Cruel twist in tale for Sykes and Port

Midweek Visiter - - Sport - BY ALAN JONES

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.

Si­mon Mar­shall

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.

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