Jim Bentley has issued a stern reminder to his Southport players of complacency after their upturn in form.
A first-half Marcus Carver hat-trick fired the Sandgrounders into dreamland away at King’s Lynn Town on Saturday. The Yellows cruised to a third successive win and out of the relegation zone for the first time this season as a result of the 4-1 triumph.
The mood on the coast has changed drastically from just over two weeks ago when Liam Watson was relieved of his duties, in light of their chastening away defeat to Spennymoor Town on Tuesday night.
They head into their FA Cup second round qualifying trip to Morpeth Town, of the Northern Premier League, in high spirits.
And the recent upturn in performances and fortune at Haig Avenue has seen praise heaped on Bentley and his players. The likes of Carver, Niall Watson and Jack Doyle have been, rightly, rewarded for their efforts on the pitch with mentions in Team of the Week squad – as well as a Manager of the Week accolade for the former AFC Fylde and Rochdale boss.
However, Bentley has warned as quickly as luck can change for the better, it can easily flip on its head.
“I’ve been in the game long enough, it only takes a week opposite to what we’ve just had – which can happen at any time,” he told Off The Park.
“It’s important that you don’t rest on your laurels, we haven’t cracked it, we’re still in a position that we don’t want to be in, we’ve done great to get off the bottom.
“It was back-to-back wins that didn’t even get us off the bottom four, thankfully that third win has pushed us up a little bit and pulled teams in our range but it’s a case of concentrating on the next game, making sure you’re prepared right, giving it your all which is what the players have done since I’ve come in.
“But it only takes a couple of defeats, teams in and around you win and all your good work can come undone. Naturally, we’re going to lose games, it’s inevitable, we don’t want to, we go into every game trying to win but it’s important we keep our feet on the ground and keep striving to get better to keep winning games.
“If there is a bump in the road and we draw or lose a game, we have to make sure that we get back on track sooner or later and it doesn’t spill into a losing run – it’s important we don’t slip back into those old ways.”
For the first time since taking over Bentley has been able to enjoy two training sessions in a week with his squad.
The time away from the competitiveness of the National League North has meant a mental and physical break after a gruelling three-match run which saw lengthy trips to Hereford and Norfolk, with the win over Scarborough Athletic sandwiched between.
“This week has been perfect for us to regroup, recharge and reflect on what we’ve done in the first week,” Bentley added.
“We’re ready to go on Saturday, I’m looking forward to it, I love the FA Cup, it’s massive to the club and massive to everyone concerned.
“We know it’ll be a tough game, they’re a decent team, they have players who have played at a higher level, it’s a long journey so we’re under no illusions it’ll be a tough game, anything can happen in the cup.”
The trip to Morpeth poses another difficult challenge in the North East. Last season, Southport were eliminated at this stage of the competition after being edged out away at Darlington with Michael Carbery controversially sent off in the first-half.
Port have enjoyed days and nights in the FA Cup however, the club has been starved off a promising run in the competition with their last pursuit coming in 2018 when Tranmere Rovers knocked them out in the first round.
A positive run and a squad brimming with confidence makes for a good environment for Southport. However, Bentley knows his side are there to be shot at with Morpeth looking to inflict a first defeat of the Liverpudlian’s time in charge and cause a cup upset.
“Financially it’s big for the club, it’s something that we want to do well in,” insists the 47-year-old.
“They’ve had some good results but again, I’m looking forward to it. You’ve got to beat whose in front of you and get into the hat for the next round. It’d be nice to get on a cup run this year.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves because suddenly, over the last three games we’re the form side in the league and moving up the division. I know as soon as you start thinking you’ve cracked it, there’s always the next opposition that can kick you where it hurts, we can’t afford to let that happen.
“There’s work to be done, physically, tactically, and technically to get ourselves right. If you take into account where the two teams are in the pyramid, it’s an upset if they beat us.
“We’ve got to guard against that and don’t go away from what’s got us three wins and that’s hard work, endeavour, togetherness, playing with freedom and scoring goals, those key aspects we’ve been asking and will be asking at three o’clock.”