RICHARD Hill’s worst nightmare ahead of Eastleigh’s Hampshire Senior Cup tie at Fleet Spurs last Tuesday has come true with confirmation that two of his first-team regulars picked up knee strains.
Left-back Michael Green and midfielder Jai Reason were left sore and limping after the Spitfires’ 5-1 victory, making them highly doubtful for tomorrow’s trip to high-riding Dover Athletic in the Blue Square Bet South.
And Hill is pointing the finger of blame firmly at Spurs’ “bumpy and rutted” playing surface which he branded “no better than a parks pitch”.
“It was always my fear going there that we might pick up injuries and people will now be saying we shouldn’t have taken the first team,” he said.
“But the fact is it was a first-team fixture and, also, I was asked after last Saturday’s game if it would be possible not to train on our main pitch on Tuesday, so it left me no option.
“What could I do? Give the players a night off and take the youth or reserve team? If we’d have done that and got beat, people would have asked why we didn’t take the first team and say we’d disrespected the competition.
“We need to have another look at Greener and Jai, but they’re currently a doubt and, if I do play them, they could potentially aggravate a niggly injury and be out for two or three weeks.”
Hill is particularly sensitive about knees, considering it was a complete rupture that ended the former Northampton, Watford and Oxford United utility man’s career in his mid-20s.
“I did my knee in a pre-season friendly for Oxford and I still take eight pain-killers a day,” said the 49-year-old. “Even though these lads could declare themselves fit, potentially other problems could arise.” Meanwhile Hill has moved swiftly to bring keeper Ross Flitney back for a second loan spell from Gillingham.
Flitney made five appearances for the Spitfires in October/November, but was recalled by the Gills as cover after their regular No1 Stuart Nelson had been sent off.
Having completed the paperwork this week, the 28-year-old former Arsenal, Fulham and Brighton stopper is ready to take a trip down memory lane tomorrow, having previously played for Dover under ex-Gills boss Andy Hessenthaler.
Eastleigh have sold two players to Dover this season, but only one – midfielder Daryl McMahon – can face them tomorrow. As part of Moses Ademola’s move to Crabble, Eastleigh had it written into the transfer agreement that the winger/striker wouldn’t play against them.
Frontman Ben May (groin) and former Eastleigh defensive target Ian Simpemba (knee) are injury doubts for third-placed Dover, who moved to within two points of the summit with Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Truro – their fourth win on the bounce.
Eastleigh are tenth, having lost their last three league and cup matches, and Hill acknowledged: “We’re on a difficult run and the only way to get out of it is to roll our sleeves up, be men and get on with it.
“Dover are a good team – and so they should be with the money they’ve spent. The only surprise to me is that they haven’t been up there all season.”