Salford City will be hoping to end a run of four league games without a win on Saturday, but face a challenge against in-form Eastleigh at The Peninsula Stadium.
The Ammies haven’t tasted league victory since impressing in a 3-0 win at Leyton Orient in January, and the last win came the week after against Dagenham & Redbridge in the Buildbase FA Trophy.
With Solihull Moors, Orient and AFC Fylde all in Trophy action this weekend, it’s a good opportunity for Salford to make up ground, and also put some distance between the chasing pack of which The Spitfires are a part of.
However Eastleigh won’t make it easy in the knowledge that they could break into the play-offs and leapfrog Salford with a win.
Over the summer Stewart Donald left the club to take over at Sunderland, but former manager Andy Hessenthaler kept a number of his squad together and made a couple of solid signings. Eastleigh even maintained a top half spot until his departure for relegation-threatened Dover Athletic in October, but his assistant Ben Strevens has stepped up to the mark with confidence and has enhanced The Spitfires’ play-off ambitions.
The goalscoring form of Paul McCallum has certainly played a major part in that, his 19 league goals this season makes him the third-highest scorer in the league; a brace against Braintree Town last weekend took him above Adam Rooney (18).
After promotion from the Conference South in 2013-14 Eastleigh finished in the Conference play-offs in 2014-15 when they were beaten in the semi-final by Grimsby Town, who triumphed 5-1 over two legs. The closest they have been since is a seventh-place finish the next year when they were five points off Dover Athletic, but in the new format that would mean a place in the end of season competition.
The Spitfires have won four from four since defeat at Solihull Moors, which is their joint-best run of wins this season, and only Fylde (11) have scored more goals than Eastleigh’s 10 in the last five.
When it comes to form on the road too Eastleigh are joint-second with Gateshead, who have a slightly better goal difference, with nine wins from 17 games played. They have won their last two away at Bromley and Aldershot.
However in their last two games they have lost five players to injury according to the club’s match reports with Ben Williamson, Oscar Gobern, Reda Johnson, Paul McCallum and Danny Hollands all being withdrawn. Numbers weren’t helped either after Cavaghn Miley was sent off for a second bookable offence against Braintree last weekend, having come on as a sub for Johnson. There has been no confirmation of who is missing or who is fit, but Strevens won’t let injuries knock his squad which is brimming with confidence.
One to watch – Mark Yeates
The vastly experienced central midfielder was instrumental in Eastleigh’s performance in the reverse fixture, and is the source for a number of chances. He assisted both of McCallum’s headers against Braintree last weekend…
A former Tottenham Hotspur youth, the Irishman made three senior appearances for Spurs and had a number of spells on loan away from White Hart Lane before signing for Colchester United in 2007. Moves to Middlesbrough, Sheffield United, Watford, Bradford City, Oldham, Blackpool and Notts County followed before the 34-year-old signed for Eastleigh in 2017, and last season he scored five goals in 45 National League appearances.
Eastleigh’s journey through the leagues has been steady and they only reached the Conference South in 2005 so geographical and league disparities kept the clubs apart until November. The points were shared on our first visit to Silverlake, but it was left late as Lois Maynard equalised in the last minute after Williamson had given Eastleigh the lead early in the second half.