Eastleigh 2 Maidstone Utd 0.

EASTLEIGH won what manager Ben Strevens described as a “horrible” game against Maidstone United this evening – but they all count.

Goals by Chris Zebroski and Mark Yeates sent the Spitfires soaring back into the National League play-off zone in sixth spot thanks to their seventh win in eight games.

Kick-off at the Silverlake was delayed by some mislaid kit in the dressing room and that set the tone for a low-key first half that took an age to warm up.

Maidstone spent much of the first 20 minutes chasing shadows while Eastleigh passed and passed in search of an opening, but their patient approach work lacked cutting edge.

It took until the 26th-minute for excitement levels to rise when, amid a scramble in the Maidstone area from a Yeates free-kick, Reda Johnson – back in place of the injured Joey Jones – drew the first save of the night from Chris Lewington.

The evening’s first corner took a further seven minutes coming when Zebroski fed wing-back Josh Hare on the overlap and his effort was shovelled behind at the near post. Yeates took the corner but the ball arrived a difficult height for defender Andrew Boyce who headed well wide.

Yeates’s next cross, on 43 minutes, hit the spot as Eastleigh seized the lead. The Irishman delivered from deep left, Danny Hollands headed on, and the ball reached Zebroski who turned and smashed in a close-range opener.

In contrast to the first half, the Spitfires took less than three minutes to threaten from the restart - ex-Saint Oscar Gobern’s fizzing strike from range smartly turned behind by Lewington.

A couple of Maidstone names went into the book – Shaun Donnellan for catching Cav Miley late and coach Simon Walton for making his views known from the sidelines.

Sub Justin Amaluzor soon joined them for blatantly diving inside the box under a fair challenge by Miley.

The Stones, though, almost caught Eastleigh napping when Elliott Romain headed narrowly wide and, on 72 minutes, boss Ben Strevens called for reinforcements, sending on Michael Green and Ben Williamson for Miley and Zebroski.

The substitutes added an injection of energy with the lively Williamson almost connecting with Green’s enticing cross before having a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside.

And, with 85 minute gone, the reinvigorated Spitfires finally got the job done when Williamson squared for sponsors’ man-of-the-match Yeates who took a touch before netting a quality strike from the edge of the box.

“We’ve probably played a lot better and not won,” said Strevens. “But it was a professional performance and three points is all that matters at the end of the day.”

With a run of three home matches to come – starting against Barrow on Saturday (3pm) – a play-off place looks to be Eastleigh’s to lose.

Eastleigh: Luke Southwood, Josh Hare, Cav Miley (Michael Green, 73), Andrew Boyce, Reda Johnson, Alex Wynter, Oscar Gobern, Danny Hollands, Paul McCallum, Chris Zebroski (Ben Williamson, 73), Mark Yeates (Jack McKnight, 90). Subs (not used):Shaun Hobson, Jack McKnight, Ollie Dennett.

Referee: David Rock.

Attendance: 1,642