Aldershot’s unbeaten home run came to a dramatic end at the hands of Eastleigh, as the visiting Spitfires beat the Shots 5-3 in an enthralling encounter to end a run which hadn’t seen them lose at the EBB Stadium since September 2nd.
Following a dramatic win against Stockport in the week Tommy Widdrington made a hanful of changes, Kwame Thomas came in next to Lorent Tolaj in place of Jack Barham and club captain Stuart O’Keefe returned in midfield in place of Tommy Willard, both of whom dropped to the bench alongside Ollie Bray, goalscorer on Wednesday Olly Scott and Maxwell Mullins.
The Shots and Eastleigh had already met twice this season, with Shots top scorer this season Lorent Tolaj spending much of the first clash between the sticks. However, it was he who found the Shots first opening of the afternoon, holding off George Langston well before turning and shooting a fierce effort straight at Joe McDonnell from range.
Despite winning last weekend the Shots hadn’t lead Eastleigh inside 90 minutes in both the games this season, and would have to find two goals to take the lead in this one, as Paul McCallum opened the scoring for the visiting Spitfires on 20. A flick through the Shots defence from Scott Quigley found the former Shots man, and from close range he fired past Van Stappershoef to give Eastleigh a 1-0 lead.
Stuart O’Keefe returned from an absence from the side recently, and back in the 11 nearly had Shots level after 27 minutes. A ball was sent into the box by Cian Harries, and after some bouncing around between Kwame Thomas and Lorent Tolaj the ball fell to the returning skipper, who sliced a half volley wide into the Eastleigh fans behind Joe McDonnell’s goal.
A poor start would get even worse in the 35th minute for Aldershot, as they fell two behind before half time. A cross into the box by Paul McCallum was cleared by Jordi Van Stappershoef, but only as far as Bailey Clements, who took the ball down and fired high and beyond Van Stappershoef in the Shots net.
Josh Stokes had the best chance to put the Shots back within touching distance before the break, connecting well with a cross from Kwame Thomas and sending an effort spinning just wide of Joe McDonnell’s goal.
Aldershot had lost just once at home all season, but it looked as though it would be Eastleigh who would maintain their record of not losing at the EBB Stadium since 2020 as they added a third to their lead. Chris Maguire beat the offside trap and raced through the Shots defence, beating three defenders and Jordi Van Stappershoef to squeeze his shot into the back of the net on the stroke of half time.
HALF TIME: Shots 0-3 Eastleigh
Stuart O’Keefe’s return to action was cut short at half time, as Tommy Willard came on in place of the midfielder. Cian Harries took the armband for the second 45.
It went from bad to worse in the 51st minute, as fresh on the pitch Tommy Willard made a costly mistake just outside the Shots box. The half time substitute was tackled by Chris Maguire just outside the Shots area, and Maguire was able to square to Paul McCallum who fired Eastleigh into a 4-0 lead five minutes into the second half.
Tommy Widdrington put all his cards on the table after the fourth goal, sending Jack Barham and Olly Scott onto the field in place of Ryan Glover and Tyler Frost as he tried to rescue something from the 4-0 deficit he faced.
The Shots defence were all over the place again on the hour mark, as Coby Rowe and Haji Mnoga both seemed like they didn’t want the ball, and Scott Quigley did, racing through one on one with Jordi Van Stappershoef, and with time and space to pick his spot put Eastleigh 5-0 up.
Jack Barham came off the bench and scored at the Silverlake Stadium last weekend, and history repeated itself as Barham scored in the 65th minute for the Shots. Ollie Harfield picked the ball up and just kept running until he was stopped, eventually sending the ball into the back post where a hopeful Jack Barham was arriving to put the ball into the back of an empty net.
Aldershot had a second goal 76 minutes in, Josh Stokes closing the gap to three with just over 15 minutes left to go. Stokes picked the ball up from range, and drove towards the Eastleigh box, and from range had a pop, a pop which ended up creeping under Joe McDonnell to make it 5-2.
A third game produced a third red card of the season, this time falling the way of Eastleigh. In all honesty, pushes and shoves were going in everywhere and it was unclear what the referees had seen, but Eastleigh captain Enzio Boldewijn was shown the red card, presumably for the part he played in Jack Barham ending up on the floor needing treatment from club physio Liam Charles.
The scoreline became a little more respectable in the 96th minute, as following a lot of pressure on the Eastleigh goal Josh Stokes added a second to his tally for the day. Stokes took the ball down and turned in the Eastleigh box, and after a handful of fine saves finally beat Joe McDonnell as he fired low and beyond the Eastleigh stopper.
Despite threatening a late comeback the Shots were beaten by Eastleigh. The character shown by Widdrington’s side to not give up at 5-0 was commendable, but in a season which has seen the Shots overcome so many hurdles, a 5-0 deficit proved just too much for them to overcome.
Attention now turns to next weekend’s trip to Chesterfield for the Shots in their final fixture before Christmas next weekend.
- Jordi Van Stappershoef, 2. Haji Mnoga, 3. Ollie Harfield, 4. Cian Harries, 5. Coby Rowe, 7. Stuart O’Keefe (C) (27. Tommy Willard, 46′), 8. Tyler Frost (22. Jack Barhan, 51′), 9. Lorent Tolaj, 10. Josh Stokes, 11. Ryan Glover (18. Olly Scott, 51′), 39. Kwame Thomas
14. Ollie Bray, 24. Maxwell Mullins
2495 (217 away)