ALDERSHOT TN 1, SOUTHPORT 2
ALDERSHOT Town ended their season at the EBB Stadium with a record-equalling 12th home defeat.
Southport deserved their victory for merely employing a few essential tenets of the game – organisation, energy and a modicum of ambition.
The game followed a depressingly familiar pattern: the lacklustre Shots failed to build on a promising start and eventually ran out of ideas and desire to drag themselves back into the match.
“Again, we’ve disappointed the home fans and we understand that it’s not good enough,” said manager Barry Smith, after a banner unfurled on the East Bank before kick-off displayed the harsh facts of a home campaign with too many defeats and not enough goals.
“The fans are quite right to vent their anger, whether it’s at me or the players. Unfortunately, today we had a few players that were looking after themselves and not being team players, and that cost us. We’ve never really had any proper consistency. Throughout the season, we’ve conceded from set-pieces and there were two poor goals again today.”
In overturning an early deficit, the Sandgrounders were able to extend their own unbeaten run to six with a win which could have been by a greater margin had Dan Thomas not made a couple of fine saves.
Dan Walker, though, had given Aldershot a ninth-minute lead on a counter-attack from a Southport corner. Nathan Ralph struck a high ball out of defence and when Andrai Jones fluffed an attempted header back towards his goalkeeper, Walker’s willingness to chase a lost cause was rewarded as he beat Andy Coughlin at the second attempt.
Soon, Steve Hewitt’s low drive was well parried by Thomas, but on 19 minutes a free-kick from the game’s best player, veteran midfielder Gary Jones, created panic in the home defence. Jamie Allen reacted first to Josh Thompson’s nod-down and smashed a shot against the crossbar and, after his follow-up had been smothered, Liam Nolan drilled the ball into the net through a crowd of players.
Charlie Walker also hit the crossbar with a twisting, glancing header, but the momentum was moving steadily, inexorably towards Southport. Jones played a quick free-kick down the line to Louis Almond who was allowed time to measure a deep cross and the ball was stabbed into the net by Andy Wright; 2-1 to Southport.
In the six minutes before half-time, Thomas repelled Almond’s rising drive and superbly clawed a point-blank header by Mike Phenix around the post.
The second half was something of a non-event, although Southport still carried the greater attacking threat, their pace and movement putting Aldershot’s lethargic display into even starker relief.
Almond, Allen and Nolan all mustered half-chances, while the Shots’ only meaningful effort in 45 minutes came from Charlie Walker’s free-kick, comfortably saved by Coughlin.
It was another microcosm of a hugely frustrating and disappointing season, which should at least provide ample evidence of where the team must be strengthened over the summer.
Aldershot: Thomas; Alexander, Beckles, Saville, Ralph; D Walker, Rasulo (Stevenson 68), Gallagher, Browne (Hatton 72); C Walker, Lafayette. Subs (not used): Smith, Oliver, McGrory. Booked: Browne, Lafayette.
Southport: Coughlin; A Jones, Thompson, Wright, Whittle; Nolan, G Jones; Hewitt (Rutherford 70), Phenix (Ryan 90), Allen (Westcarr 79), Almond. Subs (not used): Crocombe, Blakeman. Booked Wright.
Referee: Brett Huxtable.
Attendance:1,456 (65 away).