Wrexham continue the pursuit of the top spot with a tricky game at Eastleigh, a side which only surrenders home points grudgingly.
Tom O'Connor is pushing for a start after his goal from the bench at York City last weekend.
O'Connor's goal was a beauty, of course, but despite giving Wrexham an 88th minute lead it was the winner. York's cruelly deflected injury time equaliser meant The Red Dragons dropped two precious points and ceded the topspot to Notts County.
The Spitfires will be difficult opponents as Wrexham look to get back to winning ways. They lie just two points off the post-season spots, and nobody at Wrexham wants to hear their name in relation to the play-offs. We've already seen how difficul they cane be on the opening day of the season, when it took a magnificent match-winning cameo off the bench by Elliot Lee to overturn their early goal and earn a 2-1 win.
However, it's atthe Silverlake Stadium that The Spitfires excel. Only one side has won more points at home this season in the National League (and of course, that's us as we've a 100% record at The Racecourse!) Only Notts County have conceded fewer on their own patch than Eastleigh's 8, and they're the only side to have beaten The Spitfires at home.
A 1-0 home win over Boreham Wood last Saturday represented the end of their first significant wobble of the campaign. They'd lost their previous three games, and had been beaten in the FA Cup by The Wood at the start of the campaign, meaning The Spitfires went into Saturday's revenge mission having lost 4 of their previous 5 matches.
However, they prevailed thanks, in no small part, to ex-Wrexham defender Jamal Fyfield. In the 34th minute he was sent off for an off-the-ball incident, which was also punished by a penalty. Tristan Abrahams scored from the spot, and it turned out to be the only goal of the match.
HEAD TO HEAD
Wrexham have an admirable record at Eastleigh, having never lost in 8 trips to Hampshire.
Last season Jake Hyde scored both the goals at the Silverlake Stadium, as Phil Parkinson enjoyed his first win as Wrexham manager. The win wasn’t as comfortable as the scoreline suggested though, as The Spitfires missed a couple of good chances in the early stages of the match.
The season before, a feisty match ended in a 1-1 draw. Dean Keates’ side put in a strong performance, and a terrific strike by Kwame Thomas in first half injury time put them ahead. However, a highly controversial penalty decision allowed Eastleigh back in the game: Christian Dibble pulled off a magnificent save from a corner but, as the ball rebounded from the bar James Horsfield was inexplicably penalised for a high boot as he hooked the ball off the line and Eastleigh equalised from the spot.
The controversy hadn’t ended though. Jordan Davies was crudely fouled in the centre of the pitch, leading to an angry melee. Debutant Tyler French was singled out by the referee and shown a red card, so Wrexham had to dig deep to earn a point from a game they deserved to win.
The two preceding seasons saw us record our other two wins on Eastleigh’s patch. Omari Patrick scored two goals in the first half to secure a win in December 2019, and we maintained our position at the top of the table in September 2018 with a 3-1 victory.
Manny Smith struck an early goal before Alex Wynter’s own goal doubled our lead in the 14th minute. We seemed to be in firm control of the game, but oddly the 64th minute dismissal of Andrew Boyce seemed to galvanise The Spitfires. The ten men battled bravely and Paul McCallum pulled a goal back four minutes after the red card, but we secured victory when Mike Fondop scored a fine solo goal.
That made it 4 goals in his first 5 games for Wrexham, and he’d score in our next match too, but would only manage one more, against lower division opposition in the FA Trophy, in the rest of his time at The Racecourse.
With two goals each, Wrexham’s equal top scorers in this fixture are Hyde, Paul Mullin, Sean Newton, Omari Patrick, Kwame Thomas and Wes York.
Liam McAlinden's 50th game for Wrexham.