October 1, 2014
(Eastleigh’s Craig McAllister is brought down by Steve Mildenhall, who was red carded for the foul .)
In front of a record breaking Silverlake Stadium crowd Eastleigh drew 1-1 with big guns Bristol Rovers in the Vanarama Conference in a breathless and entertaining match tonight.
The record home league crowd of 2,621 were mesmerised with a feast of Conference football at Stoneham Lane as Jamie Collins fired the Spitfires into the lead just past the half hour mark soon after Gas keeper Steve Mildenhall was sent off for a last ditch tackle on Craig McAllister.
Ollie Clarke, who was shown a second yellow card in injury time for a foul on Craig Stanley, levelled the match with absolute net-buster from 35-yards on 50 minutes.
From the off this match was played at a frantic pace. Richard Hill’s side were fired-up for this one after defeat on Saturday in front of a massive Silverlake crowd, and Rovers were full of confidence after five straight wins.
Those ingredients combined to make an extraordinary and eye catching game, which could have swung either way at any moment.
An end-to-end opening 30 minutes, prior to the away side being reduced to ten men, saw Flitney get down well to thwart Rovers captain Lee Mansell, a transfer target for Eastleigh during the summer, who fired low to the near post from a free kick on the left edge of the box after two minutes.
With skipper Dean Beckwith back in the side following several weeks out injured, Eastleigh looked far less vulnerable than they did at the back in the 3-0 loss at Wrexham four days ago.
Stanley also made a return to the starting XI. He was gritty and determined in centre midfield. The former Gas player was tasked with plundering the Rovers attack and did so effectively.
(Along with the welcome chants of “Stanley is a Gashead”, Craig also had a barrage of unseemly chants at one point.)
Will Evans, in at right back for benched Dan Spence, was busy with Jake Gosling and Ellis Harrison who were battling hard to try and get in behind the Spitfires attack – former Salisbury midfielder Stuart Sinclair was also hard to deal with. At the other end Eastleigh were creating well. Jai Reason linked well with Jamie Collins on the left wing and Craig McAllister and Jack Midson were chasing everything upfront.
The match tipped completely in Eastleigh’s favour with half an hour gone. Rovers’ defender Tom Parkes attempted to pass along the backline to centre back partner and ex Saint Neil Trotman. As he did McAllister darted in between them, nicking the loose ball.
The experienced forward raced through to get a second touch, but was met by the onrushing keeper Mildenhall, leaving referee Colin Lymer no choice but to show him a straight red card.
(Any idea why Steve Mildenhall is adopting this particular posture? Is it a sign of happiness and joy?)
Second choice stopper Will Puddy came on to tip Jai Reason’s resulting free kick over for a corner, but the danger wasn’t over yet.
Michael Green’s corner was cleared away but found its way back to him from Jack Midson. Green fired first time back into the box. Collins met the ball with a powerful header that flew past Puddy’s outstretched arm for Eastleigh to take the all-important lead.
(The Eastleigh players follow James Collins after his headed goal. Why did he run towards the Away fans?)
Bristol barely looked like they were a man down throughout the second half with Harrison and Sinclair’s work rate making up for it. Flitney had to be alert on several occasions.
Indeed, there was no way the experienced custodian was getting to Clarke’s screamer on 50 minutes. From nowhere the Pirates man smashed in an unbelievable shot into the top right of Flitney’s net, levelling the scores and setting up a breathless finale.
(Not really sure what is happening here. Is it some ancient ritual or ceremony for yellow shirted folk?)
Late on a Green corner almost resulted in Eastleigh taking the lead, but Ben Strevens could only hit the side netting.
Goal scorer Clarke was then given a second yellow after receiving a first for kicking the ball away.
Eastleigh: Ross Flitney, Michael Green, Jamie Collins, Dean Beckwith (c), Craig Stanley, Jai Reason, Craig McAllister, Jack Midson (Stuart Fleetwood 70), Ben Strevens, Will Evans, Paul Reid. Unused subs: Dan Spence, Chris Todd, Tony Lee, Josh Helm.
Bristol Rovers: Steve Mildenhall (sent off 30), Lee Brown, Tom Lockyer, Tom Parkes, Lee Mansell (c), Ollie Clarke, Matt Taylor (Adam Cunnington 45), Neal Trotman, Ellis Harrison (Dave Martin 82), Jake Gosling (Will Puddy 30), Stuart Sinclair. Unused subs: Mark McChrystal, Jamie White.
(Adapted from the Southern Daily Echo with thanks.)