Eastleigh 1-0 FC Halifax Town: Barnett goal ends Shaymen's winning run
Tyrone Barnett's superb strike was enough to condemn FC Halifax Town to their first defeat in seven games as The Shaymen lost 1-0 at Eastleigh.
For an hour, Town were professional, hard to beat and on their way to a decent result.
But Barnett's volley proved the standout moment in a dreary contest as The Shaymen's four-match winning run was ended.
Halifax didn't hit the heights here - it looked one game too many in truth after a punishing schedule - and succumbed meekly.
Nathan Clarke made his first appearance in nearly four months for a Town side down to the bare bones due to the absences of Jack Earing and Tahvon Campbell, and slotted back in seamlessly.
The contest was scrappy without the s, with both sides aggressive and competitive but neither showing much composure or quality.
Pushes and shoves, second balls and closing down were the main themes. As soon as either side got within the final third, time seemed to slow, the brakes were squeezed and momentum lost.
With Jamie Allen and Billy Chadwick up-front, Town's out ball was down the sides of the Eastleigh defence, but the hosts' defence was well drilled and gave nothing away, the same as Halifax's.
Eastleigh settled quicker, passing and moving slicker than Town, but not fluidly enough to create any chances.
A hard, bobbly pitch didn't help, but it was a messy game, with passes going astray, crosses from deep easily dealt with and set-pieces poorly executed. Plenty of perspiration, but little inspiration.
There were no shots on target from either side in a drab first-half, although both teams produced the odd crucial block from goalbound efforts - Tom Bradbury and Niall Maher at one end, and Pierce Bird at the other just before half-time when Kieran Green broke into the hosts' penalty box.
The Shaymen had looked a little nervy at the back early on, hesitating when clearing, but the Spitfires badly lacked ingenuity going forward, rarely stretching Town's back line or moving them out of shape.
For Halifax's sixth game in 19 days, it was understandable there wasn't quite the same freshness about them as there had been at Wealdstone and Notts County.
They were disciplined and worked hard, but struggled to impose themselves as they had in those matches.
Chadwick got a bit of space around the edge of the box to run at the home defence, but found himself dribbling into cul-de-sacs.
The second-half continued in the same vein, with Chadwick looking likeliest to make something happen for Town but snuffed out by a solid Eastleigh defence.
A nice one-two between Joe Tomlinson and Abdulai Baggie was a rare moment of invention from either side, but the subsequent cross was cleared before the lively Baggie fired way off target.
But Barnett's volley a few minutes later was perfectly placed to put Eastleigh ahead from Jack Payne's wonderful dinked pass.
The goal of such quality was out of place in such a poor contest, but with the game's first effort on target, the seemingly impenetrable deadlock was broken.
Town now needed to take things up a couple of gears; keeping things tight was no longer an option.
A crucial block by Bradbury was required from Danny Hollands' shot as the game started to open up, before Chadwick finally registered Halifax's first shot on target with 18 minutes left, which was comfortably saved.
Barnett's goal proved the sole pulse-racing moment of the contest, as it reverted to a disjointed, stop-start game, with Halifax failing to exert any real pressure.
Town's response was flat, with Eastleigh coming closer to a second than the visitors did to an equaliser, as The Shaymen's terrific run of form came to a weary end.
Eastleigh: McDonnell, Blair (Smart 74), Partington, Boyce, Bird, Tomlinson, Hollands, Payne, Baggie (Smith 89), Barnett (Bearwish 89), House. Subs not used: Flitney, Green.
Scorer: Barnett (59)
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 9
Halifax: Johnson, Byrne, Clarke, Bradbury (Spence 74), King, Maher, Woods, Green, Senior, Allen, Chadwick. Subs not used: Benn, Spence, Crane, Tear.
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 3
Referee: Adrian Quelch
Town man of the match: Slim pickings. Returning skipper Nathan Clarke pips it for a strong display, organising the defence well.