"They're not too far off where they'd expect to be" - FC Halifax Town v Eastleigh: Opposition Focus
We spoke to Ian Wilding from BBC Radio Solent for the lowdown on FC Halifax Town's opponents on Saturday.
How has Eastleigh' s season gone so far?
It’s gone okay. It started off slowly as a number of players left in the summer, including Joe Tomlinson and Jack Payne who joined Football League clubs. A large number arrived so it took them a while to adjust, but after picking up just two points from their first four games, they’ve since taken 29 points from 17 matches which is top five form.
Have they overachieved, underachieved or where they expected to be?
They’re not too far off where they’d expect to be. They have exactly the same number of points as this time last season when they were eighth. The problem this season is that the points tally of teams in the top half is high, which means they’re down in 12th, probably lower than where they deserve to be.
Who did they sign in the summer and have they been a success?
Up front, Danny Whitehall arrived after leaving Kilmarnock, in midfield the talented Jake Hesketh came in after leaving Premier League Southampton and was joined by Harry Pritchard and Tom Whelan, while at the back Christian Maghoma, Michael Kelly, Tom Broadbent and Vincent Harper came in. They’re all starting to know each others roles now and you’d say each signing has made a contribution, but Harper particularly looks like he can go far after arriving from Chippenham. He’s a left back with lightning pace and is so physically strong despite being small in stature.
Is promotion a realistic ambition?
One day yes. They’ve been trying to get there since winning promotion to the National League in 2014 and have made the play-offs twice. The problem with just two promotion places though is that it’s so difficult to get out of, especially when they’re up against former Football League clubs with history. If they pick up the same number of points in their next 15 games as their previous 15 though, then they have a real chance of getting to the play-offs and from there who knows.
Who are the key men Halifax should watch out for?
As well as Vincent Harper, striker Tyrone Barnett is 36 now but is so important to Eastleigh and is so good in both boxes. He’s scored in his last two games. Midfielder Tom Whelan is back from suspension and makes them tick in midfield.
Jake Hesketh received a straight red card for ‘violent conduct against an official’ in their last game against Weymouth, but the spitfires have appealed that decision and hope that his three match suspension will be overturned. Alex Wynter and Cav Miley are out for a few more weeks, but it’s hoped Vincent Harper and Danny Hollands will have recovered from illness.
Likely line-up and formation?
It’s been 4-4-2 for the last three matches, but it was 3-5-2 before then. The line-up is too difficult to predict at the moment as it all depends on who’s recovered from illness and fingers crossed nobody tests positive for coronavirus in the next few days.
What's the feeling among the Eastleigh fans about what can be achieved this season?
I think a lot of fans are hopeful of making a play-off push and crowds have gone up - there were nearly 3,000 there against Weymouth on Sunday so the fan base is growing all the time. They won 16 home games in 2021 so fans are obviously liking what they’re seeing.
What's your style of play, what can Halifax expect to come up against?
The Spitfires often come into their own in the second half. The first 45 minutes can be quite cagy with not much in it, but they have more creativity to hurt people than they did last season. Eastleigh like to press high and mix up their style between direct and short passing when appropriate. Their two centre backs Andrew Boyce and Tom Broadbent are also very solid at the back. They’re big physical players and make it difficult for opposing forwards.