RICHARD Hill branded Farnborough’s pitch “an absolute disgrace” after watching his Eastleigh side grind out a crucial 1-0 win at the Rushmoor Stadium on Saturday.
A first-half strike from Salisbury City loanee Ben Wright was enough to maintain the status quo at the top of the Skrill Conference South, with second-placed Eastleigh still 11 points behind leaders Bromley – 2-1 winners over Boreham Wood – with three games in hand.
But, pleased as he was to bag the points, the overriding emotion for Hill was disappointment with the bobbly Cherrywood Road playing surface which, he insisted, was “not acceptable for this level of football.”
“There must have been park pitches in better condition than that and I found it quite disrespectful that they’d done no work on it,” he said.
“I know our pitch isn’t fantastic, but we’ve put lots of hours in to get it in the best condition we can.
“I know we’ve got soft, spongy areas on ours, every pitch has. But that wasn’t the problem at Farnborough, it was the fact it was so bobbly. All you could do was kick the ball as far forward as you could, you couldn’t take any chances at the back.
“Both goalkeepers had problems on the floor and there was one time when it looked like the ball was going out of play, but it didn’t, and Farnborough nearly scored from it. “To me that pitch was more unplayable than some of the ones when games have been called off. It’s another footballing contradiction: because it wasn’t waterlogged, it was okay.”
All the game’s big talking points were packed into the first half.
Prior to Wright bagging the 24th-minute winner, the Spitfires were convinced Boro’ goalkeeper Kevin Scriven should have been sent off for bringing down Jai Reason as Eastleigh’s attacking midfielder touched the ball past him.
Scriven escaped the red card because there were covering defenders, but Hill said of the 13th-minute incident: “Those defenders were at an angle and Jai was still five yards in front of them. He actually got up and ‘scored’ but the referee wouldn’t have it that he’d been denied a goal-scoring opportunity.”
Industrious former Farnborough striker Reece Connolly was involved in the build-up to Wright’s winner, slipping a pass wide to Fleetwood.
With Boro’ looking in vain for offside, Fleetwood drove towards the by-line and delivered low to the back stick where Wright initially seemed to get the ball caught under his feet, but managed to recover and poke it home.
With Ben Strevens and Jamie Collins deployed as the two sitting midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 system, which saw skipper Glen Southam dropped to the bench, Eastleigh remained solid throughout with Ross Flitney largely untroubled in the visitors’ goal.
The Spitfires should have doubled their lead with half-time approaching but, having been awarded a penalty when Wright was brought down by Ollie Treacher’s clumsy challenge, they squandered the spot kick.
Reason, normally so reliable from 12 yards, had his tame effort pushed away by the diving Scriven.
“If Jai scores that penalty two minutes before half-time, it’s all over,” said Hill. “But Ben Wright’s got the winner and we know he can score goals – that’s why I brought him to the club - to contribute.”
In a change of fixture, Eastleigh now host relegation-battling Maidenhead United tomorrow. It takes the place of Chelmsford City’s visit, now put back to March 11.