FOR the second successive season a Tuesday night home game against Dover Athletic became a date with disaster for Eastleigh.

Last October a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Kent club spelt the end of Richard Hill’s managerial reign.

Ten months on, Hill’s successor Chris Todd is reflecting on just how his expensively assembled squad could suffer a similarly shambolic evening which ended 4-2 to the visitors at a shellshocked Silverlake Stadium.

To be fair, Eastleigh – parading their 13th summer signing, midfielder Jason Taylor from Northampton Town - showed great character to fight back from 2-0 down and level through sub Ryan Bird and Andy Drury in the 81st and 83rd minutes.

But having lifted the 1,854 crowd to an ecstatic high, they fell apart in the last five minutes as Dover exploited gaping holes to restore their two-goal advantage.

Neither side rose to any great heights in a goalless first half which ended with David Pipe, filling in as a makeshift right-back for injured pair Joe Partington and Luke Coulson, himself bowing out with a potentially serious ankle problem.

With new signing Taylor switching roles and sub Jai Reason going into midfield, Eastleigh were looking for an early pick-me-up.

What they got was a giant kick in the teeth as an embarrassing mistake by Arsenal loanee Ryan Huddart plunged them into National League arrears.

Chris Kinnear’s delivery from the left should have been gobbled up by the towering, young keeper, but he somehow pawed it into his own net on 51 minutes.

If that was depressing, there was worse to come seven minutes later when Ross Lafayette made it 2-0 against the club he left less than two weeks ago.

Eastleigh had just created their most dangerous chance when Drury’s shot deflected wide from Reason’s lay-off.

But it was all too easy for ‘reject’ Lafayette to double Dover’s advantage with a header from inside the six-yard box.

With the visitors scenting blood, Lafayette had a goal disallowed, ex-Spitfire Moses Emmanuel (formerly Ademola) blasted wide and Jim Stevenson’s goal-bound effort bounced off Huddart’s boot.

But just when grey clouds were descending, the Spitfires pulled one back through ex-Portsmouth man Bird.

Jake Howells’ crosses had been the most potent weapon in Eastleigh’s armoury and when he sent over a corner from the right, Bird got across his man at the near post to head home.

Four minutes later the Spitfires levelled through Drury, diving to follow up Adam Dugdale’s bullet drive from distance.

But having got themselves on terms, Eastleigh carelessly threw it away in the last five minutes – Stevenson restoring the lead before sub Ricky Miller drilled a fourth dagger through home hearts.

James Constable looked certain to make it 4-3 on 89 minutes but keeper Steve Arnold denied him from two yards.

“It’s tough to take,” admitted Todd. “You can read all sorts of things into it but, at the end of the day, if you concede four goals like that, you don’t deserve to win.

“When we got back to 2-2 it looked like there was only one winner and we went for it. I don’t want to kill people, but we’ve got to do better for the goals.

"Dover's first goal was a mistake and mistakes change games.

"It could have been different tonight, it really could."

Eastleigh: Ryan Huddart, David Pipe (Jai Reason, 46), Michael Green, Jason Taylor (Ryan Bird, 75), Ryan Cresswell, Adam Dugdale, Jake Howells, Andy Drury, James Constable, Mikael Mandron, Yemi Odubade (Scott Wilson, 64). Subs: Ross Flitney, Ayo Obileye.

Referee: Roger East

Attendance: 1,854.