Eastleigh 0 v 1 Hawks
Rocky Baptiste`s fifth goal in six games fired the Hawks into the league`s top ten at Eastleigh`s Silverlake Stadium this afternoon, where the Bank Holiday derby game watched by a record league attendance of 928 ended in a 1-0 victory for the visitors.
Injury forced several major changes to Ian Baird`s side. Luke Byles played a superb game in defence, partnering Tom Jordan, with Justin Gregory and Phil Warner either side. Left to right the midfield read Poate, Simpson, Collins and Harkin with Baptiste and Richard Pacquette at the front.
Both sides were slow in starting but Baptiste gave Eastleigh keeper Paul Musselwhite a scare ten minutes in when he chased after a long ball from Simpson and brought it in from the line for a narrow angled shot that the keeper beat away.
Eastleigh`s first serious chance came 17 minutes in when Jefferson Lewis fired in a David Hughes corner from 12 yards, but Warner was well placed to head the ball off the line. Hughes followed with an attempt himself from a free kick minutes later, but as would become characteristic for his performance, skied the ball over the terrace roof.
The Hawks pressured their hosts for much of the half. Warner`s long free kick sailed over the Spitfires` defence for Byles to head wide, and Poate played a throw off Collins before slotting it through to Baptiste for the striker take one touch too many before shooting.
Poate then came close to putting the visitors ahead himself when Harkin broke on the right and crossed back for the midfielder to elude his marker and head narrowly over the bar.
The injury depleted hosts found chances few and far between, but ex-Hawk Dave Town`s angled shot 36 minutes in from another Hughes cross forced a dramatic diving save from Shane Gore.
Weymouth signing Matt Bound expertly marshalled Eastleigh`s defence alongside the equally heavyset Chris Collins, but neither could do anything about Paquette`s 40th minute shot that deflected off a white shirt and crashed into the post.
Baptiste rose again, weaving through the defence for a low shot that went wide before his endeavours were rewarded with the match winning goal two minutes from half time. Musselwhite committed himself on the edge of his area as Baptiste raced onto a ball up the middle from Simpson, but the striker rounded the keeper and lifted a shot between Collins and Adam James as the pair tried to block his run in the six yard box.
Eastleigh`s reply was a header wide by Danny Smith from another Hughes cross, and the Spitfires` Captain was then back quickly to tackle Pacquette before the striker went over his leg.
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The injury Pacquette sustained meant Craig Watkins started the second half, and his cross back from the corner five minutes in eluded the home defence brilliantly, but went inches ahead of Harkin sliding in at the back post.
Poate played a short corner with Harkin that ended with a high shot, but Collins came closer to securing the game when he sent a piledriver from the edge of the box toward the top corner that Musselwhite pushed wide with a dive.
The visitors continued to enjoy the majority of possession and attack, aided by the pace Watkins brought for breaking runs. From one he passed through to Poate who touched the ball back to Baptiste for a powered a shot at the near post that bent too far and went out.
Hughes continued to provide most of the groundwork for Eastleigh`s attacks, but his long balls were often high and slow from the midfield, dropping long or giving the Hawks defence too much time to deal with them. In frustration the Spitfires chanced long shots from range when they could, every one a potential goal of the month winner had they but remained in the ground.
The Hawks looked to have doubled their lead when Bound head a Harkin free kick past his own keeper, but the referee disallowed the goal for an otherwise unnoticed push on the defender by Baptiste.
Into the final ten minutes Eastleigh`s persistence started to show as the side worked more and better chances, forcing a hair-raising finale as the Hawks were pegged further and further back. Attempts from Collins and Town when both were well positioned flew off target, but a succession of throws and free kicks made life uncomfortable for the Hawks defence.
The visitors took a dangerously long time to deal with substitute Ryan Ashford`s injury time free kick, but Hughes`s final effort again blazed high. The pressure told and the Hawks replaced Baptiste with Darren Annon as the five minutes of injury time played out, the side shutting up shop to hang on for an important three points.
By Rich Self
Eastleigh 0 v 1 Hawks
Eastleigh 0 v 1 Hawks