Pre Season Friendly
(Ayo Obileye, Scott Wilson, Ross Lafayette)
(Joe Payne, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro)
After a weekend without a game (shocking I know!) I managed to squeeze in a weeknight fixture between National League side Eastleigh and League Two outfit Barnet.
With former Crewe Alexandra fan favourite Adam Dugdale sorting me out with a complementary ticket, what more could a ground hopper dream of than a free game of soccer.
It was the second chance to see Eastleigh this pre-season having watched a young side beat AFC Stoneham back in Game #2.
Tonight’s starting line up was probably their strongest eleven, all ready for when the league starts in 11 days time.
It also made a refreshing change having a programme and a team sheet and also at least one team having names on the back of their shirts, back to the dizzy heights of professional clubs again.
In the four years that I have been down in Hampshire, I have seen the Silverlake Stadium go from one small-seated stand to what it is now.
With the new(ish) built seated stand behind the far goal and the improvements made the terraces opposite the main stand, the ground has developed into something worthy of breaking into the Football League (let’s just forget about how poor/dangerous it is to reach the ground on foot)
Two sides of the pitch are covered with seating and the rest covered terracing it is a great ground for the level they play at with talks of more improvements to be made as they look to break out of Non-League football.
With little tea window and various fast food vans within the stadium there is plenty of refreshments and plenty of choice for somewhere to stand or sit to enjoy the game.
I took full advantage of my free ticket and went and sat in the main stand in line with half way to get a perfect view of the game.
Eastleigh survived a late Barnet comeback to defeat their Football League opponents 3-2 thanks to goals from defender Ayo Obileye and strikers Scott Wilson and Ross Lafayette.
Obileye had given the home side the lead in the first half before Wilson doubled the advantage after the break. Bees substitute Joe Payne had pulled one back before Lafayette rounded the ‘keeper for Eastleigh’s third.
A late consolation tap in by Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro wasn’t enough as Eastleigh continue their 100% winning home run in the friendlies.
Barnet had the better of the early chances, with the most noteworthy effort falling to Akpa Akpro who hit the post with his shot from a tight angle.
Chris Todd’s Eastleigh side grew into the game and new signing Adam Dugdale should have put the hosts in the lead but Bees ‘keeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle was equal to his header.
It was Dugdale’s central defensive partner Obileye who broke the deadlock when Jake Howells swung in a tricky cross and the big defender was there at the back post to prod his team ahead.
Jai Reason was close to doubling the home team’s lead when he dropped his shoulder to get past Tom Day but his finesse shot was easily saved by McKenzie-Lyle.
With the score at 1-0 at the break, Todd made three changes giving some vital game time to Wislon , Lafayette and Connor Essam.
And it was Wilson who was soon off the mark when he received a quick throw in and managed to wrong foot the ‘keeper as his scuffed shot from out side the area trickled into the bottom corner.
Barnet striker Akpa Akpro was the main goal threat for the away side and he managed to find some space but his long-range effort went high over Ryan Huddart’s goal.
Eastleigh had a strong shout for a penalty when Yemi Odubade raced through and rounded the ‘keeper, appearing to take a knock and go down, however the referee saw nothing of it and continued the match.
Martin Allen’s Barnet side did pull a goal back thanks to a great pass from Jack Taylor who sent Akpa Akpro on his way down the right wing.
The former Grimsby, Shrewsbury and Tranmere front man put in a delightful ball low across the six-yard box for Payne to put past a helpless Huddart.
Eastleigh made sure of the win when Lafayette put Day under pressure as the last man and managed to win the ball back. The powerful striker then rounded the goalie to slot in a well-deserved goal.
Lafayette had a great chance to double his tally but he decided to take an early shot on his weak foot instead of working the ball more into the box.
As the minutes ticked down, Akpa Akpro finally got on the score sheet with an easy tap-in in the final moments of the game.
2016/17 Games: 10
2016/17 Grounds: 12
Total Grounds Visited: 157