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Old boys set to give Spitfires a tough test
EASTLEIGH take their top-of-the-table road-show to Gander Green Lane tomorrow to face a Sutton United side at the peak of their game.
Under the guidance of former Spitfires’ boss Paul Doswell, the Us have strung together a 12-match unbeaten run in all competitions and are through to the FA Cup first round proper for the fourth time in Doswell’s six-year reign.
They beat Hemel Hempstead 2-0 in Tuesday’s fourth qualifying replay with a squad containing no fewer than seven former Eastleigh players – Mitchell Nelson, Ali Fuseini, Anthony Riviere, Jamie Slabber, Dale Binns, Damian Scannell and Wayne Shaw.
Another ex-Spitfire, Marvin Williams, is currently out with an Achilles problem and will miss tomorrow’s reunion with his old club along with ex-Barnet midfielder Dean Sinclair (dislocated elbow).
Although Compton-based Doswell remains part of the fabric of Eastleigh, having guided the club out of the Wessex wilderness into the bright lights of the Conference South, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since he departed the Silverlake in 2008.
“This is my sixth season at Sutton and, though I still wish Eastleigh well, they’re a different club now to when I was about,” he said.
“There’s hardly anyone left there now who was associated with the club when I was there.
“They’ve had a terrific start – 26 points from 12 games is excellent - and we’ve started really well too, as have Bishop’s Stortford.”
While Spitfires boss Richard Hill tipped Sutton as title favourites at the start of the season, it’s clear in Doswell’s mind that his old club are the team to beat.
“It’s going to be hard to keep up with Eastleigh, but it’s got to be everyone’s aim,” he said.
“They’ve got a good budget which they’re able to add to as and when they want, and good luck to (chairman) Stewart Donald for being able to finance the club as he sees fit.
“They’re so far in front of everyone else that winning the league should be a fait accompli. But what I would say is that Richard Hill has spent the money wisely.
“Anyone can have money, but not everyone spends it well.
“Richard has and Eastleigh have got an exceptional squad.
“I’m not envious though. We’ve got a good budget ourselves and so have Ebbsfleet – but theirs is exceptional.”
Having been out of action since their 1-0 win over Staines two weeks ago, the Spitfires have had the chance to clear up any little injury niggles.
But one player who won’t feature tomorrow is midfielder/defender Will Evans, who was stretchered off late against Staines with the recurrence of a knee problem.
“We’ll see how it settles and how it goes over the next few weeks,” said former Northampton and Oxford United pro Hill, who was forced into premature retirement with a serious knee injury.
“We have to remember that Will’s a young man and, if he abuses it, he’ll end up with a knee like mine!”
Eastleigh have already beaten Sutton this season, edging a tight opening-day game 1-0 at the Silverlake. The Us, in fourth, are five points behind the
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