Eastleigh Ruin The Stags' Party
Eastleigh won the Hampshire Cup after a 2-0 victory over the holders AFC Totton at St Mary’s, a game which made history due to the first ever use of goal-line technology.
The Stags were hoping to drown their sorrows after narrowly missing out on promotion, as they lost in the play-off final to Oxford City just a week earlier. It was always going to be a tough task though, considering Totton manager, Stuart Ritchie, had left the club to join Havant and Waterlooville prior to the Cup final.
|Both teams warming-up before kick off|
The Spitfires were also without their manager, Ian Baird, who committed to a trip to Hong Kong after his side were knocked out in round two of the competition, Eastleigh were reinstated though as their opposition fielded an ineligible player.
The Spitfires, who were being managed by assistant manager Shaun Wilkinson, took the lead just thirteen minutes in; an exquisite ball from Daryl McMahon allowed Mitchell Nelson in behind the back four, who sent the ball towards the far post, Chris Flood was in the right place at the right time to stick it into the net.
McMahon was involved in the action again instantly, his thunderous free kick was too powerful for Stags’ keeper Grant Porter, who could only parry the ball straight to the head of Gary Elphick, but the centre-back put his header over from just a yard out.
With Eastleigh dominating, it was down to Totton to take advantage on the counter attack. Half an hour played, the Stags broke from a corner as Jonathan Davies carried the ball forward and eventually sent Nathaniel Sherborne through on goal. The striker could only put the ball wide though, despite having acres of space and time.
Half Time Eastleigh 1-0 AFC Totton
As the second half began, the fans were reminded that these two sides are local rivals, Totton’s Ryan Hill and Eastleigh’s Michael Green came together after a tackle which resulted in both players receiving a yellow card for raising their hands, although some may have felt a red card was necessary.
The Stags seemed lifted and their aggression went into the style of football they were playing, a string of superb moves saw the team in yellow dominate the early stages of the second half.
Totton were producing the chances on goal but a number of clear cut opportunities were being wasted, James Couttes was the most recent player to miss from five yards.
Gareth Barfoot remained alert, as he kept Eastleigh in front with a fantastic double save as Jonathan Davies hit two identical shots within seconds from a narrow angle.
The Blue Square South outfit doubled their lead against the run of play, Spitfires’ Chris Flood chested the ball down into his path and took it wide on the left flank, then crossed the ball far post which looked to be heading into the net, but Mitchell Nelson arrived on time to make sure the goal-line technology wouldn’t be needed.
The second goal appeared to have drowned the life out of Totton, who couldn’t find a way back into the game after Eastleigh’s second.
‘So near, yet so far’ would sum up the Stags’ season in a nutshell, as they fell two games short of promotion and a Cup win in the space of a few days, but the celebrations went Eastleigh’s way at St Mary’s stadium in front of a bumper crowd of 2,303.
Full Time: Eastleigh 2-0 AFC Totton
Eastleigh goalscorer, Mitchell Nelson, spoke to me after the game:
"It feels good coming off the back of the game at Maidenhead, I had a good game. I thought to myself, try and take it into the next game, so i thought why not enjoy myself?"
Written by Josh Harris.