Cruel twist in tale for Sykes and Port
NON-LEAGUE Day is supposed to highlight all that is good about football at the lower levels, but Southport and Ross Sykes, in particular, are unlikely to share those sentiments.
On the back of five straight defeats and in their first match since the departure of manager Alan Lewer, the Sandgrounders looked to have been rewarded for their persistence with a deserved point against fourth-placed Spennymoor Town at the Merseyrail Community Stadium last Saturday.
But just when they thought that their miserable recent run was about to end, Southport endured further anguish amid a dramatic finish.
Jack Sampson scored an 88th-minute equaliser for the home team, but there was still enough time for another sting in the tale, as Spennymoor launched a long ball forward which slipped under the foot of Sykes, allowing Glen Taylor to seize on the mistake and round goalkeeper Mark Halstead in the fifth minute of added time and knock it into the net.
For Sykes, the 18-year-old central defender making his first appearance in a Southport shirt after joining on loan from Accrington Stanley on Thursday, it was a particularly cruel twist.
Sykes had turned in an unflappable performance at the heart of the Southport defence, and by common opinion was the game’s outstanding player, but an excellent debut was marked by a costly slip.
Southport would have been good value for a point, because having controlled the early possession without making any inroads, they created a series of chances and applied good pressure as the match went on.
Steven Schumacher, the interim manager, said that the focus in training had been on the basic elements of a performance, including organisation and passing, and having switched to a 4-4-2 formation, there was a better balance to the team’s display.
David Foley gave Spennymoor the lead on 40 minutes with a brilliant 20-yard strike, getting the ball out of his feet and dispatching a low, powerful drive beyond the dive of Halstead, the outstretched goalkeeper.
At that stage, Spennymoor had just started to threaten after a good start from Southport, who could have found themselves in front if Chris Merrie had attacked a cross from David Morgan with greater conviction when peeling away at the far post.
Whereas in recent weeks Southport’s confidence has crumbled after conceding a goal, this time they showed greater resilience, although they had goalkeeper Halstead to thank for some excellent saves.
Halstead’s most impressive intervention was a double-save to keep out a free-kick from Kallum Griffiths and smother Matthew Dixon’s shot from the rebound, and he also showed his reflexes to foil Foley on two separate occasions after the Spennymoor striker had broken into the box.
Yet having struggled for chances as their form has tailed off in previous matches, Southport were a much brighter attacking entity during the latter stages here.
Chris Sang should have equalised in the lead-up to half-time but sent a header from 12 yards onto the crossbar, while substitute Kaiman Anderson, Dom Smith, Brad Jackson and Sampson all had chances in the final half-hour of the game.
The Sandgrounders must have thought they had earned a point when Sampson equalised after Kaiman Anderson saw two shots blocked in quick succession, but once again the home team were left to wonder what might have been.
Turn to page 63 to read what Southport’s interim boss Steven Schumacher has to say after the loss on Saturday.
Southport No.11 Jack Sampson stabs the ball home to level up the game for the Sandgrounders against Spennymoor Town last Saturday but the match was to have late drama as the visitors pinched a winning goal deep into second half stoppage-time.