EASTLEIGH skipper Joe Partington has signed for League One side Bristol Rovers after the Gas activated a release clause in the defender’s contract.
The 26-year-old former Bournemouth man had been with Eastleigh since 2015, initially joining on loan before making his move to the Silverlake Stadium a permanent one.
He has impressed this season, captaining the Spitfires side as they made it through to the third round of the FA Cup.
And his performances have earned him a move back into the Football League with Rovers, who were Conference play-off winners in 2014-15.
They are now fighting to get into the League One play-off places and have signed Partington for an undisclosed fee, although Eastleigh say it is a club record transfer for them.
An Eastleigh statement read: “The club gave Joe permission to speak with Bristol Rovers yesterday following an offer which activated a release clause in his contract.
“The club were in negotiations to extend Joe’s contract further, however with such a high level of interest being shown from teams higher up the Pyramid it was always likely that his would be difficult to conclude.
“Joe has been an extremely popular member of the squad since signing and has made over 100 appearances for the club. He has conducted himself impeccably and is fully deserving of the opportunity to return to the Football League.
“Whilst the club are extremely disappointed to lose Joe, we are absolutely delighted for him personally. It is a fantastic move, to a super club and we wish Joe well for the future and thank him for all his efforts whilst at our club.”
Partington becomes the third player to depart Eastleigh this week after young midfielder James Granger was released and defender Connor Essam joined National League rivals Dover on loan until the end of the season.