It’s a bit like going to the dentist, you know in advance it’s going to cost a few quid, you know it’s not likely to be too much fun, and you also know it’s not going to feel too good afterwards. In truth, we’ve not really had too much luck over recent years on our travels to Eastleigh. Without a win against our National League opponents in nine attempts (home and away), it was no wonder that the Greetland Shayman decided to accept a last-minute invite to attend a senior citizen’s speed dating event rather than risk another fruitless visit to the south coast. Credit to Cricketer Phil though, without hesitation he stepped in at a moment’s notice and headed down the M1 with us on a surprisingly light morning just after 7.00 am.
It’s always a lottery on any long distance away trip with the traffic, some days it’s fine, other’s it’s more of a challenge. When there’s a serious hold up but we still arrive at the ground in good time, it does look like good planning. Conversely, when there are no traffic issues and next to no other customers in our favourite Northamptonshire breakfast stop, I admit it does feel a tad early when we roll up to the ground before 12:30. On the positive side though, we did find one of the best spots in the near deserted car park!
With time on our hands, we found the people of Eastleigh Football Club extremely welcoming. Wandering around the car parks we were engaged twice by club officials, both were keen to know about our journey, invite us into the clubhouse, and make sure we knew where we were going and what the match day arrangements were. When we spotted an open gate into the ground, we were able to explore the empty terraces freely and we were also told about recent developments and plans for the ground. Everyone seemed pleased to see us.
Eastleigh’s Silverlake Stadium has come on leaps and bounds over recent seasons. The construction workers have finished for now, with the capacity approaching 6000. The main stand has been extended from an original two blocks of seats on the half way line to now holding three times as many spectators with a capacity of over 1000. Behind the far goal, there is a new corporate facility where match day meals are served in a banqueting suite with large windows overlooking the pitch. Down the right-hand side of the pitch is a decent sized covered terrace, split between the home fans and travelling fans. The largest stand is also reasonably new and there are over 2000 seats providing a decent elevated view for both home and away fans, with the wooded floor and low roof helping to make a good atmosphere.
The first half was all action, the Shaymen were under siege on the pitch from a very attack minded home side, whilst in the seats an exceptionally large home support was boosted by the late arrival of around 1000 enthusiastic school children with free tickets. As the home side attacked on the pitch, the stewards tried desperately to make more space for the ever-increasing crowd by quickly removing flags and banners to free up empty seats within the no-man’s land separating the home and away fans.
It was a minor miracle that the scores were level at half time. Eastleigh had run riot with a constant attack but every single Shayman had played their part heroically blocking everything Eastleigh had to offer. The crossbar was rattled, the goal posts were bashed, and Sam Johnson made one or two decent stops. The wooden floor of the stand was rocking (literally), every attack being roared on with the stamping of hundreds of feet. It was like a continuous rumble of thunder as the home side pushed for the lead.
The second half was a complete transformation. From being totally dominant, Eastleigh suddenly looked just average as the Shaymen became more adventurous and took hold of the game. Suddenly the risk of losing disappeared; it was just a question of whether the Shaymen could score the winner. With just over 10 minutes remaining James Ferry scored right in front of the 103 travelling fans (we counted each one of them too), and suddenly it was our turn to stamp our feet, bang the seats and rock the wooden stand. The closing minutes were comfortable and a lot of fun as many of the home fans drifted out early.
Driving back and it was a great feeling, our second away win in a row. The league table looks a lot healthier and nobody is scoring goals against us. It’s all great fun. We voted Matty Brown our Man of the Match again for leading a tremendous defence in the first half. We can’t wait to go back to Eastleigh!
Next up and it’s another trip down south, this time to Barnet on a Tuesday night. At least its North of London this time and we’ll also find out how the Greetland Shayman got on with is speed dating, I bet we had a better time than he did! C’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 6443, total league goals on the road: 14
Read more posts by Rob Brown