MATCH REPORT | Southport 0 – 0 Fleetwood Town – Emirates FA Cup
The last time Fleetwood Town visited Southport, in January 2012, is still remembered by the locals as the day they saw Jamie Vardy tear their team apart.
Scoring twice and creating another two goals, Vardy inspired Fleetwood to a 6-0 win at the Merseyrail Community Stadium in the season he spearheaded their change to the National League title.
Almost five years on, with Vardy now a Premier League winner and an England international, there was nothing to separate the teams this time, as Southport bridged a gap of 57 places and two divisions to hold their opponents who now compete in League One.
The Sandgrounders turned in a performance of resolve and great discipline in this closely-matched Emirates FA Cup first round tie, earning a replay against Fleetwood at Highbury Stadium next Tuesday.
The winner will visit Shrewsbury Town, also of League One, in the second round, after the draw took place at the Merseyrail Community Stadium ahead of kick-off on what was a memorable occasion for the club, even if the football did not quite deliver.
In truth, this cup tie never really came to the boil. Although Steve Burr’s team threatened in the first half, it was Fleetwood who created the better of the few chances as the match progressed but Southport held strong.
The Sandgrounders’ form in recent weeks has been vastly improved, a run of four matches without defeat and back-to-back wins lifting them out of the National League relegation zone.
After wholesale changes to their team, Southport have displayed more cohesion in recent matches and that was evident from the start.
Back in 2012, Fleetwood were three goals ahead inside the opening half an hour, but this time it was a much tighter affair.
Burr’s team got about their opponents from the outset, and while the first half lacked clear chances, Southport succeeded in matching Fleetwood and ensured the visitors did not settle.
Andrai Jones shot at Fleetwood goalkeeper Chris Neal on 12 minutes, before Liam Nolan sent an effort wide from distance and Jordan Lussey played a shot free-kick to James Caton, who could not direct his attempt towards the target.
The home team’s best chance of the half came in added time, as Jamie Allen, the former Fleetwood player, shot over after a good turn following Caton’s pass.
Fleetwood, for their part, were restricted to a single shot in the opening period, Bobby Grant drilling the ball wide from the edge of the area in a rare moment when the Southport defence failed to clear.
Southport set about the second half with a good tempo, Caton bringing a low save from keeper Neal after a run down the left.
Yet if anything that jolted Fleetwood into life as the visitors belatedly started to impose themselves on the game. Jack Ryan’s 25-yard free-kick was touched onto the Southport crossbar by the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Magnus Norman, before Kyle Demsey’s shot in the ensuing scramble was deflected over.
It was the cue for a string of fine saves from the ever-impresive Norman, who kept out Ryan’s low effort, while defender Callum Howe blocked a shot from Ashley Hunter before Grant placed the rebound over.
The visitors’ best chance came in added time, Norman saving with his legs to deny substitute Devante Cole on the break, but Southport merited their replay.
Southport (4-4-2): Norman, Higgins, Howe, Thompson, Ashton, Lussey (Ferguson 82), Weeks, Nolan, Caton (Cofie 76), Allen, A Jones.
Subs not used: Crump, White, Grimes, Gray, G Jones.
Fleetwood Town (4-4-2): Neal, Godswill Ekpolo, Pond, Bolger, Bell (Hunter 63), Sowerby (Woolford 46), Demsey, Grant (Cole 76), Ryan, Long, Ball.
Subs not used: Cairnes, Jonsson, Eastham, Nirennold.
Referee: Darren England
Report by Alan Jones