Boss Richard Hill was brimming with pride after Eastleigh’s FA Cup fairytale continued with a 2-1 second-round victory over League One Reading.
The National League outfit defied a 36-place gap in the English football pyramid to reach the third round for the third time in their history.
Femi Azeez looked to have rescued the Royals a replay as his 86th-minute equaliser cancelled out Paul McCallum’s first at Silverlake.
But prolific striker McCallum was the hero as his winner deep in stoppage time – his 18th goal of the season – secured a trip to either Newport or Barnet.
“It feels fantastic,” Hill said. “There were 3,500 Eastleigh fans here today. You know I don’t get emotional, people call me dour and people tell me to smile, but that was big for this football club.
“I don’t celebrate goals, but that one at the end was special. You can’t blame me for that, I couldn’t help it.
“We were hanging on, second half, let’s make no bones about it.
“I knew we’d have to hang on. When they’re bringing on the cavalry, you know you’re in for a tough time. Our lads did great, they stood firm.
“I signed Macca here a couple of years ago in my second spell at the club. I’ve got a little bit more relaxed with him because he does what he does on match-days. On some days you have to let Macca be Macca.”
Hill continued: “I went to watch (Reading) on Tuesday (5-1 League One win over Carlisle). They made eight changes and it was helpful!
“I was glad Lewis Wing wasn’t starting and I was pleased to see Harlee Dean on the bench because he heads everything out of the box.
“I thought we had a chances against the two inexperienced centre-halves with Scott Quigley and Macca up front, and so it proved.”
The result marked the second time in three years the Royals have been dumped out by non-league opposition after their defeat to Kidderminster two seasons ago.
Boss Ruben Selles made eight changes for the cup tie and it came back to haunt him as they went crashing out.
Fans protested against owner Dai Yongge by throwing tennis balls and fake money onto the pitch in the 16th minute, symbolising the points deductions since he took charge.
Earlier this week, it emerged staff were only partially paid as the players received full wages to avoid another points deduction.
Selles said: “It’s disappointing. It’s a cup game, we went down in the first half, but we managed to get to 1-1 and create the chances and we didn’t take them.
“I wouldn’t change the team I picked. We have made changes this season. We beat Millwall, we were competitive against Ipswich, we were the most successful team in the EFL Trophy group stage. There’s no regret there.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t give the fans anything after they gave all their support.
“It is good to see they keep their faith in the team and supporting the boys. I am very grateful for that.
“I want to congratulate Eastleigh, they played their game and they were strong in the aerial duels. I wish them all the best.”
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