Eastleigh 1 Gateshead 0.

CAPTAIN MARVEL Reda Johnson popped up with a super hero’s header as Eastleigh put the brakes on a three-match losing streak to reignite their National League play-off hopes.

It wasn’t the best game in the world, but the Spitfires won’t care a jot about that as a 1-0 win over Gateshead, coupled with defeats for Ebbsfleet and Sutton, propelled them four points clear in the seventh spot with three games to go.

Not only did Johnson, back after four games out injured, add solidity to a defence that had conceded 12 goals in his absence, but he scored the match-winning header from a corner with 15 minutes gone.

The respective number No3s, Eastleigh’s Michael Green and Gateshead’s Scott Barrow, looked the men most likely to set things up in cagey start.

Green twice sought out top scorer Paul McCallum. From the first, a far-post delivery, the Spitfires’ No9 was at too tight an angle to head at goal and, from the second, the ball was marginally too far in front of McCallum as he slid in with an outstretched boot.

Gateshead created little early on and, on the one occasion they did threaten to trouble Eastleigh, Johnson and Green crowded out Connor Thomson as he looked to get on the end of Barrow’s cross.

As so often with Eastleigh,it was a set-piece that opened the door for them as they took the lead in the 15th minute.

The presence of the giant figure of Johnson forced Gateshead to concede a corner on the left from Green’s long throw.

With Mark Yeates out with a shoulder problem, it was Sam Matthews who delivered a deep flag kick straight onto the head of defensive titan JOHNSON who looped the ball into the far top corner.

Gateshead perked up, hitting back with a couple of set-pieces of their own - and came desperately close to equalising.

Having lashed a shot hopelessly over from the Heed’s first corner of the match, Barrow so nearly redeemed himself on 22 minutes, finding his range with a 20-yard free-kick that curled round the Eastleigh wall and struck Luke Southwood’ right-hand post.

Although the Spitfires threaded together the occasioknal neat passing move and were defending solidly, Gateshead were seeing too much of the ball from a home perspective and, on 38 minutes, Southwood got down sharply to tame Barrow’s strike from range.

With confidence growing, the men in mint green pressed again on 43 minutes, with the influential Barrow passing inside to Elliot Forbes whose 25-yarder just cleared the crossbar, although Southwood had it covered.

Half-time: Eastleigh 1 Gateshead 0.

Eastleigh had more defending to do at the start of the second half with Gateshead forcing a couple of corners before Greg Olley smacked a 20-yard free kick which hit the wall and could have gone anywhere but, thankfully for Eastleigh, it ricocheted wide.

The resulting corner was cleared as far as ex-Saint Mike Williamson on the edge of the box, but his effort was also wide of Southwood’s right-hand post.

Just after the hour, the home crowd cried out for a penalty when Eastleigh broke and Ben Williamson cut in from the right and appeared to be brought down by Barrow in the corner of the area.

Nothing was given by referee Joe Hull, but the game was held up while Gateshead’s skipper, who had also gone down as a result of the impact, received treatment for an injury.

On 69 minutes Green conjured up a classy cross from the left which was just too high for Williamson and then, when a Gatehead attack broke down, Matthews hurdled a couple of challenges on the break and slid the ball through to Williamson, but the flag had gone up for offiside before he tucked it away.

That was to be Matthews’ last contribution as he made way for Oscar Gobern on 71 minutes, while Chris Zebroski went on for McCallum.

Green delivered dangerously again with a deep free-kick after Joey Jones had been fouled by Maloney, but this time it was defender Andrew Boyce who couldn’t quite reach it. Boyce then got his head to a far-post corner but, on an afternoon when neither goalkeeper had much to do, Heed keeper Aynsley Pears made an easy catch.

Gateshead kept going and, as four minutes of added time was announced, Southwood managed to take the sting out of Barrow’s low, angled blast from the left and Eastleigh were able to catch their breath and hold out for three precious points.

Eastleigh: Luke Southwood, Josh Hare, Michael Green, Reda Johnson, Shaun Hobson, Andrew Boyce, Cav Miley, Joey Jones, Paul McCallum (Chris Zebroki, 71), Ben Williamson (Jack McKnight, 88), Sam Matthews (Oscar Gobern, 71). Subs (not used): Mark Yeates, Ollie Dennett.

Referee: Joe Hull.

Attendance: 1,698.