday and I’d imagine they’ve been narrowing it down to a short-list this week.

“They want to take their time and make the right decision. Too many wrong decisions have been made over the last couple of years and this is a big next step for the club.

"They need to get it right for the club, the team and for the people watching as well."

That said, Strevens feels the sooner things settle down again, the better.

“With Hessy (manager Andy Hessenthaler) going and people leaving the board etc, you can’t get away from the fact that there’s a bit of negativity around the football club at the moment and I don’t like to see that because I love this club,” he said.

“But, like me, Kenny (Amor, chief executive) and Tom (Coffey, operations director) have got Eastliegh’s best interests at heart. They want it to be right for everyone.”