Southport 1-1 Tranmere: Report

Tranmere’s 100% record in the National League has finally come to an end as they ran aground at Southport.

Rovers were looking to build on that remarkable start to the season which has seen them win all of their opening five games.

And they were by far the better team at Haig Avenue as they went in search of a sixth successive victory.

Things were looking good for the visitors when Andy Cook gaves them the lead just after the break, but they could not cling on as Gary Brabin was forced to settle for a point against his former employers.

The former leading up to Rovers’ trip to the seaside has been so good that they have not needed to change the starting line up since their second fixture, a trend that continued at Haig Avenue.

Meanwhile there were three familiar faces in the Southport side, with former Rovers defenders Josh Thompson, Neil Ashton and Andrai Jones all featuring.

Tranmere looked to grab the game by the scruff of the neck early on, with James Norwood and Michael Ihiekwe both seeing shots blocked.

The game was struggling to live up to its billing though.

It is a fixture considered a Merseyside derby, but only in name. There is not the heat and tension of other local fixtures, with the clubs having only met three times since 1977.

As such, the travelling Super White Army, occupying two and a half stands, were given little to get their teeth into.

It took until the 19th minute for the visitors to fashion their first proper opening, with Norwood nodding wide after Ihiekwe had headed a deep free-kick back across goal.

Southport had the ball in the back of the net on 25 minutes, with James Caton darting on the ball over the top and deftly lobbing Scott Davies from 20-yards.

However, the forward had slightly made his run slightly early and was correctly flagged offside.

That was pretty much it for the first half, but Tranmere started the second period in a much better fashion.

Now shooting towards their own fans, there seemed to be a much better impetus, and it took only a few seconds for the first chance to come as Ihiekwe headed off target from a corner.

With their next attack, the visitors took the lead, much to the delight of the 2,047 travelling supporters.

Connor Jennings found himself some time and space on the right hand side of the box, but his cross was not the best as it flicked off a Southport head.

Fortunately for Rovers, the ball fell straight to Andy Cook, who turned his man before drilling into the roof of the net from eight yards out.

The goal was just what the game needed. Southport now needed to attack, and shortly afterwards Callum Howe flicked a header just wide from a long throw.

Under pressure, the Tranmere defence was looking shaky. Several long balls came and went, with some of them not cleared convincingly.

There was however little they could do about Luis Almond’s leveller that came just after the hour mark.

Another deep punt forward fell to Ihiekwe, who could only volley out to substitute Louis Almond on the Southport right.

The forward looked up and tried to pick out a man in the middle, but miss-hit his cross as it dipped over Davies and in at the far post.

Things could have gone from bad to worse for Rovers minutes later, as the hosts looked to seize the initiative.

Jamie Allen had Southport’s best chance, but he found Davies in his way, with the ‘keeper sprawling in front of him to block at point blank range.

Tranmere were looking lethargic, too often giving possession away in midfield, with passes going astray and long balls forward coming straight back at them.

That meant Gary Brabin had to shake things up, and he made several attacking substitutions, with Adam Mekki, Jake Kirby and Liam Ridehalgh all coming on.

A frantic final 10 minutes followed, with Rovers desperately pushing forward as they looked to maintain their 100% start to the season.

Southport could only camp on their 18-yard line as a string of attacks came their way, but each was well dealt with, with Belford rarely tested.

James Norwood was finding some space down the right though, and it was two crosses from his right boot which created Tranmere’s best chances.

With the first, he picked out Cook, who saw a powerful header beaten away, before with the next attack, Mekki was found at the back post, only he could not get high enough to direct on target.

Jeff Hughes then did well to keep the ball in on the right, and he picked out a diving Jake Kirby in the centre, only for his diving header to be blocked by Belford, diving full stretch.

That was Tranmere’s final chance as they could only pick up a point, but it is a draw which keeps them top of the National League, just ahead of Dagenham.

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