EASTLEIGH boss Lee Bradbury could not hide his disappointment as their playoff hunt took a hefty hit with a 5-2 home defeat to Gateshead at a rain and gale battered Silverlake Stadium.

Aaron Martin’s double helped FA Trophy finalists Gateshead earn their sixth straight National League win after victory at the promotion-hopefuls Spitfires.

Martin fired the visitors in front in the seventh minute, tucking the ball into the bottom corner, but Eastleigh responded four minutes later when Charlie Carter capitalised on a poor back pass to smash low into the corner.

Daniel Ward came close for the Heed when his long-range effort whistled over the bar, but Adam Campbell restored the lead for the visitors in the 27th minute.

Martin earned his brace five minutes after the break and Greg Olley completed a good team move with a top-corner finish in the 63rd minute.

Owen Bailey added a fifth for Gateshead in the 82nd minute but the Spitfires pulled one back through Kairo Mitchell just one minute later.

Bradbury admitted: “We were miles off it, we gave them back the ball and the lads showed a soft underbelly which hurt me personally.

“I want my team to reflect me as a person and we rolled over in the second half, we’ll give them (Gateshead) credit as they’re a good team.

“Some of the goals were horrendous, we were second to a lot of balls and reacted to many things rather than being proactive as a team.

“That’s not how I want my teams to be, I’m shocked at the result and the performance – I didn’t see that coming to be honest.”

He added: “Defensively, we were sixes and sevens. They looked like a threat every time they got near the goal, which has not been like us.

“We’ve kept the most clean sheets at this level in the club’s history, winning games 1-0 is what we have been based on. Hopefully, this is a bit of a freak.

“We’re going to analyse it and try to get better.”

On his rotated team selection, Bradbury said: “We had no choice with the number of games, three in six days.

We want to put our strongest team out in every game but it’s hard to do so with this schedule.”

Eastleigh remain just inside the playoff positions ahead of their final three games of the campaign. They sit two points ahead of Bromley in eighth on 65.

However, Bromley and Southend United – both chasing the top seven – have games in hand, with the former able to leapfrog the Spitfires with victory.

Eastleigh travel to fourth-place Chesterfield, host mid-table Solihull Moors and visit Halifax to complete the National League schedule this month.