Hughes the last piece in Baird's jig-saw

First published in Sport Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Non-league football reporter

IAN Baird has added the last piece to his Eastleigh ‘dream team’, signing Northern Ireland international midfielder Mark Hughes on a one-year deal.

Hughes was club captain of Barnet last season, scoring the goal that secured the Bees League Two survival in a last-day 2-1 win at Burton Albion.

But he was not part of new manager Mark Robson’s plans and it’s a measure of Eastleigh’s new-found financial clout that they beat off competition from another League Two outfit, Cheltenham Town, to sign him.

Hughes featured in the Spitfires’ 3- 2 friendly defeat at Sholing on Tuesday along with Frenchman Jean-Francois Christophe who spent last season with Lincoln City.

It was 28-year-old Hughes who impressed with manager Baird explaining: “The French lad won’t feature again. He hasn’t done a preseason and we can’t wait for him to get fit.

“But I’ve agreed a deal with Mark.

“He’s been training with Gillingham and had an offer from Cheltenham, but we’ve managed to do a deal.

“I’ve been looking for another midfielder all along. We play with three in there and we only had three recognised midfielders.

“Daryl McMahon and Jai Reason are ball players, but we only had Glenn Southam to sit and hold and break things up. We needed another one who could do that and Mark fits the bill.

“He’s based in north London and we’ve got a few lads coming down from that way now.”

The tough-tackling Hughes started his career at Tottenham Hotspur and went on to make 60 league appearances for Oldham Athletic, initially on loan.

He re-emerged at Chester City, via Thurrock, Chesterfield (loan) and Stevenage Borough, and was a regular starter for 18 months before returning to north London with Barnet where he made 140 first-team starts.

Hughes was capped by Northern Ireland at youth and under-21 levels and has two full international caps for his country.

Eastleigh continue their pre-season build-up at Winchester City today.

They will again be without honeymooning wideman Dale Binns, while defender Osei Sankofa remains sidelined with the foot injury he sustained three days before the start of pre-season.

Sankofa slipped off a kerb while out running and broke a metatarsal.

He is unlikely to be fit for the big Blue Square Bet South kick-off at his old club Boreham Wood on August 18.

Southern League newcomers Winchester outgunned Bashley 3-2 on Tuesday through Andrew White, Carlos Geteski and triallist Kwasi Marfo from Bishop’s Stortford. Michael Charles and Danny Cox both missed penalties.

Marfo, a striker, is a possible signing, but City owner Paul McCarthy said: “He’s only young and, at this stage, he would be a squad player, not a starter.”

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