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