EASTLEIGH have extended goalkeeper Luke Southwood’s loan from Reading until the end of the season.

The 21-year-old has made five appearances for the Spitfires and is still awaiting his first clean sheet ahead of Saturday's Vanarama National League trip to Bromley (3pm).

Southwood is not such an imposing figure as Sunderland loanee Max Stryjek, the man he replaced in the Eastleigh goal, but is a player of great potential.

He represented England at U19 level and was part of the squad that lifted the U20 World Cup in South Korea in June 2017.

Since making his Spitfires debut in Boxing Day's 2-2 draw at Havant & Waterlooville, Southwood has featured in successive home wins over Havant (2-1) and Sutton (3-2) and two hefty away defeats at Ebbsfleet (3-0) and Solihull Moors (4-1).

“Luke’s good in terms of kicking and shot-stopping and he’s been working hard with Rosco (goalkeeper coach Ross Flitney) on coming for crosses,” said Eastleigh boss Ben Strevens.

“He’s a good goalkeeper who did well for Bath in the Conference South last year (keeping 18 clean sheets).

“I feel sorry for him with some of the goals he’s conceded. As a team, we’ve got to defend better and give him a bit of protection.

“Hopefully, with the confidence of playing more games and with us defending better as a team, he’ll get better and better. We’ve got to help him.”

Oxford-born Southwood signed a contract extension for Reading in July last year which keeps him at the Madejski Stadium until the end of June 2020.

“This is a big season for us and for Luke as well. He needs to show everyone that he’s good enough to stay at that level,” added Stevens.

Once upon a time Eastleigh couldn't buy a home win for love nor money but were excelling on their travels.

But that has turned full circle in recent weeks and they head to Bromley gunning for their first away success since late November at Maidstone.

The Ravens, though, have won four league games on the spin at home against Maidenhead, Sutton, Fylde and Wrexham, hoisting them up to 11th – a place and six points behind Eastleigh who, in turn, are three points off the play-offs.

“If we beat Bromley we’ll go nine points clear of them and, with some of the other teams around us playing each other, we could be there or thereabouts in the play-off places,” said Strevens.

“We’re three points off Sutton and, like I said to the boys, if anyone had said we’d be three points off the play-offs with 16 games to go, we’d have taken that.

“The potential’s there to make this a real good season, but it’s going to be tough. We’ve got some big away games coming up and home form's going to be important."

Asked the reasons behind the shift in Eastleigh's home and away results, Strevens said: "I wish I knew. We're not doing anything different in how we prepare for games and I don't know if it's just the fixtures we've had. The last three home games have been close and we've managed to score at vital times to get the wins.

"Away from home, if a game is tight we've got a good enough group to get back into it but, by conceding two in a short period of time like we've done at Ebbsfleet and Solihull, we've given ourselves too much to do.

"But Solihull are joint top now and Ebbsfleet are in form, so we've lost to good sides."

The Spitfires’ only injury doubt on Saturday concerns 15-goal top scorer Paul McCallum’s ongoing groin problem.

“Macca felt good last Friday but, by Saturday, he was struggling and he probably shouldn’t have started against Sutton," Strevens admitted.

"But these boys are throwing their hands up ready to play even when they’re struggling, which hasn’t always been the case over the last two or three years.

“Macca's had the groin scanned and there’s inflammation there, so we just have to manage it.

"I'd say he's 50-50 for Saturday."

Eastleigh’s home game against Barnet, scheduled for Saturday week (February 2), will be rearranged because of the Bees’ involvement in the FA Trophy.