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Hill hails 'fantastic' Eastleigh after Mangos given FA Cup chop
SKRILL Conference South leaders Eastleigh can do no wrong these days – which is more than can be said for the opposition.
For the second week running, Richard Hill’s table-toppers found themselves up against ten men as they cruised into today’s FA Cup third qualifying round draw with a 4-0 dismantling of Mangotsfield United at the Silverlake Stadium.
Just like the Spitfires’ previous visitors, Hayes & Yeading, the Mangos were a man down by half-time, having lost Jamie Reid to two wholly avoidable yellow card offences.
First the temperamental midfielder took exception to Jai Reason’s challenge and stupidly pushed the Eastleigh No10 while he was grounded.
Then, in the wake of Stuart Fleetwood majestically firing the Spitfires 3-0 up in the 42nd minute, frustration got the better of him, leaving Wickford referee Gary Jerden little option but to brandish a second yellow for dissent.
Unlike in the previous round when the Mangos had miraculously recovered from 1-0 down to beat Winchester City 2-1 with ten men, this time there was no way back for the outnumbered Bristolians.
At times the sheer quality of Eastleigh’s football overwhelmed the gutsy Southern One South & West underdogs, albeit that they had a good go in the second half when substitute Kyle Tooze – on for injured skipper Neil Arndale – forced Spitfires ’keeper Ross Flitney to block one shot before looping another effort narrowly over.
But Eastleigh, who led 3-0 at half-time through Jai Reason, skipper Glen Southam and Fleetwood, were never in any real danger and stamped their class on the contest on 83 minutes with a mature finish from teenage substitute Sam Wilson who, this time two years ago, was having trials with Fulham.
Hill was understandably proud of his players afterwards, describing their approach to the tie as “fantastic”.
He also had words of praise for the opposition - which was more than could be said the previous week when he had been critical of Hayes & Yeading’s unadventurous approach in Eastleigh’s 1-0 league win.
“Scoring an early goal put Mangotsfield on the back foot but they were different to Hayes in that they at least came here to try and contribute to a football match,” he said.
“They conducted themselves really well and were very respectful.
“Even though they had a man sent off, that didn’t change the dynamics of the game. We still had two banks of four to break down and our all-round performance was very professional from one to 11.”
With Damian Batt ill, summer signing Will Evans made a long-awaited first competitive club appearance in the right-back berth after suffering a knee injury in pre-season.
And it was the versatile former Hereford midfielder/defender who set the Spitfires on course to glory with a searching cross to the back stick which Fleetwood cushioned into the path of Reason to fire home with six minutes gone.
On 31 minutes Eastleigh doubled their advantage via an outstanding team move involving Strevens, Reason and Michael Green. It culminated with skipper Glen Southam playing a sweet one-two with big targetman Craig McAllister before coolly stroking the ball inside the upright.
Then, just prior to Reid receiving his marching orders, Fleetwood gave his side ample half-time breathing space, turning and firing low into the net after Jamie Collins had rolled a free kick into the area from the right.
Young Wilson had the last word, cleverly lifting the ball over Mangos’ overworked former Salisbury City goalkeeper Kevin Sawyer after Strevens – voted sponsors’ man-of-the-match – had expertly dinked it into his path.
Reflecting on the 4-0 scoreline, Hill said: “This game was a potential banana skin for us, you can easily come unstuck if you don’t approach it right. People will have come today to see Eastleigh get beat.
“But our lads were great and showed what a good team we’ve got - not because of the scoreline but because of the professional way we approached it.”
Asked about Strevens, Hill added: “It’s not the first time he’s been man-of-the-match. Ben Strevens is an unbelievable footballer and every Eastleigh FC supporter should be honoured that we’ve got a player like Ben.”
And of 18-year-old Wilson, who returned to the Silverlake during the summer after spells with Poole Town and Gosport Borough, he added: “Sam’s an unbelievable goalscorer – second to none - but that’s when he’s in the box.
“It’s getting him from halfway inside the opponents’ half into the box that’s the next phase he needs to work on in his learning.
“Sam could be anything (he wants to be). He’s done fantastic, but he’s still a long way off starting in the team.
“Sam actually needs to learn how to play football, not how to score goals.”
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