A chaotic afternoon will be remembered for an incredible final scoreline but, as a match, it is one that Southport would rather forget.
Amid all the mayhem of this nine-goal extravaganza, the end result proved to be significant, as the Sandgrounders suffered defeat against one of their closest rivals at the foot of the Vanarama National League to send them back into the relegation zone.
Although high on entertainment, this was a match of error-strewn football and kamikaze defending, which saw Jack Midson secure the win for Braintree Town after the action had ebbed and flowed in remarkable fashion.
The biggest disappointment for Southport was that, having trailed as early as the first minute, they recovered to lead 3-1 midway through the first half before contriving to throw the points away.
The Sandgrounders have failed to win in five attempts at home against Braintree Town and, on a day when they managed to score four goals, Steve Burr’s team were left to wonder how victory had slipped through their grasp.
Much of Southport’s improvement in recent weeks has centred on a new-found resilience, but this was a clear lesson from both teams in how not to defend.
It took just 58 seconds for Michael Cheek to open the scoring, converting Monty Patterson’s right-wing cross with a first-time finish at the near post, and that set the tone for an incredible first-half goal avalanche.
Jack Higgins levelled for Southport after Braintree had failed to clear a corner from Ben McKenna, whose 25-yard drive cannoned off a post before the scoring continued at a remarkable rate.
On 28 minutes, Josh Thompson headed home Ryan Higgins’ right-wing cross and, less than 60 seconds later, an attempted clearance from goalkeeper Sam Beasant ricocheted against Andrai Jones and into the unguarded goal.
At that stage, Southport would have expected to take control but their defensive frailties meant they were never settled.
Danny Rumens pulled a goal back for Braintree from a Patterson corner before the visitors levelled on 36 minutes when a left-wing free-kick from Oliver Muldoon went straight through a crowded penalty area into the Southport goal.
And the visitors regained the lead in the third minute of added time, Jack Higgins inadvertently sending another set-play from Muldoon into his own net.
Jamie Allen equalised for Southport, converting a penalty after goalkeeper Beasent had brought down Jones in the area.
But having seen Simeon Akinola’s header turned onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Magnus Norman, Braintree claimed the win on 64 minutes, as Midson nodded home a corner from Patterson.
There was still time for Beasent to produce a point-blank save from Jones, before James Caton blasted the ball over from in front of goal after excellent work from Allen, Southport’s most impressive performer.
This was the first time in almost a year that the Sandgrounders have managed to score four goals in a game but, on this evidence, keeping them out may prove to be an altogether different challenge.
Southport (4-2-3-1): Norman, R Higgins, J Higgins, Thompson, Ashton, Weeks (Caton 60), Nolan, McKenna (Gray 86), Grimes (Hynes 60), Allen, A Jones.
Subs not used: White, Jerome.
Braintree Town (4-4-2): Beasant, Clohessy, Parry, Rumens, Okimo, Patterson (Hall-Johnson 90), Muldoon (Isaac 71), Lee, Akinola, Cheek (Barnard 84), Midson.
Subs not used: Gayle, Matthews.
Referee: Andrew Miller
By Alan Jones