EASTLEIGH’S new strike signing Richard Pacquette has been around football long enough to know a good squad of players when he sees one.
And as he prepares to return to his old club Bromley in an unlikely Blue Square Bet South basement battle tomorrow, the 29-year-old Dominica international is positive the Spitfires have got what it takes to mount a new year’s play-off push.
From a personal point of view, Pacquette got his Eastleigh career off to a satisfactory start at Salisbury on Tuesday, scoring on his debut against the league leaders.
But having twice wiped out two-goal deficits to go in 3-3 at half-time, the Spitfires’ defence was unlocked twice more in an end-to-end second half as Salisbury took the spoils 5-3.
Despite that set-back, Pacquette remains upbeat about Eastleigh’s prospects for the rest of the season.
“We know we could have done better defensively at Salisbury, but at 3-2 down we still believed we could win the game and we did have our chances,” he said.
“You look at our side on paper and we’ve got a very strong squad.
“A lot of teams would love to have quite a few of the players we’ve got here and I really believe that if we go on a run now, we can get back in the mix.
“We’re fourth to bottom, but we’ve had loads of games called off. If we’d won at Salisbury, we’d have been in the top half – that’s how tight the league is.
“Eastleigh can still be in that top five. Why not?
“Looking at the teams up there, I think we’re better than them. They’ve obviously got more points and the table doesn’t lie, but I know that once everything clicks we’ll be a strong side that is hard to beat.
“It’s all about confidence. If we can string together five or six games unbeaten and get the rub of the green, our confidence will grow.”
To his credit Pacquette played at Salisbury despite the sad loss of his stepdad during Christmas week.
“He was only 68 and it all happened very quickly,” he said.
“Mentally, I had to get myself right. Sometimes your mind’s adrift before the game, but I managed to get through it okay.
“I knew my stepdad would have wanted me to play.
“He always used to say ‘make sure you go out and score’, so I did and I’m delighted with that.”
Like Eastleigh, Bromley have had a disappointing start to the league campaign.
The south-east Londoners are languishing in 20th, one point and one place below the Spitfires.
The well-travelled Pacquette, who famously scored for Havant & Waterlooville at Anfield in the FA Cup fourth round, signed at Hayes Lane in August but was released from his contract by mutual consent last month.
“I had a clause that if we weren’t in the top half of the table and someone came in for me in the new year, I could go,” he explained.
“They were struggling a bit, so the manager made me available and that’s when Eastleigh came up.
“I’d been playing in the Conference Premier (with Lincoln City) and I didn’t really want to drop into the Conference South.
“If I did, I wanted to be with a side challenging for promotion.
“Bromley have a decent enough squad but they had a bit of an inconsistent start.
“They had an FA Cup run, which broke things up, and there was no cohesion.”
Eastleigh have midfielder Mark Hughes available again tomorrow after a one-match ban, but Dale Binns – a former youth teammate of Pacquette’s – has two more matches to serve. Andy Forbes also missed the Salisbury trip with a hamstring problem.