Alfreton Town had a nightmare trip to deepest Hampshire on Saturday, with several factors conspiring to make Vanarama Conference safety far from certain.
Delayed en route by the team coach breaking down on the M40, then kicking-off 30 minutes late after minimal preparation, the Reds had their six-point safety cushion halved with Welling United comfortably beating Kidderminster Harriers.
To make matters worse Bradley Wood picked up a second caution with 25 minutes remaining and his dismissal will rule him out of next Saturday’s crucial survival clash with Welling at the Impact Arena.
Three changes from the Grimsby Town defeat allowed Joe Leesley to start for the first time, wihilst Simon Lenighan and Duane Courtney were recalled as Tom Shaw, Jimmy Phillips and Jake Speight gave way.
Understandably the Reds took time to settle in, the early chances falling to Eastleigh, James Constable and Jack Midson both going close before home keeper Ross Flitney needed to save an angled drive from Karl Hawley in the 13th minute.
Tom Flynn dealt with Brian Howard’s 15th minute free-kick, then Midson side-footed wide from close range as Eastleigh stepped up the pressure, the opening goal arriving after Lathaniel Rowe-Turner had conceded a corner from Midson’s cross six minutes later.
Jai Reason’s delivery, after his flag-kick had been returned to him, was headed past Flynn at his near post by Joe Partington.
Alfreton’s response came within four minutes though, but needed confirmation from the assistant referee that Hawley’s header from a Leesley corner had crossed the line before Craig Stanley hacked clear, the keeper having allowed the ball to squirm through his hands.
Lenighan’s challenge on Reason from Partington’s 31st minute throw yielded a penalty that Ben Strevens converted following a crafty, stuttering run-up and Eastleigh led 2-1.
A further delay then followed when a protruding water sprinkler caused a hazard, both teams losing momentum as they sun-bathed for seven minutes, although Lenighan did need to head off the line from Partington in the final minute of first half stoppage time.
After the break Constable and Reason went close before Courtney’s critical tackle prevented Constable from making progress into the area, Dan Bradley attempting to draw the Reds level with a driven by-line cross that was cut out by Flitney with Hawley homing in.
The hammer blow for Alfreton though came in the 65th minute when Wood’s reckless challenge on James Turley led to the referee producing a second yellow card, the influential midfielder having earlier been involved in an off-the-ball incident with Howard.
Leesley’s miskick on the edge of the area in the 73rd minute was a glimpse of a chance for the Reds, but the issue was settled two minutes from time when Stanley’s angled drive deflected heavily past Flynn for a fortuitous third goal.
ALFRETON: Flynn; Graham, Howe (Heaton HT), Rowe-Turner, Courtney, Bradley, Lenighan (Shaw HT), Howell, Wood, Leesley, Hawley (Speight 76).
Subs not used: Phillips, Johnston.