Eastleigh Edge Diddy
Didcot 0-1 Eastleigh - Report by Ian East
Didcot Town began their pre-season schedule with a keenly contested game with National League side Eastleigh on Saturday. The visitors picking up the victory courtesy of a Danny Hollands goal on the stroke of half time but both teams will be satisfied with the 90minutes work and perhaps the surprisingly competitive nature of the fixture.
The visitors lined up with the likes of Graham Stack, Danny Hollands, Chris Zebroski, Paul McCallum, Reda Johnson and captain Sam Togwell among others within their ranks, players of proven quality not just in the National League but boasting 100s of appearances between them all in the Football League itself, for Didcot it was the 3-5-2 formation that became a feature of the back end of last years’ campaign and starts for a few of the new boys as well as Owen Holloway and Lewis Hayden played in the middle of midfield alongside Ollie Thomas, Seth Humphries started in a slightly unfamiliar forward role with Louis Joyce and there was also a start for youngster Callum Young at centre back along with the returning Matty Woodley at wing back.
With the lack of rain around this summer the pitch certainly wasn’t looking it’s best to say the least but both teams tried their best to knock the ball around as Didcot gave as good as they got for the most part in a cagey first half. Eastleigh unsurprisingly were creating the better opportunities and McCallum should have done better with a chance that fell his way in the box but he drilled his shot wide, a nice move then sent the experienced former Brentford man Mark Yeates clear but a heavy touch from a bobbling ball allowed Bedwell to clear up the potential danger.
Eastleigh should have taken the lead when a long ball forward was inadvertently helped on by Thomas for Didcot, the ball evaded the Didcot defenders and allowed Zebroski to power passed Young, Bedwell narrowed the angle well, saving his initial effort and then with the angles against him Zebroski fired into the side netting.
Didcot’s big chance of the half was when the excellent Sam Elkins and Lewis Hayden combined to free the tireless Louis Joyce who surged passed the Eastleigh backline but again from a narrow angle couldn’t find the finish to beat Stack as the goalkeeper saved well with his legs.
A Didcot corner but ending with an Eastleigh goal, the ball being cleared and suddenly it was 3 v 2 at the back for Didcot, the ball being chipped into the box by Yeates, the Didcot defence had two opportunities to clear the ball but couldn’t win their headers and as players arrived in the box it eventually looped toward Hollands who on the turn volleyed the ball in from close range to give Bedwell no chance and Eastleigh a lead they would hold onto. Didcot barely having time to kick off again as the half time whistle blew.
Into the second half and just the one initial change for Didcot as George Jeacock replaced Holloway and partnering Joyce up front it allowed Humphries to drop into a midfield role.
Joyce then tested Stack again in the second half after Humphries had sent the striker clear, in all honesty the through ball had just a fraction too much on it forcing Joyce to stretch to get it under control and his subsequent shot was straight at the goalkeeper. It was the best chance of a fairly quiet half as both teams made changes. For Didcot Ross Tanner and Aaron Davies replaced Ollie Thomas and Callum Young and then Taylor Janes replaced Humphries with Didcot moving to a 4-4-2
formation which saw Elkins move into central midfield, the final changes saw Woodley and Joyce replaced by youngsters Ross McDonald and Caelan Isaac.
Despite a couple of Eastleigh efforts smashed way over the bar Didcot held their more illustrious opponents to very little else and it was the home side who looked the more likely. McDonald was having a good impact putting defenders under pressure and looking dangerous, Elkins was outstanding in the match tenaciously winning the ball and with good quality trying to set up attacks but despite a few late corners and free kicks Didcot couldn’t force the equaliser they probably deserved on the day.
Still a very good workout for both sets of players, Didcot will be encouraged by some of the performances from their younger players and will be tested again on Tuesday night when a very strong Oxford City side come to the Loop for a 7:45pm kick off.
1. Leigh Bedwell
2. Sam Elkins
3. Matty Woodley
4. Callum Young
5. Stuart Cattell
6. Adam Learoyd ©
7. Ollie Thomas
8. Owen Holloway
9. Louis Joyce
10. Seth Humphries
11. Lewis Hayden
12. Aaron Davies
13. Ash Stevens (unused)
14. Andy Ballard (unused)
15. Taylor Janes
16. George Jeacock
17. Ross Tanner
18. Ross McDonald
19. Caelan Isaac