ELATED Eastleigh have nailed down a place in the National League play-offs – with a bit of help from their former manager.

While Ben Strevens' Spitfires took care of business at the Silverlake Stadium, beating Maidenhead United 2-0 this afternoon, ex-boss Andy Hessenthaler did his old charges a favour by leading Dover Athletic to a 1-0 victory at eighth-placed Ebbsfleet United.

It means that, with one game to go – away at Boreham Wood on Saturday – Eastleigh are untouchable in seventh spot, and could yet displace Harrogate Town who are just one point better off in sixth.

Crucially, Strevens was able to name his most experienced line-up to face Maidenhead with Reda Johnson, Ben Williamson and skipper Danny Hollands all returning to the starting 11 after Good Friday’s bitterly disappointing 2-0 defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge.

Determined to make rapid amends, Eastleigh raced out of the traps and threatened to score inside the opening ten seconds - Williamson darting away and knocking the ball past keeper Carl Pentney at close quarters only for Rene Steer to clear off the line for Alan Devonshire’s Magpies.

Hollands, just back from a three-match suspension, picked an early booking for a clumsy challenge on Harold Odametey which stemmed more from determination than malice.

Gradually the Spitfires began easing up through the gears with Williamson drifting a shot wide of Pentney’s right-hand post after an exchange of passes with Paul McCallum and then Mark Yeates lofting a teasing ball to the back stick which just missed McCallum’s outstretched boot.

On 19 minutes, Joey Jones pounced on a loose ball in midfield and picked out Yeates on the right. The Irishman’s cross made its way to the far side of the area where left wing-back Michael Green’s half-volley drifted wide of the far post.

After a quiet start to his afternoon, Eastleigh goalkeeper Luke Southwood was swiftly off his line to smother at the feet of Josh Kelly after Adrian Clifton had played him through.

It was Kelly who had scored twice in quick succession to sink the Spitfires 2-0 at York Road back in September when the play-offs were little more than a pipe dream.

That, though, was about all Maidenhead had mustered and it seemed only a matter of time before Eastleigh’s dominance would pay off.

Pentney did well to gather under pressure from Johnson after Boyce had got his head to a Yeates corner and the Magpies keeper did even better seconds later, brilliantly fingertipping McCallum’s towering header over following a high cross by Green.

But the aerial bombardment eventually took its toll on the visitors when, from Yeates’ deep free-kick from the left, Mike Fondop was penalised for handball as he rose with Boyce at the far post.

There was only one man for the job when the referee to the spot – top scorer PAUL McCALLUM keeping his cool on a hot afternoon and thumping a right-foot beauty past the pink-clad Pentney for his 26th goal of a prolific season.

Just 12 minutes later, there was palpable sense of relief around the stadium as Eastleigh doubled their advantage – and what a classy goal it was too1

Josh Hare and Williamson combined in the build-up down the right – the latter playing the ball back to Yeates who had the time and space to look up, weigh up his options and plant a majestic chip into the far top corner of Pentney’s net to give his side priceless half-time breathing space.

Half-time: Eastleigh 2 Maidenhead 0.

Maidenhead made a double change for the start of the second half, sending on Nana Owusu and Ricky Gabriel.

They saw more of the ball and, although Eastleigh’s goal rarely looked threatened early on, there was some relief from a still-anxious home bench when Eastleigh roused themselves to attack through Hare down the right and his cross was headed over by McCallum under pressure from Remy Clerima.

The Mapgies, though, were playing with far more freedom now and hit straight back with sub Owusu cutting inside and lashing a shot just past Southwood’s left upright.

As the players stopped for another well-earned drinks break in high April temperatures, Eastleigh’s Joey Jones limped off after treatment to be replaced by ex-Saint Oscar Gobern.

While Maidenhead were looking fresh, the hot weather and the tension of the occasion seemed to be taking its toll on Eastleigh but, fortunately, they were playing a side sitting 20th in the table and without a win in three.

But the energetic Magpies threatened on 75 minutes when sub James Akintunde popped a far post-header into the six-yard box where Southwood was called upon to block out Fondop.

Two Spitfires substitutions followed with Williamson making way for Chris Zebroski and the young legs of Sam Matthews replacing Yeates.

Still Maidenhead asked questions of the Eastleigh defence with the zippy Owusu trying his luck again from the edge of the box, his shot deflecting into Southwood’s grateful grasp and then, with just over a minute of normal time remaining, Fondop planting a free header straight at the Eastleigh keeper.

Fondop then threatened again on the break, but Southwood was equal to his shot ensuring Eastleigh secured a priceless win and a clean sheet in their last home game of the season.

Many of the 2,146 crowd stayed behind as the Spitfires celebrated with a sun-drenched lap of honour. 

Eastleigh: Luke Southwood, Josh Hare, Michael Green, Alex Wynter, Andrew Boyce, Reda Johnson, Joey Jones (Oscar Gobern, 67), Danny Hollands, Paul McCallum, Ben Williamson (Chris Zebroski, 76), Mark Yeates (Sam Matthews, 79). Subs (not used): Jack McKnight, Cav Miley.

Referee: Matthew Dicicco.

Attendance: 2,146.