MATCH REPORT | Southport 1 – 4 Barrow
After a week of positivity and optimism that featured changes in the dugout and the boardroom, as well as a credible point away at high flying Eastleigh on Saturday, Southport fans were brought crashing down to earth on Tuesday night as the Sandgrounders were dispatched 4-1 at home to Barrow.
Southport’s achilles heel in the early stages of this season has been their poor start to matches, and this was no different. This was the sixth time in the opening ten games that they found themselves behind within fifteen minutes. Byron Harrison collected a stray clearing header from debutant Bobby Moseley on the edge of the penalty area, and his shot dribbled into the corner off the leg of the unfortunate Callum Howe.
One of Southport’s few opportunities came after sixteen minutes when Louis Almond, a former Barrow player, was brought down on the edge of the Bluebirds’ penalty box. Almond teed up James Caton who tried to smuggle the ball in at Joel Dixon’s near post from the corner of the area, but the former Blackpool and Shrewsbury winger’s shot was always curling wide.
Barrow goalscorer Harrison continued to look dangerous as the half wore on and nearly doubled his tally after twenty minutes with a well struck volley from the right of the penalty area, but Ty Belford in the Southport goal proved equal to the challenge. There was little Belford could do to prevent Barrow and Harrison’s second goal shortly after however, as Mark O’Brien was adjudged to have brought the Barrow striker down illegally in the box. Harrison got to his feet to send Belford the wrong way and slot the penalty into the corner.
Barrow’s lead could have been stretched to three just before half time, as Belford was forced into a save from yet another chance for Harrison, and Howe slid across the six yard box to block the rebound from Harrison’s strike partner Richie Bennett.
As it was the visitors lead remained at two going in to the break, and deservedly so. Aside from Caton’s attempt Southport had not looked remotely like scoring. The Sandgrounders seriously struggled to retain possession, without which it is nigh on impossible to create a scoring opportunity. This issue was not helped by the withdrawal of captain and midfield general Gary Jones midway through the first half due to injury.
Any hope of a stunning second half comeback was shattered six minutes after the restart, Barrow’s lively left winger Jordan Williams whipped a corner into the near post where it was met by Bennett. Amidst a crowd of bodies Bennett may not have known too much about the ball ricocheting off his head, but if it was his intention then we must applaud his instinctive finish.
Less than ten minutes later the visitors notched their fourth goal. Liam Hughes was allowed to stroll through the Southport midfield, then proceeded to play a simple one-two with Harrison and roll the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area. The simplicity of the goal was symbolic of Barrow’s easy progress to a 4-0 lead, barely challenged and completely clinical.
The second half progressed in a similar vein to the first, Barrow by now happy to sit on their four goal cushion and Southport unable to muster a sustained period of pressure, or indeed a meaningful attack. Delivery from free kicks and corners was wasteful, as was the home side’s general attacking play.
With five minutes remaining on the clock Caton was able to at least get Southport on the board, volleying home the rebound after substitute James Gray’s shot was saved by Dixon. This was scant consolation to the home fans, but was reward for an improved final ten minutes to the game following the introduction of Gray to join Almond and the hard running John Cofie in a front three.
Arguably one positive from the match was that it gave new boss Steve Burr a clear idea of the issues that he will have to overcome in order to get the Sandgrounders moving upwards in the table. Following Saturday’s invaluable and commendable point, Burr has now seen the good, bad and ugly sides of his squad and a manager with his record and experience will now be aware of what he needs to address in the side as well as the strengths they possess.
Report by Christy Byrne