EASTLEIGH just need a point for promotion after substitute Lee Peacock scored a dramatic late winner against ten-man Dover Athletic.
The Spitfires can secure their place in the Skrill Premier on Friday, when they host Basingstoke Town, after Peacock’s 79th -minute header secured a 1-0 win against play-off chasing Dover in front of a bumper crowd of 1,006.
Eastleigh were frustrated for long periods by Dover, who were a man down for an hour following Barry Cogan’s 30th-minute sending off.
Referee Antony Coggins had no option but to show the red card for the over-the-ball studs-up challenge on Will Evans.
But Eastleigh found it hard to break down a resilient Dover.
Ross Flitney, having changed shirts to avoid a clash with the visitors’ canary yellow, was the busier of the two goalkeepers before the red card.
He produced a world-class save, diving low to his right to keep out a header, in the 13th minute.
Then Yemi Odubade went close for the home side with two sensational volleys. The first, a dipping 20-yarder, flew just over the crossbar.
And midway through the first half Odubade met Jai Reason’s clever flick with a sumptuous strike that went narrowly wide.
Full-back Dan Spence had a shot saved but another Flitney block, this time at his near post from Tom Murphy, was needed to keep Eastleigh level at half-time.
And, despite having a numerical advantage for most of the game, the Spitfires continued to struggle against Dover’s massed ranks.
Reason slammed wide at the near post following a cross from the right and centre-back Evans was also denied before Michael Green’s cross-cum-shot was tipped behind for a corner.
Eastleigh’s passing not at its best and manager Richard Hill grew increasingly frustrated as he prowled his technical area.
But he made the decisive change in the 77th minute, when he replaced Odubade with Peacock.
Within two minutes the veteran former Bristol City striker scored the first goal of his second spell at the Silverlake.
It was not the prettiest, but it found the back of the net at the far post as Dover desperately tried to keep it out following Green’s inswinging corner. And it was certainly a goal to remember for Eastleigh, who are now tantalisingly close to a place in the fifth tier of English football.
Eastleigh: Flitney, Spence, Evans, Todd, Green; Odubade (Peacock 77), Southam, Strevens, Wishart, Reason, Wright.