Weymouth battle to earn point at Eastleigh
WEYMOUTH held on for precious away point at Eastleigh in a disappointing 0-0 Vanarama National League draw at the Silverlake Stadium.
Eastleigh skipper Joe Partington had hit the post in the fifth minute, while Weymouth striker Cody Cooke saw two half-chances slip away.
Home striker Ben House was guilty of missing two fabulous chances as, despite late pressure, the hosts had to settle for a point against a determined Weymouth side that bore two changes to the starting XI that began the 3-2 win over Maidenhead United last Saturday.
Boss Brian Stock, who celebrated his birthday on Christmas Eve, recalled goalkeeper Jack Bycroft for Gerard Benfield, while Zaid Al-Hussaini was absent from the squad completely.
Winger Sean Shields shook off a hamstring injury to reclaim his starting spot.
Weymouth named an entirely new bench as Benfield was joined by Brennan Camp and Cameron Murray after respective hamstring and concussion troubles, while Josh Wakefield returned from suspension and a calf strain.
New striker Christian Saydee, signed on a youth loan from Bournemouth, claimed the final seat in the dugout.
Stock, who was in the stands serving a one-match ban for his red card after the 3-2 Wrexham loss, watched on as Eastleigh made a rapid start.
Good work from Ben House set up Eastleigh captain Partington who cut inside and drove a powerful effort against the post in the fifth minute.
Weymouth responded a minute later when Cooke nodded wide from a Shields cross.
Bycroft, who was dropped for the FA Trophy win over Maidenhead, then warmed his palms on a chilly afternoon as Dan Smith blasted a shot at chest height, the Southampton loanee pushing his shot away.
Eastleigh continued to press but fouled Weymouth midfielder Jordan Ngalo to waste a promising free-kick on the left.
Thereafter, Weymouth grew into the game in an open half light on chances.
Calvin Brooks came forward and played in the offside Shields, before home keeper Joe McDonnell collected a weak Cooke shot.
McDonnell breathed a sigh of relief when he fumbled an Alefe Santos cross, gathering at the second attempt.
Eastleigh’s Ryan Hill then led a swift counter-attack but his final ball lacked quality with the winger plus two supporting players outnumbering the pair of covering Weymouth defenders.
Weymouth had the chance to slip in Shields again as the first half drew to a close but Hoey’s through ball just evaded the winger as the half ended goalless.
Both sides made an enforced change at half-time, Corey Jordan coming off for Camp while Partington made way for ex-Basingstoke winger Sam Smart.
Eastleigh, just as they did in the first half, started strongly in the second and really should have taken the lead in the 47th minute.
House was played in one-on-one but uncharacteristically fired wide of Bycroft’s goal as his search for an eighth strike of the season continued.
Weymouth replied when Hoey unleashed a dipping low shot at McDonnell, the home keeper just about gathering on bobbly ground in his area.
With Eastleigh again making the better start, Stock brought off skipper Josh McQuoid for Wakefield just past the hour.
Attacks were merging into basketball-style moves with concerted spells of pressure for either side – the latest coming as House saw a shot blocked before the chance of the game.
Eastleigh sub Sam Smart tore down the wing and his low cross looked destined for House at the back post who somehow missed the ball two yards out with the goal gaping.
After that let-off, Stock introduced Saydee for his debut as Eastleigh boss Ben Strevens brought on winger Abdulai Baggie for the final 13 minutes against his former club.
The attacking change, along with Tyrone Barnett, promoted Eastleigh onto the front foot in the closing stages as Weymouth cleared three corners in close succession.
Clearing the third, Weymouth countered through Saydee whose offload out wide was delivered back into the box causing Alex Wynter to head clear the danger.
Into stoppage-time, Weymouth had evidently decided to play for the draw but had to negotiate two chances for Barnett, who dragged wide and then headed a free-kick over.
Weymouth saw out the remainder of play as the Terras claimed their first away league point since beating Stockport 2-1 away on Halloween.
Eastleigh: McDonnell, Partington (Smart 46), Boyce, Wynter, Green, Tomlinson, Miley, Payne, Hill (Baggie 77), Smith (Barnett 77), House. Subs not used: Blair, Hollands.
Terras: Bycroft, Jordan (Camp 46), Ngalo, Santos (Saydee 79), McCarthy, McQuoid (Wakefield 62), Brooks, Hoey, Cooke, Harfield, Shields. Subs not used: Benfield, Murray.