FC Halifax Town fell 2-0 to a well organised Eastleigh side under the floodlights at the Shay in the Vanarama Conference on Tuesday night.
An early own goal from Marc Roberts and a sublime second half finish from James Constable gave visiting Eastleigh all three points in Town’s penultimate home game of the 2014/15 campaign.
The tie represented the final game in hand for both Halifax and Eastleigh, as both teams looked to finish the season strong and as high up the table as possible with just three games of 46 remaining before a ball was kicked.
A place in this season’s Vanarama Conference play off picture may be beyond the Shaymen but for the away side, the fight for promotion is well and truly on.
The visitors only needed a draw to leap frog Macclesfield into fifth as they had a better goal difference than the Silkmen.
The game was originally meant to have been played way back in the middle of January on a Saturday but both sides had to settle things on a brisk Tuesday night under the lights at the Shay.
Eastleigh started the brighter and settled well, their threat in the final third was evident from the off, Joe Partington going close inside 60 seconds, his header was just wide of Matt Glennon’s near post.
The Spitfires endeavour and creativity soon found purchase after Craig McAllister went to ground easily under the challenge of Steve Williams. The resulting free kick angled in towards danger man Constable but Marc Roberts diverted the ball goalwards unchallenged, beyond Glennon who remained routed to the spot to give Eastleigh an early lead.
Neil Aspin alluded to a reshuffle in personnel ahead of the game, there was a return to the starting line up for Kevin Roberts and Paul Marshall, neither had played in the blue and white of Halifax for two months. Both looked assured as defence combined well with the midfield and the Shaymen grew into the game as the first half wore on.
However, Neil Aspin’s men struggled to unlock the door and free the attack minded Jack Muldoon and Jamie Jackson in the first 45. But for the linesman the latter may well have got in behind the visitors back line, latching onto a number of flick ons and balls over the top by the former.
A few tasty tackles went in and on 34 minutes a dangerous challenge by Jamie Turley on Jackson, studs showing, into the chest of the forward left the Halifax number nine on the deck, the referee kept his cards in his pocket despite a lengthy stoppage.
Town came out second half playing at a higher tempo, looking for an avenue back into the game but Eastleigh weren’t so willing to oblige and continued to control and dictate play.
Eastleigh’s frontline boasted a collective career goal return just shy of the 400 mark and always looked threatening.
On the hour mark Constable showcased his quality after he picked the ball up on the far side to drift into the Shaymen penalty area to loop the ball over Glennon, an exquisite strike to double the visitors advantage.
Craig McAllister went close soon after but couldn’t get his foot over the ball to direct it goal wards and test the Shaymen goalkeeper.
Town’s boss was the first to make changes on 64 minutes by bringing Danny Hattersley on for Steve Williams, a change in personnel ushered in a change in formation as the home side went four at the back as apposed to the five in defence that had started the game.
Almost immediately, Hattersley floated an inch perfect diagonal ball into the chest of Muldoon but the Rochdale loanee was quickly set upon by a swarm of Eastleigh bodies to nullify the threat.
With twenty minutes to play Jackson did really well to win Town a corner from a wide area, the resulting set piece was met by the head of Marc Robert who’s bullet header needed a good stop from Ross Flitney in the Eastleigh goal.
Hattersley nodded down for Muldoon to run onto with only the keeper to beat but blazed over the bar, the best chance of the night for the Shaymen up to this point.
Halifax continued to press, enjoying the lion’s share of possession, as the game entered the final 10 minutes, Danny Schofield came on for Matty Pearson.
The Spitfires were unyielding, Flitney in the Eastleigh goal epitomised his sides defiance, making himself big to deny Hattersley from close range late on.
Eastleigh stuck to their task and were worthy winners, they move into the play off places and Town slip to ninth in the standings with two league games to contest.
Up next for the Shaymen is their final home game of the season, they welcome Torquay United to the Shay this Saturday.
FC Halifax Town: Glennon, Bolton, M.Roberts (C), Williams (Hattersley 64’), K.Roberts, McManus, Pearson (Schofield 82), Marshall, Hatfield, Muldoon, Jackson
Substitutes: Senior, Schofield, Hattersley
Eastleigh: Flitney, Turley, Partington, Spence, Reason (Howard 90’), Stanley, Strevens (C), Evans, McAllister (Burton 72’), Constable, Midson
Substitutes: Howard, Pell, Walker, Burton, Beckwith
Goals: M.Roberts (O.G. 7’), Constable (60’)
Yellow cards: Reason
Referee: Ian Hussin
Added time: 3 minutes
Attendance: 852 (46 Eastleigh)
Website Man of the Match: Will Hatfield