GUNNERS NEARLY SHOT DOWN!
Southport unlucky in defeat to early pace setters Sefton Gunners.
So near and yet so far! Southport travelled with some trepidation to take on Sefton who have been carrying all before them this season in heading the league with a 100% record. But as things transpired any fears that they would be lambs to the slaughter were ill founded as the mix of experience and youth took their all-conquering opponents to the wire, and indeed were disappointed to lose a game they could easily have won.
That they didn’t was arguably down to basic errors at crucial times; a calamity of a first try conceded which changed the pattern of a game in which Southport had until then been comfortable from the off;a soft second try conceded; dropped catches under no pressure which could have launched telling attacks; missed kicks for touch which would have kept the pressure on. But it would be churlish to dwell on these lapses on the basis that lessons will be learnt, far more admire the battling qualities the whole side showed in dampening the Sefton fire especially as many regulars were missing.
Southport settled well from the kick-off and played the game in the Sefton half duly rewarded when a Sefton transgression saw Jacob McMullen step up and slot three points from the penalty. For a while Sefton simply weren’t at the races when all of a sudden they were thrown a life line with a gift wrap of a converted try running the ball in under the posts from inside their own half. The spirits of the home side and their supporters visibly lifted and the game changed. Another try soon followed as the hitherto anonymous Sefton backs started to flex their legs and at 12-3 down the away side was staring down the barrel.
But resilient defence turned the tide and just before half time excellent work from Dan Whalen and Mike Dale enabled Gareth Lang to bludgeon his way over, and with McMullen adding the extras it was game on!
However, this was soon undone early in the second half when a quick tap penalty found the Southport defence AWOL. The conversion was missed but with Senior Colts Jordan Caldwell and Sam Cross coming on to make their league debuts their youthful exuberance contributed to Southport taking the game back to Sefton who’s discipline started to waver enabling McMullen to expertly kick two difficult penalties to bring the score to within one point.
Southport were in the ascendancy and suddenly the irrepressible Steve Hunter burst into life with a strong run and kick ahead, giving the forwards the chance to once again do their bit, this time Josh Critchley going over for his third try of the season. McMullen added the two points to make the score 23-17 to the away side with the clock winding down. Could they hold on?
Sadly not as Sefton to their credit responded like the table-toppers they are and after a period of forward pressure scored close to the posts with a kickable conversion to come. This was scored and the lead see-sawed in their favour 24-23. But it wasn’t quite all over as spirited Southport came back yet again and a penalty awarded almost on the half way line gave McMullen his hardest chance yet, which he didn’t shirk. His almighty effort to win the game sailed agonisingly wide.
Needless to say the home side was mightily relieved to hear the final whistle and whilst Southport will be disappointed there is no way that they can be disheartened, especially the forwards who stuck to the task magnificently and made life uncomfortable for their opponents throughout especially in the nether-reaches of the front row.
SOUTHPORT: Jacob McMullen; Chris Drescher, Hugh Ellis, Steve Hunter, Chris Tees; Joe Mawdesley, Dan Whalen; Ian Smith, Rei Chambers, Jamie Church; George Baumber, Mike Dale; Gareth Lang (capt.), Jonah Jones, Dave Gairn: Jordan Caldwell, Josh Critchley, Sam Cross.