Preview by Dom Bleackley.
Dorking suffered their first defeat at Meadowbank since early November last time out; Paul Osew’s late strike ending a winless run of eight games for Woking. Speaking after the 1-2 loss, White stated the decision to go more direct in the second half “went against” his side, who struggled to gain a foothold in the game after James McShane’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time. The Wanderers boss also emphasised how the “fragmented” nature of the affair was of detriment to his side, who struggled to display signs of what had previously put them on an unbeaten run of three.
The long-awaited debut of Charlie Carter (incidentally signed from tomorrows opponents back in October) added to the anticipation surrounding the Surrey Derby last Saturday. However the Wanderers faithful and travelling Woking fans weren’t treated to a riveting opening to proceedings, as neither side struggled to carve out any real chances of note in the first half-hour. Following a succession of set pieces, Ian Dyer’s side created their best opening from a free kick just inside the Wanderers half; Cards skipper Josh Casey delivering a fantastic cross which Tunji Akinola gleefully met to head home the opener. Dorking responded to going a goal down well, notably upping the tempo in their attacks. White’s side would soon be rewarded for their added efforts, as McShane diverted Carter’s cut-back to level proceedings six minutes after going behind. Alfie Rutherford’s introduction at half-time ensued a number of chances for the forward, who was denied by some fine saves from Alexis Andre in the Woking goal. Despite Wanderers’ continued efforts to find an elusive winner, it was the Woking faithful who were left in delirium in the closing stages, as Osew raced through following a neat Cards counter-attack, astutely slotting past Harrison Male directly in front of the away end. White namely credited the away following after the defeat, who travelled in impressive numbers.
The win moved Dyer’s side above Dorking, who dropped into 19th on goal difference. Saturday’s trip to the Silverlake kicks off a double header of two games in three days for White’s men, who host Oxford City on Boxing Day.
In his weekly update, Marc White confirmed he is still without a number of first-team players due to respective injuries, namely ruling out any involvement for likes of Dan Pybus and Jason Prior tomorrow, as he continues to contend with an injury-stricken squad.
White will also be without Alfie Rutherford, after he joined National League South side Weymouth FC on a short-term (28 day) loan earlier this week in order to step up his return to full match fitness, following his extended time out of the game.
Opposition Focus – The Spitfires
A steady season for The Spitfires places them in 11th as we approach the halfway mark of the campaign. Richard Hill, who officially took charge in late September following a successful interim period, enjoyed what must be the highlight of his time so far at the Silverlake earlier this month, knocking League One’s Reading out of the FA Cup in the second round.
Since their memorable 2-1 win over Reading at the Silverlake, Eastleigh have faced Aldershot Town twice in as many games; the first being in the FA Trophy, where they were knocked out by The Shots on penalties, the second being an eight goal thriller at The EBB, where Hill’s side ran out 3-5 winners, registering their third win in four league outings.
Despite Eastleigh’s strong recent form, Dorking may travel with optimism of testing what has been a vulnerable Spitfires backline this campaign, with only Aldershot possessing a worse defensive record in the top half of the division.
Hill’s appointment is not the first time he has assumed responsibilities at The Silverlake, he was in charge of the team which won Eastleigh promotion to the fifth tier in 2014, subsequently guiding the club to their highest ever finish. Later down the line, Hill would assume the director of football title in 2017, before becoming first-team manager once again for the 2017/18 season. After most recently taking over from Lee Bradbury on an interim basis, Hill has reignited an Eastleigh side who were winless before he took charge, his seven game interim spell saw the side pick up 11 points. The Spitfires now sit just three points off the play-off places, with a third round FA Cup tie at League Two’s Newport County beckoning in January.
Eastleigh’s Paul McCallum sits at the summit of this campaigns individual scoring tally, his remarkable return of 18 goals in 18 games is only neared by Barnet’s Nicke Kabamba, with 14. McCallum’s ruthless nature in front of goal will no doubt cause problems for a Wanderers backline who are without a clean sheet on the road since September. Eastleigh securing the 29-year-old forward from Dagenham & Redbridge in May will surely go down as one of the leagues finest coups. McCallum, who played for West Ham United as a teenager, rejoined Eastleigh after a four year absence. His previous two year spell at the Silverlake between 2017 – 2019 saw him net 35 goals in 67 games, a tally he is well on course to beating in his second stint at the club.
Hill will be without Enzio Boldewijn for Dorking’s visit, the Dutch winger was shown a red card in the latter stages of their 3-5 win at Aldershot last time out. Boldewijn has featured prominently for Eastleigh since joining from Sutton United in the summer. Other incomings at the Silverlake include Chris Maguire, who scored at the EBB last weekend to bring his tally to six for the season, the Scottish winger arrived from Ayr United in the summer. They also recruited French centre-back Ludwig Francillette from Crawley Town, who has featured regularly this campaign.
Last Time We Met
Eastleigh put four past Wanderers in our last visit to the Silverlake on New Years Day, Charlie Carter netted a brace inside 10 minutes to put the game well out of sight with less than a quarter of an hour played. Alfie Lloyd set the tone for the hosts with just twenty seconds played, dinking over Dan Lincoln to kick off Eastleigh’s 2023 in style. Carter, who is set to make his first return to the Silverlake on Saturday, doubled Eastleigh’s lead with an effort from outside the area going in off the post. The midfielder hit the woodwork again before heading home Lloyd’s cross to make it 3-0 inside 13 minutes, evidently catching the eye of Marc White. Lloyd made it four before half-time with a header to culminate a miserable start to 2023 for Dorking.