Southport began the 2020/21 season with a 2-1 victory over Morpeth Town in the second qualifying round of the Emirates Cup on a damp afternoon at the Pure Stadium.
Liam Watson’s side needed to work hard and come from behind, after going into the break 0-1 down.
It could’ve been more but for a penalty save from Tony McMillan, making his second debut for the club.
It was a debut goal for Niall Watson, who joined the club on Thursday, who got the Sandgrounders back into the game, before George Newell clinched the winner, continuing his pre-season form where he scored nine goals.
Both strikers could be thankful to Matt Challoner, who provided two quality crosses that were asking to be headed in.
The Port had half chances in the early stages of the game, as Marcus Carver shot straight at the keeper and David Morgan hit the wall from a free kick on the edge of the area.
Adam Anson also had an opportunity to open the scores, but he couldn’t get over a free header in box and nodded it over the cross bar.
After eight goals in pre-season, Carver has demonstrated his threat in front of goal since arriving at Haig Avenue, but one on one with the keeper he failed to find the target.
Despite the flourish of Port chances in the opening quarter of the match, it was the visitors who took the lead in the 18th minute.
After winning a free-kick out wide, Liam Henderson found himself with plenty of space in the box to fire a free header into the bottom right corner, with Tony McMillan left rooted to the spot.
In the search for an equaliser, Morgan tried his luck from outside the box, but whizzed the shot wide of the post.
Meanwhile Henderson could’ve had his second of the afternoon for the Highwaymen, as he had two efforts blocked by some last-ditch Southport defending.
A minute later, Morpeth had a golden opportunity to add another, but McMillan somehow stretched out to collect the ball to stop Jeff Henderson from tapping in from point blank range following a free kick into the box.
The best chance for the visitors to double their lead came in the 34th minute, as they were awarded a penalty, after McMillan caught Joe Walton in the box following a quick counterattack.
Fortunately for Southport, Morpeth could not capitalise, as McMillan made amends for his error and guessed the right way to stop Jack Foalle’s spot kick.
They were nearly left to rue that miss immediately after, but for a brave challenge from Michael Turner to block a shot from Carver in the box.
The Port keeper also continued to be busy, as he was forced to punch away a dangerous cross into the box, just before half time.
Despite the home side starting the game brightest, Stephen Turnball’s side had grown into the half, and went into the break the happier of the two managers.
A minute into the second half, Watson’s side came close to levelling things, as Carver put a free kick from the right wing just over the bar.
Southport looked more comfortable than they did in the opening 45 minutes, and that showed as they bagged an equaliser just before the hour mark.
Niall Watson made it a debut to remember, as he headed in a Matt Challoner cross at the back post to make it 1-1.
The striker, who scored seven times in pre-season, nearly had another, but this time could not direct his header on target.
Morpeth’s best chance of the second half came through substitute, Carl Finnigan, who curled an effort wide of the goal from the edge of the box, as he looked to put his side back in the driving seat.
Despite the Port looking the more likely of the two sides, with a much-improved display after the break, the Highwaymen were still having their moments too, with Joe Walton having the best of their chances with an off target shot from the edge of the area.
Down the other end, a strong defensive challenge was needed by Jeff Henderson, after Morgan had an excellent ball through to George Newell.
The substitute wouldn’t have to wait to much longer for a goal, as he was on hand to head in another excellent cross from Challoner, this time towards the front post, to make it 2-1 with ten minutes remaining.
The visitors continued to fight and came close from a free kick on the edge of the area, with Liam Noble placing it just wide.
In the end The Port held onto their lead, and progress into the next round of the competition.
Southport FC: Tony McMillan, Matthew Challoner, Dylan Vassallo, Adam Anson (63’), Charlie Oliver, Mo Ali, Jack Bainbridge, Connor Woods (63’), David Morgan, Marcus Carver, Niall Watson.
Substitutes: Dan Hanford, Jack Doyle, Dean Winnard, Russell Benjamin (63’), George Newell (63’).
Goals: Watson (58’), Newell (79’)
Morpeth Town: Daniel Lowson, Stephen Forster, Wayne Phillips, Ben Sayer, Jeff Henderson, Michael Turner, Jack Foalle, Sam Hodgson, Liam Henderson, Liam Noble, Joe Walton.
Substitutes: Carl Finnigan, Jack Leonard, Shabs Mohammed, Dale Walker.
Goals: L. Henderson (18’)
Referee: Dale Walker. Assistant’s: Abid Hussain, Daniel Sims.
Written by Amos Wynn