MATCH PREVIEW | Southport v Dagenham & Redbridge
Andy Preece’s first assignment in the Southport dugout certainly will not be an easy one, as Dagenham & Redbridge pay their first visit to the Merseyrail Community Stadium since they fell to an FA Cup giant-killing in November 2014.
The time that has passed since that Tuesday night has been turbulent for both sides. The Daggers have fallen from the Football League, and are now mounting a serious challenge to return, whilst Southport have made their way through five managers (not including Liam Watson’s week-long stint as interim), whilst constantly flirting with relegation themselves.
The Sandgrounders will be hoping desperately that they have finally got it right with Preece. He arrives with his new charges hovering one point above the relegation zone and boasting the worst defence in the division.
A touch of “new manager syndrome” that got the ‘Port out of the relegation zone with their form between October and December would not go amiss, and with the gap between Southport and mid table not insurmountable one good run could be all it takes to ease those persistent relegation fears.
Preece saw his side in action for the first time on Wednesday evening, and if he liked what he saw there may be a clean slate for the likes of Ashley Grimes, who was given a rare start against Blackburn after seemingly struggling to fit into the plans of his new boss’ predecessors.
Jack Higgins also returned for the match in midweek whilst John Cofie, who arguably fits into the same category as Grimes, made a second half appearance from the bench.
The pedigree of the likes of Cofie and Grimes is clear to see, however neither Andy Bishop nor Steve Burr were able to get the best out of their ability. Should Preece manage where the others failed in this regard, these players possess talent that could inspire a Southport resurgence.
The Daggers have not been immune from surprise results in recent months, losing to Essex rivals Braintree on Boxing Day as well as exiting the FA Trophy at home to Worthing before Christmas.
However, their form in 2017 has been impressive, winning three matches out of three in January without conceding a goal, including a victory over Tranmere at Prenton Park. Optimists will say, therefore, they are due a slip up.
By Christy Byrne