HOW apt that on the day Eastleigh celebrated their place in the National League play-offs, former boss Andy Hessenthaler should play his part.

Together with his then assistant manager Ben Strevens, it was Hessenthaler who built the foundations for success at the Silverlake Stadium last summer.

When he quit the Spitfires to return to his old club Dover Athletic last October, the baton was passed on to Strevens whose only previous experience as manager had been a brief spell in joint caretaker charge of Whitehawk.

But the rookie boss, 38, has truly come of age by guiding the Spitfires into the play-offs for only the second time as a National League club.

While Eastleigh were busy beating Maidenhead 2-0 at the Silverlake this afternoon, Dover did them a huge favour by ending Ebbsfleet United’s hopes of gatecrashing the top seven with a 1-0 win at Stonebridge Road.

It’s a mark of Hessenthaler’s quality that Dover are now safe and sound in 15th, having been 23rd, four points from safety and with just one win from their first 15 matches, when he swapped the Silverlake for The Crabble.

One of his other 'gifts' to Eastleigh was to recommend the signing of their 26-goal marksman Paul McCallum from Leyton Orient when he was right-hand man to Richard Hill.

Acknowledging Hessenthaler’s key contribution to the Eastleigh success story, Strevens said: “Getting to the play-offs is the culmination of the hard work we’ve done from the start of pre-season.

“Today we took care of our own business and I was pretty sure Hess would help us out (at Ebbsfleet).

“I spoke to Hess this morning and he was in the garden having a drink and picking his team with his assistant Nicky Southall and I said: ‘I hope you’re not on holiday already!’

“Hess helped build this Eastleigh team that’s reached the play-offs. He’s been brilliant for us and for Dover.

“We’re always in touch and he’s been giving me a nudge in the right direction lately because things have been tough over the last couple of weeks.”