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Cards stay afloat as Silverlake is swamped

Ray Avards - 27th December 2014

Cards stay afloat as Silverlake is swamped Eastleigh 2 Woking 2

Vanarama Conference

26th December 2014

The Cards were desperate to return to winning ways here at the Silverlake Stadium on an afternoon when the heavens opened and heavy rain fell for most of the game. Three defeats in a row in the league, though sandwiched into that sequence had been a morale-boosting FA Trophy first round victory over the Spitfires, meant Garry Hill rang the changes after the surprise home defeat by Southport. James Clarke returned to the centre of defence for the injured Mike Cestor, Chris Arthur came back in for John Nutter at left back and Giuseppe Sole displaced Kevin Betsy in a reshuffle, including setting up as 4-3-3/4-5-1, Jack Marriott and Sole flanking Dean Morgan up front whenever possible.

Kicking with the wind determined that the Cards were down to business early, Boxing Day or not, as, first, Theo Lewis and then Morgan tried their luck, before the home side’s defence, playing a ‘high line’ at the back, were breached with an element of good fortune. Jack Marriott’s foot-in on an attempted clearance for Eastleigh rebounded perfectly for Dean Morgan to race clear. Home 'keeper Ross Flitney superbly blocked his attempted flick with his right hand even as he dived at the striker’s feet, only for Morgan to coolly collect the rebound, switch feet and side-step the keeper, before sliding home beyond two defenders back on the line to give the visitors an early lead.

Eastleigh looked exposed by the Cards' free movement up front as Morgan, again, shot narrowly wide of the left-hand post, having been worked into the edge of the area.

A series of offsides, especially when Jack Marriott burst through with the ball at his feet, showed how open this game had become very quickly. The Spitfires at last got off the ground and buzzed around the Cards' box, Will Evans raiding from full back and linking well with James Constable’s work, pulling the Cards' central defence out of position and finding space out wide on the overlap, either side of Woking’s midfield three. Low crosses from right and left forced corners as Woking failed to clear their lines.

Eastleigh had their chances. A Jai Reason effort and a Constable header narrowly wide and another ball in with Ross Worner down at his near post to help deal with it, was scrambled away. The lead looked slender and, sure enough, Eastleigh struck back soon. A buccaneering run by Will Evans, dummying twice through tackles to fire against a Cards defender from the edge of the box, also had a stroke of luck. The ball looped up over Worner’s leap to make it 1-1.

Pressure mounted on the Cards as a back header from Jack Midson flew just wide of the far post. A low curling cross had Worner diving to block at the feet of the in-rushing home strikers and claim the ball. Evans came forward seeking to repeat the dose of earlier but his shot didn’t get through the crowded defence this time. Constable would have been round the back of the Cards' defence but for Chris Arthur covering at the expense of a corner. A diagonal cross hit low right to left was not dealt with but, luckily, Constable could only stab at it and Worner got down to save with his right hand.

This was Eastleigh’s best period in the match but the spell of dominance didn’t save the home side from a sudden counter-attack, Joe McNerney getting to a loose ball first with real determination and Sole doing well to hold off his marker, to turn the ball ‘round the corner’ for a galloping Chris Arthur to race away. His low cross was neatly turned in by Theo Lewis, arriving in between defenders, to regain the lead for the battling Cards on 34 minutes.

Back came the home side, forcing Keiran Murtagh to bring down Constable as he cleverly shielded the ball, which resulted in a yellow card for the Woking midfielder.

It was all square minutes later, however. A midfield tussle sucked in the Cards, including Joey Jones from full back and this totally exposed the defence to Constable’s run through on the left. His shot was parried by Worner into the path of McAllister to equalise once again.

A long range free-kick just wide of the right-hand post by Sole and a golden chance at the other end scooped over by Strevens, having been fed by a clever chip beyond the defence, followed. Keiran Murtagh shot over after more clever Cards' build-up play as the half ended with honours even.

Half-time: Eastleigh 2 Woking 2

The Cards had an early chance at the start of the second half, forcing a scrimmage at the near post from a low left-wing cross, but the ball finished wide of the upright. For Eastleigh, Stuart Fleetwood replaced ex-Card McAllister in an early swap up front. Reason shot, but straight at Ross Worner, and Morgan in reply, drifting into dangerous positions, escaped on the right and curled the ball in low at an angle but the home defence scrambled it away. Sole shot over from outside the penalty area after Morgan and Marriott went for the same ball. Joe McNerney then headed well wide from a long and deep cross by Payne.

The elements of wind and torrential rain were dominating now and the Cards replaced the tiring Lewis with John Goddard and sent Kevin Betsy on for Marriott for the last quarter of an hour, seeking to force the win. It was the Cards dominating and finishing the stronger.

Joey Jones began to drive forward from right back and beat his man with ease to float in a cross but Keiran Murtagh did not react quickly enough at the back post to get a proper touch and had to retrieve the ball, driving it against a defender. Betsy then weaved in from the right through two or three would-be tackles and was brought down on the very edge of the area. Sole’s free kick, on the edge of the ‘D’, was blocked by the wall and he volleyed the rebound over.

Morgan, away from his man yet again, flashed in a low left-wing cross-cum-shot as the Cards' attackers slid in but none was able to make contact in front of goal. It was Morgan once again who weaved in until he had a sight of goal but curled his shot just wide of the far post.

A flurry of corners followed for Eastleigh but, in truth, they had not used the wind that was with them in the second half well, passes skidding away from their attackers. Stout defending, aided by Worner’s safe pair of hands, saw off the aerial challenge. There was time for another Payne free-kick but not a clear-cut chance materialised in the three minutes of added-on time.

So, Garry Hill and his players will probably have been frustrated not to have secured all three points in a good, competitive match in which they once again showed why they can be a force in this league.

Next up, the eagerly-anticipated derby clash with Aldershot Town at Kingfield on Sunday, when the Cards will be looking to complete the 'double' over their local rivals. Make sure that you are there to support the team and don't forget that it is a 1pm kick-off.

Eastleigh: Ross Flitney, Will Evans, Dean Beckwith, Paul Read Dan Spence, (Michael Green 63), Ben Strevens, Craig Stanley, Jai Reason, Jack Midson(James Collins 79), James Constable, Craig McAllister (Stuart Fleetwood 46)

Unused Subs: Lewis Noice, Yemi Odubade

Booked: Green, Reason, Strevens

Goals: Evans 22, McAllister 43

Woking: Ross Worner, Joey Jones, James Clarke, Joe McNerney, Chris Arthur, Theo Lewis (John Goddard 60), Keiran Murtagh, Josh Payne, Jack Marriott (Kevin Betsy 78),Dean Morgan, Giuseppe Sole

Unused Subs: Jake Cole, Adam Newton, John Nutter

Goals: Morgan 8, Lewis 34 

Booked: Lewis, Murtagh

My MOTM: Dean Morgan - for yet another bright and inventive display, being the man most likely to change the game from both sides

Attendance: 1,752

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