Not for the first time in recent weeks, the name of Jason Gilchrist featured heavily in the post-match talk among supporters, but even the loss of their leading striker part way through this game was no obstacle to a fifth straight win at home for Southport.
Gilchrist took to the pitch against Tamworth fresh off collecting the Vanarama National League North Player of the Month, a reward for his five goals in three games during February and further recognition for his current vein of form following a call-up to the England C squad.
Yet having started off by finding the target for the 24th time this season with a breathtaking demonstration of his goalscoring qualities, Gilchrist’s afternoon ended in a way that every Southport fan would have feared.
After needing treatment on a knock to his ankle during the first half, Gilchrist was carried off the pitch eight minutes into the second period having been on the receiving end of a heavy challenge from Steph Morley.
Once Gilchrist’s team-mates had completed the job with a degree of style, the over-riding thoughts were of concern for the league’s top goalscorer, though manager Kevin Davies appeared to provide some welcome news.
“Hopefully it’s just a contact injury,” said Davies, who has a number of stricken players to assess ahead of Tuesday’s visit of Telford United. “It seemed like a kick on his shin, there’s some bruising there and we’re confident he’ll be fit.”
The early indications from the manager will have allayed the worst fears of the home crowd, who had seen Gilchrist illuminate the first half with an outstanding goal.
As the leading player in Southport’s current run, Gilchrist begins games in a role on the left of three attacking players behind the central striker, enabling him to inflict damage as he cuts in field towards goal, before switching to the opposite side as matches go on.
22 minutes in, it was from his starting position on the left that Gilchrist broke the deadlock, taking the ball past Andy Burns, the Tamworth full-back, as he moved onto his right foot and veered inside.
Having approached the penalty area and reached a central position, Gilchrist unleashed a powerful shot that arced beautifully past the dive of goalkeeper Jack Stevens.
Gilchrist hit a hat-trick in the reverse fixture at Tamworth in December, a game that saw Southport surrender a lead to draw 3-3, but Davies’ team are a very different proposition nowadays and the outcome thereafter was never in doubt.
The Sandgrounders’ form is such that their attacking players can really express themselves and Dion Charles earned the home team a second goal on the hour with another wonderful solo strike.
A minute after being shifted into a central position following the substitution of striker Dan Cockerline, Charles displayed a delightful show of footwork, trickery and balance to jink into the Tamworth area, escape the visiting defence and take the ball around goalkeeper Stevens to add further panache.
The result lifts the Sandgrounders into tenth position in the table but the worry for supporters was that this would be a Pyrrhic victory. There was certainly pain in the pleasure of a seventh win in nine games because, with Gilchrist withdrawn, David Morgan was also forced off with a hamstring strain and the length of his period on the sidelines remains to be seen.
Gilchrist and Morgan have arguably been the two most valuable performers of late and Southport will hope that they are quickly able to return.
With Jack Sampson missing due to an ankle injury, the Sandgrounders are a low on numbers, but the list of absentees has given youngsters from the club’s youth set-up the chance to feature.
On in place of Morgan came Lewis Doyle, a 17-year-old midfield prospect and, nine minutes after being introduced for a first senior appearance, his excellent work on the right and low ball into the centre gave Billy Priestley a tap-in for Southport’s third.
It preserved Southport’s record of scoring three goals in each game during their current run of four successive wins. Their sequence at home equals a club Non-League record and they will approach the remaining ten fixtures with reason to be optimistic.
Southport (4-2-3-1): Worsnop, Richards, Howson, Priestley, Kelly, Morgan (Doyle 67), Lynch, Charles, Osborne, Gilchrist (Dawson 53), Cockerline (Smith 59).
Subs not used: Halstead, Fagan.
Tamworth (4-2-3-1): Stevens, Burns, Jones, Lane, Morley, Shaw, Verma, Knights (Taylor 63), Gray, Asante, Sharpe (Powell 56).
Subs not used: Kettle, Jezeph, Thomas.
Referee: Adam Herczeg
Report by Alan Jones