Avenue pile misery on lowly Southport.
A rampant Avenue made it five wins from six league games with a 4-0 rout of strugglers Southport in the penultimate game of the calendar year.
The Merseyrail Community Stadium proved to be a happy hunting ground earlier on in the season, and Avenue picked up their second victory at the expense of Southport with a dominant performance.
Mark Ross was absent during last week’s defeat to Tamworth, but he returned to the starting eleven in place of Wayne Brooksby. Javan Vidal moved from right-back to the right-hand side of midfield, but Mark Bower’s side remained predominantly unchanged.
Both sides had chances to open the scoring in the early stages, and Avenue felt aggrieved to see the referee penalise Billy Priestley for a foul on Adam Boyes when Jamie Spencer was racing through on goal.
Shortly after, David Lynch almost provided Southport with their first glimpse of goal when he found space in behind the Avenue midfield, only for the Sandgrounders skipper to drift too wide and see his cross intercepted by Shane Killock.
Both sides had been let down by their final ball in the early stages, but Avenue sharpened their clinical edge to eventually take the lead through Boyes. Oli Johnson dragged his shot wide, but Boyes demonstrated his goal-scoring instinct to latch on to the skewed effort and rifle an effort into the bottom corner.
The visitors soon doubled their advantage when Nicky Wroe knocked the ball into the path of an advancing Boyes, who made no mistake in steering past a despairing Jon Worsnop.
Avenue’s confidence was growing with every passing minute, and away fans didn’t have to wait long for the Yorkshire side to add a third. In similar fashion to the first goal, it was an effort from Johnson that was capitalised on, as Nicky Clee slid in at the back-post to bundle home a shot that appeared destined to fly wide.
Many would have expected Southport to emerge with a sense of urgency considering their plight and the deficit they need to overturn. However, it was Avenue that looked more likely to find the back of the net and Wroe saw a drilled effort edge just wide of the post soon after the restart.
Southport’s afternoon was summed up by a chance that fell to club-record signing Jason Gilchrist, who found space on the edge of the area after some good work from the dangerous Jordan Hallam. The forward, however, took far too long to pull the trigger and the hosts’ first opportunity of the second-half was squandered.
Occasional chances were all the Sandgrounders could muster, and Avenue continued to hunt for the elusive fourth goal. Ross gave an assured display on his return to the side, and almost marked it with a goal when he unleashed a piledriver from 25-yards that stung the palms of Worsnop and forced the busy ‘keeper to parry wide.
As dangerous as Avenue were going forward, it would be injustice to not mention the tireless defending of Shane Killock and Luca Havern, who offered little change to any of Southport’s frontline.
Southport enjoyed what was arguably their best spell of the afternoon in the final ten minutes, where they gave Steven Drench stern tests that he hadn’t had to endure all game.
Former Avenue defender Billy Priestley had an opportunity to net a consolation goal against his old club, but saw the impenetrable Drench deny the towering centre-back.
A frantic goal-line scramble saw Drench claw two efforts off the line, rounding off a fantastic display from the experienced ‘keeper after a poor showing the previous week.
After soaking up the pressure of a late Southport rally, Avenue sealed victory when substitute Lee Knight opened his account for the season in comical circumstances. Worsnop, who had endured a barrage of taunts from the Avenue supporters behind the goal, drove his goal-kick into the back of Knight as the forward jumped and could only watch as the ball rolled into a vacated net.
Mark Bower could do little but wax lyrical about his players in the aftermath of the victory, insisting that his players ‘thoroughly deserved the win’ and had ‘cut out the errors of last week’.
Avenue return to action on Boxing Day, when Curzon Ashton visit the Horsfall Stadium for a revised kick-off time of 1:30pm.
Bradford Park Avenue: Drench, Ross, Hill, Wroe (c), Killock, Havern, Vidal, Spencer, Boyes (Knight 85’), Johnson (Brooksby 71’), Clee (Boshell 76’).
Unused substitutes: Hall, Nowakowski.
Southport: Worsnop, Sheron, Richards, Morgan, Howson (Smith 45’), Priestley, Hallam, Lynch (c), Gilchrist, Sampson, Jackson (Dawson 58’, replaced by Hine 71’).Unused substitutes: Kpohomouh, Foster.
Referee: Paul Brown