The Robins return to league action on Saturday afternoon when they make the long journey south to face Eastleigh at the Silverlake Stadium.
Following the heroic performance against Yeovil Town, Phil Parkinson’s side were made to sweat on Saturday in the FA Cup, beating National League North side Southport to book their place in the First Round Proper.
Marcus Carver handed the Sandgrounders the lead after 35 minutes, turning the ball home from close range after Jack Bainbridge, Niall Watson and Dylan Vassallo had linked up impressively in the build-up.
Alty responded well to going a goal down and soon had an equaliser through Tom Peers, before Josh Hancock’s impressive header had The Robins ahead at the break.
A much-changed Altrincham side came out strongly in the second period, but they were made to wait until the 67th minute for a third goal, with Matty Kosylo capitalising on some poor defending to extend Alty’s advantage.
Carver scored his second of the game with 15 minutes left to play, getting on the end of Watson’s cross to give Southport some hope of extending their already impressive FA Cup run.
However, despite not being at their best, The Robins were able to see out the rest of the game and progress to the next round of the FA Cup, where they will meet Gateshead at the Gateshead International Stadium.
You can listen to Phil Parkinson’s thoughts on that game by clicking the link below.
Following that result, the Robins sit seventh in the Vanarama National League table, seven points ahead of Eastleigh in 13th having played the same number of games as the Spitfires.
This will be the first meeting between the sides since last season’s game at the J. Davidson Stadium. On that occasion, Ryan Colclough’s late strike earned Alty a point while dealing a fatal blow to Eastleigh’s promotion hopes.
The Spitfires, who were chasing a fourth straight win at the time, saw Tyrone Barnett's early effort drop just over the crossbar, before Robins’ defender Tom Hannigan saw his shot drift just wide.
Eastleigh forced their way in front six minutes into the second half as Barnett, formerly of Southend United and AFC Wimbledon, headed home Michael Green’s deep cross.
Altrincham drew level with just 12 minutes left when Colclough slotted home from a difficult angle, with the winger making good use of the referee’s advantage following a foul on Hancock in the build-up.
And the hosts could have even snatched all three points right at the death when Tom Peers’ shot looked destined for the bottom corner, only to bobble agonisingly wide.
You can watch the highlights of that game by pressing play below.
Founded in 1946 as Swaythling Athletic, Eastleigh have proven themselves to be one of the tougher teams to play against since their promotion to this level in 2014. Four out of the seven previous seasons they have spent in the National League have resulted in promotion pushes but The Spitfires still haven’t managed to carve themselves a path into the Football League.
Based at Ten Acres (known as the Silverlake Stadium for sponsorship purposes), our hosts on Saturday have so far experienced a mixed campaign, with their current record standing at three wins, three draws, and four losses.
Even at this early stage of the season, Eastleigh’s inconsistent form has cost them a place further up the league table, with the club yet to secure back-to-back league victories. From their last five National League games, they have picked up wins against Woking and Wealdstone, losses against Grimsby Town and Southend United, and a draw against Boreham Wood.
However, if you take cup games into account, they do enter this weekend unbeaten in three, after being held to a draw by Isthmian League Premier Division side Folkestone Invicta, before winning the replay in extra time.
Compared to the side we met last season, there have been several changes to Eastleigh first team squad. With influential players like Mike Green, Joe Partington, Joe Tomlinson, and Jack Payne having departed the Hampshire-based club, a lot of work has been put into shaping this current crop of players.
Midfielder Jake Hesketh has been brought in from Premier League side Southampton, Danny Whitehall has moved to the club from Scottish Championship side Kilmarnock, while Tom Whelan has joined from National League rivals Chesterfield.
In total, there are 15 new faces in the Eastleigh squad, while 16 have sought a fresh challenge elsewhere, perhaps going some way to explain their topsy turvy start to the season.
In their last match against Folkestone, a late winner deep into extra time from striker Ben House confirmed the Spitfires’ place in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup, following a hard-fought 3-2 victory.
Tom Whelan handed Eastleigh a first half lead, cleverly flicking Vincent Harper’s dangerous cross past the home ‘keeper, before Folkestone defender Josh Vincent was shown a second yellow card early in the second period.
In the 58th minute, Jake Hesketh doubled the visitors’ lead, turning on the spot to leave his marker helpless before passing the ball into the bottom corner.
Adeoye Yusuff pulled a goal back for the Seasiders, converting from close range, before Scott Heard wiped out Eastleigh’s lead in impressive fashion, volleying home with just 12 minutes on the clock.
But deep into extra time, with the threat of penalties looming over both teams, House spared The Spitfires from a shock FA Cup exit with a composed finish, booking their place in the next round where they will face Boreham Wood.
The Spitfires are managed by Ben Strevens, who was appointed to his position at The Silverlake Stadium in November 2018, following a short spell as caretaker-manager. The 40-year-old replaced current Dover Athletic manager Andy Hessenthaler.
Having made over 140 games for the club during his playing career, Strevens was seen as the ideal candidate to take over in the dugout, despite his lack of managerial experience. Casting those doubts aside, the former striker impressed many by leading Eastleigh to the play-offs at the end of the 2018/19 season, losing to Salford City at the semi-final stage.
After a difficult 2019/20 campaign, one which saw the club finish 16th, Strevens’ Eastleigh side looked back to their old self the following season, with the play-offs well within their reach. However, a draw on the road against Altrincham before a defeat to Solihull Moors on the final day meant that The Spitfires would have to settle for another season in the National League.
