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Eastleigh have Reason to be cheerful
Eastleigh crowned a fantastic fortnight of football by powering to a fourth straight Blue Square Bet South win at the expense of high-riding Chelmsford City.
Their 1-0 victory was sealed by a 43rd minute Jai Reason penalty in front of a 686 Silverlake Stadium crowd.
Mitchell Nelson was back in the Spitfires’ starting line-up in place of loan defender Alex Lacey who had been recalled by his parent club Luton.
And it was the right-back who had the first shot of the game, hitting a third-minute effort wide from Damian Scannell’s cross.
In reply, Max Cornhill headed over for Chelmsford from Anthony Cook’s sixth minute corner.
There was concern for Eastleigh two minutes later when Scannell, restored to the side after midweek illness, pulled up injured.
He did his best to continue, but went down again two minutes later and this time had to be replaced by Michael Green.
Green slipped in at left-back, Dan Spence switched to right-back and Nelson moved into a more advanced role on the right.
Those early disruptions briefly took their toll on Eastleigh and, with manager Richard Hill making his frustrations known from the technical area, midfielder Mark Hughes got himself booked for a hefty challenge on Cook, who briefly went off for treatment.
Chelmsford, though, looked none too comfortable in defence and it was unfortunate for Eastleigh that they had no-one to capitalise when Craig McAllister escaped down the left and his cross somehow eluded visiting skipper Kenny Clark and ran loose across the area.
Suddenly Eastleigh were all over the visitors and, after Dale Binns had headed wide from Jai Reason’s assist, there was an incredible sequence of chances two minutes later beginning with a powerhouse run by Binns whose sheer strength took him past Clark.
How Chelmsford’s goal survived had to be seen to be believed with McAllister’s header from Nelson’s cross and shots by Reason and Glen Southam somehow getting cleared away in an almighty goalmouth scramble.
Reason then got the better of the besieged Clark and picked out McAllister with a perfect cross from the right, but somehow the big striker failed to connect properly at the far post.
But it was only a matter of time before the Clarets’ defence buckled under the force of Eastleigh’s pace, power and movement.
And the breakthrough came on 43 minutes when Nelson flicked the ball on to Reason inside the right of the area and the Spitfires’ No 10 was brought down by Mark Haines.
REASON stepped up to rifle a hard, low penalty inside Reice Charles-Cook’s right-hand post to give Eastleigh a splender half-time lead.
Half-time: Eastleigh 1 Chelmsford City 0
Binns had the ball in the net at the start of the second half, but the whistle had been blown for offside.
Chelmsford then applied the pressure but, without their suspended top scorer – ex-Eastleigh man Jamie Slabber – they lacked cutting edge against a well-manned Spitfires defence.
Cook met Justin Miller’s long throw with an overhead kick, but it lacked the power to trouble Eastleigh keeper Ross Flitney.
And it was the Spitfires who looked dangerous again on 54 minutes when McAllister slipped the ball through to Binns who steered his shot just wide of the far post.
Binns’s strength then took him round the outside of Haines and his shot cannoned off the panicked Chelmsford defence for a corner.
With the Clarets’ goal under siege once more, Charles-Cook got down just in time to turn Southam’s 20-yard belter around the foot of the post.
McAllister’s header was then marginally too far in front of Reason for the attacking midfielder to get a shot away.
And, when Reason returned the compliment by playing in McAllister, the big man fluffed his lines in front of goal.
But there was growing danger from Chelmsford with Donovan Simmonds and David Bridges going too close for comfort from an Eastleigh perspective and Cook creating havoc with an in-swinging corner.
McAllister had another chance to settle home nerves on 71 minutes, but he couldn’t shrug off Clark’s attentions and shot straight at Charles-Cook.
With Chelmsford going all-out to try to rescue a point, substitute Kyle Vassell forced a smart save from Flitney and then Dean Beckwith headed narrowly past his own post as he defended an awkward ball in.
With eight minutes to go, Eastleigh withdrew McAllister and threw substitute Andy Forbes into his old frontline role.
Eastleigh came again in the closing stages with Charles-Cook saving brilliantly after Binns’s fierce delivery had rebounded off defender Haines at point-blank range.
Southam then darted through marginally too late to reach yet another excellent Reason assist and toed the ball wide at full stretch.
The drama kept going right to the end when Chelmsford’s Haines fouled Reason and was sent off for a second yellow card.