RICHARD Hill believes the enforced substitution of Craig McAllister was a turning point in yesterday's 2-1 defeat at Wrexham.

With BT Sport cameras watching on, Eastleigh – in Hill’s words – managed to “grab defeat from the jaws of victory” in the tea-time kick-off at the Racecourse Ground.

When fit-again striker Ben Williamson slid home Gary McSheffrey’s delicious cross on 44 minutes, it should have been a platform for Eastleigh to build on.

But, faced with an inevitable Wrexham fightback, Hill accused his side of playing “fear football” in the second half, allowing Shaun Pearson and Chris Holroyd to turn the game around for the Dragons in 73rd and 78th minutes.

In the manager’s eyes, the 65th-minute departure of experienced targetman McAllister, brought in as one of four changes from the side beaten 1-0 at Boreham Wood in midweek, was a pivotal moment.

It wasn’t so much the 37-year-old’s frontline presence that Eastleigh missed, but his ability to get back and defend.

“I rate McAllister as the best defensive centre-forward I’ve ever worked with,” said Hill.

“He becomes important when we’re under pressure in our own box from set-pieces.

“Contrary to what may have been said, I didn’t take him off because I wanted to. He shouted over to say he was cramping up.

“It all changed when Macca came off. The longer the game went on, the more important the defending of set-pieces became.”

Lo and behold it was from a set play that Wrexham gained a foothold in the game with 17 minutes remaining.

Sub Chris Zebroski, fresh on for the tiring Gary McSheffrey, lost his man from a corner and Dragons’ skipper and centre-half Shaun Pearson cashed in with a towering header to level matters 1-1.

Eastleigh’s troubles doubled five minutes later as Wrexham struck again.

Not for the first time, influential sub Jack Mackreth delivered dangerously from the right and Chris Holroyd bounced off defender Callum Howe’s challenge and smashed the winning goal past Ross Flitney via a slight deflection.

“At half-time I told the players to just relax and do their job, but we actually looked frightened second half,” said Hill.

“When we started the season we looked very organised, very disciplined and hard to beat, but at the minute we’re looking like a bit of a pushover.

“It does surprise me that we seem a bit fearful, but we’ve been knocked about a bit in games – things like a penalty that shouldn’t have been given against us, conceding in the 98th minute and having a goal disallowed that shouldn’t have been - and these things can bruise you a bit.”

Having won just one of their last nine games, Eastleigh are treading water in 18th spot, 13 points adrift of in-form National League leaders Macclesfield.

It’s not the start Hill had envisaged, but he won’t stop working until he gets it right.

“I know some of the fans reckon I’ll be walking – but there’s not a chance in the world of that happening,” he insisted.

“I’d be more likely to walk away when things were good, not like this.

“That’s because I’m a fighter – and I’m going to keep on fighting.”

Eastleigh: Ross Flitney, Gavin Hoyte, Sam Wood, Danny Hollands, Andrew Boyce, Callum Howe, Ben Strevens (Ross Stearn, 80), Craig McAllister (Cavaghn Miley, 65), Ben Williamson, Gary McSheffrey (Chris Zebroski, 71) , Mark Yeates. Subs (not used): James Constable, Ayo Obileye.

Referee: Alan Young.

Attendance 3,907 (46 from Eastleigh)