Town’s Hunter bags a brace

Ashley Hunter netted twice
Ashley Hunter netted twice
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A brace from Ashley Hunter and a Bobby Grant wonder goal from the halfway line ensured Fleetwood Town picked up a comfortable 3-1 victory at Southport on Tuesday night.

Hunter took just two minutes to open the scoring and later added his second just shy of the half-hour mark.

Grant netted Fleetwood’s third on the hour; after the Liverpudlian received the ball inside the Southport half, he then thumped a shot from the halfway line, catching the keeper off his line.

In the final 20 minutes, Southport netted a consolation, as Ross White bundled home Louis Almond’s free-kick.

Barry Nicholson took caretaker charge of the Cod Army and named a strong starting side for the fixture, including Conor McLaughlin, Grant, skipper Nathan Pond and Jimmy Ryan.

Town got off to the perfect start after just two minutes played when Hunter profited from a misjudgement from goalkeeper Tyrell Belford to gallop onto Victor Nirennold’s lofted pass and prod the ball into an empty net.

Allen engineered Southport’s inaugural sight on goal, but his low shot from just outside the penalty area was palmed away by Town keeper Chris Neal.

Ricardo Kip acrobatically volleyed wide from Grant’s teasing cross before Southport captain, James Gray, whistled a speculative effort just beyond Neal’s post from 20 yards.

Hunter doubled Fleetwood’s advantage, adding his brace with 27 minutes on the clock, racing onto a Haughton through ball, and with only the onrushing Belford to beat, dinking it into the empty net.

As half-time approached, the industrious Kip managed to pick up on a loose ball in the centre of midfield.

He drove at the home defence and found Hunter, who latched onto the pass and arrowed a daisycutter across goal

Both sides made no changes at half-time, after which the second half began quietly.

That ended with Grant’s spectacular strike on the hour which put Town three to the good.

With the game entering its dying embers, Southport notched up a solitary goal of their own after 70 minutes.

It came when defender White connected with Almond’s floated free-kick from the left, to divert the ball past Neal at the back post.

Matty Urwin, Dion Charles and Akil Wright were all part of a cluster of players who came on for the visitors in the closing stages, as Nicholson aimed to give playing time to the majority of his side.

Despite late pressure from Southport, who looked to reduce the deficit, Fleetwood would see out the fixture in a professional manner, ahead of Friday night’s friendly against Wigan Athletic at Highbury.

BEN REARDON