Mike Thomas – TUST Chairman
Gary Owers fielded an unsurprisingly familiar looking team and formation, making five changes from the Maidstone debacle. Although it was an unexpected bonus to find that Vincent Dorel was already back from France and in goal.
The Gulls started on the front foot, in deteriorating weather conditions and on an already heavy pitch, whilst Eastleigh looked more cautious in the early stages. Two or three half chances went begging, notably an effort by Efete and a free kick from Young that was nearly finished off by more than one United player.
As the half wore on, Eastleigh grew in to the game with ex-Torquay man Zebroski always looking lively across the front line. The defence were also tested by Hudson-Odoi and Matthews out wide and McCallum header being beaten by the bar. A free kick also caused a few fluttering yellow army hearts when Zebroski was fouled on the edge of the box, but Hudson-Odoi fired it over. However, United gave as good as they got and Young had a couple of good free kicks forcing saves from Stack.
Overall, the Gulls had looked well in the game up to half time, the defence battling well and the midfield matching Eastleigh’s in difficult conditions and often heavy downpours of rain. Up front, Reid and Keating worked hard, mainly supported by Dowling and the two wing backs. Often, though, they had to chase over-hit balls or struggle with high balls that neither are really suited for and rarely came out best against ‘fit for purpose defenders’! The conditions had something to do with this, as the ball became increasingly hard to control and passes along the ground were risky in many saturated areas of the pitch.
The second half started with a bang and raised the Yellow Army’s spirits. A cleverly and quickly taken free kick by Dowling found Reid well in to the Eastleigh half with the defenders still disorganised and Keating making a run into space. Reid saw the pass and Keating was away with one defender chasing who brought him down as he entered the box. The referee checked, and gave the penalty which Reid excellently dispatched in front of a jubilant yellow army.
Soon afterwards Young was denied by a good save by Stack. Two-nil might have been enough, but the plot was soon to swing the other way. In the 56th minute, Dowling was booked, then within 8 minutes received his second and his marching orders for a clumsy, unnecessary challenge.
The game unsurprisingly turned as United had to battle on with 10 men for the remaining 25 or so minutes, facing a strong wind and increasingly heavy rain. It was Eastleigh exerting all the pressure from then on. Their intention was clear, as their manager soon sent on three attacking substitutes, Constable, Yeates and McAllister.
To be fair, the United defence played with great solidarity and commitment, or the final result might have been worse. Davey, McGinty and Andresson all providing a solid wall in front of the Eastleigh onslaught, even though there were one or two goalmouth melees to deal with. The one error that let Eastleigh in came in the 72nd minute. When Dorel pushed a Zebroski cross outwards instead of over the bar, and with the goalmouth full of players, it went to Miley just inside the box who had time to fire the ball through the bodies for the equaliser.
The Plainmoor faithful could now only hope for one thing, to hold on. Gary Owers obviously felt the same, as he soon withdrew the hard-working Reid and Keating, leaving substitute J-P Pittman as the lone striker for most of the rest of the game with Jake Gosling playing in a deeper role.
There were more scrambles, brave blocks and desperate clearances as the clock ticked away. It was kind of a cruel pleasure, urging our boys to place themselves in places they would have rather not have been to defend the one precious point! It didn’t help the nerves that Eastleigh had one or two late corners and the ref seemed to over run the 4 minutes of time added on. Even the wind and rain increased in Eastleigh’s favour and in the end it was a point well-earned.
Davey 8 McGinty 9 Andresson 7
Efete 8 Dowling 6 Young 7 Lathrope 8 Davis 8
Reid 7 Keating 7
Subs: Pittman 6 Gosling 7
Man of the Match and Honourable Mentions:
Sean McGinty was excellent at the back, but so was the whole defence. They showed resolve, commitment and passion a mile away from the Maidstone nightmare. Also Vincent Dorel for coming back from France so quickly and making himself available for the cause. I thought he had a great game in difficult wet and windy conditions, and felt sorry for him that his one piece of mistiming contributed to the Eastleigh goal. Bien joue Vincent!!
The 254 members of the Yellow Army also deserve a mention for turning out on a foul day, still being in good voice and for choosing football over the Christmas dinner leftovers.
Away Day Overview:
Arriving at an already rain affected Eastleigh, the resilient Yellow Army (all 254 of them) were in fine voice and ready to go well before the kick-off time at a sparsely populated Silverlake Stadium. Many of us were surprised that the total attendance was announced as 2,092 at the end of the afternoon!
The stadium still looks like a ‘work in progress’, although parts of the ground are impressive, including a large stand at one end and a smartish looking hospitality area at the other, with windows peering down on to the pitch and what seemed like a large bar on the ground floor. However since my last visit, the ground is now segregated, so I was not able to enter this cosy looking building or sample the delights I remembered being available at the home kiosk! It was off to the aptly named ‘ the hangar’, which did have an impressive selection of beers on tap and an efficient and friendly bar staff to boot.
There could be no doubting the spirit of Gary Ower’s team today. Playing against increasingly adverse weather conditions in the second half, added to by the sending off of Dowling (who had been playing well) and the 30 or so minutes they had to endure with 10 men – we matched a team that had just come off an away win at promotion chasing Dagenham. Our defence being well up to the task, even with 10 men. However, no disrespect to Reid or Keating etc., but from my view we are still desperately ‘short’ up front.
‘Short’ in goal poaching in those half chance situations, ‘short’ often in accuracy, ‘short’ in height to make the most of those long high balls that are inevitable on days like this and ‘short’ of players in the box when those wide men are in crossing positions.
A Happy New Year to all Gulls fans,
Boreham Wood Away 3pm – 30th December