EASTLEIGH have faith in their loanees to keep the play-off train on track if big guns Paul McCallum and Reda Johnson are forced out of tomorrow's home game against Barnet (Tuesday, 7.45pm).

With top scorer McCallum (thigh) and centre-back Johnson (quad) ruled out against Hartlepool on Saturday, Bristol Rovers’ midfielder Sam Matthews and AFC Bournemouth defender Shaun Hobson took their chance to shine.

Defender Hobson, 20, scored what proved to be the decider in a 3-2 win, while tricky midfielder Matthews offered a glimpse of his quality with a clever backheel in the build-up to that goal.

Matthews is no stranger to the Silverlake, having had two previous loan spells there from AFC Bournemouth, and manager Ben Strevens believes there is much more to come from the creative 22-year-old.

“Sammy hadn’t played a competitive game for quite a while but when he gets on the ball there’s an excitement and a buzz about him and I enjoy watching him play," he said.

“We saw the best of him last year and I’m convinced he’s going to get better and better.

“He gives us another attacking option and has that ability to carry the football and break the lines. He’s probably one of the best I’ve seen doing it.”

Hobson, too, has been short on minutes lately.

When he signed for Eastleigh at the end of January, he was getting over an injury and has had to bide his time breaking into the side.

But any hint of rustiness was quickly eroded as he grew into the Hartlepool game.

“He and Sammy both did really well considering they haven’t played a lot of competitive football,” added Strevens. “They’re both very good players – and good lads as well. They want to work hard and improve.

“I was delighted for Shaun. He’s had to be patient, but he defended very well and showed good technique to score the goal.

“Defensively I thought Boycey (Andrew Boyce) stood out, really getting in there and attacking the ball.

“Then, on the other side, we had Wynts (Alex Wynter) who goes unnoticed because he plays like that every week.

“Wynts goes about his business quietly, but I certainly know what he’s doing and he was brilliant again (against Hartlepool).”

With seven games to go, victory over Barnet will lift the Spitfires into sixth spot – or fifth if AFC Fylde come a cropper at home to Dagenham & Redbridge – warming them up nicely for tough away tests at Fylde (Saturday) and leaders Leyton Orient (Tuesday).

The Bees are well out of the running in 16th spot, but their headline-hitting progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup, taking Championship outfit Brentford to a replay, suggests they are no mugs.

“They’re a local club to me and I’ve got a lot of respect for their manager Darren Currie,” said Strevens.

“But if we can back up Saturday’s win and get six out of six points from two home games, I’ll be happy with that.”