FA Cup Third Round Proper
(Yoann Barbet, Tom Field x2, Lasse Vibe, Romaine Sawyers)
Attendance: 7,537 (1,428 Eastleigh fans)
An away day on the supporters bus. My first experience of this came in May 2007 when, my dad and I travelled with Crewe Alexandra to the City Ground to watch a 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest. That day just 66.5 miles separated the two grounds.
Fast-forward ten years and I am still climbing onto a supporters bus travelling 75.7 miles north and I’ve swapped from red to blue. Now I am not saying for one minute that I have turned my back on Crewe, I haven’t, but now I live on the south coast, I was an Eastleigh fan for the day.
When Eastleigh were drawn away at Championship side Brentford, it was a no-brainer. Having been to every round from the Extra Preliminary Round following the FA Cup this year, I have loved every minute. The chance to visit Griffin Park for the first time was also a big factor in my decision.
This was my second time watching the Spitfires away from home. I have seen plenty of home games, having been to the Silverlake Stadium 17 times since my first visit back in February 2013. My one only away game came in pre-season this season when they played neighbours AFC Stoneham.
So I got to the Silverlake and once I had been in the clubhouse and spent way too long trying to find what coach I was on, I finally got on Coach 12 (the last one, cracking support for the non league side).
The journey was pretty painless and we made it to Griffin Park with about 90 minutes before kick off.
I was super pleased to be carrying on my FA Cup run this season in style, a non league club away at a Championship side was the best pick for me, as well as being able to cross off another ground in the 92 Football League clubs.
We were dropped off about a five-minute walk away from the ground, over the railway on the footbridge and the ground is very concealed amongst the houses. It is pretty invisible apart from the towering floodlights.
One thing I thought was cool was that there is a pub on each corner of the ground, not that I am into the drinking culture that surrounds football but it was unique to have one on each corner of the ground.
Unbeknown to myself, I took a left to walk around the ground when the away end was about 100 metres up from where I had made the decision to turn left. I found the club shop, purchased my pin badge to add to the collection and continued to circle the ground before reaching the away section.
I had my reservations about the away terracing as I was keen to get a seat in the tier above, however once in the ground, all my worries disappeared. I soon realised that the pillars weren’t going to cause me too many problems as I placed myself to the right of the goal right on the front barrier.
Behind the opposite goal is some classic terracing, refreshing to see at a ground competing so high up in the football pyramid.
The tunnel, to my right, was up the corner, a strange place considering the dugouts are on the opposite side. The seated stands to my left and right were old school and pillars would obstruct the view on one side but to my right it seemed more clear, despite their being some obstructions midway up the stand.
Brentford is a proper ground, a mixture of seating and standing, compact and a good atmosphere from both sets of fans. I recommend that people do make the trip to Griffin Park before they eventually move.
Eastleigh’s FA Cup run ended in the third round of the FA Cup for a second consecutive season when they were blown away by five first half goals from Brentford.
The non-league side, who were knocked out to Championship side Bolton last season, conceded five times in the first half to mark a miserable return to Griffin Park for Spitfires boss Martin Allen.
Allen’s side were dealt an early blow on eight minutes when Lasse Vibe was tripped in the box by debut ‘keeper Graham Stack when through on goal. The 35-year-old was lucky to only receive a yellow card. French defender Yoann Barbet stepped up and curled the ball into the corner.
The visitors were dealt a second blow when Gavin Hoyte picked up an injury in the lead up to the penalty and was replaced by Jai Reason.
Dean Smith’s men doubled the lead on 15 minutes when Romaine Sawyers delivered a sweet cross with the outside of his boot into the path of teenager Tom Field who nodded in at the back post.
Eastleigh were putting balls into dangerous areas but struggling to make a real chance to get into the game. Luke Coulson swung a free kick into the box that ‘keeper Daniel Bentley failed to hold on to and Brentford turned defence into attack at lightning speed when Vibe curled the ball into the back of the net for 3-0. Sawyers played a through pass to Josh McEachran who laid the ball to Vibe to curl into the back of the net from inside the box.
The game was won from there, as Eastleigh would have had to produce a miracle to take anything from the game. They did manage to pull a goal back on 29 minutes when Bentley flapped at a Coulson corner and it hit the bar before landing to towering centre back Ayo Obileye to tap in from three yards.
Brentford looked shaky from set pieces and Eastleigh were close to making it 3-2 when Michael Green’s corner evaded everybody before bouncing off the far post and out.
Field added his second and Brentford’s fourth on 38 minutes when McEachran played a defence splitting pass into the Irish youth player to take a touch and slot in underneath Stack.
In first half injury time, Saint Kitts & Nevis international Sawyers scored the pick of the bunch when McEachran’s long ball over the top was controlled by Vibe on the edge of the area and sat up perfectly for Sawyers to hit it on the half volley into the corner.
Eastleigh looked down and out at the break and Brentford dominated the possession after the restart.
Allen made his second change of the day when forward Scott Wilson replaced James Constable on 54 minutes.
Wolves loanee defender Hakeem Odoffin had a great chance to pull a goal back after some good work by Wilson but the youngster scuffed his shot wide.
The visitors did create chances as Brentford didn’t get out of second gear and Obileye headed high over the bar when he had a free chance at goal from a corner.
Bees substitute Josh Clarke bustled his way into the box just after the hour mark but he fired straight at Stack who would have been pleased to save something on his debut.
Eastleigh introduced Mikael Mandron to the game and he looked lively in attack but it was all too late for a comeback. Bentley had to be alert to get his hand to an effort from Mandron as it looked like Eastleigh would not add to their first half goal.
As the board for injury time went up, Jai Reason tried a crafty chip to catch Bentley off his line but the former Southend stopper managed to scuttle back to keep the ball in play.
2016/17 Games: 76
2016/17 Grounds: 55
Total Grounds Visited: (not for a game): 148: (38)