Hi Tom, so summarise Eastleigh’s season for us in a couple of paragraphs?
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for us this season so far. We had a really good start but then had a dip over the Christmas period where we could have won a few of the games that we drew. The change of system in January was very successful and we’ve performed very well since then, picking up some massive wins.
How’s the teams recent form been?
The recent form has been nothing short of unbelievable. Beating Hartlepool, Stockport and Halifax at home, before travelling up to Notts County and taking all the points there. Then getting another win against Sutton on Saturday and then completing the double over County on Tuesday was a huge boost to the playoff push.
What’s been your highlights of the season so far?
The main highlight of the season has to be how good we’ve been at home. Since the turn of the year we’ve played nearly every other team off the park and we’ve become such a good defensive unit, getting 14 clean sheets so far this season.
Who are your key players and why?
The key players would have to be Joe Tomlinson, Joe McDonnell, Ben House and Tyrone Barnett. Tomlinson came in from the league below in the summer and has been playing so so well for us, he’s definitely got a big future ahead of him. The same could be said for striker Ben House. A very good all-round forward and tracks back to defend as well. Joe McDonnell is easily the best goalie I’ve seen this season, his gloves are like glue – he catches every single cross and has lightning reactions too. Tyrone Barnett remains one of the best aerial players in the top 5 leagues. The technique on that head is superb, and can do anything when jumping for the ball.
TT PLAYER PROFILE – Joe McDonnell
Date of Birth: 19th May 1994 – 26 years-old
Former Clubs: Basingstoke, Hendon, AFC Wimbledon, Hampton & Richmond, Harrow Borough, Notts County
National League Stats 20-21: Played 36, Clean Sheets 13
Who’s the boss and what tactics does he like to use?
Gaffer Ben Strevens deservedly signed a new contract last week, which will keep him at the helm for another couple of years at least. A great motivator and leader, he likes to use the press to put pressure on defenders to win the ball high up, or counter quickly from the back. Very dynamic tactical approach.
What’s your likely line up for Saturday?
I think we’ll only make one change for Saturday – Tomlinson in for Green. House may still be missing after getting a knock on the head against Sutton. I think it’ll be: McDonnell, Smart, Partington, Boyce, Bird, Tomlinson, Miley, Payne, Hill, Barnett, Marriott.
You are in the play-off mix, do you fancy your chances?
I definitely fancy our play-off chances. The rest of our games after this weekend are against teams in the bottom half, so if we avoid any banana skins, we should keep ourselves in the mix.
What are the main strengths of the team?
The main strengths would be how well we fit the tactical set-up. Every player has incredible stamina levels which means we can play really intensely for long periods of the game.
Which opposition teams and players have impressed you most?
I think the best team I’ve seen play this season would be Stockport when we went up to their place. They played so well, every player putting a massive shift in and I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a late push for the title. The best player I’ve seen would have to be Isaac Olaofe from Sutton. He’s well above this level and just cuts through defences like a knife through hot butter. Superb player.
And finally you beat us early in the season, but what’s your prediction for the game at Plainmoor?
I’m gutted to not be allowed to go to Plainmoor because of press limitations on Torquay’s side, but I’d definitely predict a tight game. If we score first I’d back us to win, but only by a single goal. I think it’ll be 0-1 to Eastleigh.