Southport face concern as Haig Avenue hoodoo continues in Blyth Spartans defeat

Southport manager Jim Bentley vs Alfreton Town

Southport’s four-match unbeaten run in the National League came to an end as they suffered a 3-2 defeat at home to Blyth Spartans.

The Sandgrounders found themselves 3-1 down at half-time and the deficit proved too much to overcome, despite Richie Bennett’s header midway through the second-half offering a glimmer of hope.

It was a nightmare start for Jim Bentley’s side as Jonathan Hooper rounded Chris Renshaw before poking home into an empty net, following a lapse at the back from Southport.

After 25 minutes, the hosts were level through Danny Lloyd who finished with aplomb from Bennett’s ball. The 32-year-old netted his first league goal for the Yellows rounding off a well-worked move after Keenan Quansah won back possession on the halfway line before the Scunthorpe United loanee delivered a teasing cross.

It was largely a flat first-half from Southport and parity was short-lived as Spartans equalised just six minutes later. Hooper had his second of the afternoon as he cut inside and arrowed a right-footed shot into the bottom corner.

On the stroke of half-time, they had a two-goal cushion. Southport were caught napping as Jack Bodenham lost his marker to head home unopposed.

Bennett provided a glimmer of hope after 54 minutes to reduce the arrears, following a determined run from Marcus Caver. However, it wasn’t enough as Blyth weathered the Southport storm to move to within two points of the Yellows in 16th.

Southport lack clinical edge

After three away games, nine points and three clean sheets, Southport returned to Haig Avenue with a spring in their step. However, the topsy-turvy journey of following the club endured another dip, in what has been a long and exhausting season.

The numbers don’t lie: 19 games, five wins and 11 defeats at home this season – only Banbury United and now-relegated Bishop’s Stortford have picked up fewer points on home soil. The Big Help Stadium has become more of a hindrance to the Sandgrounders.

Their mammoth run of away fixtures posed a worrying outlook following their 2-1 home defeat to Hereford at the end of February but the Sandgrounders hit form and created clear daylight between themselves and the bottom four. It currently stands at seven points, despite their defeat.

Southport have looked fluid following a change of system from Jim Bentley. Festus Arthur and Ben Hockenhull have been welcome additions, while Keenan Quansah and Matty Thomson have found form to edge their way into the starting line-up.

Thomson missed out with a calf injury and the absence of Josh Hmami, beginning a two-match suspension for 10 yellow cards, could be factored in for their struggles in the final third against Blyth as they struggled to put the visitors to the sword – despite all their possession in the second-half.

With two more home matches to come against Buxton and Bishop’s Stortford, there will be added pressure to turn around their form but they will need to get over their Haig Avenue hoodoo – after winning twice in PR8 since November.

‘We never got going’

Southport manager Jim Bentley told Off The Park: “We want to finish strongly, there’s still work to be done, although we’ve been on a good run of late, we’ve put a little bit of distance between ourselves and the bottom four – it can only take a tricky week and you’re back in it (a relegation battle).

“I’ve never had it before where you’ve got the third-best away record and the third-worst home record in the division, today was a chance to improve our home form but from minute zero, I don’t really think we got going. They took the lead, a poor goal to concede – that’s disappointing – we reacted well and scored a good goal ourselves, I’m pleased with the response but after that, they score a second and a third and we find ourselves 3-1 down.

“We reacted well second-half, got back to 3-2, we huffed and puffed but didn’t do enough to get that third goal. It’s disappointing, work to be done, we need to react and have a good game on Wednesday in the cup to set ourselves up against Buxton.

“Defensively where we’ve been good, we were a little bit disjointed and they were slack goals – can we do better? One-hundred per cent. Our defensive record has been pretty poor, we tightened that up but all three goals were avoidable, they’ll think it’s good play but from my point of view, it’s not. We’ve got to be better.”

[Featured image: Julia Urwin – Southport FC]

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