Ryan Astles and Jason Gilchrist led the comeback to earn Southport a draw against Ashton United after recovering from a half-time deficit.
Two goals down inside the opening 14 minutes, the Sandgrounders had barely featured as an attacking force when the teams left the pitch at the interval, but by the time the final whistle sounded, they were able to reflect on a point which could so easily have been three.
In many ways, this match of contrasting emotions was typical of what has been a patchy start to the season from Southport.
After such a sluggish opening from the home team, Gilchrist was introduced at half-time as part of a double substitution which helped bring about a dramatic change in the level of performance.
The leading marksman in last season’s Vanarama National League North with 28 goals, Gilchrist drew Southport level with 16 minutes to play, getting off the mark for the current campaign with a predatory finish, and in the time that followed it seemed that the Sandgrounders would turn the screw.
He may not have found his way onto the scoresheet but the player most likely to find a decisive goal for Southport was Dion Charles, the scorer of two in the win at Nuneaton Borough the previous weekend and the tormentor of the Ashton defence in the closing stages this time.
In the changes at half-time, Charles was switched from a central position alongside Jack Sampson to the right and he regularly worked his way from out wide into a shooting position, only to be foiled by Luke Pilling, the Ashton goalkeeper.
The win at Nuneaton, Southport’s first of the campaign after a difficult opening, ought to have given them the platform to push on, but instead their start was slow.
Matty Chadwick executed a curling left-foot free-kick which went in off the post on eight minutes, before he flicked the ball across the area for Brad Jackson to increase the visitors’ lead with a header that went over Astles as he tried to intervene on the goal-line.
Ashton were worthy of the half-time lead and the margin could have been greater, Chadwick again causing problems as he supplied a cross from the right which was sent looping onto the Southport crossbar by Craig Hobson’s header.
At that stage, the lack of productivity from Southport was a real concern but having failed to make any impression on the first half, their changes at the break helped alter the course of proceedings.
Within nine minutes, they had a goal back through Astles, steering the ball home from inside the area after the ball broke into his path from Devarn Green, before Gilchrist equalised with a poacher’s finish, peeling away at the far post as a corner from Stefan Mueller was touched on by Jack Sampson.
By now, Southport had come to life as Charles and Pilling became engaged in their own personal duel, only for the Ashton goalkeeper to prevail.
In stoppage time, Pilling made a fie low save from Charles, who dispossessed Matthew Hill before wriggling his way into the area, but Southport are now at least starting to collect points.
Southport (4-4-2): Hanford, Richards, Langley, Astles, Ogle, Lowe (Lynch 46, Mueller 71), Osborne, Parry (Gilchrist 46), Green, Charles, Sampson.
Subs not used: Priestley, Phenix.
Ashton United (4-4-1-1): Pilling, Jacobs, Chalmers, Regan, Hill, Jackson (Anghel 76), Sheridan, Platt, Chadwick, Tomsett, Hobson (Macatee 79).
Subs not used: McHale, Bakare, Evangelinos.
Referee: Nat Cox
Report by Alan Jones