Though a late Darren Pratley equaliser prevented non-League Eastleigh pulling off one of the biggest Emirates FA Cup third round shocks of recent times against Bolton, manager Chris Todd still believes his team can reach round four.
A deluge of torrential rain put the game severely in doubt just hours before kick-off, but referee Iain Williamson eventually deemed the pitch fit enough for action.
The Spitfires edged ahead in an even contest with a Dorian Dervite own goal, but Pratley silenced, briefly, the home fans with his goal three minutes from time that forced a replay.
Eastleigh 1-1 Bolton Wanderers
Emirates FA Cup third round
Saturday 9 January 2016
Winning sides receive £67,500 from The FA prize fund
Todd, though, sees no reason why his team cannot win when the teams do it all again at the Macron Stadium later this month.
Former Exeter and Torquay defender Todd said: “We believe in ourselves. To come up against a Championship team and put in a performance like that shows actually how far we can go.
“Do I believe we can win? Of course, why not?
“It’s going to be a tough task at their home ground but they were lots of signs today that have given me confidence we can put a show on.
“Another day we could have won this football match and why can’t we do it again?”
“We go again and we’re looking forward to that trip. It’s going to be an entertaining game for sure and we’ll go full of confidence.”
Todd was among those helping out on the pitch at Silverlake Stadium before the match, with Eastleigh desperate for their first ever FA Cup third round tie to survive the weather.
And Todd felt the togetherness shown in the hours before kick-off continued once the referee had blown his opening whistle.
He added: “Credit to Bolton they wanted it on as much as we did and the referee stayed strong and got it on.
“The players should be very proud of themselves because the performance was outstanding. It’s been a very special day for the football club and it’s been topped off by the performance on the pitch.
“We are disappointed because we should have probably won the game overall, but I can’t take anything away from anyone because it’s been a great day.
“The players are disappointed but that says a lot about my group because we’ve come a very long way. They’re a Championship team – regardless of what position they are, they’re three divisions above us.
“We’ve put in a performance like that and at times were the better side. We played some great football on a very tricky surface.”
Highlights: Eastleigh 1-1 Bolton Wanderers