EASTLEIGH kicked off their season of huge expectations with a 2-1 home win over Guiseley this afternoon.

But after going 2-0 up through Andy Drury and skipper Joe Partington, Chris Todd’s men were pegged back by a Michael Rankine reply early in the second half and there were some uncomfortable moments to endure as they clung on for three precious Vanarama National League points.

Of their 11 summer signings, Eastleigh featured five in their starting line-up with ex-Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron partnering James Constable up front and Connor Essam and midweek arrival Ryan Cresswell manning central defence.

Midfielder David Pipe and wideman Jake Howells were also handed their league debuts and a further five new faces – Ryan Huddart, Adam Dugdale, Adam Dawson, Scott Wilson and Ryan Bird - were named on a quality Spitfires bench.

Visitors Guiseley included winger Nicky Clee and frontman Michael Rankine, both signed from Altrincham, plus striker Jordan Preston and left-back Marcus Williams who were both recruited this week.

There was drama inside the opening 30 seconds when Guiseley’keeper Daniel Atkinson handled outside his area, but nothing came of Howells’ far-post delivery from the right.

With Eastleigh dominating possession, they earned another free-kick on seven minutes, some 20 yards out. Three players stood over the ball which was tip-tapped to Jai Reason, whose belting effort looked to be on target but took a huge deflection wide.

Guiseley looked in danger of suffocating under the early Spitfires’ pressure on a hot afternoon and with ten minutes gone Todd men’s took the lead. Guiseley defender Adam Lockwood made a terrible hash of dealing with a ball over the top and in nipped Andy Drury amid the disarray to calmly sweep the ball home.

The West Yorkshire visitors responded positively with Danny East firing over and Clee showing neat footwork before curling a dangerous effort wide.

Frenchman Mandron then had the ball in the net for Eastleigh from 25 yards but the flag was raised against Constable for offside.

With Guiseley growing into the game, it needed positive defending by Green to cut out Clee’s left-wing delivery before Will Hatfield could pounce and a strong arm from goalkeeper Ross Flitney to punch away Clee’s free-kick under pressure from the robust Rankine.

In between times, rampaging Eastleigh skipper Joe Partington advanced well down the right on a couple of occasions, but couldn’t quite get the delivery right.

The atmosphere became a tad subdued as the pace of the game slowed in the heat and, once again, Guiseley sought to capitalise with a snapshot by Clee which fizzed straight at Flitney.

But, from out of nowhere, Eastleigh doubled their advantage with just seconds of the first 45 minutes remaining.

Reason won a free-kick on the right and tried to take it quickly only for referee Samuel Allison to intervene. It was Howells who took it, second time of asking, whipping the ball in for skipper Partington to meet with a booming header for 2-0.

Half time: Eastleigh 2 Guiseley 0

Guiseley made an early second-half substitution, replacing Clee with Oli Johnson.

But it was after the lull that fell on the Silverlake during their second change – Adam Smith for Preston – that the visitors pulled one back.

With Eastleigh seemingly switching off, Smith delivered the ball in from deep with his first touch and up popped Rankine to plant a free header into the top corner for 2-1 with 57 minutes gone.

Although Eastleigh drummed up an immediate response with Constable flicking the ball just wide from Howells’ cross, Guiseley were looking worryingly menacing and, when Spitfires left-back Green miskicked, the ball fell invitingly for Smith who smacked it into the side netting.

That heralded the first change from Todd who withdrew frontman Constable on 67 minutes and threw on towering new signing Bird from Yeovil Town.

Almost immediately a Spitfires’ chance presented itself when Drury curled an inviting ball in from the left, which keeper Atkinson missed completely. Mandron threw himself at it only for covering defender Marcus Williams to clear his diving header of the line.

Still it wasn’t comfortable for Eastleigh, however, and they were almost masters of their own downfall on 78 minutes when a defensive shambles might have let Guiseley in.

The Spitfires regained their composure and threatened again when Adam Dawson – fresh on as a sub for Reason – so nearly picked out Drury at the far post.

But there were panic stations again for the home side in the four minutes of injury time. From a Guiseley corner, Flitney was called on to make his first big save of the match, tipping over Ashley Palmer’s header at full stretch.

Small wonder the 2,047 crowd heaved such a massive sigh of relief when the final whistle was sounded.

EASTLEIGH: Ross Flitney, Joe Partington, Michael Green, David Pipe, Connor Essam, Ryan Cresswell, Jake Howells, Andy Drury, James Constable (Ryan Bird, 67), Mikael Mandron (Scott Wilson, 84), Jai Reason (Adam Dawson, 79). Subs (not used): Ryan Huddart, Adam Dugdale.

GUISELEY: Daniel Atkinson, Javan Vidal (Adam Boyes, 76), Adam Lockwood, Jake Lawlor, Will Hatfield, Michael Rankine, Ashley Palmer, Nicky Clee (Oli Johnson, 50), Jordan Preston (Adam Smith, 57), Marcus Williams, Danny East. Subs (not used): Tim Deasy, Robert Atkinson.

Referee: Samuel Allison

Attendance: 2,047.