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McAllister: Spitfires must stay on tails of league leaders
FOURTH-PLACED Eastleigh prepare to face Conference South table-toppers Bromley at the Silverlake Stadium tomorrow with targetman Craig McAllister underlining the importance of sticking with the leading pack.
This time last year the Spitfires had picked up just seven points from as many league games – a run of results that cost former manager Ian Baird his job on September 10, 2012.
Eastleigh are in better shape this time round with ten points from five games and the challenge now, says 33-year-old McAllister, is to keep that early momentum going.
“We’ve got to have a better first half of the season and, if we do, the second half will take care of itself,” he said.
It was last season’s away game at Bromley that proved the turning point of Eastleigh’s chalk ‘n’ cheese 2012/13 campaign.
Hampered by poor away form, the Spitfires initially struggled to turn things round under Baird’s successor Richard Hill and, following a 3-1 defeat by The Ravens on January 5, they slumped to second to bottom.
But the arrival of defensive reinforcements, led by Dean Beckwith and Chris Todd, dramatically turned their season around and the Spitfires eventually soared to fourth spot before losing on penalties at Dover in the play-off semi-final.
“To go from being second to bottom to finishing where we did was a great achievement,” said Park Gate-based McAllister. “With a half decent start, we could possibly have gone on and won promotion.
“This time last year we were about eight points behind the top teams, whereas now we’re within touching distance.
“If we can stay there, with our extra training day we should be up amongst it.”
McAllister, now in his third spell with Eastleigh after stints with Oxford, Exeter, Crawley and Newport, has noticed massive changes since he was last at the Silverlake on loan from Stevenage in 2004.
“The club’s very different now,” he said. “There’s more investment and expectation is higher than it’s ever been.
“We’ve made a good start and the Boreham Wood result last week (a 3-0 win) helped that along the way. If we hadn’t picked up that win, it would be a bit tougher going into tomorrow.”
Bromley – 15th last season – have won four of their first five games.
Their squad includes two ex-Spitfires – midfielder Ashley Nicholls and striker Warren McBean, who sat out last season with a ruptured Achilles.
Eastleigh centre-back Todd did some training yesterday, but remains a doubt for tomorrow with hamstring trouble.
In his absence, ex-Christchurch defender Chris Dillon has done a sterling job alongside Beckwith.
“A few will have been surprised by Chris. He’s been first class,” said McAllister.
“All the lads at the back, including the ’keeper (Ross Flitney), have done well conceding just two goals in five games.” As part of national Non-League Day, entry tomorrow has been slashed to £5 adults, £3 concessions and under-7s free of charge and the Spitfires are hoping for a bumper crowd.
“The club’s come a long way and if we continue to be successful more fans will come out,” added McAllister. “The players would love to play in front of 1,000-2,000 – that’s how you get the best out of people.”
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