Sampson red card sees rivals grab late leveller
SOUTHPORT 1 YORK CITY 1 FULL REPORT
ALAN LEWER was philosophical as he reflected on the sending off that changed the course of this game, but having seen his Southport team develop a quiet sense of momentum in the opening weeks, he must have known that a good start to the season was so close to being even better.
Leading 1-0 against sixth-place York City with 11 minutes to play, the Sandgrounders were in command when Jack Sampson was shown a straight red card for what referee Martin Woods deemed to be the use of an elbow in an aerial challenge with Hamza Bencherif.
Within three minutes, York had equalised through Sean Newton, and while the general consensus was that a draw was fair, Southport left the pitch with a sense of what might have been.
The Sandgrounders remain in third place in the Vanarama National League North after extending their unbeaten run to six matches - a start that the manager admits has surpassed his expectations.
Although Southport and York were relegated from the top level of NonLeague football last season, the clubs have undergone contrasting summers.
While York have bolstered their squad, Lewer has had to assemble one from scratch, and this result is further evidence that the Southport players have gelled quicker than many would have expected.
York are regarded as one of the favourites for promotion and if this was the first in a run of six matches against arguably the strongest teams in the division, then Lewer will take great encouragement from an accomplished showing.
At the time Sampson was dismissed, Southport were firmly in the ascendancy, forcing York back and creating enough chances to have added to their lead.
York are an experienced team and in attack they boast the power and pedigree of Amari Morgan-Smith, Michael Rankine and Jon Parkin, all of whom have operated at higher levels. In that respect, Southport can take great credit for they way they contained a robust forward line, particularly as the visitors applied pressure in the final stages.
After a tight first half, Gary Roberts put Southport in front on 56 minutes, guiding a lofted shot over goalkeeper Jon Worsnop from a narrowing angle after receiving a long ball forward from the excellent Curtis Jones.
Arguably the best chance of the opening half came right at the start but Bencherif did not anticipate that he would be left alone inside the six-yard box from Newton’s deep free-kick, sending his shot straight at goalkeeper Iain Turner.
York shaded the first half and Southport needed Turner to make a parrying save from Louis Almond’s low angled shot before pushing wide a 20-yard drive from Newton after the York midfielder had won the ball from Brad Jackson.
Yet the Sandgrounders began the second half with real intensity and, once ahead, they looked to turn the screw. Ethan Jones shot wide and Alex Fletcher blazed the loose ball over after goalkeeper Worsnop had punched Jackson’s cross.
Sampson also went close after a good turn had opened up a way to goal, but the striker’s dismissal was the cue for a York fightback.
No sooner had Sampson walked than Newton’s cross-shot drifted in from the right wing, over the back-peddling Turner and under the Southport crossbar.
The Sandgrounders stood strong in the face of York pressure, but goalkeeper Turner had to make his most impressive save of the game, turning Parkin’s stoppage-time effort around the near post as Southport’s good start goes on.
York repel another attack from the home side, who have made a fine start to season
GRAND FINISH . . . Gary Roberts pounces to put Southport ahead against York