IT wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

Richard Hill’s third anniversary as Eastleigh boss should have been a day of celebration at the Silverlake.

Instead the season's best 'community' crowd of 3,264 were left flat and somewhat bewildered by a truly bizarre game of football.

Two freakish first-half goals sent the Spitfires tumbling to a 2-1 defeat by Gateshead. Not only did it bring their unbeaten home record to a premature end, but it was the first time for two-and-a-half years that they had tasted back-to-back league defeats.

Adding to their woes was a shoulder injury to on-loan Portsmouth’ keeper Michael Poke, picked up in conceding the first goal and disadvantaging him for the second, and a red card dished out to experienced midfielder Ben Strevens following a half-time bust-up in the tunnel.

On an afternoon packed with talking points, Hill felt his players had been deflated by a couple of early decisions going against them.

The consensus in the camp was that a penalty was in order when Strevens went down under Matt Pattison’s ninth-minute challenge and that top scorer James Constable had been hard done by when, having outmuscled Heed skipper Ben Clark, he had a free-kick awarded against him.

Hill reflected: “A couple of early decisions went against us and we let it affect us. On another day we might have expected a penalty and perhaps been a couple goals up before we conceded.”

Following a misunderstanding with defender Jamie Turley, Poke hurt his shoulder as he tried in vain to prevent Danny Johnson getting a 20th-minute shot away. Johnson’s effort went in off the far post but the goalscorer was in no fit state to celebrate, needing lengthy treatment after colliding with the ’keeper before being stretchered off.

Poke played on in clear discomfort and soon signalled to the bench that he needed to come off.

Young understudy Lewis Noice was readied, but the Spitfires couldn’t get him on the pitch before Pattison’s hopeful left-wing cross was deflected into the far top corner on 34 minutes.

Hill, who had already replaced unwell ex-Saint Dan Harding with Michael Green, said: “I don’t think even a fit goalkeeper would have stopped it, but I’d informed the fourth official we wanted to make a substitution when the ball went out of play and he said the referee couldn’t hear him.

“Jai Reason’s had shot cleared off the line, it’s hit the post and gone straight into the keeper’s hands. It was that sort of day.

“I didn’t see what happened in the tunnel at half-time, but the ref said he saw everything and chose to send Ben Strevens off.”

The Spitfires' ten men showed plenty of attacking intent after the break, setting up a grandstand finish when Joe Partington’s low, 18-yard drive was diverted in by Gateshead’s Simon Ramsden in the 78th minute.

That, Eastleigh felt, was the least they deserved after Gateshead’s big centre-half James Curtis had escaped with a yellow card after crudely ending ex-Tynesider Yemi Odubade's run at goal.

Hill reflected: “That’s two games running that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I had to make two substitutions pretty early and was limited for what I could do for the rest of the game.

"I thought at times we were still pleasing on the eye but we didn't have enough punch in the final third.

"Back-to-back defeats won't kill our season."

Eastleigh drop to sixth, ten points behind Adie Pennock's Forest Green fliers who have won nine out of nine. The Spitfires now face two away tests at Altrincham on Tuesday and Chester on Saturday.

Eastleigh: Michael Poke (Lewis Noice, 35), Joe Partington, Dan Harding (Michael Green, 21), Josh Payne, Paul Reid, Jamie Turley (Will Evans, 46), Ben Strevens, Jai Reason, James Constable, Jack Midson, Yemi Odubade. Subs: Ross Lafayette, Lee Cook.

Gateshead, Sam Russell, Craig Baxter, Matty Pattison, Jamie Chandler, James Curtis, Ben Clark, Josh Gillies, Jimmy Phillips, Ryan Bowman, Danny Johnson (Rob Ramsaw, 24; James Marwood, 81), Simon Ramsden. Subs: Jon Shaw, Shaun McDonald, Nathan Buddle.

Referee: Adam Bromley

Attendance: 3,264