Avenue travelled to nineteenth-placed Southport with high hopes of a good result but, with half a dozen players in the home side recently back from injury, it was a much tougher task than was expected.
With a strong wind blowing down the pitch, Avenue had it in their faces in a first half which Southport dominated after going ahead in the fifth minute. A perfect strike into the top corner from 22 yards gave George Sykes-Kenworthy at full stretch no chance at all in goal.
Finding it hard to relieve the pressure and with numerous chances falling to the home side, the score was nevertheless kept at 1 – 0 until two further goals just before half-time appeared to end the game as a contest, the second of these being a penalty.
However, a well-directed header by Harrison Hopper then gave Brad Dockerty the opportunity to take the ball past the last defender and calmly slot home in time added on to make the score 3 – 1 and give Avenue a lifeline.
Southport continued to create chances in the second half, though Avenue came more into the picture without really being able to trouble the keeper. They kept up their efforts to the end but were found stretched when a close-range header in added time completed the scoring.
While unable to have any complaints at the final outcome, one was left to wonder how the game might have gone had Southport not won the toss and Avenue had been able to have the wind at their backs in the first half.
Manager Mark Bower had this to say after the game: ‘Today we never put enough passes together to relieve pressure on ourselves. We’ve lost the chance to get anything from the game in that five minutes before half-time. That was self-inflicted.’ And, regarding the game as a whole: ‘We just didn’t play with enough quality.’
His counterpart at Southport, Liam Watson, looked at the more positive side of Avenue’s performance: ‘To be honest, you’ve got to give Bradford credit because they actually dug in and stayed in the game. You can see that they’re playing for the manager and they’re working their socks off and they could have actually crumbled, but they didn’t, so fair play to them.
‘In the second half you’re thinking you don’t want these to get a second one and (then) you’re wobbling. They were game, they worked. I don’t think they’ll finish bottom of the League, I definitely don’t. They dug in, they had a go. It was a good game, probably a really good game for the neutral.’
Team: Sykes-Kenworthy; Odunston, Staunton; Spencer, Havern, Lund (Smith 71); Longbottom (Blyth 56), Richman (Fielding 70), Dockerty, Church, Hopper. Unused subs: Hall, Johnson.
Avenue yellow cards: Spencer (38), Odunston (42).