Awaydays – Southport (23/24)

Always one of the better away days on the calendar, we’ve had shite luck in recent years as the Southport away games have all been on Tuesday nights – in the post Covid years at least.

So when Davey Jackson announced he was taking the shagging wagon across to Merseyside, I jumped at the chance to spend nearly 7 hours in a confined space with both Liam and Gary Allan constantly shitting themselves.

Alas once again, I accidentally overdid it on the Friday night in the hub of culture and diversity that is the Seaton Terrace Club. As it was Gold Cup day half the lads had been in all afternoon, and my attempt to ‘catch up’ failed rather miserably. Thus, I woke up much later than planned on Saturday morning and didn’t have time to get any cans for the journey down. Thankfully though the hangover wasn’t all that bad for a change, so I can only assume my lord and saviour was looking down on me.

Once Davey collected me and the lads and I’d raided a local garage for Relentless, Lucozade and copious amounts of sugary drinks to cure my mild hangover, we headed off Scouseland in the search of a much needed 3 points.

A rare scenic trip across the A66 through Kirkby Stephen and the narrow country roads would make a change from the mundane nature of the A1, though by the time we got across the Northern Pennines and hit Killington Lake services, I was desperate to expel Friday nights lager and whatever dog meat I’d had from Holywell Pizza in the early hours of the morning. All I’d say is, trap 8 at Killington Services, visit it at your own peril.

Following an extended bog break, we hit the road again and headed on down the M6 towards Southport. As we got closer and closer to our destination and drove through a fair few country roads, I began to realise that despite being so close to Blackburn, Preston and Blackpool – we hadn’t past a council house or a shitty pub in over an hour, which made me feel rather uneasy and very out of place.

We ended up making decent time in the end though, arriving before 1pm which gave us plenty of time to sample a few pints in the clubhouse – or the ‘1881 Lounge’ as it’s called. Despite a rather ‘meh’ selection of pints on offer, the Coors was top notch.

The bar at Southport is actually rather canny in fairness – and the main room is pretty clean and well lit, which is at odds with the places I usually drink in to be fair. The locals were rather canny, though the bar staff seemed bemused by the accent at times, especially when Tony Young was in. I was also able to catch up with ‘Southport Dan’ from the Yellow Army lads, as we swapped stories of non-league nonsense this season and discussed a wide variety of shite.

Parker and the rest of the lads who had been down at Cheltenham all rocked up soon after, looking a bit worse for wear after a heavy session the day before. Admittedly I was a bit disappointed Pieface didn’t wear his bright pink suite again like he said he would, though Gary saying he looked like a burst hotdog in it probably put him off doing so.

After a few pints we entered the ground and I had been looking forward to some top notch scran in the as previously, Southport did some of the best food in the league. Sadly though since the new owners came in they scraped ‘outside caters’ and offered us nothing but sausage rolls so small they wouldn’t filled a starving child. Clearly, they thought we were a bunch of meagre peasants.

Thankfully though we were still able to get a few pints in the ground, and a lass came round to take some orders for the bait van in the home end – presumably to stop us suing them after Pieface’s ‘fall’ on the dodgy old terracing. In fairness the bait she brought round was okay, and fair play to the lass for making the effort to come round and help the away fans out. If she was on Uber Eats, I’d give her service a 5/5.

After Pieface recovered from his ‘fall’ and Tom decked the mascot, it was time to actually focus on the match itself.

Before hand we were buzzing that it looked like we had ditched the back 5 in favour of what looked like more of a 4-3-3, with Luke James out on the left flank, and Ziziba on the right. Most importantly of all though, Hoop’s was starting.

For some reason the game got underway seemingly a few minutes late, but evidently that didn’t seem to faze Spartans who came flying out the traps. The lads looked alert and were seemingly looking to make a mockery of the criticism they received on the back of Tuesday night.

It didn’t take them long to do so as well, with Rhys Evans/Dani Alves’ through ball missed the onrushing Will McGowan and all of the Southport defence, JJ Hooper latched onto the ball and rounded the keeper to slot home – sending the away end a bit mental though thankfully, no pints were thrown.

A good sweeping move from the lads, who were much the stronger side in the opening exchanges and deserved the lead. We seemed to be moving the ball around a bit faster, and did well to close Southport down when they did advance and try and create things. As for their goal, I can’t say I have any real complaints. They did well to catch us out and Danny Lloyd’s finish was a good one. A really quick and impactful bit of play from the hosts.

That didn’t seem to really faze the lads as they battled on, and were rewarded for their efforts when Lidz’ ball down the left flank fed in Luke James, who did well to control it and play in JJ Hooper as he brought the ball forward to the edge of the box. The Southport defence seemed to be standing off him for some reason, as Hoops’ lashed one past Renshaw in the Southport goal to put Spartans back in the lead. Before the game Renshaw had only conceded 2 goals in nearly 600 minutes of football, and now he’d been bested by Hoops’ twice in just 20 min’s or so.