As a player, Strevens featured for no less than 11 clubs, starting out at Wingate & Finchley before featuring for Barnet, Slough Town, St Albans City, Crawley Town, Dagenham & Redbridge, Brentford, Wycombe Wanderers, Gillingham, Eastleigh, and Whitehawk. Known as a prolific scorer, he found the back of the net 125 times before hanging up his boots.
A win for Altrincham at the weekend could lift the Robins up to fifth in the Vanarama National League table, above Dagenham & Redbridge and Bromley. However, a win for Eastleigh could see them leapfrog Wrexham into 12th, depending on results elsewhere.
Last five league games
Eastleigh: LWDLW (F6 A7)
Altrincham: WWLWD (F12 A7)
What are they saying?
Eastleigh manager Ben Strevens spoke about facing Altrincham this weekend after The Spitfires’ FA Cup replay win against Folkestone Invicta.
Concession (60 & over): £10
Student (17-21): £5
Junior (12-16): £2
Disabled Carer: Free
Under 11: Free
Tickets for Saturday’s game can be purchased below.
Listen to the game Live on Radio Robins
You can listen to live commentary on Radio Robins, sponsored by Ashley Mowers Garden Machinery.
The broadcast starts at 2.45pm
The match commentary sponsor is Radio Alty
The commentary team is Laurence Howarth & Brian Flynn
You can listen to Radio Robins in any of the following ways:
1) By visiting our Match Centre on the club website
2) Download and install the Mixlr app on Android devices from the Google Play Store - start the app and search for 'Radio Robins'.
3) Download and install the Mixlr app on Apple devices from the Apple Store - start the app and search for 'Radio Robins'.
Other ways to follow the game
Not coming to the Silverlake Stadium on Saturday? You can also keep up to date via the following ways.
Match Centre: https://bit.ly/3plYwUe
Ed Painter reports from The Silverlake Stadium where the Robins were made to rue their missed opportunities as second half strikes from Danny Hollands and Tom Whelan consigned Alty to a 2-1 defeat.
Captain Jake Moult’s strike after only six minutes gave Phil Parkinson’s side the lead at half time, with the midfielder hooking the ball into the top corner after both Tom Hannigan & Tom Peers had headed on Matty Kosylo’s corner.
Eastleigh responded well after the break and soon found themselves level through substitute Danny Hollands, whose towering near post header flashed into the far corner from Tom Whelan’s corner.
The Spitfires turned the game on its head with just over an hour gone, as Tom Whelan’s impressive free kick curled over the wall & was perfectly placed close to the junction of the crossbar & post.
Alty came close late on through Jake Moult and Tom Peers, with the latter an inch away from replicating his goal against Maidenhead United a fortnight ago, but it proved to be too little too late for The Robins, who headed back north empty handed.
Missing several players through injury, Phil Parkinson’s side got off to the perfect start, with captain Jake Moult hooking the ball into the top corner after both Tom Hannigan & Tom Peers had headed on Matty Kosylo’s corner.
The hosts were stunned by the early opener and could have found themselves two goals down inside seven minutes had Matty Kosylo made a better connection with a dangerous ball into the box from Tom Peers.
However, Eastleigh soon settled and with 20 minutes on the clock, they were convinced they had levelled the score.Former Southampton midfielder, Jake Hesketh, struck a looping shot which came down off the underside of the crossbar and looked to have bounced over the line. Thankfully for Alty, the linesman wasn’t convinced, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
Buoyed by a sense of injustice, The Spitfires were throwing the kitchen sink at the Altrincham defence. Barnett was proving to be the focal point of the hosts attack and in the 26th minute, it looked certain that he had finally found his way through but with the goal gaping, a tremendous challenge from Tom Hannigan denied the striker.
Despite being put under immense pressure, The Robins were not without chances of their own and on the stroke of half time, they came within a whisker of doubling their advantage. A sloppy back pass from the Eastleigh defender was almost intercepted by Marcus Dinanga, before the striker later recovered the ball only to fire wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Eastleigh came out of the blocks in the second half far quicker than Alty and in the 52nd minute they had scored a deserved equaliser through substitute Danny Hollands, who rose well to win a near post header that flashed into the far corner from Tom Whelan’s expert delivery.
With Tony Thompson still recovering from an injury, Matty Gould once again started in his place and ten minutes after the restart, the shot-stopper pulled off a magnificent close-range reaction save to deny the men in blue, who at this point were unrelenting in attack.
But there was nothing he could do on the hour mark to prevent Eastleigh taking the lead when Whelan’s free-kick from 25-yards out perfectly picked out the top right corner of the net, leaving Gould with little chance of stopping it.
Approaching the final ten minutes and with the returning Ryan Colclough back on the pitch, Alty were starting to ask questions of the home defence. In the 83rd minute, an almighty goalmouth scramble almost handed The Robins a scrappy but much needed equaliser, but when Moult looked to have stabbed the ball home, a defender was on hand to clear the chance off the line.
There was still time for one more chance as the fourth official held up his board for 4 minutes additional time and it was very much reflective of the Alty performance on the day. Surging forward, Toby Mullarkey curled a beautiful cross into the box, spotting Tom Peers making a trademark run to the near post. However, he was a shoe size away from replicating his goal against Maidenhead, leaving the Robins to head home empty handed.