James Constable plundered a second half hat-trick as Eastleigh caned Braintree 5-1 to move up into the Conference Premier play-off zone.

The Spitfires are now fifth in the elite league of English non league football, with at least two games in hand on all the teams above them.

If they win their three games in hand on second-placed Bristol Rovers, they will be level on points with the Gas.

Craig Stanley opened the scoring for Eastleigh in Essex with a 25-yard effort.

Mitch Brundle equalised with a penalty after defender Paul Reid was punished for a foul on Simeon Akinola.

Into the second half and former Oxford United ace Constable struck twice in two minutes.

He converted a cross from Craig McAllister before scoring past keeper Nick Hamann on the break.

Jack Midson made it 4-1 from another McAllister cross before Constable completed his treble and Eastleigh’s biggest win in their short Conference Premier life.

Richard Hill’s men have now scored nine goals in their last two away league games, with Constable having grabbed five of them.

After only scoring five in his opening 19 league games for the Spitfires, he has now scored the same amount in his last three games.

Eastleigh moved above Woking on goal difference after the Cards, who host Hill’s men on New Year’s Day, lost at home to Aldershot.