League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
Vanarama Wind Farms
By: Andrew Doherty
ANOTHER tough day looms as Eastleigh come to Town. A midweek hiccup for Eastleigh who dropped two points against Wrexham has eased the pressure a bit, as Town line up for this promotion battle against a side which seems to have had no problems scoring goals this season.
It's been a meteoric rise for Eastleigh, who I remember playing Basingstoke Town and the like. My recollections of Eastleigh are standing on a cold platform looking at the disused works and being reminded of Crewe. That's not much of a recommendation, I know. The town centre comprised a dilapidated street populated by weary folk going about their business. I don't live that way any more so I don't know if the local football team has brought much needed cheer to their abject lives. I'm told that Eastleigh's ground is inaccessible. Luckily today we're hosting the 51 Eastleigh travelling faithful for a day by the seaside at a ground that can be found. We need to overcome our uncertainty at Blundell Park and gain access to their net.
It was a bitterly cold and blustery day at the seaside – a thick coat, gloves, scarf and fleece day. Town's team to take on Eastleigh and the elements was:
McKeown – Magnay, Nsiala, Pearson, Robertson – Arnold, Disley, Clay, Jolley – Pittman, Palmer.
The game started scrappily with both teams determined to give the ball away. Control was conspicuous by its absence. Town looked slightly the more enterprising and after a mistake by Eastleigh's left back on 12 minutes, Magnay pounced and crossed low into the box. Jolley was tripped. Penalty! But no. The referee made no signal and waited, as Palmer saw his opportunity and drilled the ball in low from 6 yards out. Town 1, Eastleigh 0. Palmer's next effort was not so spectacular, mistiming his jump after Town rounded the Eastleigh defence to enable Pittman to put in a deft cross from the left. Town were better in possession but neither side had control of the pace, and both midfield units were scrapping it out without being able to orchestrate any moves. As the gentleman reminded me, George Kerr once made the statement that these players were only playing here because they weren't good for a higher level. Meanwhile to my right Andy Humbo and his mate started eating an old Opal Fruit, which led to a “Loose Women” type discussion on Starburst, Spangles and the more controversial topics of Spanish Gold and sweet cigarettes. No such controversy on the pitch, but Disley won a foul after surging forward on 20 minutes. Clay's cross resulted in Pittman scooping his header over the bar. Town were creating all the changes against an inept Eastleigh side, and on 26 minutes Palmer made a poor attempt at a dink over the goalkeeper when put through. Arnold's weak cross soon after wasted another opportunity as Town's strikers lined up in the box. “They don't look relaxed”, observed the man next to me. I agreed. Eastleigh's mountainous defence were holding out but Town looked anxious. Clay had a wild shot and then Arnold supplied Pittman who was beaten by the goalkeeper. At half-time the score remained: Town 1 Eastleigh 0.
Town had spent the first half on top but weren't making the most of their chances with poor crosses and finishing. There was no fluidity in the play in these difficult conditions. Town were keeping the ball on the ground but the passing was poor and the ball was bouncing.
Town were in the ascendancy again at the start of the second half. A free kick on the left on 50 minutes evaded the defence but Disley couldn't get a proper touch to head home in a crowded penalty box. Pittman tried a low snap shot from 20 yards which the goalkeeper gathered easily. The struggle went on in midfield with neither side exerting any real authority. On 56 minutes Eastleigh gained a free kick on the left edge of the box after a foul for which Nsiala was booked. The free kick was pushed to the unmarked Howard whose attempt was clipped on to the Osmond Stand roof. The game was being played at a high tempo but it was the number of lost possessions which caught the eye. Ultimately it stagnated. The Loose Mariners next to me found something more interesting to engage them. Andy Humbo declared that as a resident of Cleethorpes, he didn't live in a town but a “resort”. “Ah, the last resort” proclaimed his mate. A “heated” discussion followed on solar panels, but before the Loose Mariners had the chance to move on to wind farms, which are surely more appropriate in these parts and especially today, something happened on the pitch. Unfortunately the hapless Jolley's stumbling run up the left was crossed to no-one, only threatening the goal courtesy of a reflection off the defender's head. Eastleigh were starting to push up field and on 62 minutes, former Town midfielder Harry Pell fired a free kick just over the bar from 25 yards.
On 68 minutes, the Eastleigh manager made a triple substitution to try and inject some life and creativity into his underperforming From Town's point of view, the missing link was a hold up player, and the sight of John-Lewis coming on after 71 minutes to replace Pittman was welcome. John-Lewis's appearance also brought about a physical presence for Town. On 76 minutes Palmer chipped a ball through to John-Lewis who was beaten by the bounce as he bowled over the advancing goalkeeper. Town won the ball back quickly and Jolley found the space to fire in a fierce shot from the left. Town were in the initiative and on 77 minutes, Disley found himself with the option of cutting into the box, but instead saw the opportunity to thread the ball through to Palmer. His low cross from the by line was met by John-Lewis who got ahead of the goalkeeper and slipped the ball in at the near post. Town 2, Eastleigh 0.
A minute later Eastleigh managed their first attempt on target with a weak header. Eastleigh were poor and Town were workmanlike in this game of poor quality. But with John-Lewis muscling it out, the game took on a new aspect as opposing players started to square up to each other. Turley landed on Magnay and to Magnay's displeasure wouldn't get up, resulting in a skirmish. The game was getting niggly. Beckwith pushed Palmer over. Meanwhile on 87 minutes Eastleigh earned only their second first corner of the game. It led to nothing and Town pressed forward but Arnold's cross was overhit. As Eastleigh attacked, a scrap started in Town's penalty area. Magnay pushed off an Eastleigh player and while the referee came in to sort out the melee, players continued to fight and scuffle. John-Lewis entered and pulled the angry Nsiala away to protect his team mate who had already been booked. The referee sent off Eastleigh's Burton. Magnay received a yellow card. 90 minutes was now up but four minutes remained. Eastleigh quickly regained their concentration and only a brilliant save by McKeown stopped a ferocious shot from McAllister. The referee then had to stop the game to send off the Eastleigh manager who, so incensed at the fact that Magnay had not been sent off, pushed the fourth official. Once again Eastleigh regained their composure quickly and a big clear out resulted in Town's defence being caught out and Eastleigh's Turley firing in an unstoppable header from 10 yards out. Town 2, Eastleigh 1. John-Lewis almost scored immediately on the restart but was foiled by the goalkeeper. Eastleigh had one further chance which McKeown gathered easily and the game was over. Town 2 Eastleigh 1.
This was a game of poor and at best mediocre quality. I'm glad the Loose Mariners didn't get on to the subject of wind farms. The game became more interesting, eventually reaching a storm and energy level of its own. But above all this was a productive day in our quest for promotion, so four thousand of were able to go home satisfied. It was slightly disappointing though that after a professional performance in which there was plenty of effort at least, we should lose concentration after the on-pitch skirmishes and concede a goal to long ball tactics. To that point Eastleigh had next to nothing to offer. No Town outfield player was outstanding, and it's a sobering thought that McKeown's late save, which was the only one he had to make, was a game winner. I liked the endeavour of the team and in particular Nsiala, Clay, Disley, Magnay, Palmer and John-Lewis when he came on. My pick of the bunch was Clay who although struggling in difficult conditions was instrumental in Town having so much of the possession. The winds are with us now and success is in our own hands.
So Eastleigh, we may see you in the play-offs….if we can find you.
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