The lads didn’t drop off after the goal, as they maintained pressure on the Southport defence and when the hosts did get the ball into the Blyth third, they were snuffed out straight away. As the half went on though the game did begin to get a bit rough, as the ref failed to pick up on a fair few fouls before the break – which resulted in Finn taking a massive fuck off elbow to the heed, which wasn’t picked up by the ref.

Bennett later smashed into Dev’s in what could have resulted in an awful injury, with Bennett only getting a yellow card. Marcus Carver who had been a thorn in Blyth’s side throughout the first half also began to hoy himself at the ground when given a chance, so I’m sure Rhys enjoyed bodying him.

Spartans 3rd goal came from a good corner from Dev’s who picked out Jack Bodenham, who looked like he was either completely unmarked or had managed to completely lose the bloke marking him – either way he smashed home a superb header to make it 3-1 before the end of the half, capping off what had been a superb 45 min’s of football.

As the second half got underway it was clear Southport had been given a bollocking at half time, as they came out looking a bit more organised and up for it. They had Spartans under the cosh early on, and scored a decent goal early in the half as on loan Scunthorpe striker Bennett netted in the 54th minute to make it 3-2. They came close to scoring again just a few moments later as well, though striker Marcus Carver launched his shot over the bar from close range in what was really a dismal effort.

Spartans had a chance to grab a 4th soon after, as Siziba played in McGowan who carved out some space and hit a superb effort at goal that forced a good finger tip save from Renshaw, though it mysteriously went out for a corner. This though would be one of the last real chances Spartans would carve out though, as the game that had been fairly open in the first half began to get rather scrappy.

Southport had Blyth pinned down in their own box for the most part as the game went on, with the hosts dominating possession but unable to really create real clear cut chances as the Spartans defence and midfield were chasing down the Southport players as soon as they got the ball. That left Port with no other option than to lump balls into the box, which the lads managed to continuous bat away by hook or by crook.

As the game went on Southport got more desperate, and began to swing balls into the box at every given chance they had as they looked to feed in either Carver or Bennett. Spartans still held firm though, with the lads doing such a solid job at the back that really, the hosts were never given a clear cut opportunity in front of goal.

Too many times in the last 2 years or so, I’ve seen us give away games and points in the last few minutes of games. So despite the defence unit looking confident and assured, my arse was still switching – though that may have been due to last nights cheap vodka and even cheaper bait. Thankfully though despite a rather nervy final few moments, the lads held on to secure a vital win to snap the winless run.

An abundant amount of joy and relief was expressed from the away end when the full time whistle went. Those last 10 league games without a win had not only dragged us down the league table, but also sunk the morale of everyone in and around the football club – with Tuesday night’s defeat to Darlington being a real breaking point.

To see the lads not only get the win, but also play some superb attacking football throughout the first half and get their just rewards in the end for once was fucking brilliant.

What really won them the game though was their work rate, doggedness and just pure heart. The effort they put into make the goals in the first half and in fairness, comfortably see the game out in the 2nd half was magnificent.

The team and management have obviously taken a lot of criticism in recent weeks, and while certain criticism has been deserved, any claims that they ‘lacked heart’ or had ‘given up’ was simply untrue in my opinion – and they more than proved that on the day with their performance.

After what had been a nervy yet thrilling game, it was time to finally pick some (rather expensive) cans of Stripe up from the shop just down the ground and continue the party. Not only did I collect some cans, but I also managed to collect Lewis Parker and a bottle of wine he acquired, who had decided to sack off a night in the delightful city of Carlisle, favouring a night out at the Terrace instead.

Thankfully the journey home seemed to fly by despite the extra piss stops, one of which being at the dreaded place that is Lancaster Services. Thankfully though, a fair few pints/cans and copious amounts of therapy made a trip to Lancaster Services a lot more fun this time around.

Davey was making decent time on the way home and for once in my life, I didn’t need to constantly piss every 10 minutes or so. They only downside to the way home was Liam Allan’s arse, as it released an awful smell on a constant basis, making the air so thick at times you could taste it. A quick(ish) piss stop at Scotch Corner followed before Davey managed to speed us back to the club.

The Shagging Waggon managed to get us back to the club with plenty of drinking time left, and the cheap vodka and cans of Stripe began to flow until I had forgotten how to speak. The only way to end an awayday for me.

All in all, a superb day out. Southport once again proves to be a happy hunting ground for me personally, as that’s now 3 visits and 3 wins. And for a change, Liam didn’t get us lost on the way in! Always a pleasure to spend a day on the piss in a random Northern outpost with the regular band of vagabonds.

If the lads play like that again on Tuesday night against Buxton, they’ll be absolutely fine. Onto Buxton and another season in the National League we go!