Gilchrist treble is not enough as Port search for win
ANEW beginning had beckoned for Southport thanks to the brilliant exploits of Jason Gilchrist; but old habits die hard.
Gilchrist had taken Kevin Davies’s team to the verge of victory, but not even his feat of scoring the Sandgrounders’ first hat-trick in five-anda-half years could prevent this match from reaching a catastrophic conclusion for the visitors.
An afternoon that appeared to offer Southport their best chance yet to kick-start a faltering season ended in familiar disappointment as recurring problems returned to leave a sense of deflation. Leading 2-0 at the start of the second half and 3-1 with nine minutes to play, the Sandgrounders contrived to throw away a seemingly unmissable opportunity to provide themselves with much-needed relief.
A match that should have been notable for Gilchrist’s excellent hattrick, serving up another demonstration of quality in front of goal on his second start, will instead be remembered for altogether different reasons.
Only North Ferriby United, the bottom club in the Vanarama National League North, have now conceded more goals than Southport. The players have changed, as has the team’s shape, but the same flaws persist.
When Gilchrist completed his hattrick on 75 minutes, finding the far corner with an unerring finish after a cross from debutant Caleb Richards was allowed to pass through the Tamworth penalty area, it was all about game management for Southport.
Just as they did as the first half went on, the Sandgrounders opted to drop deep, trying to soak up pressure from the home team by defending the edge of their own area. They had managed to reach the interval unscathed, but this time, once Tamworth had gained momentum and found a way back, the visitors’ approach meant they were unable to stop the attacks they had invited on themselves.
It could not have started any better for Southport, taking the lead inside five minutes. After good work on the left, Jack Sampson played the ball across the face of goal to Gilchrist to score with a decisive shot.
While Gilchrist’s finishing will earn most of the praise, the selfless work of Sampson alongside him throughout the match in attack was a real highlight for the Sandgrounders.
The early goal initially gave Southport the confidence to exert some authority but they dropped off as halftime approached and Zack Kotwica’s header, which clipped the top of the visitors’ crossbar from a Steph Morley corner was one of several chances that served as a warning.
The second period was less than a minute old when Gilchrist struck again to give Southport a two-goal cushion with a neat chip over goalkeeper Shaun Rowley.
Yet from then on, the Sandgrounders’ hold on the game loosened. Tamworth pulled a goal back when Callum Powell crossed to Zack Taylor at the far post, only for the ball to rebound into his own goal off the head of Curtis Jones.
Gilchrist completed his hat-trick with 15 minutes left but as Southport continued to concede space to the home team, disaster struck.
Substitute Bradley Reid pounced from close-range after good work from Callum Powell, before Connor Taylor plundered a 90th-minute equaliser, heading in a right-wing cross from Andrew Burns.
The upshot is that the Sandgrounders are now hanging two points above the relegation zone after three months without a win.
Gilchrist’s start to his Southport career offers the biggest reason to believe that results will turn, but for now those familiar faults continue to undermine performances and form a barrier to progress.