Town will do battle with Eastleigh in a replay after the two sides played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in the First Round of the Emirates FA Cup at the Silverlake Stadium earlier this evening.
Both sides had chances in an entertaining half with only a superb save from Ryan Clarke preventing Luke Norris from heading the Reds into the lead and opening his account for the club.
Lawrence Vigouroux was a busy customer too and did well to keep the lively hosts at bay heading into the break.
Mikael Mandron opened the scoring for Eastleigh just past the hour mark but Michael Doughty converted from the penalty spot minutes later to force a replay.
Town made five changes from the defeat at Scunthorpe United last time out with Lloyd Jones, Brad Barry, Michael Doughty, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Luke Norris all coming back into the fold.
Darnell Furlong missed out through suspension whilst a minor injury had sidelined Conor Thomas, with Anton Rodgers, Ellis Iandolo and John Goddard dropping to the bench.
The Reds opted to revert back to their tried and trusted 3-5-2 formation, with Norris partnering Nathan Delfouneso in a two-pronged attacked.
With the nation watching live on BBC Two, it was the hosts who fashioned the game’s first shot on goal with Lawrence Vigouroux doing well to push Luke Coulson’s drive out for a corner.
Eastleigh’s top scorer, Mikael Mandron then headed wide from Michael Green’s fizzing cross before Reda Johnson was also off target.
Both sets of fans were making themselves heard which made for a terrific atmosphere inside the Silverlake Stadium.
Town were having to do plenty of defending in the early exchanges but they nearly came close to grabbing an opener themselves when Luke Norris forced Ryan Clarke into a smart stop.
But the Spitfires’ stopper saved his best work for a few minutes later when he once again denied Norris, this time reacting superbly to somehow keep out the striker's bullet header after Michael Doughty’s free-kick had struck the bar, although Norris' effort looked to have crossed the line.
However, the Reds were dealt a bitter blow with Nathan Thompson being forced off because of injury, with John Goddard his replacement.
Vigouroux was called into action again with the first-half nearing an end and the keeper did well to get down low and smother Mandron’s shot from a tight angle.
Delfouneso curled wide for the Reds shortly after the interval as they looked to seize the initiative in the game.
Neither team were able to truly stamp their mark on proceedings with chances at either end at a premium.
Green dragged wide for Eastleigh while both Kasim and Norris were unable to convert from close-range at the other end as the game reached the hour mark.
However, the opening goal of the game arrived minutes later after that missed opportunity but it went the way of the home side.
Jake Howells fizzed a dangerous ball into the box and Eastleigh’s top scorer Mikael Mandron was on hand to nod the hosts in front.
But that joy was short-lived with Town hauling themselves level moments later courtesy of Michael Doughty’s coolly taken penalty after the midfielder was brought down inside the area by Clarke.
Both teams then proceeded to go for broke in search of a winner with Vigouroux denying James Constable before Delfouneso had a shot blocked at the opposite end of the pitch after being picked out perfectly by Doughty.
Barry flashed a shot wide before Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill did superbly to throw himself in the way of Ayo Obileye’s venomous effort.
That proved to be the final action of the game with the two teams now getting ready to do battle again in a replay at The County Ground later this month.
TEAMS AND STATS:
SCORERS - Mikael Mandron (64), Michael Doughty (69).
EASTLEIGH - Clarke; Pipe (Ayo Obileye 78), Essam, Johnson, Green; Drury, Taylor, Howells, Coulson; Mandron (Scott Wilson 86), Constable.
Subs Not Used - Huddart, Reason, Dawson, Bird, Fee.
TOWN - Vigouroux; Rossi-Branco, Thompson (C) (John Goddard 26), Jones; Barry, Kasim, Murray (Jordan Stewart 82), Doughty, Ormonde-Ottewill; Delfouneso, Norris.
Subs Not Used - Henry, Rodgers, Evans, Smith, Iandolo.
REFEREE - Oliver Langford
EASTLEIGH - Ryan Clarke.
TOWN - Raphael Rossi-Branco.
ATTENDANCE - 3,312 (799 Town Fans).