RICHARD Hill says now is not the time to talk about a ‘blip’ in Eastleigh’s season.
Having set high standards with two wins and a draw in their first three Vanarama Premier games, the Spitfires predictably travelled to Dover Athletic on Saturday with great expectations resting on their shoulders, But it was fellow promotees Dover who came out on top at Crabble, battling back from behind to win 2-1 despite playing the entire second half with ten men.
Hill was the first to admit his side hadn’t played well but, with a home game against Welling United beckoning this afternoon (3pm), he believes it’s wrong to read too much into Saturday’s showing.
“We’re only four games in – there can’t be talk about blips already,” he insisted. “If, after 15 games, we’re not having a good run then maybe it’s a blip, but not now.”
Even before the trip to Kent, Hill had spoken of the unrealistic expectations placed on the club after the 2-2 home draw with Gateshead. After all, it was only 12 years ago that the Spitfires were still in the Sydenhams Wessex League.
“There seemed to be a bit of doom and gloom about the place because we ‘only’ drew with Gateshead,” he said. “I wish some people would remember where the club’s come from.
“They need to get perspective on where this club’s been and where we are now.”
There were 15 minutes on the clock at Crabble when Eastleigh forged ahead. Stuart Fleetwood sent James Constable racing in behind defender Sean Francis and he crossed to the back stick where Jack Midson netted a first-time finish.
Three minutes later Dover’s Ricky Modeste bowed out injured to be replaced by Italian winger Christian Nanetti. And the former Havant & Waterlooville man was quickly in the thick of it, teeing up Stefan Payne to whistle a 20-yarder over.
Nanetti’s next contribution saw him dip in from the right and slip a slide-rule pass to Payne. The attacker rounded Spitfires ’keeper Ross Flitney, but found Matt Fry – making his Spitfires debut in place of the suspended Michael Green – in the way of his pass across goal.
Then, when Fry was caught under Nathan Elder’s delivery from the left, Nanetti could only shoot into the side-netting.
Dover levelled two minutes before the break when debutant Francis, a summer signing from Bishop’s Stortford, teed up Payne to slip a cool finish across Flitney. It was a bitter blow for Eastleigh but in added time the pendulum appeared to have swung back their way. Dover defender Sean Raggett received a straight red from referee David Rock after tangling with James Constable in an off-the-ball incident by the touchline.
But far from retreating into their shells, ten-man Dover came out firing after the break with Fry blocking Matthew Lock’s dig at goal before Whites skipper Craig Stone crossed for Elder who nodded an effort off-target.
The sides continued to trade blows with Constable denied in quick succession for Eastleigh and Fleetwood having a dipping drive held by Mitch Walker.
It was Dover marksman Elder who settled the issue with 12 minutes to go.
Stone collected Lock’s throw on the right and was afforded far too much time to deliver a cross into the Spitfires’ box. Elder, completely free six yards-out, turned his header past Flitney’s grasping right hand and into the net.