PREVIEW: Luton Town v Southport

Southport suffered a huge blow in the week with the sale of star striker Tony Gray to Chester FC, writes Mike Simmonds.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 28th September 2012, 2:28 pm

The 28-year-old, who netted 24 league goals for the Sandgrounders as they finished just outside the play-offs last season, scored 76 times in 157 appearances, although had netted just once this campaign.

Boss Liam Watson said: “I’m not afraid to make big calls.

“Tony was having a few problems with committing to the training sessions we required, especially the key Monday morning session, and we’ve made the decision to let him go.

“We’ve made a conscious decision to go down the youth route. Tony is 28, we’ve got a decent fee for him, and we have got an abundance of riches in attacking areas at the moment.”

Watson has already confirmed he has no plans to strengthen his squad further, despite Southport scoring just 13 times in 11 games so far this season.

Port haven’t enjoyed the greatest of starts to the league campaign, taking four games to register a victory, before a 2-0 triumph at Hyde.

They then went on a run of three wins in five games, defeating Gateshead and Ebbsfleet, but their away form hasn’t been anything special thus far, taking five points from a possible 15 to sit 14th in the table.

Last season saw Southport without doubt the surprise package of the division, with a stunning campaign that saw them finish just five points off the play-offs in seventh place.

Their efforts were even more impressive considering they had been relegated the season before, only earning a reprieve due to the demise of Rushden & Diamonds.

Boss Watson has managed to keep the majority of the squad together, with Andy Owens and Ray Putterill moving to Mansfield and Rochdale respectively, while the likes of James Ellison, Adam Carden and Michael Ordish were released.

In came, Michael Bakare from Macclesfield, while Zac Hibbert, Chris Lynch, Steve Tames and Darren Stephenson have all joined too.

Recent signing Liam Willis netted on his debut in the week, but striker Stephenson will remain on loan at Chorley.

Team news: Hatters signed Guiseley centre half Simon Ainge on a month’s loan, with Adam Watkins and Greg Taylor moving to Kidderminster and Tamworth for a month too.

Connor Essam plays the last game of his loan spell, while Town boss Paul Buckle did make reference to an injury to an un-named member of his squad in the build-up to the game.

Danny Spiller, James Dance and Garry Richards are still out, while visiting Southport have a fully fit squad to choose from.

Man in the middle: Brett Huxtable – The official has been in charge of five Conference games this season, his last the 2-0 win for Dartford at Braintree on Tuesday.

So far, he has shown 10 yellow cards, while also dishing out two reds.

Top BSBP scorer: Hatters - Stuart Fleetwood (8). Sandgrounders - Chris Almond, Karl Ledsham, Chris Lever, Steven Tames, Shaun Whalley (2).

In charge: Liam Watson – Became Warrington Town’s most expensive player when he moved to Preston North End for £60,000 but saw his career cut short due to a serious injury.

Managed to carry on playing in non-league for Marine, Runcorn and Accrington Stanley before taking charge of Runcorn at the age of 29.

In September 2003 Watson replaced Mike Walsh as boss of Southport, becoming the youngest manager in their history at just 33-years-old.

Preserved the clubs Conference North status, before moving down to Burscough in June 2006, winning the Northern Premier League, Peter Swailes Memorial Shield and for the first time in 40 years the Lancashire Junior Cup.

Resigned form his post on June 27, 2008 to be anounced as Port boss three days later, replacing former Town manager Gary Brabin, guiding the club to the Conference in the 2009-10 season as champions.

View from the opposition: Liam Watson - “We’ve changed the way we play drastically.

“The team is developing, learning, and we are competing well.

“That we can take on good teams and dominate – we should have had five or six at Newport, and even more against Stockport – says a lot.

“We just have to keep a positive mindset because, looking at the players the club has got here, the club is in a great position.”

One to watch: Shaun Whalley - 25-year-old midfielder who has become a mainstay of the Port team in recent seasons. Netted 10 league goals last campaign and eight the year before, while has notched twice this season already.

Began his career with Norwich City, before spells at Chester FC, Accrington Stanley and Wrexham amongst others. In his second stint at Southport now after joining them on loan back in 2009.

Friendly faces: Godfrey Poku moved back to Haig Avenue on loan on transfer deadline day. The 22-year-old midfielder left Kenilworth Road in the summer after making 29 appearances for Town in just over two years at the club.

Had a successful loan spell with Southport last season, but chose to join Mansfield Town for an undisclosed fee in the summer, although surprisinly was allowed to leave Field Mill without ever featuring.

Attacker Dan Walker also joined Southport on loan last season, scoring twice in 12 appearances, while Town midfielder John Paul Kissock, who is currently on loan Macclesfield Town, joined Luton from the Sandgrounders in August 2011, after starring for Port.

We’ve got form: Hatters have a surprisingly long history with Southport, but have never lost at home to their opponents.

Town have netted an impressive 11 goals in their last two home games against Port, winning 6-0 and 5-1, but before that, they were never quite as prolific with a 1-0 victory in the old Third Division back in the 1969-70 season and enduring two goalless draws before that.

Matches against the Sandgrounders began with a 2-0 victory in the 1965-66 campaign and Luton have only conceded once in the six matches at Kenilworth Road, with 14 going into the visitors net.

Last time out: Hatters eventually made light work of the visitors with a 5-1 win back on August 20, 2011. The scoreline doesn’t tell the full story though as Jonathan Brown put the Sandgrounders ahead after just eight minutes, before Adam Watkins levelled on 41 minutes.

Town couldn’t break through until Steve Akrigg was sent off on 68 minutes, before Will Antwi, Amari Morgan-Smith, Robbie Willmott and Danny Crow netted in the space of seven minutes to give Hatters a huge win,

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Dean Beckwith, Jake Howells, Will Antwi, Curtis Osano, Keith Keane, Alex Lawless, Robbie Willmott, James Dance (Danny Crow 31), Aaron O’Connor (Amari Morgan-Smith 60), Adam Watkins (Ed Asafu-Adjaye 79)

Attendance: 5,681.

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