Boreham Wood v Eastleigh
Saturday 25th March 2023, 3.00pm
LV BET Stadium Meadow Park, Vanarama National League
It’s sixth vs seventh in the Vanarama National League as highflying Eastleigh make their second trip of the campaign to the LV BET Stadium Meadow Park, with the Wood looking to bounce back from their first league of 2023 and leapfrog their play-off rivals on Saturday.
IN FOCUS: EASTLEIGH
The Spitfires are approaching a decade in the National League following their promotion in 2014, with a 19thplace finish last time out sealing a ninth consecutive year in the fifth tier. This was their lowest league finish since their days in the sixth tier though, and Lee Bradbury’s men came into the current campaign intent on improvement, with their initial season aims undoubtedly already met. Eastleigh currently sit 25 points above 19th having managed to fly even higher, with a potential crack at League Two football on the cards after winning 19 of their 39 games to sit sixth in the National League table, and they will be looking to protect place in the top seven come the end of the season.
The Spitfires were in need of reinforcements when 2020/21 Player’s Player of the Season Andrew Boyce was joined in the departure lounge by Harry Pritchard, Cav Miley, Sam Smart, Danny Hollands and Tyrone Barnett last summer, and they have evidently seen little impact with the return to Hampshire of Aaron Martin to add steal and experience in defence alongside fellow arrival Christian Maghoma, while Ousseynou Cissé has helped to sure up the backline in front of them. This experience has been blended with a number of young players arriving at the Silverlake Stadium with Corey Panter, Brennan Camp, George Langston and JJ McKiernan joining last summer, with the latter renewing his loan spell from Watford during the winter window to join new arrivals Kairo Mitchell, Alfie Lloyd and Jake Scrimshaw, who have all contributed in attack to ease the burden of summer signing Charlie Carter and top scorer Danny Whitehall, who have eight and 12 goals respectively. This has seen the Spitfires fly up the division, and with an eight-point gap to Wealdstone in eighth, they seemingly have their first play-off place since 2018/19 in the palm of their hands.
LAST TIME OUT
Eastleigh 3-2 Altrincham
Saturday 18th March 2023
Vanarama National League
Eastleigh extended their home unbeaten run to six games and climbed to sixth in the National League table, after a 3-2 win over Altrincham.
Lee Bradbury’s side burst into a 2-0 lead in the opening ten minutes as the game exploded into action just sixth minutes in, as an error at the back saw Eastleigh take a fortuitous lead when James Jones’ pass back to his own box caught goalkeeper Oliver Byrne off-guard, with the ball rolling into the net to kick-off proceedings for the Spitfires. It wouldn’t be long before they had a second as some fantastic interplay from Charlie Carter and Danny Whitehall led to the former squaring for Kairo Mitchell to convert from close range for his first Spitfires goal, increasing the deficit in the process. After falling two goals behind Altrincham enjoyed a spell of possession as they tried to kill the free-scoring Spitfires’ momentum, and they were able to take advantage of a golden opportunity for JJ McKiernan going amiss as they made their pressure count just before the half-hour mark, with another stroke of fortune seeing the visitors halve the deficit through Jordan Hulme who took advantage of a rasping strike from Jones being palmed straight into his path by Joe McDonnell, giving him just an empty net to beat. Phil Parkinson’s side soon came close to drawing level when Eddy Jones’ corner sailed just past the outstretched boot of his namesake James, before the hosts almost restored their two-goal advantage through Whitehall, who flicked the ball agonisingly wide of the mark from Michael Kelly inch-perfect cross.
In pursuit of a leveller, Altrincham came close to equalising when Jones’ miss-hit cross bounced past the post as the quick-paced action continued in the second half, but Eastleigh continued to probe for a third as Whitehall went close when he headed just wide from a corner. They did soon find their third with 15 minutes to go though, with Christan Maghoma heading home Kelly’s corner to open his account for the season and extend their lead once again. They almost had a chance to add gloss to the scoreline when the hosts had a penalty appeal when JJ McKiernan was brought down by a Robins defender, but this was waved away by the referee. This almost came back to bite Eastleigh when Altrincham did pulled a goal back in added time through Jones, setting up a nervy finale, however the Spitfires held on to continue their unbeaten home run and seal all three points.
