Harriers 0, Eastleigh 1

FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round

HARRIERS’ boss Gary Whild vowed to rebuild his players wilting confidence after their dreams of a much-needed money-spinning run in the FA Cup were ruined by Vanarama Conference rivals Eastleigh.

Financially restricted Harriers started counting the cost of their damaging fourth qualifying round exit after the Spitfires took off from Aggborough with a well earned win sealed by a first half goal from Jai Reason.

The midfielder’s smartly taken effort wrecked any hopes struggling Harriers had of repeating the FA Cup glory they achieved last season when they reached the fourth round proper before losing 1-0 to Premier League Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

On Saturday a crowd of 1,489 saw them turn in a bitterly disappointing performance which allowed Eastleigh to clinch a valuable victory which earned them £12,500 in prize-money.

Afterwards Whild admitted he and his management staff had their work cut out to get off-form Harriers back on track.

He said: “We are limited, but we don’t want to hide behind that as an excuse because there were a lot of players in the starting eleven and on the bench who’ve played a lot of games at this level and have done well at this level. So we aren’t using that as an excuse. But we’ve got to get back to what we’re good at and at the minute we aren’t quite right and it’s up to me and the rest of the management team to get the lads back to where they were early on in the season and playing with a little bit of confidence.

“You are not going to get through to the fourth round proper every year and unfortunately we’ve gone out, but we’ve got to be bigger than that. We’ve got to see where the club is at the minute and we’ve got to work within the resources and it’s up to me to turn it around and give the lads some confidence.”

Harriers were particularly disappointing in the opening 45 minutes and it was not until stoppage time in the first half that they managed to cause any major threat to Richard Hill’s men. The chance fell to Ahmed Obeng, but he shot straight at goalkeeper Ross Flitney.

By then Eastleigh had notched what proved to be the winner in the 14th minute through Reason. He hammered home an unstoppable half volley from 22 yards after taking full advantage of a misdirected headed clearance from Josh O’Keefe.

Whild’s mis-firing troops launched the second half by having loud penalty appeals for handball turned down which was followed shortly afterwards by the visitors having a deflected shot from Stuart Fleetwood hit the bar before being cleared.

Harriers’ hopes of battling back for a replay slowly but surely began to evaporate after the hour mark when they were thwarted on a trio of occasions. Firstly, O’Keefe had a shot pushed away by Flitney and then Chey Dunkley had a headed ‘goal’ ruled out for off-side. Reece Styche also had a close range header saved by Flitney before Aggborough goalkeeper Danny Lewis kept out a shot from substitute Yemi Odubade in the closing stages of what was the first ever meeting between the two clubs.

Harriers: Lewis 6; Hodgkiss 6, Dunkley 5, Grimes 6, Nicholson 5; OBENG 7, Storer 5, O’Keefe 4 (Johnson, 62, 5), Gittings 5; Gash 5 (Blissett, 59, 4), Styche 5 (Reid, 75, 4). Subs not used: Singh, Green, Verma.

Eastleigh: Flitney; Evans, Beckwith, Reid, Green; Reason, Stanley, Strevens, Collins (Constable, 45); McAllister (Odubade, 71), Fleetwood. Subs not used: Helm, Spence, Todd, Wright, Lee.

Referee: Richard Martin (Somerset).