EASTLEIGH picked up a vital first win of the 2021-22 National League season in game five with an encouraging 4-1 romping of Dover Athletic under the lights.

A pair of first-half double-salvos, including goals from Ryan Hill, Harry Pritchard, Ben House and Josh Hare, sank likely relegation candidates Dover with little resistance at the Silverlake Stadium, despite an Aaron Cosgrave consolation effort.

Ben Strevens was coming up against a side managed by his and Eastleigh’s former boss, Andy Hessenthaler, following a stint as player-assistant manager before taking the hot-seat permanently in November 2018.

Both teams took to the field in search of a first win of the 2021-22 season, while new signing Vince Harper was making his first start for the Spitfires after impressing off the bench in the 1-1 draw at Barnet, shifting Pritchard from left-wing-back into a more advanced midfield role.

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Harper almost gave himself a start to forget though, with a defensive mix-up that allowed Dover in on goal but for a last-ditch block from a trio of sliding Eastleigh defenders.

Daily Echo: New signing Vince Harper was making his first Spitfires start (Pic: Tom Mulholland)New signing Vince Harper was making his first Spitfires start (Pic: Tom Mulholland)

He repaid his debt to his teammates moments later, after Aaron Cosgrave approached Joe McDonnell’s goal at speed but had the bouncing ball snatched by the flying boot of last-man Harper before he could strike.

Hill, who looked desperate to make some kind of intervention for the Spitfires with attempted dribble after killer-ball after shot, opened his National League account for the season just 20’ in, turning home a scrap in the area with a smart touch and low shot beyond Bexon.

The Spitfires took off and Pritchard doubled the advantage in the next attack, heading home a perfect Hare cross – the full-back who returned to the Silverlake after a two-year stint at Football League Bristol Rovers – although in truth, it squirmed under the stopper and he should have saved it.

Bexon did deny Hill his second with a superb low save in the bottom right-corner with ten to go in the first period, after Tom Whelan had laid the number 11 off on the edge of the area.

Daily Echo: Ryan Hill's effort was rewarded as his season burst into life with a goal and an assist (Pic: Tom Mulholland)Ryan Hill's effort was rewarded as his season burst into life with a goal and an assist (Pic: Tom Mulholland)

But he couldn’t deny House, who added the third and killed the tie with a smart but powerful thump into the top right from close-range, after superb trickery and a lay-off by Hill from the byline.

The rout continued before half-time with Tom Whelan’s deep corner being headed brilliantly back across goal by captain Andrew Boyce, then nodded where it matters by Hare.

Eastleigh could have added more after the break through magic from House, but it was Dover who’d strike next with a consolation effort turned in from close-range by Cosgrave with 25’ to play.

With his last touch before substitution, Hill cannoned a wicked hit off the crossbar before receiving a standing ovation from the support as he made his way around the pitch.

After throwing away a two-goal lead in the last home fixture against King’s Lynn, the remarkable work-rate of forward House in both halves, a concentrated defence and a top reaction save from McDonnell ensured there was to be no more lapses – and Strevens walked away a comfortable victor over his old gaffer.

Eastleigh XI: McDonnell; Hare, Low, Boyce (C), Kelly, Harper (78’); Miley, Whelan, Pritchard; Hill (67’), House (87')

Subs: Maghoma, Smart (78’), Hesketh (87'), Whitehall (67’), Flitney (g/k)