RICHARD Hill will be having a long, hard think about next summer’s pre-season programme after apologising to his Eastleigh players for “putting them through” Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Billericay Town.

Although an ankle injury picked up by star strike signing James Constable had nothing to do with the physicality of the match, the same couldn’t be said for a punch aimed at centre-back Dean Beckwith which resulted in Billericay striker Ricky Sappleton being shown red in a so-called ‘friendly.’ An unsavoury night also saw several crude challenges – to the point where Hill told the referee at half-time that, if it continued, he would take his players off.

But no sooner had Sappleton been sent off in disgrace on 49 minutes than Hill went onto the pitch and told his team they were leaving after Michael Green had been “cut in half.”

The referee persuaded Eastleigh to continue, but Hill said: “After that I told our lads to step out of the way if a tackle came in and, if we lost 6-0, then so be it.

“I apologised to our lads for putting them through that.

“I got on all right with the Billericay manager Craig Edwards until Tuesday, but we didn’t play them as some sort of old pals’ act.

“We played at Billericay because we’ve got lads like Jai Reason, Yemi Odubade, Beckwith, Jamie Collins and Ross Flitney who live on that side of the country and could travel for 30 minutes instead of two hours.

“If I was doing anyone a favour, it was our players, but I know when I’ve made a mistake and was I honest enough to hold my hands up and apologise.

“I finished my career (due to knee problems) in a stupid pre-season friendly against Aylesbury that got out of hand, so I’m a bit sensitive about it.”

Hill expects no such problems tomorrow (3pm) when one his best pals, John Gregory, brings his League One charges Crawley Town to the Silverlake.

Whether Constable will play remains to be seen, but the boss said: “Unless he’s completely right, he won’t be risked.

“James went up for the ball and landed awkwardly. I’m not saying it was the result of a horrible, hefty challenge, but there was no need for some of the other things that went on. We weren’t flawless, but some of the Billericay challenges were pretty crude.

“When I walked past their changing room at half-time I heard them say: ‘Let’s get into them, lads. What a scalp this would be!’ What’s all that about in a pre-season friendly?

“Their whole bench treated it as a cup final. They were in uproar when their lad got sent off and said Beckwith was putting it on even though their centre-forward had punched him.”

Havant & Waterlooville had a similar experience at Hungerford with manager Lee Bradbury taking his players off the pitch after Hawks skipper Ed Harris had been elbowed and Hungerford’s Harry Goodger dismissed.

“I spoke to Lee and there’s a case to make for ourselves, Havant and Basingstoke playing between ourselves in pre-season, even if we have to play each other two or three times,” said Hill. “At least we’d know we’d start the season with 16 fit players.”

Due to mounting injuries, Havant have pulled out of next Tuesday’s scheduled friendly at Vase winners Sholing.

EASTLEIGH have got the green light for phase two of their ground development. With the north and east terracing now complete, they have been granted permission to erect a 2,300-seater stand at the south end of the Silverlake Stadium. Groundwork is due to begin shortly.