This match was only 28 seconds old when things started to go wrong for Southport and it soon turned out to be another miserable experience.
The Sandgrounders slumped to their third straight defeat as a storm set in at the Merseyrail Community Stadium, leaving their early wins of the summer feeling like an increasingly distant memory.
As league leaders and one of the favourites for promotion from the Vanarama National League North, Harrogate Town were always likely to provide a considerable test, but Alan Lewer’s team showed little inclination to rise to that challenge.
Southport’s performance was as poor as Harrogate were impressive, continuing their recent trend of gifting goals and staging a defensive catastrophe.
Gary Roberts scored a consolation for the Sandgrounders early in the second half, ending a run of 11 consecutive goals against, yet by full time the home team had given away another two.
In little over a week, Southport’s good start has unravelled dramatically, and after three heavy losses they must find a way to prevent further damage being inflicted on their season.
Southport’s chief tormentor was Jordan Thewlis, who hit a hat-trick as Harrogate took apart Lewer’s team at will.
No sooner had the match started than the visitors were in front, Thewlis beating Jacques Kpohomouh to a long ball from David Morgan before slotting the ball past Mark Halstead, the oncoming goalkeeper.
For Southport, it was the worst possible start, and with their confidence already brittle on the back of recent results, there was never a suggestion that they could recover from conceding inside the first minute.
After Morgan shot wide, Thewlis added his second on 18 minutes, scoring with a far post-header having been picked out by Josh Falkingham’s superb diagonal ball to complete a well-constructed goal.
There was almost further misery for the home team before half-time, as Kpohomouh was caught under another ball forward from Morgan, leaving Jack Emmett through on goal, only for the Harrogate midfielder to be denied by Halstead.
Southport’s solitary chance of the first half saw Jack Sampson direct a header at goalkeeper James Belshaw from a Brad Jackson cross, but the home team did find their way onto the scoresheet nine minutes after the interval.
Roberts converted a penalty after Sampson had been tripped by Belshaw, but even at that stage, a comeback was never on the cards.
Instead, the Sangrounders were culpable of further defensive lapses, Joe Leesley shooting at goalkeeper Halstead after a poor clearance from Kpohomouh, before George Thomson seized on a slip from Alex Fletcher and released Ryan Fallowfield, who should have done better when bearing down on goal.
Harrogate did rediscover their scoring touch towards the end, Thewlis completing his hat-trick by touching in Leesley’s left-wing cross from close range.
And it was Leesley who added the visitors’ fourth after Halstead failed to deal with a corner from Thomson.
On a stormy night, Southport were left windswept, battered and bruised.
Southport (3-5-2): Halstead, Kpohomouh, C Jones (Merrie 53), Smith, Jackson, Lowe, Roberts, Schumacher (Fletcher 32), White, Sampson, E Jones (Sang 65).
Subs not used: Cockerline, Zama.
Harrogate Town (4-1-4-1): Belshaw, Fallowfield, Kennedy, Burrell, Parker, Morgan, Thomson, Emmett (Burdett 82), Falkingham, Leesley, Thewlis.
Subs not used: Cracknell, Middleton, Day, Gooda.
Referee: David McNamara
Report by Alan Jones