We all knew it at half time, because we've seen it so many times before. To miss those kind of chances, especially while embroiled in a relegation battle, was always going to cost us and so it proved in the most frustrating way possible.
After such a good week both on and off the pitch it was a shame that our positivity was blunted so cruelly, but the goal had been coming for a solid twenty minutes. From the moment Chike Kandi wasted our penalty so spectacularly, you could see the team were drained of confidence and Eastleigh really did take advantage. There was only so many times our defenders could produce last-ditch tackles and it's not surprising that a set-piece proved our undoing.
As always with our young side, we lost nearly every header in both boxes and invariably that leads to a lot of goals. Unfortunately, their winner came at a time where we had very little time to respond. It was a crushing feeling especially after a first-half in which we were so dominant. When you miss that many clear-cut opportunities, though, you're almost asking to get beat especially in such a difficult division.
Adeloye done all the hard work going through one-on-one with the keeper, only to inexplicably pull it wide just as a man low on confidence would, yet somehow that wasn't our biggest failing. When the penalty arrived in the 45th minute, it was a huge moment and most expected Kandi to score given how he effortlessly dispatched his spot-kick against Braintree. But, how, how, how, has it crossed his mind to tamely pass it towards the corner? It was an awful effort, which the keeper always looked like saving.
Sadly, that was the turning point. Eastleigh had enjoyed lots of success on the wings through counter-attacks but after the break they began to dominate the midfield and instead it was us restricted to rare forays forwards, where we would always immediately lose possession. Chike was suffering badly from his miss and the symptoms were contagious for the team because we looked nervy and no longer took the game to them like we had in the first half.
Overall we were worthy of at least a point, even then we would've been slightly disappointed not to have claimed all three. So, to lose everything was absolutely gutting but it wasn't an unfamiliar feeling because it's almost ingrained into us to concede late, heartbreaking goals. Recently the luck had been with us but there was only so much pressure we could withstand as Eastleigh chucked everything at us late on. We invited pressure which is always dangerous and, of course, suffered as a result.
There were a few impressive performers for us and, in particular, I thought Matt Robinson was absolutely fantastic today. He covered a lot of ground and gave us a little bit extra both defending and going forward. He provided the part of his game that had been lacking in recent weeks so huge credit to him for that. He also done brilliantly well in earning the penalty which typified the determination he played with.
Elsewhere, Elliott Justham pulled off some scarcely-believable saves which kept us hanging on for a while. He definitely didn't deserve to be picking the ball out of his net in the 89th minute because his display was more than worthy of a clean sheet. It's a similar story with Goodliffe, who constantly exceeds himself every week and this performance was no different. For a player that young to have so much maturity in his play shows how successful a career he is capable of forging.
But for every Justham there was a player like Kandi or Romain, neither of which looked their usual selves today. Hoyte, I thought, didn't offer enough in attack which is why so many of our build-up play down that flank broke down so easily. Ultimately, the outcome of the game hinged on the substitutions; Eastleigh brought on Zebroski and Constable who offered that vital spark while our introductions of McQueen and Reynolds proved highly ineffective. We'd have been much better utilising Ollie Harfield.
Lessons learned, though, and let's go again Tuesday. I'm proud of the players for another dedicated performance that could've, on another day, brought a point or all three. Our supporters were excellent especially with the game being on BT Sport and personally it was another good day out following the boys.
So the unbeaten run is over and now the real test of character arrives as we look to bounce back. However, if there's one thing to take from this game, it's that we simply have to take our chances or we'll consistently be punished, as we were both today and on many occasions earlier on in the campaign.
I am Joel Page, an avid Dagger who travels across the country watching the club. Over the last few years, I've absorbed the turbulent rollercoaster ride that comes with supporting the Daggers and have seen us both at our highest and our lowest. From 'that' day at Wembley to watching us suffer a devastating drop into non-league, it's all a part of the journey.