Altrincham (H) W3-2
Notts County (A) L3-1
Oldham Athletic (H) W1-0
Yeovil Town (A) L1-0
Scunthorpe United (A) W0-1
York City (H) W1-0
Although the Spitfires have remained consistent for much of the campaign, the last month has seen them sprinkle a handful of defeats among plenty of victories. A second half goal from Michael Kelly was enough to see out a narrow win against York City before a first half Danny Whitehall penalty sealed a victory by the same scoreline against Scunthorpe United, extending an unbeaten run in the league to six games, however their streak wouldn’t last much longer as relegation threatened Yeovil Town secured a shock win over the play-off hopefuls to end their string of wins. Like so many times this season Eastleigh refused to go down easily, and they bounced back with a third victory in four games against Oldham Athletic to aid their pursuit for a top seven finish. Unfortunately, they would follow this up with a tough trip to automatic promotion contenders Notts County, and they were unable to put a dent in the Magpies’ titles hopes as they were comfortably swept aside 3-1. They were once again able to bounce back though, with a 3-2 victory over Altrincham seeing them come into this weekend’s fixture with relative confidence, as they looked to produce a gap to the Wood below them.
IN THE DUGOUT: LEE BRADBURY
Lee Bradbury enjoyed a enjoyed a 17-year playing career after spending some time in the Army, featuring over 100 times for Portsmouth and AFC Bournemouth, as well as spending a season with Manchester City in 1997/98 when he was purchased for £3 million. He is well-known locally, having spent time with Pompey and the Cherries as a player and in various coaching roles, guiding the latter to the League One play-offs before spending seven years as manager of Havant & Waterlooville where he oversaw the Hawks’ first ever promotion to the National League. After brief spells at Eastbourne Borough and Crawley Town, the latter being in an assistant head coach role, Bradbury returned to the National League when he took over at Eastleigh in February 2022.
ONE TO WATCH: CHARLIE CARTER
A forward-minded midfielder, Charlie Carter began his career in the Fulham academy before moving to Woking, spending five years in Surrey where he featured 77 times. A season at Chesterfield followed, with his form earning a move to the Football League when he joined League Two outfit Stevenage. The 24-year old spent three seasons at the Lamex Stadium before making the move to Eastleigh in the summer, arriving with nearly 200 appearances and over 26 goals to his name.
LAST TIME WE MET
Eastleigh 1-0 Boreham Wood
Saturday 3rd December 2022
Vanarama National League
Tristan Abrahams’ first half penalty condemned the Wood to a seventh league game without victory, with Jamal Fyfield’s red card making it a difficult task for the visitors to take any points back to Hertfordshire despite a mini resurgence in the second half that saw them battle until the very end.
It was Eastleigh who saw the better of possession early on and they almost took the lead when Whitehall fired a volley wide of the target from just outside the penalty area, moments before Abrahams was sent one on one with Nathan Ashmore before being taken out by Cameron Coxe, but the referee waved away the appeals for a foul. They should have been awarded a golden opportunity to break the deadlock after ten minutes when Abrahams was brought down seemingly in the box, but further controversy saw the referee deem the foul to have taken place right on the edge, and the subsequent free kick was comfortably claimed by Ashmore. The Wood produced their first opportunity of the game after 19 minutes when Zak Brunt volleyed a tame effort into the gloves of Joe McDonnell, but Eastleigh responded by going close once more as Ryan Hill’s looping goal-bound cross needed to be claimed by Ashmore. The hosts did soon take the lead but much to the dismay of the Wood, as an off-the-ball incident saw Fyfield move his head towards Whitehall in the box with the Spitfires striker instantly dropping to the ground despite the contact looking minimal, and after much discussion between the referee and his assistants he soon opted to show red to the Wood defender, along with a spot-kick being awarded to the hosts. Abrahams subsequently stepped up to bury his effort beyond Ashmore from 12 yards.
The Wood were unable to see an immediate improvement after the break as Eastleigh once again went closest to scoring with Whitehall firing inches over from close range, although the visitors began to gain control of proceedings as the half progressed. One of the Wood’s better chances of the game fell to George Broadbent with a free kick that sailed over the crossbar, minutes before Jack Payne had an effort rise high after taking a wicked deflection that allowed McDonnell to eventually gather. Openings continued to fall for the visitors as they looked to get back into the game despite their one-man disadvantage, and they began to put their stamp on proceedings with an increasing spell of pressure. Payne once again tested McDonnell with two chances in quick succession, before substitute Dennon Lewis produced two good chances of his own as he looked to make an instant impact. Eastleigh saw a couple of chances go amiss themselves as they looked to add a second, with Whitehall firing a free kick over the crossbar before Oscar Rutherford sent an effort of his own the same way after some good individual work, and they almost paid the price when Érico Sousa saw a header blocked as the Spitfires tried desperately to keep a hold of their narrow lead. The Wood continued to battle with four additional minutes giving them a lifeline at the end of the game, but a late Broadbent shot flew into the grateful arms of McDonnell who held on for dear life, doing the same moments later to claim a deep Sousa cross which soon signalled the end of proceedings.
OUR CLUB. OUR TOWN. OUR COMMUNITY.