Port halt Nuns running off with the points - just
BY the end, Southport were relieved to simply have their unbeaten run still intact. Before kick-off, many will have seen this game against Nuneaton Borough, the bottom team in the Vanarama National League North, as a chance to make further progress up the league table.
As it was, the Port needed a stoppage-time equaliser from substitute Jordan Archer to rescue a point, extending their sequence of league matches without defeat to ten.
Having hit some impressive heights with their level of performance in recent months, it was always going to be difficult to maintain those standards in every game and here they struggled to properly get going.
As manager Liam Watson reflected afterwards, Southport were subdued, lacking the intensity and imagination needed to get behind a Nuneaton team who defended stoutly, particularly after taking the lead eight minutes into the second half.
To Southport’s credit, they kept plugging away and, even though clear chances were in short supply, they managed to force the equaliser, Archer turning home the rebound after Marcus Wood sent in a cross from the right and Dean Winnard’s header drew a low save from goalkeeper Cam Mason.
It meant that an afternoon of frustration ended in relative satisfaction but the Port know they will need to show more of their recent verve if they are to make the most of a run that sees them play four of five league games at home.
Southport’s closest chance until the equaliser came midway through the first half, as goalkeeper Belford saved from Brad Bauress, turning his shot onto a post following a Dean Charles cross.
This game was also notable for inclusion in the visiting team of Carl Baker, 12 years after he last appeared for the Port having represented the club with distinction across four seasons.
Baker is now approaching the end of an excellent career which has included time at Portsmouth and Coventry City, among others, and he was afforded a warm welcome by the home crowd.
Once a tricky winger, Baker now operates from the centre of midfield and, ten minutes before the interval, his dipping shot brought a fine save from Port goalkeeper Dan Hanford.
In truth, both teams struggled for attacking quality but Yusifu Ceesay, leading the line for Nuneaton on his debut, was a regular nuisance for the Southport defence.
He put the visitors in front, steering home a low, angled finish after Devon Kelly-Evans had won the flick-on from Mason’s long ball forward.
For much of the second half, that looked like settling the issue. Goalkeeper Belford made a strong, onehanded save to deny Jason Gilchrist while a shot from Jack Sampson was blocked on the goal-line by Rhys Sharpe but Archer ensured Southport left with a point.
Southport in action against Chester on New Year’s Day