Southport 0, Fleetwood Town 6
FLEETWOOD gave Blackpool boss Ian Holloway plenty to think about ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie as they hammered their Blue Square Bet Premier promotion rivals despite playing most of the game with ten men.
Town had beaten Southport 4-0 on New Year’s Day two years ago but stunned the majority in a bumper Haig Avenue crowd of 2,589 by topping that tally.
Town’s 11th and most comprehensive away win of the campaign came courtesy of three goals in each half and included pairs for Richard Brodie and the prolific Jamie Vardy.
After two recent suspensions, Brodie now faces a third after being sent off for a second bookable offence shortly after netting twice in the opening half hour.
The Haig Avenue pitch looked in good condition despite the recent prolonged rain and Town welcomed influential midfielder Jamie Milligan back after injury.
His was one of four changes made by manager Micky Mellon after the Boxing Day draw between the sides at Highbury.
Brodie, who came on the bench to salvage a point in that game, was rewarded with a place in the starting line-up, as was left-back Junior Brown, both making their first league start for two months. Keith Briggs was back in midfield alongside Milligan.
Southport boss, Liam Watson, made one change, replacing Chris Lever with Steve Akrigg.
Town made the perfect start. They had created the early pressure and took the lead in the third minute.
Peter Cavanagh shot from the edge of the area and Brodie deflected the ball past a wrong-footed Tony McMillan for his seventh of the season.
Cavanagh was booked after eight minutes for a challenge on Port skipper Alan Moogan, soon after Brown had been fortunate to escape the same fate after a tackle on Shaun Whalley.
Southport came back strongly, with Whalley feeding Andy Owens, who made ground in the area before shooting narrowly wide of Scott Davies’ far post.
Leading scorer Tony Gray then forced Davies to dive to his left to save a header moments later.
Mangan and Vardy tested Southport briefly with a flowing move in the 13th minute but the home side pressed again and Briggs came to his side’s rescue with a goal-line clearance.
Brodie saw yellow for the eleventh time this season as he bundled former Town defender Simon Grand over the touchline and Town, despite having the best away record in the league, were having to endure some anxious moments.
However, the game turned on its head just before the half-hour mark when Town scored twice in as many minutes before going down to ten men.
Mangan slipped a ball behind Earl Davis and the big defender brought down Vardy to give his Town a third penalty in successive matches.
Milligan converted with ease and Davis earned a booking for the challenge.
Two minutes later, