The new Vanarama National League season got off to a disappointing start for Southport, as they were beaten by Eastleigh, one of the favourites for promotion this campaign.
Although in the end this was a heavy defeat, the game probably hinged on a 12-minute spell either side of half-time, during which Eastleigh scored twice and one of Southport’s debutants, Andrai Jones, was sent off.
Carden reflected afterwards that the timing of events helped to shape the outcome and, against an experienced Eastleigh side with no shortage of proven National League strikepower, it was those moments which proved crucial.
Southport will have been pleased with their performance for most of the first half, and having fallen behind three minutes before the interval, they should have equalised straight away when Richard Brodie sent a gilt-edged chance straight at goalkeeper Michael Poke.
In midfield, Gary Jones provided an assured presence and quality in possession, while Josh Thompson, another new recruit, has all the makings of being a shrewd acquisition, showing signs of forming a promising central defensive partnership with captain Like Foster.
With half-time approaching, Eastleigh took the lead, as Jai Reason found space on the right edge of the penalty area before smartly sending a low, angled shot inside the far post.
Until then, the contest had been even, a curling effort from Southport’s Louis Almond being palmed away by goalkeeper Poke, while a fierce, dipping strike from Andrai Jones flashed over the crossbar.
Southport’s attacking play in the first half was promising and the best of their chances fell to Brodie, who should have done better when his shot was blocked by the legs of Poke with the goal beckoning.
As the half progressed, however, Eastleigh had grown stronger, and once they took the lead, the visitors went on to gain full control.
Their cause was helped when Andrai Jones saw red three minutes after the break for a two-footed lunge on Joe Partington.
And the visitors promptly added to their lead, Jamie Turley scoring with an excellent far-post header to convert a fine left-wing centre from Reason.
Yemi Odubade sent the ball wide after a terrific turn in the area, before an Andy Drury pile-driver cannoned off a post from 30 yards.
Eastleigh added a third through Ben Strevens’ penalty after Matt Challoner was judged had tripped Ross Lafayette, and James Constable completed the scoring after a slick counter-attack led by Lee Cook.
Southport: Coughlin, Challoner, Foster, Thompson, Beesley, A. Jones, Wright, G. Jones, Almond (Joyce 58), Brodie (Allen 64), McCarthy.
Subs not sued: Viscosi, Blakeman, Rutherford.
Eastleigh: Poke, Evans, Turley, Partington, Harding (Green 80), Midson, Drury, Strevens, Odubade (Cook 69), Reason (Constable 69), Lafayette.
Subs not used: Noice, Alexander.
Referee: Jason Whiteley