FC Halifax Town 3 Eastleigh 3.

EASTLEIGH were pegged back for a 3-3 draw in an extraordinary spectacle at FC Halifax Town this afternoon.

A truly bizarre game at The Shay saw both goalkeepers sent off and the Spitfires lose their grip on 2-0 and 3-1 leads, keeping them static in 18th in the Vanarama National League.

Eastleigh went two up inside 21 minutes – a real shock to the Shaymen who had dominated the opening exchanges.

Spitfires ’keeper Ross Flitney – recalled for the injured Graham Stack – made a series of saves to keep the fast-starting West Yorkshire hosts at bay – the pick of them coming when he tipped Jake Hibbs’ free-kick onto the bar at full stretch.

On the one occasion Flitney was beaten, centre-back Andrew Boyce made a crucial goalline clearance from Scott McManus.

Against the odds, it was Eastleigh who seized the lead with 15 minutes gone – the ball going into the net direct from a SAM MATTHEWS corner.

Controversy followed as McManus went through on goal and went down under a challenge from Flitney. Chants of “off, off, off” filled The Shay, but the Eastleigh stopper was shown a yellow card rather than a red.

The Spitfires suffered a 19th-minute setback when manager Richard Hill was forced into an early change – top scorer Ben Williamson bowing out with what looked to be a hamstring problem and replaced by Chris Zebroski.

ZEBROSKI made himself instantly at home, getting the last touch for 2-0 on 22 minutes after the towering figure of Boyce had flicked another Eastleigh corner into the danger zone.

With the game ebbing and flowing, Zebroski sent an effort narrowly wide before Halifax were awarded a 37th-minute penalty after Adam Morgan and Danny Clarke had gone down in the box in quick succession.

McManus stepped up to the spot and beat the outstanding Flitney from 12 yards.

Half-time: FC Halifax Town 1 Eastleigh 2.

It was all Eastleigh at the start of the second period, but this time Halifax goalkeeper Sam Johnson took centre stage.

With 50 minutes gone, Matthews cut inside and unleashed a curling shot which was well kept out by the Shaymen’s stopper, who then thwarted Paul McCallum’s close-range follow-up.

But Johnson, already on a booking, quickly turned from hero to villain when he brought down Zebroski on the left of the area. After a brief pause, he was shown a second yellow followed by a red, reducing the Shaymen to ten men.

Sub goalkeeper Tom Nicholson replaced him, but boos rang out from the home crowd as the attacking threat of Morgan was sacrificed.

It wasn’t long before Nicholson was picking the ball out of the back of the net – beaten by SIMON HESLOP’s first goal in an Eastleigh shirt.

The on-loan York City midfielder expertly tucked away a Zebroski cross following more fine work from the terrier-like Matthews to make it 3-1 with 63 minutes gone.

It should have been done at dusted for the Spitfires at that point, but a crazy game had more twists and turns to come.

Some terrific defending by Eastleigh right-back Gavin Hoyte temporarily kept Halifax out, but the game took a double turn for the worse for the Spitfires on 73 minutes when they conceded a goal and had Flitney sent off.

McManus was the creator, playing the ball across for TOM DENTON to bury for 3-2.

There was a scuffle in the aftermath with Flitney in amongst it and, to Eastleigh’s dismay, the experienced stopper was shown a second yellow.

Unlike Halifax, the Spitfires did not have a sub ’keeper on the bench, leaving outfielder Boyce to don the gloves. Sub Ayo Obileye filled the defensive void, coming on at the expense of midfield livewire Matthews.

Boyce excelled himself with a superb save with his feet to protect the Spitfires’ slender lead.

But Halifax launched wave after wave of attack and the Eastleigh dam was breached on 90 minutes as DANIEL BATTY dramatically hauled Halifax back on terms.

A minimum of five minutes’ stoppage time was added and still the action kept coming with Hibbs firing narrowly wide for the Shaymen before getting back to deny Mark Yeates at the other end.