First round proper.

OLLIE Dennett’s first senior goal for Eastleigh should have been a major cause for celebration.

Instead, it proved a mere consolation as, for the third time in as many years, the Spitfires opened their FA Trophy campaign with a whimper instead of a bang.

Two second-half goals proved their undoing at a wet, miserable Vauxhall Road yesterday as Hemel Hempstead Town became the second National League South side to humble them in knockout competition this season.

Eastleigh had travelled to Hertfordshire looking to flush their FA Cup exit against Hampton & Richmond Borough out their system, but returned to Hampshire with another bloody nose after a sobering 2-1 defeat.

Two years ago former boss Martin Allen more or less raised the white flag at Harlow Town by naming an extremely young, inexperienced squad.

But that was not the case this time as Ben Strevens selected his strongest available starting eleven, minus injured pair Reda Johnson and Alex Wynter plus the unwell Oscar Gobern.

“I put out the strongest team I could, although we had a few injuries and a couple of illnesses,” said Strevens. “Max (Stryjek) managed to play in goal, but he’s been ill and wasn’t himself today.

“We’re disappointed because we wanted to win and I felt we could have had a good run in it. It’s a game we shouldn’t have lost, but credit to Hemel for beating us.

“The boys are saying their second goal was nowhere near a penalty but we’ve got to be bigger than someone else’s performance (the officials’) to win a game of football.

“That’s twice it’s happened now. We’ve gone out of the FA Cup against lower opposition and now the FA Trophy. It’s not good enough.

“But we’ll come back strong on Monday and be positive for next week.”

Despite feeling under the weather, Stryjek pulled off an excellent save to keep out Darren Ward’s bullet header in a low-key first half which later saw Eastleigh’s Danny Hollands denied by a goal-line clearance as he got on the end of Mark Yeates’ whipped-in delivery.

Michael Green had a powerful blast tipped over as the Spitfires’ began the second half the stronger and the Tudors’ Laurie Walker remained the busier keeper, dealing with a Paul McCallum header and a stinging Chris Zebroski shot.

Against the run of play Steve Cawley beat the offside trap to fire Hemel into a 69th-minute lead and it needed a sharp double save by Stryjek to prevent sub Connor Tomlinson building on the Tudors’ lead.

The relief didn’t last long, however, with the referee pointing to the spot on 82 minutes after Scott Shulton had gone down in the area. Jordan Parkes stepped up to send Stryjek the wrong way.

Three minutes later Walker fumbled the ball following good work by Ben Williamson, allowing 20-year-old academy graduate Dennett to pounce.

In a nod to youth, Callum Baughan was also on the Eastleigh bench along with U18 duo Matt Simm and Ben Scorey.

Eastleigh: Max Stryjek, Josh Hare, Michael Green, Danny Hollands, Andrew Boyce, Joey Jones, Cav Miley, Mark Yeates, Paul McCallum, Ben Williamson, Chris Zebroski (Ollie Dennett, 75). Subs (not used) Callum Baughan, Ross Flitney, Matt Simm, Ben Scorey.