Saturday, 1 March 2014

Southport - Haig Avenue

Southport FC
Haig Avenue

01704 533422

Ground Number: 334
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Southport 2-1 Grimsby Town
Skrill Premier

So, after the match at Cammell Laird I was off to the evening's game at Southport. I had agreed to give my mate David a lift there to save him the hassle of getting the train. He's a Tranmere fan and mates with most of the Grimsby lads that I know, so I was more than happy to oblige. We had plenty of time to kill, and so after having to pay to go through the Mersey Tunnel we stopped at a couple of grounds for pictures. Firstly Marine of the NPL Premier which was all locked up and so I only got pictures of the outside. Then onto Formby FC of the North West Counties League, whose ground had signage for Redgate Rovers FC, but looked pretty decent for level they are at. Looking at their website, they now play at Burscough, ironically enough my destination for this coming Saturday. I'd actually visited Southport a few years earlier on a non matchday whilst in the area, hence the old pictures at the bottom. 

We arrived in Southport at 4.45 and with plenty of time still to go until kick off, we took the 20 minute walk into town and went to Wetherspoons for dinner. They do plenty of good deals in there and I opted for the Gourmet Chilli Hot Dog which was £7.29 with a drink included. The Thatchers Gold went down nicely and the hot dog was huge and very filling. After that we headed back to the ground arriving at 6.30, just as the Grimsby supporters bus was arriving.  I went into the club shop and got a pen, pencil and old magazine for about £1.50, before meeting John, William and the rest of the Mariners I know in the club bar.

We went into the ground at around 7.15 and after taking some pictures I look my place on the terrace for the nights game. Richard Brodie was the main focus of the Grimsby fans ire, having missed a penalty for them in last seasons play off final defeat to Wrexham. His attitude throughout his career has been questionable to say the least, and he probably could have had a career at Football League level had he been more committed. The fact that he is playing as a sub for Southport, having scored 1 goal in 14 games this season says it all. He even offered to fight some Grimsby fans on the night in a fit of rage, and then ran off when they jokingly accepted his invitation. The stewards were a laugh, encouraging the fans to sing louder and saying that they hated Brodie as much as the Grimsby fans did! They particularly liked the 'Full Time sub - part time club' chant 

On a disappointing night for the Mariners, this was how the Grimsby Telegraph saw the game.

The struggling Sandgrounders started well, with midfielder Karl Ledsham's shot from the edge of box deflected wide for an early corner, by Clayton McDonald.
Town keeper James McKeown flapped at the resulting centre before it was cleared, and moments later Ledsham fired another stinger over the bar – and all within the opening three minutes.
However, the Mariners soon settled and any talk of 'slow starts' was banished in the ninth minute when the ball dropped to Ross Hannah on the edge of the area and the forward hooked the ball towards the six-yard box.
It looked for the world that home stopper Danny Hurst would claim it, but Lenell John-Lewis was on his toes and brave enough to get there first and poke the ball home to open the scoring.
If the Mariners have been short in confidence over the last four winless games, it was surely the shot in the arm they needed.
It took until the 17th minute for the home side to react. A cross from their right was met by the head of Danny Hattersley, and the ball should have been diverted home by Osayamen Osaye from close range.
John O'Sullivan then fired a 20-yarder inches wide of the post with McKeown scrambling to his right-hand side.
The lively Ledsham lashed another effort over in the 25th minute – this time from a tricky angle, but the Mariners were looking comfortable as the half hour mark came and went.
It was proving to be a sedate first half, with a real lack of atmosphere and intensity.
But the home support finally awoke nine minutes before the break when Shaun Pearson's clearance fell to Scott Brown 20 yards out, and the Port midfielder drilled a superb low strike into the bottom left corner.
The hosts thought they were ahead within two minutes when a scramble in the Town box dropped to O' Sullivan 15 yards out. His powerful shot was destined for the bottom corner until McKeown dived low to his left to make a stunning save, allowing the ball to be hacked away in front of him.
Southport had taken control, or so it seemed until the 42nd minute. John-Lewis flicked on well and Hannah hammered a fine left-footer off the inside of the far post with Hurst beaten.
John-Lewis was involved again seconds later serving up a lovely cross from the left for Colbeck to head straight at Hurst from six yards.
O'Sullivan planted a 30-yard free-kick wide deep into added time, but there was still time for Hannah to see a powerful first-time effort blocked before the half came to a close.
Within 45 seconds of the restart, Colbeck could have diverted John-Lewis flick goalwards, but wasted the opportunity.
Straight up the other end, and McKeown had to save well at his near post as Hattersley met O'Sullivan's corner, before another set-piece had Town scrambling to clear from their own six-yard box.
Then came a huge blow for the Mariners as McDonald chased a ball down the line, and pulled up clutching his hamstring in obvious pain.
Sam Hatton replaced the big centre-half, with Jamal Fyfield switching to the heart of the back four as part of the reshuffle.
Undeterred, the Mariners went on the attack and, from a corner, Pearson – yes Pearson – planted an overhead kick off the home post.
As we passed the hour mark, the game was anyones' for the taking, with both sides looking far from secure at the back.
It was the hosts who seized on that opportunity, though, 22 minutes from time, as Paul Bignot and Pearson appeared to leave the ball for one another, and Osawe nipped in between the pair before finishing calmly past McKeown.
It was calamitous defending from the defenders and followed a flurry of Town corners and pressure.
It got worse for the visitors when Colbeck was another forced off through injury, with Rodman joining the fray for the final 14 minutes.
Hannah curled a free-kick over the bar as the game headed into its final ten minutes, and the Mariners pondered how they had turned a winning position into a losing one.
Brodie arrived with four minutes left to a chorus of boos from the Mariners support, and was quickly in the book for a needless challenge – to no one's surprise.
It looked all over, but a minute into injury time, the Mariners should have grabbed a point.
Thanoj swung in a delightful free-kick from the left, and Pearson rose highest to power a header that clipped the crossbar from ten yards.
Despite four minutes of added time, that was it for Town, whose mini-slump must end soon if they are to harbour any hopes of a top-five finish.

After the game I said goodbye to everyone and made my way back to my car. In normal circumstances I would have dropped David back off home, but it would have added 30 minutes onto the journey and with me already having precious little sleep, I needed to get back. I still dropped him off at the station so he could get a train home. I had to fill up with petrol on the way home and this added further to my delay. Another 15 minutes were added to the journey as the southbound junction on the motorway was closed, meaning that I had to travel North and then turn round at the next junction. Despite stopping at services for the toilet on the way home, I was back at 1.15. I didn't get to sleep till 2.30 though and with only 90 minutes sleep before I was up at 4am, I didn't feel great the next day, and it probably played a part in me getting a stinking cold shortly after.

HAIG AVENUE is one of the more traditional non league venues, that are becoming ever rarer these days. There is a big main stand with a capacity of around 1500 and this is elevated so it looks to offer great views. For the home supporters behind the goal there is a large terrace, covered and holding around 2000. The rest of the ground is open terracing.

The club shop at the ground is excellent, with a big range of stuff at small prices, and also old programmes. I didn't try the tea bar but the club bar was OK, offering the typical sort of drinks you would expect to find, in the case of cider, Strongbow. The town is only  short walk away and has plenty in it, making it well worth visiting if you have time.


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