EASTLEIGH boss Richard Hill is hoping a failed penalty appeal does not come back to haunt his Eastleigh side in their quest for the Skrill Conference South title.
Realistically the chances of the Spitfires not claiming the one automatic promotion spot remain remote following Saturday’s gutsy 0-0 draw at Chelmsford City which leaves them a tantalising four points away from wearing the champions’ crown.
But, in Hill’s book, they could have been even more comfortable heading into their last four games had it not been for referee David Woolford turning down what he viewed as a clear penalty on Alfreton loan man Daniel Wishart with around five minutes remaining.
Hill said: “I went with the conviction that it was a penalty at the time and still had that same conviction at the end of the game.
“Then I was emailed footage of it and there’s absolutely no doubt it was a penalty.
“Wishart’s gone past their lad in the box and been kicked to the floor.
“I’ve seen it ten times now and the tenth time I watched I was angrier than the first.
“It was a bread and butter decision, but the referee said it wasn’t a penalty.
“Decisions like that at this stage of the season could end up having dire consequences.
“I never, ever ask refs to give me what I’m not entitled to. But when I don’t get what I’m entitled to I get a bit aggravated.
“When you look at some of the penalties we’ve had given against us this season and this one wasn’t given, it defies belief.
“In fact we could have had a second one when Wishart was just about to head in and he’s been pushed in the back.
“That looked a clear penalty too, but the first one was blatant.”
With Dean Beckwith, Stuart Fleetwood, Reece Connolly and Jamie Collins all sidelined and Craig McAllister only fit enough to warm the bench, Hill felt Eastleigh’s “walking wounded” deserved huge credit for coming away with a point and extending their unbeaten run to ten games.
“It’s always difficult at Chelmsford and I don’t think we got our fair share of 50-50 decisions, but the boys have done great again,” he said.
“Because of the players we had out, our Plan B today was just trying to tinker with Plan A, but (head of youth) Lee Peacock came on and gave us a good 20 minutes or so which made signing him on playing forms look even more of a good idea.
“Chelmsford are very direct and they work you hard, but our lads dug deep and hung on in there and, on a bone hard surface, we were the ones trying to play football.”
Despite Sutton United and Bromley both winning, Eastleigh have a commanding six-point lead at the top with a game in hand.
“We got updates from the other games and a draw for us looked pretty good,” said Hill. “That’s a big point at this stage.”
Eastleigh now have two successive home games to hopefully complete the job in front of their own fans – against Dover Athletic tomorrow (7.45pm) and Basingstoke Town on Good Friday (3pm).
On Easter Monday they travel to old foes Havant & Waterlooville who maintained their play-off push with a 1-0 home win over Concord Rangers, settled by a 79th-minute Nic Ciardini spot-kick.
AFC Bournemouth loan winger Aristide Bassele, who was pushed for the penalty, was later sent off as was Concord boss Danny Cowley.
Gosport Borough eased their relegation fears with a 3-1 win at Tommy Widdrington’s Eastbourne Borough – goals by Brett Poate (penalty), Danny Smith and Justin Bennett hoisting them to 16th.
Eastbourne defender Sam Cole was sent off for a foul on Rory Williams in the 27th minute and Borough’s Tim Sills was also red-carded late on.
Ex-Saints and Eastleigh man Poate tweeted: “Another big win today. Trophy final and staying up in the same year, that will do me!!”