Eastleigh 1 Salford City 1

EASTLEIGH'S players gave caretaker boss Ben Strevens' job prospects a huge boost this afternoon with arguably their best performance of the season against another table-topping side.

After bringing Leyton Orient down to earth with a 1-1 draw on Tuesday, the Spitfires repeated the feat against Salford City - and were desperately unlucky not to win.

The table-topping Ammies strode into town on a run of 15 games unbeaten in the National League but had to dredge up a 90th-minute equaliser to take a point away from a buoyant Silverlake Stadium.

Eastleigh were good value for taking the lead two minutes after half-time when Ben Williamson produced a cracking finish after Mark Yeates's shot had been parried.

They had chances to build on it too, but were caught by a late sucker punch when substitute Lois Maynard salvaged Salford a last-gasp draw.

The Spitfires were without without injured midfield duo Oscor Gobern and Cav Miley.

Skipper Danny Hollands and Joey Jones filled those central berths, while Reda Johnson returned to a central defensive trio, alongside Alex Wynter and Andrew Boyce, after spending time in his native France following a family bereavement.

Both sides were content to knock the ball around for the first ten minutes on a bright, mild November afternoon at the Silverlake.

Salford were first to start going through the gears, forcing two successive corners.

Eastleigh keeper Max Stryjek made the first save of the game, turning Daniel Lloyd’s angled blast around his right-hand post and then Tom Walker’s dangerous delivery from the left was put behind for another corner.

The Spitfires responded in positive fashion, forcing a corner of their own off Ibou Touray.

The ball came back to the taker, Mark Yeates, who swung it back towards Andrew Boyce at the back stick.

He nodded it across goal towards Josh Hare, but the Eastleigh No2 – scorer of successive headers against Halifax and Orient – couldn’t generate enough power behind this latest attempt.

Danny Hollands then slid a glorious ball through to pick out the run of Ben Williamson, but the Eastleigh No18 slipped as he tried to get past his man on the edge of the box.

With virtually no stoppages to speak of, the first 25 minutes whizzed past in a flash in a free-flowing, open game devoid of any major incident.

But when the diminutive Dan Lloyd appeared to make a meal of being injured after a harmless coming together with defensive titan Reda Johnson, he was greeted with a chorus of boos from the Spitfires faithful when he finally got to his feet.

With Mark Yeates again pulling the strings, Eastleigh were playing with a real glide in their stride and earned themselves a free kick on 33 minutes when Carl Piergianni pulled back Ben Williamson.

From the free-kick, Yeates’ deep delivery was headed back into the danger zone by Andrew Boyce for Alex Wynter to flash a diving effort over.

Salford looked a handful whenever they broke but, just as they had against Orient on Tuesday, Eastleigh defended manfully against a side whose last league loss was way back on August 11.

As half-time approached, the two No2s – Salford’s Scott Wiseman and Eastleigh’s Hare – set their sights on goal, but both efforts went wide.

Half-time: 0-0.

After an impressive first-half performance, Eastleigh’s promise came to fruition less than two minutes into the second as they swept into the lead.

Michael Green’s throw-in from in front of the dugouts was seized on by Yeates who showed superb skill to cut in from the left.

His shot was clawed away by keeper Chris Neil straight into the path of BEN WILLIAMSON who brilliantly hooked the ball home.

That triggered a real sense of urgency to the contest with the game beginning to open up.

Salford had the ball in the net when Nathan Pond glanced in Tom Walker’s free kick, but the flag had gone up for offside.

Either side of that disallowed ‘goal’, Eastleigh showed further sign of promise with Williamson hitting traffic as he ran onto McCallum’s lay-off and then, after good hold-up play by Williamson, Yeates twisted and turned in the box but his shot was comfortable for Neal.

The next chance belonged to Salford with Stryjek only able to get the slightest of touches to Rory Gaffney’s shot before Boyce interjected to boot it away.

On 62 minutes the 2,253 crowd stood as one for a moving minute’s applause in tribute to Eastleigh’s popular former kitman Kevin Dixon who sadly passed away this week at the age of 62.

With the bit between the Spitfires’ teeth, McCallum couldn’t properly get hold of his shot as Josh Hare’s cross came in.

But six minutes later the No9 well and truly thumped one goalwards after Williamson’s pacy break through the middle, but Neal just about managed to keep it out.

Just prior to that, left wing-back Green had ventured into the box and went down under an apparent shove by Wiseman, but the referee waved away the penalty appeal.

The more Salford tried to chase the game, the more gaps were opening up for Eastleigh with the direct running of Yeates and Williamson causing the visitors all sorts of problems.

On 80 minutes it looked as if Eastleigh would get the second goal they craved, but McCallum could get no power behind his shot after another enterprising run by Yeates.

McCallum then had another effort cleared off the line by keeper Neal before a late surge from Salford denied Eastleigh the win they so richly deserved.

Stryjeck averted the initial danger with a fine fingertip save from Gaffney’s blistering drive.

But Eastleigh couldn’t breathe easily and, as the game entered its 90th minute, substitute LOIS MAYNARD broke home hearts by drilling home low and hard from the edge of the box for 1-1.

Eastleigh: Max Stryjek, Josh Hare, Michael Green, Danny Hollands, Reda Johnson, Alex Wynter, Andrew Boyce, Joey Jones, Paul McCallum (James Constable, 86), Ben Williamson (Chris Zebroski, 81), Mark Yeates. Subs (not used): Ollie Dennett, Tom Bearwish, Ross Flitney.

Referee: Richard Hulme.

Attendance: 2,253