Av­enue block Port’s path as wor­ry­ing run shows no sign of end

Midweek Visiter - - Motors - BY ALAN JONES

SOUTH­PORT ..................... 0 BRAD­FORD PA ................ 3

AS WELL as de­liv­er­ing some mem­o­rable mo­ments, South­port know that the Emi­rates FA Cup can also pro­vide matches that are best for­got­ten.

Last sea­son, the Sand­grounders ex­ited the com­pe­ti­tion in a gal­lant fash­ion against higher-ranked op­po­si­tion in Fleet­wood Town, but this year’s de­par­ture, com­ing three rounds ear­lier, was in marked con­trast.

South­port fell list­lessly at the first hur­dle as Brad­ford Park Av­enue in­flicted on Alan Lewer’s team a fourth straight de­feat, giv­ing rise to grow­ing cause for con­cern.

The com­pe­ti­tion may have changed but there is a wor­ry­ing sense of fa­mil­iar­ity about the Sand­grounders’ re­cent prob­lems.

Lewer’s team have devel­oped a ten­dency of con­ced­ing early goals and strug­gling to re­cover, while their de­fen­sive fail­ings, both col­lec­tively and in­di­vid­u­ally, con­tinue to the ex­tent that like they look vul­ner­a­ble to al­most ev­ery at­tack.

On the back of three heavy losses, South­port’s con­fi­dence was vis­i­bly shot from the mo­ment they fell be­hind, con­ced­ing two goals in as many min­utes to im­plode once again.

As Lewer re­flected af­ter­wards, South­port’s de­fence is a shadow of the one which prided it­self on keep­ing clean sheets dur­ing a run of four wins from their open­ing six matches, and they must re­dis­cover that sort of re­silience.

Lewer says his play­ers will be in for ex­tra train­ing dur­ing the com­ing week as they at­tempt to find a so­lu­tion and the man­ager knows there is plenty of work to be done.

Brad­ford took the lead on 17 min­utes, Oli John­son cut­ting the ball back af­ter Wayne Brooksby had made up ground on the left, al­low­ing Adam Boyes the sweep home a low shot.

And within 60 sec­onds the dam­age for South­port had wors­ened with an­other goal which stemmed from the vis­i­tors’ left, as John­son ap­plied a first-time fin­ish to Gra­ham Kelly’s run and cross.

South­port had started rea­son­ably well, Nathan Lowe clip­ping a post from 25 yards, and if that had gone in, the home team’s con­fi­dence would no doubt have changed in a dif­fer­ent way.

In­stead, the Sand­grounders ca­pit­u­lated, goal­keeper Mark Hal­stead sav­ing from Boyes, who also had a shot that was de­flected wide.

Six min­utes af­ter half-time, Ja­van Vi­dal added Brad­ford’s third by con­vert­ing a pass from Boyes af­ter South­port’s de­fen­sive fragili­ties were high­lighted by their fail­ure to clear the dan­ger as the ball bounced around their area.

The Sand­grounders’ short­com­ings were also in ev­i­dence at the other end, Dan Cock­er­line some­how miss­ing the tar­get from in front of goal af­ter a pow­er­ful drive from Nathan Lowe had been par­ried by goal­keeper Steve Drench.

Even dur­ing the early matches, South­port’s strength was in es­tab­lish­ing a lead and pro­tect­ing it, rather than chas­ing the game, and that is all the more rea­son why they must start to as­sert them­selves on matches again.

Lewer says that con­fi­dence is a key fac­tor and his team have not been helped by in­juries to key play­ers and a heavy work­load.

But Sat­ur­day’s loss leaves­them with more ar­eas to work on but one less front on which to com­pete.

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