Martin Allen: It would be brilliant if Eastleigh created some FA Cup magic
Eastleigh are just one of five Non-League sides left in the Emirates FA Cup with Championship outfit Brentford standing between the boys from Hampshire and a spot in the Fourth Round.
It’s familiar territory for the Spitfires, having reached this stage 12 months ago, taking then-Championship Bolton to a Replay.
And having knocked out Swindon Town in Round One, it’s clear Eastleigh are enjoying a purple-patch of Cup giant-killings.
But while Bolton were struggling at the foot of the table 12 months ago, Dean Smith’s Brentford pose a very different proposition.
And as Eastleigh boss Martin Allen makes his return to Griffin Park, he’s under no illusions about what lies ahead.
Speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes News, Allen said: “We’re treating it as any other game, but obviously it’s a tall order.
“We’re a National League club heading to a Championship side, and they’re a good Championship side.
The former Bees manager added: “I went to watch them against Norwich on New Year’s Eve, and they’ve got some good players and play some great football.
“All I hope is that we give a good account of ourselves.”
“I don’t think we can compare this game too much to the Bolton clash last season. Brentford are a different case completely.
“Bolton went down last year, and this is a decent Brentford team who just drew with a Premier League squad in Norwich, and just won away at Birmingham.”
The bookies understandably make Eastleigh 7/1 outsiders, with the Non-League outfit very much the underdogs.
But for Allen, that means the pressure is off his side.
“The pressure is on Brentford, and if their attitude is not right then anything can happen in the FA Cup. We’ve seen that time and time again down the years.”
“But knowing Dean Smith as I do, there’s no way they’ll risk not playing a full team. So the ball is firmly in their court.”
The hope and expectation of the Third Round of the FA Cup can be infectious, and once again the town of Eastleigh has got right behind its football club.
Over 1400 tickets have been sold by the Spitfires, who are ready to pack out Brentford’s atmospheric Brook Road Stand.
Regarding the impact the club’s Cup run has had on the local area, Allen explained: “We’ve seen a great response once again from the town, and the supporters of Eastleigh.
“We’ve now gone a few games unbeaten and started to turn it around a bit after some poor results.
“The people of this area have really got behind this club, and the chairman has done a great job with the season ticket and ticketing system. The chairman subsidises it so he’s helping to bring people in, and the club are heavily involved with the local community.”
And Eastleigh are enjoying the benefits from the success of neighbours Southampton.
“Of course we aren’t far from Southampton, so it’s a real football-loving area and sometimes people who can’t get a ticket for Southampton or can’t afford it, now come to Eastleigh to support us,” said Allen.
“They are now seeing Eastleigh as their follow-up team and when Saints are away a lot of their supporters are now coming to see us, which is fantastic.”
Allen himself knows a thing or two about giant-killings and indeed, upsets at Griffin Park, having led Brentford to victory over Premier League Sunderland in 2006.
But the former West Ham player’s Emirates FA Cup memories go right back to his childhood.
“I’ve seen the magic of the Cup since I was a little boy, when I used to watch Football Focus on a Saturday.
“On the opening shots they always used to show the famous goal from Ronnie Radford for Hereford against Newcastle.
“I’ll always remember watching the way he celebrated with his arms straight up over his head, and I don’t think any of us will ever forget the magic of the FA Cup when moments like that happen.
“Another iconic moment for me is Jim Montgomery’s famous double-save for Sunderland to beat Leeds in the 1973 Cup final. It’s a tournament full of magical moments.
“Can we create another one on Saturday? We would be creating history but it would be brilliant, brilliant for Eastleigh.”
Can the Spitfires reach the Fourth Round? How many Cup upsets will we see this weekend? You can check out all our Emirates FA Cup markets and match odds here.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing