Following on from Saturday’s injury time equaliser at Bromley, City continued their promising start to the season with a 2-0 victory over Eastleigh. The win was all the more satisfying as it took City seven games last season for them to record their first Twerton Park success. There was no such wait this time as goals from Jim Rollo and Darren Edwards in either half was more than enough to see off the Hampshire side. Rollo’s goal, his first since November 2005, was a stunning 25-yard strike but no less important than Edwards simple second half tap-in. Boss John Relish made a single change from the Saturday’s starting XI – Mark McKeever was fit to reclaim the left-wing spot in place of Paul Keddle.
Two corners in the opening ten minutes for City was a promising sign of things to come, and on 15 minutes McKeever forced keeper Pullen into a smart save. The ball was eventually cleared for a corner which Chris Holland headed inches wide. The visitors rarely tested City’s defence although on a couple of occasions Wheelers’ pace did create a few nervy moments. However, these moments were few and far between, and with 28 minutes gone City took the lead. The goal itself wasn’t a surprise but the scorer and manner certainly were. Rollo was the only regular outfield player to fail to score last season, his last goal coming against Yeading in an FA Trophy tie in November 2005. This was a stunning strike on the volley and he showed again that he has en eye for the spectacular – collecting the ball 30-yards out from goal, advancing a few steps before unleashing a fantastic shot that flew past Pullen. Clearly stung by falling behind Eastleigh started to resort to the sort of play City hoped they had left behind in the Southern League, with a number of crude challenges leaving several City players needed treatment from the physio. Dave Gilroy then wasted a chance to double City’s lead, side-footing over the bar, before Sekani Simpson’s cross just evaded the striker. Steve Perrin ensured City went into the break with their narrow advantage intact, palming away a Green effort on 37 minutes.
Four minutes into the second half Gilroy saw another good opening go begging. He raced onto a Lewis Hogg pass but lifted his shot wide of the goal. This miss was forgotten though after another four minutes had passed when McKeever wriggled his way free on the left hand side of the area to cross for Edwards to steer the ball home at the far post. City were now completely in control of the game and they had Eastleigh chasing shadows on a number of occasions. Gilroy was only denied another effort on goal by a last ditch tackle and then Scott Rogers blasted wastefully over the bar. In reply Piper’s cross almost picked out Forbes, Simpson reacting smartly to clear the danger. In the end it was City who came closest to gifting Eastleigh a way back into the game – Perrin slicing Holland’s over-hit back pass inches wide of the goal with just eight minutes left. Had this gone in it would have made for a nervous finale to the game, as it was City had the best chance to add to the scoring in stoppage time. The ball broke to substitute Phil Walsh on the edge of the box but, rather than utilising the time and space he had, he went for the spectacular (maybe trying to match Rollo’s first half goal) only to shoot high and wide.
After just two games it appears that City are well equipped to adjust to a higher level, a four point return and fourth place position testament to that. While talk of end of season play-off’s is clearly premature the confidence that this start will have given the side already seems noticeable. And all this without arguably City’s best two players, Scott Partridge and Paul Evans. Obviously, there will be tougher tests ahead but with their next two games against sides also new to this level, hopes of an even more promising start to the season are not too fanciful.