ASSISTANT manager Andy Hessenthaler acknowledged the importance of managing the bench correctly after Eastleigh’s impressive 2-0 humbling of Tranmere Rovers in the Vanarama National League.

Using all three subs had cruelly backfired on the Spitfires in an unlucky 2-1 defeat at Woking last Tuesday when an ill-timed hamstring injury to full-back Gavin Hoyte left them to chase the game with ten men.

But that didn’t stop manager Richard Hill boldly ringing the changes against his old club Tranmere and it paid rich dividends with subs playing a key role in both goals.

With fiery forward Chris Zebroski walking the tightrope of a 25th-minute booking, Craig McAllister replaced him after the break and the 37-year-old targetman soon made his aerial presence felt.

But the real game changer was the introduction of AFC Bournemouth bright spark Sam Matthews who, having played in Ben Williamson for the Spitfires’ 64th-minute opener, then teed up ‘Big Mac’ for the second.

The first-half had been a closely-fought affair between two highly ambitious teams looking to improve on a modest return of five points from their opening four games.

Williamson headed the pick of Eastleigh’s chances just wide from Sam Wood’s cross and Mark Yeates cleverly lifted a free kick over the defensive wall which narrowly cleared the bar.

Tranmere went closer still with Connor Jennings’ glancing header hitting the inside of the post on 31 minutes and it was the boys from Birkenhead – league runners-up and beaten play-off finalists last season – who had the first big chance of second half when, following a defensive misjudgement, James Norwood fizzed a gift shot across the goal face.

From almost falling behind, Eastleigh seized the lead when former Cambridge United striker Williamson struck his fourth goal of the season from an improbably tight angle.

With Scott Davies expecting a cross, Williamson advanced boldly from the right and stunned the Rovers keeper at his near post with a precision finish into the far top corner.

So far, so good for a player Hill believes has plenty in the tank having “not scored as many goals as he should have” in his career.

Fuelled by ‘sub power’, the Spitfires doubled their advantage with 79 minutes gone.

Matthews – on for Ross Stearn – delivered a delightful free-kick from the left and there was the giant figure of McAllister to head it off the underside of the crossbar and over the line, hitting the hapless Davies on its way.

Asked about the impact of the substitutes, Hessenthaler said: “One thing the gaffer says in the dressing room is that the subs should be good for us – not just on the pitch but off it as well.

“I’ve been a player and we all want to be out there and I know myself that it’s one of the hardest jobs in management.

“You have to manage the subs right and the gaffer, the staff and everybody has done that today.

“They’ve come on and made an impact, but that’s what they’re there for.

“It just goes to show the squad are together and it’s encouraging signs so far.”

The result leaves Eastleigh tenth in the table on eight points ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Hessenthaler’s old club Leyton Orient.

“On the whole we’re very happy,” said Hill’s right-hand man. “We’re probably two points short of where we’d like to be because ten points is two a game and that will get you where you want to be at the end of the season.

“But we’re not going to grumble. The games we’ve had have been tough, it’s a new team and they’re coming together now.

“You have a lot of games in a short period at the start of the season and it’s nice to have a free week now to recharge the batteries.

“Then we’ll go back to my old club and hopefully get a result there.”

Eastleigh: Ross Flitney, Ayo Obileye, Sam Wood, Sam Togwell, Andrew Boyce, Callum Howe, Danny Hollands, Ross Stearn (Sam Matthews, 60), Chris Zebroski (Craig McAllister, 46), Ben Williamson (James Constable, 80), Mark Yeates. Subs (not used): Michael Green, Cavaghn Miley.

Referee: Carl Brook.

Attendance: 1,906 (330 Tranmere).