IT would be a fitting reward for defender Callum Howe to end his Eastleigh loan spell with a clean sheet and a win at rock-bottom Torquay United on Saturday.

The 23-year-old centre-back will return to his parent club Lincoln City on Monday after spending almost five months with the Spitfires and being entrusted with the captain's armband.

Eastleigh haven’t had the best of seasons so far, drawing way too many games, but a four-match unbeaten run under new boss Andy Hessenthaler has pulled them up to 15th in the National League, 11 points shy of the play-off zone with a game in hand.

Hessenthaler said: “It’s a shame Callum’s been called back, but Lincoln need him and it’s out of our hands.

“He’s done great for us, chipping in with a couple of goals, but there’s stuff he needs to improve on as well.

“We haven’t kept a clean sheet for a long time (since September 9) and sometimes, as a group, we’ve made silly mistakes and our decision-making has cost us.

“Callum will look at that and think he’s been part of it, which he has, but he’s a proper lad who listens and wants to do well and keep improving.

“If we could get him back one day, who knows? He’s a real good lad. You don’t get too many loan players who get the captaincy and it was Rich (former boss Richard Hill, now director of football) who made that decision.

“Callum’s popular with the lads and he gets on really well with (midfielder) Cav Miley.

"Cav’s a young lad over from Jersey and he’s getting more and more confident as a person, on and off the pitch, and Callum’s been part of that.”

Fellow central defender Andrew Boyce bowed out of last week’s 4-2 win over Guiseley with a groin problem, but trained today and “has a chance” for Saturday.

If not, Hessenthaler will be more than happy to put faith in Ayo Obileye who impressed as a 32nd-minute sub.

“Young Ayo came on and did well and he’s put himself in contention for a start,” said the boss.

“Ayo’s played mostly right-back for us, but he sees himself as a centre-back and he didn’t do himself any harm with that performance last week.”

Top scorer Ben Williamson should be in the travelling 16, but Paul McCallum, Graham Stack and Reda Johnson aren’t quite ready, while Ryan Cresswell is “close”, but unlikely to feature until next week.

Struggling Torquay, who drew 1-1 the Silverlake on Boxing Day, are without a league win since November 25.

The Gulls have strengthened this week, signing former Falkirk centre-back Conrad Balatoni and ex-Chesterfield winger Reece Mitchell.