EASTLEIGH will try to make club history in the FA Trophy at home to Dover Athletic tomorrow – but without star man Stuart Fleetwood and skipper Glen Southam.
Both are due a one-match ban for reaching five bookings and Fleetwood, pictured, has an additional three matches to serve for a straight red in the 2-1 home win over Bath City a fortnight ago.
Former Hereford and Luton striker Fleetwood is an influential figure to lose for that length of time, but manager Richard Hill has every faith in his squad to cope in his absence as the Spitfires strive to reach their first ever Trophy quarter-final while maintaining a Skrill Conference South title push.
Asked if he had considered bringing in a loan player to fill the Fleetwood void, Hill said: “Everyone seems to think other players are better than ours which is disrespectful to the players we’ve got.
“Everyone sees our players week in, week out and inevitably they have good games, average games and the occasional one where they’re not at their usual level.
“Then they look at opposition players coming to Eastleigh and playing at their best and think ‘he’d do’, but most of them don’t play like that every week. Most people are only one or two-game scouts who see opposition players a couple of times a season when they play us, whereas I see them a lot more.
“Any player I sign has got to be better than what we’ve got and if I brought in a loan player it would have to be for the right reasons.
“If I was a player at another club and a manager approached me asking me to give heart and soul, knowing I’d probably lose my place when another player came back from suspension, I’d be very reluctant to join that club.
“It’s highly probable that any loan player couldn’t play in the Trophy and, with the weather like it is, he could end up playing only one or two games which wouldn’t be good economics.
“I’m very happy with my squad. We could always improve with the right player, but my lads are making it hard for me to find that player – and so they should.”
Dover too have run into disciplinary hot water with both defender Sean Raggett and midfielder Chris Kinnear Jnr missing what will be the first of back-to-back trips to the Silverlake in the space of four days.
Providing no replay is required, Dover return to Stoneham Lane on Tuesday for a Skrill Conference South showdown between last year’s play-off semi-final rivals.
Eastleigh beat Dover 2-1 away in the league on December 17, partially atoning for last May’s penalty shootout heartbreak at Crabble which shattered their play-off final dreams.
The Silverlake has been a happy hunting ground for the Kent club in recent years, having won on each of their last five visits. But the Spitfires have made the more impressive start this season, sitting second in the SCS table on 42 points – seven places and 13 points clear of Chris Kinnear’s men – and are currently on a run of five straight league/Trophy wins.
Eastleigh’s only previous appearance in the last 16 came three years ago during Ian Baird’s time in charge when they lost 3-1 at home to Northern Premier League sensations Chasetown.
But times have changed and Hill’s class of 2013/14 have already shown their pedigree, ruthlessly despatching Conference Premier outfit Gateshead 2-0 in the last round with goals by Jamie Collins and Fleetwood.