MATCH REPORT | Chester 2 – 2 Southport
For the second Tuesday night running, Southport displayed excellent character and no little skill to stage a dramatic comeback away from home.
Last week, their efforts only resulted in an extra time defeat in the Emirates FA Cup against Fleetwood Town, but this time Steve Burr’s team earned a more tangible reward.
Andrai Jones and Jamie Allen scored in the second half as the Sandgrounders overturned a two-goal half-time deficit to claim a hard-earned point at Chester and continue their good recent form.
It says a lot about the qualities of Burr’s new-look Southport that they were able to salvage a result in a way that would have seemed improbable earlier in the season.
The manner of this draw meant that it was celebrated like a win as the Southport players lapped up the applause of the travelling fans but, as Burr pointed out, the Sandgrounders should probably feel aggrieved that they did not pick up maximum points.
This was an excellent performance from Southport, who created a glut of goalscoring chances, dominated possession and played good, attractive football throughout.
Two defensive lapses and their failure to deal with high balls into the box meant Burr’s team trailed to the break, but there was more punch to their play as the second half went on and, once the deficit had been reduced, they appeared to be the only team likely to earn a win.
Two days after Callum Howe, their captain and a mainstay of their turnaround in fortunes, had been recalled from his loan by Lincoln City, it was perhaps unsurprising that Southport struggled to settle defensively.
Chester opened the scoring on 13 minutes, as James Alabi played the ball to Elliot Durrell, whose cross was head in by Kaine Richards.
Richards later shot wide and, on the half-hour, Southport were undone in similar fashion again, Alabi nodding in a Ryan Lloyd corner at the far post.
At that stage, it looked a long way back for the Sandgrounders, but Burr’s team had already shown they were capable of creating chances.
Alex Lynch, the Chester goalkeeper, was named as the home team’s man of the match and, at times, he was responsible for single-handedly keeping Southport at bay.
Lynch produced a series of high-quality saves, the first of which saw him thwart Allen with the score goalless after the Southport striker had raced clear of the Chester defence and ought to have found the target.
Ashley Grimes, playing in a more advanced midfield role in an offensive shape used by Burr for the first time, registered arguably his more impressive performance in a Southport shirt. On three occasions Grimes brought the best out of Lynch, including a fine reflex save after he had met Ben McKenna’s corner with a glancing header.
Jones pulled a goal back on 60 minutes with a sweetly-struck effort from 25 yards after an initial effort from Allen and, with Southport forcing their opponents to drop ever deeper, it was now one-way traffic.
Having been denied by Lynch again, Allen secured a point 11 minutes from time with another fine strike after the excellent McKenna had brought the ball in from the right.
The introduction of Ruben Jerome was a mark of Southport’s continued attacking intentions and he went close in stoppage time, although the point was enough to give the travelling fans reason to celebrate.
Chester (4-4-1-1): Lynch, Hughes, Hudson, Astles, Hunt, Durrell (Chapell 72), Shaw, Lloyd, Mahon (Joyce 72), Richards, Alabi.
Subs not used: Evans, Waters, Marsh.
Southport (4-2-3-1): Norman, R Higgins, J Higgins, Thompson, Ashton, Weeks, Nolan, McKenna, Grimes (Caton 82), Allen, A Jones (Jerome 79).
Subs not used: Ferguson, Hynes, Gray.
Referee: Wayne Barratt
By Alan Jones