RICHARD Hill will be calling for one big push from Eastleigh’s “walking wounded” to get them over the Skrill Conference South finish line.
From a position of having 19 fully fit players at his disposal, a gruelling schedule of seven high-pressure games since March 18 – five of them away from home – has taken a heavy toll on the weary Spitfires.
Stuart Fleetwood fears he will miss the rest of the season with hamstring trouble, Craig McAllister is a major doubt tomorrow with a groin problem and Reece Connolly’s calf injury is worse than originally thought.
Hill will be “surprised” if midfielder Jamie Collins is fit for tomorrow’s trip to lowly Chelmsford City, Dean Beckwith went off on Tuesday complaining about his hamstring and neither Michael Green nor fellow full-back Dan Spence trained yesterday because their bodies are sore.
Thankfully the Spitfires are in the enviable position of heading to Essex tomorrow needing five points from their last five games to clinch the title and automatic promotion.
They could even be cracking open the champagne at Chelmsford if they win and title rivals Sutton and Bromley drop points.
But Hill’s big concern now is that his squad, already dropping like flies, suffer no other injury setbacks.
“We’re in a position now where the first 11 fit players who turn up tomorrow will probably play,” he said.
“Two weeks ago on transfer deadline day I spent a long time making calls and, although there were players available, I didn’t really fancy them.
“I had to be careful because you need character in the team when you’re faced with a schedule like we’ve had of five away games and two at home.
“It wasn’t a problem then because we had 19 fit players, but since then we’ve lost five big players and you couldn’t odds that two weeks ago.
“My lads have been playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday and have to play at 100 per cent every time because, like I’ve always said, everyone raises their game against us, which we know and expect. “There’s been no respite in the tempo our lads have had to play at and some of their bodies have just given up.
“If we were midway through the season we wouldn’t see McAllister or probably Beckwith again but, because of where we are, we might just have to risk them. We’ve got to find five points.
“At the minute we’ve got 12 fit outfield players and we’ve just got to get on with it.”
Hill could see the writing on the wall for some of his battle-scarred stars at half-time at Bromley on Tuesday but, once again, Eastleigh dug deep and produced a priceless 2-1 victory to put them on the brink of the title.
“I said to the lads at half-time (1-1) that we could do with winning this one because it was going to be even tougher for us with the players we had left,” said Hill. “We’re not there yet. We still need to find five points from somewhere and we’re very, very thin on the ground. “But we rode our luck beating Whitehawk last Saturday while the other two got beat. Can history repeat itself tomorrow?”