LAST weekend’s depressing FA Cup defeat at the hands of Hereford has cost Eastleigh dear – in more ways than one.

Not only have they waved goodbye to another potentially lucrative Cup run, but two red cards deprives them of key players ahead of crucial home league games against Gateshead on Saturday (3pm) and Solihull Moors on Tuesday (free entry, 7.45pm).

Commanding central defender Andrew Boyce misses one game having been sent off first half for a professional foul, and right-back Gavin Hoyte, just back long-term hamstring problems, has landed a three-match ban for a hefty challenge deep in stoppage time.

To add to Eastleigh’s woes there is bad news regarding skipper Sam Togwell.

Out since late August with a thigh injury, the midfielder made a welcome return to the starting line-up against the Bulls.

But he was substituted at half-time after coming off worse for wear in a block tackle and will be lucky to return this side of Christmas.

“It’s the same thigh as before, but a different injury,” reported manager Richard Hill. “At this point, it’s looking like a couple of months out.

“It’s a big loss for us with Sam's experience, knowledge, everything, but what can we do?”

“We’ve got suspensions as well, but that happens in football. We have to try and do our best with the players we’ve got.”

Hill is all too aware that a small section of the Eastleigh fanbase are calling for his head with the club labouring 18th in the National League and on a run of three straight league and cup losses.

But he said: “There’s two choices – you can fight or you can moan.

“I’ve been in bigger holes than this in football. I’ve been in the profession long enough to know how it is and I'll just get on with it.

“Fans can shout at me all they like, but we’re a team and I will stand by my players.

“We are where we are and all we can do is work hard to improve results.

“We need to find something to give us all a bit of spark and a bit of confidence - a scrawny goal or a deflected free-kick like the one scored against us last week."

Midfielder Sam Matthews (groin), defender Reda Johnson (hamstring) and goalkeeper Graham Stack (calf) are still struggling and it remains to be seen whether Hill will gamble on starting fit-again defender Ryan Cresswell in place of Boyce.

“It’s 12 months since Cresswell’s played a game of football and I know from my own experience of a bad knee injury how hard it is to come back," said Hill. "To add insult to injury, he’s been feeling off-colour with some sort of bug this week and hasn’t trained.”

Gateshead, just two places and two points better off than the Spitfires, have yet to win away in the league but marked new boss Steve Watson's arrival with a 2-1 FA Cup victory at Buxton.

Former Newcastle United defender/midfielder Watson was previously No2 at league leaders Macclesfield.

He replaces Neil Aspin who quit to take the job at Port Vale.