BARRY PIKESLEY Mr. Eastleigh's Beautiful Blues

The following article is reproduced from "The Robins' Review" of 13 September, 2014.


Your starter for 10: who are the EIGHT clubs whose name begins with the letter 'E' against whom Alty have played a competitive fixture during the last forty years?

Right, that’s everyone sorted for Es and quiz. The answers will be disclosed later in this article.

The aforementioned Altrincham FC trivia question was, of course, inspired by Eastleigh’s scheduled visit to the J Davidson Stadium this afternoon for the inaugural fixture between the two clubs.

Whilst today constitutes Eastleigh’s debut here, the Spitfires’ squad does contain some familiar names who will no doubt evoke a few memories amongst the Alty faithful (although these recollections may not always be especially gratifying).

Indeed, the likes of such seasoned strikers as James Constable; Stuart Fleetwood and Jack Midson have all exhibited the egregious effrontery to have scored against the Robins previously whilst representing other clubs, namely Oxford United; Hereford United and Histon respectively.

Meanwhile, the visitors’ assistant manager Craig McAllister had the audacity to score a total of three goals against Alty for Woking during the 2006/07 Nationwide Conference season and their current coach Chris Todd has also found the back of the net whilst facing the Robins. In the latter’s case, this heinous transgression occurred back in August 2006, whilst he was wearing the colours of Exeter City.

Plus those Alty supporters of a certain vintage will probably recall the present Eastleigh manager Richard Hill in his role as a forward for Nuneaton Borough back in the early 1980s.

Oh, and let’s not forget the irresistible potential opportunity to renew acquaintances with our old friend, the nomadic Yemi Odubade, who we first encountered on that momentous afternoon at The Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent on Sunday, 15th May 2005, when the Robins overcame Eastbourne Borough 2-1 in the Nationwide North v South Play-Off Final.

As I compile these notes, the Spitfires are occupying seventh spot in the Vanarama Conference league table, having squandered a two-goal lead in last Tuesday evening’s draw at Dartford.

Rather inevitably for Eastleigh, I suspect that terms such as ‘moneybags’ and ‘big-spending’ are going to feature somewhat prominently in media accounts of their performances throughout the season and it will be interesting to scrutinise how the club fares in the face of such appraisals and high expectations.

I note that the reporter for the Macclesfield Express rather took exception to the Hampshire club’s perceived approach during their recent 2-0 reverse at the Moss Rose and his acutely critical analysis read as follows: “The Spitfires had done themselves no favours with a series of, at best, reckless challenges and never seemed to fully focus on the football side of things.”

Still, anyone who gets stuck into Macc Town players can’t be all that bad, can they?

Alty’s 2-1 victory over Dartford last Saturday came as a truly welcome relief, having rather put ourselves under some gnawing pressure on the back of three consecutive defeats. It certainly transpired to be a jittery start by the Robins and it’s hard to argue with the subsequent assessment of the Darts’ manager Tony Burman: “In the first five minutes I think, on another day, we could have been two goals up.”

However, Alty gradually emerged as the dominant team and we duly witnessed such characters as Ryan Crowther; Adam Griffin and James Lawrie produce easily their best performances of the season to date. The solitary fly in the ointment was the failure to keep our first clean sheet of the campaign.

It was also encouraging to see the various Non-League Day incentives boost the attendance and a few of us in the main stand were even privileged to have a certain Duncan Watmore sitting on the row in front of us. During the half-time interval, I was particularly delighted to observe that he was such an avid reader of the Robins Review.

I monitored last Tuesday evening‘s events at basement club Alfreton Town via the words of the Radio Robins commentary team and it was disappointing to concede our first-ever goal at The Impact Arena on what was our fourth visit to that particular venue. At least Kyle Perry’s late header salvaged a merited point from the situation, however, as with those recent frustrating setbacks at Southport and Nuneaton Town respectively, there remains a lingering sense of underachievement. We simply have to eradicate these charitable donations to teams in need.

So, to the answers to the teaser which was set in the opening paragraph.

The octet of clubs in question (and the respective seasons and competitions in which we first played against them) comprises: (1) Everton (1974/75: FA Cup); (2) Enfield (1981/82: Alliance Premier League); (3) Epsom & Ewell (1981/82: FA Trophy); (4) Emley (1997/98: Unibond League Premier Division); (5) Eastbourne Borough (2004/05: Nationwide North v South Play-Off Final); (6) Exeter City (2005/06: Nationwide Conference National); (7) Ebbsfleet United (2007/08: Blue Square Premier) and (8) Eastwood Town: (2011/12: Blue Square Bet North).

If you should care to extend the time frame back as far as the early 1960s, you can add the likes of Earlestown; Eastwood (Hanley) and Ellesmere Port Town to this category.

Whilst researching these ramblings, I discovered that a famous former resident of Eastleigh was none other than the late comedian Benny Hill. Already, I am conjuring up visions of a double-quick Kyle Perry racing across the pitch at lightning speed whilst being hotly pursued by a line of vexed and fist-waving Eastleigh defenders, as the Yakety Sax theme tune associated with The Benny Hill Show is broadcast over the J Davidson Stadium’s PA system.

Obviously, Kyle would have to pause every now and again in order to administer a series of rapid pats upon Peter Cavanagh’s balding head.