EASTLEIGH have boosted their chances of making the National League play-offs by welcoming fans’ favourite Sam Matthews back to the Silverlake Stadium.

The 22-year-old creative midfielder/winger is back for another loan stay with the Spitfires, this time from League One outfit Bristol Rovers, for the rest of the season.

Matthews has previously had two successful spells with Eastleigh from AFC Bournemouth, the second of which saw him voted both players’ player and player-of-the-season for 2017/2018.

The Poole-born player’s silky skills earned him a move to Rovers last July and he has made 24 first-team appearances for the Pirates in league and cup.

He is highly-rated by Rovers, but has not had much first-team game time recently in Graham Coughlan’s hard-working, high-pressing side.

His creativity, though, will be a massive plus for Eastleigh who, despite their terrific recent run of form, lacked an attacking spark in last weekend's 1-0 home defeat by Barrow.

Eastleigh boss Ben Strevens said: "Bristol Rovers didn't really want Sam to go out on loan but, after the game last Saturday it got me thinking that we need to try and be a bit more attack-minded. 

"Kenny (Amor CEO), Tom (Coffey, operations director) and Mick (Budny, director) agreed with me and I'm really grateful to them and everyone involved.

"I haven't asked for much since I've been manager and the club have pushed the boat out and got the deal done.

"It’s great to have a player as popular as Sam back at the club. He already has a good relationship with the players, coaching staff and fans, so I’m sure he will be a great addition.

“He has done really well in previous spells at the club. He adds pace and creativity to our already strong attacking side.”