EASTLEIGH have done as much as any club in the Vanarama National League to deliver affordable football to the fans.

So it’s ironic that on a day when season ticket-holders were invited to take along two guests for free as another gesture of goodwill, they had no game to offer them.

Yet more problems with the Silverlake Stadium surface saw their scheduled showdown against Chester called off for player safety reasons by the match official at 12.40pm yesterday – less than 24 hours after a notoriously boggy corner of the pitch had been passed fit by a local referee.

And while the Spitfires most certainly did everything in their power to prevent such an untimely postponement, the incident has attracted a barrage of criticism from within non-League circles – not least because Chester and their fans made a 400-plus mile trip for nothing.

Unfortunately for the Cheshire club, it’s not the first time they have suffered this season. Their scheduled 2017/18 opener at Solihull Moors was called off 24 hours beforehand for health and safety reasons at the ground.

Yesterday's embarrassing postponement will hit the Spitfires in the pocket with a possible fine to pay – plus the expense of Chester travelling back down for a rearranged midweek fixture.

And, according to Spitfires CEO Mark Jewell, there is every possibility that the affected area of the pitch may have to be dug up to get to the bottom of the problem. Emergency work is due to begin tomorrow.

Jewell said: “This part of the pitch has caused us issues previously. We’ve put in new drainage just off the playing surface area, but this isn’t about rainfall not getting away, it’s about water coming up from the sub-surface. We’re now looking to see if there's a broken drain in the vicinity.

“It’s disappointing on every level and our first concerns are for the people from Chester having to travel down. It’s such a shame – and something we tried our hardest to prevent from happening.”

Mark Maguire, Chester’s CEO, described it as “a bit of a shambles” and said he was “angry on behalf of the fans.”

He questioned the league’s integrity and called for “better lines of communication so that this kind of situation doesn’t happen at such late notice for people travelling such a distance, whether they be fans, players or management.

Maguire added: “It’s rubbish for the fans, isn’t it?

“In no way can you describe this as being satisfactory.”

Eastleigh’s new pitch has been under the spotlight ever since it was laid at the start of July. They lost potentially lucrative pre-season friendlies against AFC Wimbledon and Portsmouth who were concerned the turf had not had sufficient time to bed in.

Then, in early August, the Spitfires' league fixture against Dagenham & Redbridge was delayed by ten minutes while the problematic soft area, between the green and blue stands, was tended to. Daggers boss John Still said at the time: “If you walk on it, you sink.”

Eastleigh manager/director of football Richard Hill said: "We know there's a problem and we've tried to resolve it.

"We took every precaution and had the covers on all week and I called a referee in yesterday (Friday) to have a look.

"I spoke to the match official as well yesterday and it was decided he would come in a bit early (on Saturday) to view the pitch.

"He was a bit concerned about that area and the safety of the players. He also felt that any more potential rain and he could end up having to call it off mid-game."

The pity of it is that, apart from that one dodgy corner, the Silverlake playing surface has seldom looked better.

"If you look at the rest of the pitch, this is my fourth season at this club in two different spells and it's better now than it's been in any of that time," said Hill.

As luck would have it, Eastleigh's next two league fixtures are away from home.

They travel to Boreham Wood on Tuesday (7.45pm) and have a tea-time kick-off at Wrexham on Saturday (5.30pm) - that match to be screened live on BT Sport.