Sunday, 29 November 2015

Eastleigh 1 v 0 Southport

Saturday 28th November 2015
Silverlake Stadium, Eastleigh
National League Premier Division
Admission: £12.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 1755
Match Rating: 2

The opportunity to tick off two new grounds in a day relatively far from home saw me head to Eastleigh today for a 12.30 kick off, one of the rare times when fixture rescheduling due to TV coverage was actually quite welcome for me. That view would probably not be shared by the visiting fans from Lancashire...

The Silverlake Stadium is about a 20 minute walk from Southampton Airport Parkway train station – a thoroughly unpleasant and difficult walk for the most part, as one has to walk down a muddy path and along a narrow road with no footpath. After collecting my ticket bought online from a ticket collection point – ensuring a £3 discount and a remarkably cheap ticket for this level – I entered to find an interesting looking ground that has been extensively upgraded in recent years following the club’s ascent through the non-league pyramid. Straddling the half way line is the fairly narrow main stand offering good elevated and unobstructed views of the action. Hard standing is available either side. The clubhouse is located behind one of the goals, as is covered standing under a grey metallic structure, and a similar structure covering terrace steps stretches along most of the opposite length. Behind the remaining goal is a large all-seater stand stretching between corner flags. The 56 page programme was of very good quality with plenty of interesting reading material as well as the necessary stats and facts.

Eastleigh certainly came into this game as favourites, once again they are in contention for a play-offs berth in seventh place with 37 points from 24 games, whereas Southport occupied a relegation berth, in 21st place in the 24 team division, with 18 points from 20 games. It was interesting to note that Eastleigh’s away record was better than their home, while Southport have gained more points on their travels than at home. When the two teams met on the opening day of the season, Eastleigh won 0-4.

On an overcast day with a chilly breeze, this was a poor game for the most part. It could have been different had Eastleigh scored early, which they almost did on 7 minutes when Jai Reason tapped the ball into the net after James Constable's cross shot had come back off the far post, but the goal was disallowed for offside. As one would have expected, Southport battled gamely but Eastleigh, whilst not playing particularly well, always carried the more threat, and on 26 minutes, Paul Reid headed the ball goalwards from a corner but was blocked on the line by a defender, and the home side had a few other half chances to score but Southport would have been by far the happier with a goalless scoreline at the break.

The second half continued in much the same vein, with Southport working hard but never looking like they score, whilst Eastleigh did by far the more attacking but with no real end product. They had their clearest chance to score on 63 minutes when Ben Strevens was played through on goal but the keeper Max Crocombe parried the shot on goal. But just as it looked like Southport would hold out to claim a point, Eastleigh took the lead on 84 minutes. Josh Payne evaded a couple of defenders before surging into the box before firing a cross shot that the keeper could only parry into the path of Drury to shoot the ball into the net. There was little prospect of Southport getting back into the game, and indeed it was Eastleigh who had a couple of chances to extend their lead, but they will be happy enough to have claimed the three points and after today's round of matches, climbed into a play-off berth in fifth place. Southport remain fourth bottom, but not four points adrift of safety but they do have games in hand on all teams around them. This was not the best of the games, but the consolation of having a second game to go to offered hope of watching a more entertaining game there.

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