EASTLEIGH nearly pulled off a sensational comeback against Havant & Waterlooville last night.
Trailing 2-0 after an hour, the Spitfires responded with two goals in eight minutes - a Jai Reason penalty and a Mark Hughes header - before debutant Chris Zebroski was denied the winning goal by Havant & Waterlooville’s outstanding goalkeeper, Clark Masters.
Masters was the reason for the first half finishing goalless. A venomous Michael Green drive was turned aside before Hughes was thwarted by a fine reaction save.
But the visitors scored twice against the run of play in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. Sahr Kabba celebrated with a succession of backflips after netting from close range when Ashley Grant headed back across goal.
And just before the hour, three minutes after a fine Masters block from Dale Binns, Grant was brought down by Eastleigh goalkeeper Ross Flitney and Christian Nanetti scored from the penalty spot.
Kabba missed the target with a fantastic chance to make it 3-0.
And after Reason was adjudged to have been brought down by Masters, following another fine save from Zebroski, Eastleigh’s number ten pulled a goal back from the penalty spot, his 13th of the season.
Striker Zebroski, who was in the Bristol Rovers side that won 6-1 at AFC Totton in last season’s FA Cup, could have had six of his own last night.
But after denying Eastleigh’s number nine once again, Masters was finally beaten in open play, with Hughes heading in the equaliser from Glen Southam’s 74th-minute corner.
It was all Eastleigh for the last 20 minutes. But Zebroski had a goal disallowed for offside and Masters proved equal to both he and captain Southam in injury time.
Spitfires manager Richard Hill said: “Apart from the first ten minutes of the second half, when we lost our concentration, there was only one team in it.
“Zebroski looked rusty to start with, which was to be expected as he hasn’t played much recently, but he looked very sharp in the last 15 minutes and should not have been disallowed a goal for offside – the ball came back into play off their man.
“But we had other chances to win 3-2 and might have had more if the referee played all four minutes of injury time instead of just three.”
Hawks boss Lee Bradbury said: “We had to defend well in the first half but after going 2-0 up you expect to win so we’re disappointed with a point.
“I didn’t think the penalty for their first goal should have been given and we have to remember we’ve got a young side with an average age of 21/22.
“With the experience they have I fully expect Eastleigh to be in the top five at the end of the season.”
Eastleigh defender Dan Spence was in A & E last night after leaving the Silverlake Stadium with his arm in a sling.
Eastleigh: Flitney, Spence (Nelson 44), Green, Lacey (Watkin 61), Beckwith, Todd, Hughes, Southam, Zebroski, Reason, Binns.
Havant: Masters, Newton, Grant, Ryan (Bossman 80), Harris, Strugnell, Nanetti, Kewley-Graham, Palmer, Kabba (Hutchinson 70) Arthur.