An injury to Scott Fitzgerald just before the break and the contentious red card shown to Will Hendry just after the hour mark contributed to United's downfall this afternoon as Tom Jordan headed home a late winner for the Spitfires.
The game started at a quick pace, just three minutes had been played when a Will Hendry corner was fired low to Peter Collins on the edge of the area but his drive was straight at keeper Jason Matthews who held on safely. Minutes later a sweeping move by the visitors deserved more than it achieved. Jamie Brown sent Tony Taggart away on the left flank and he pulled the ball back perfectly to Peter Adeniyi on the edge of the United area but he fired way too high.
With chances switching from side to side it was United who next tested the keeper when Kieran Knight flicked on a clearance to Esmond James, the young winger outpaced Luke Byles into the Eastleigh area but Matthews was on hand to parry away his shot and the ball was hacked clear.
Just before the half hour mark it was the Spitfires turn when Taggart ploughed his way past Danny Allen-Page and Hendry but his angled shot went across the face of Howe's goal and wide of the far post. Spitfires striker Brown then lunged into a high challenge and duly received a yellow card which appeared to "upset" his manager as the player was immediately substituted.
The chances for the remainder of the first half all came United's way but with no finish. Hendry drove a free-kick from 30 yards that Matthews did well to touch onto the crossbar and seconds later James set up Knight but he was just off target.
A couple of minutes remained when Hendry played a superb throughball with the outside of his foot that saw Scott Fitzgerald just fail to connect as he challenged Matthews, sadly it was the strikers last action as he left the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. Another Hendry free-kick as the half closed was swallowed by Matthews at the foot of the post and the teams went in level at the break.
United started the second period as they had the first, moving forwards looking for the vital breakthrough. Knight controlled the ball on the edge of the area and set up Steven Gregory who saw his shot deflected wide of the target. United's best chance came seconds later when Allen-Page neatly chipped over the last defender to Hendry but he drove wide from six yards.
Just before the hour mark Knight was quick to challenge Matthews who had been given a short back-pass, the ball only finding Ram Marwa but he just missed the target from 25 yards.
The game then changed on 66 minutes when Hendry slid into a tackle for a loose ball and was adjudged to have stamped on his opponent according to the signal made by the assistant referee and referee Feerick produced a straight red card for the United playmaker.
Minutes later the Spitfires should have taken the lead, Tom Jordan laid off the ball to Groves but he shot over from just inside the area. United then created what was to be a rare chance with ten men, Allen-Page's cross was knocked down by Knight to Marwa who with his back to goal tried an overhead kick that was charged down by Jordan.
As the game was coming to a close Eastleigh continued to press forwards, Matt Bodkin crossed to Groves who controlled the ball in the area, turned and fired across the face of Howe's goal and wide of the post. The killer blow then came just four minutes from the end, Ronnie Bull misjudged a ball down the line that led to a Spitfires corner. Taggart took the kick and planted it squarely on the head of the unmarked Jordan who does not miss chances like that.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
Match Highlights available at www.fcvideo.co.uk
Website United Man of the Match: Ronnie Bull.