MATCH REPORT | Leamington 0 – 1 Southport
Ethan Jones came off the bench to score the only goal and maintain Southport’s winning start to the season against Leamington.
Just when a draw was looking increasingly inevitable, Jones was introduced as a substitute before delivering the crucial moment, giving the Sandgrounders a share of the early Vanarama National League North leadership.
After an opening day win over Boston United, Southport came from behind to beat Bradford Park Avenue in midweek, and this was again a day for Southport to grind out a result in a match of few chances.
Jones netted the winner with 15 minutes remaining, sliding the ball home from a tight angle after capitalising on hesitancy from goalkeeper Tony Breeden following a short back-pass.
Jones may have scored the goal but the win owed much to the performance of goalkeeper Iain Turner, who produced a number of saves when the scoreline was still goalless.
The first half had been a largely stymied affair but as it went on, Leamington were the team who carried the greater threat, bringing three saves from Turner.
Turner foiled Ahmed Obeng when the Leamington winger should have done better after finding himself in space on the edge of the Southport area after a long throw-in from Richard Taundry.
Turner’s most impressive intervention was a flying finger-tip save to turn over Rob Thompson-Brown’s blistering 25-yard drive, and the Southport goalkeeper displayed his reflexes to keep out a far-post header from Jamie Hood with a low block.
Until that stage, the match had been nothing to write home about. Leamington were quick out of the blocks, Junior English beating Adam Dugdale before testing Turner from 20 yards, but the home team’s early gusto then disappeared in a match that was always scrappy and became increasingly attritional.
Rob Thompson-Brown also shot wide and Colby Bishop lifted an effort over the bar after getting the wrong side of defender Curtis Jones.
It had taken time for Southport to assert themselves, Liam Martin seeing a shot blocked by English from a Gary Roberts corner, while Andy White, running onto a bouncing ball as he made up ground on the visitors’ left, sent a half-volley into the grasp of goalkeeper Tony Breeden.
Jones was introduced along with Steve Jennings during the early part of the second half in an attempt to give the Sandgrounders a foothold and the visitors gradually worked their way into the game.
Jennings had an effort from long range and Andy White sent a shot into the side-netting after wriggling his way into the Leamington area before Jones delivered the decisive moment.
Southport (3-5-2): Turner, Dugdale, C Jones, Smith, Roberts, Kissock, Fletcher (Jennings 53), Jackson, White, Sampson, Martin (E Jones 64).
Subs not used: Zama, Roache, Garner.
Leamington (4-1-4-1): Breeden, Taundry, Hood, Magunda, Gudger, Clarke, Thompson-Brown (Revan 79), English (Gittings 46), Butterfield, Obeng, Bishop (Moore 79).
Subs not used: James, Canavan.
Referee: James Oldham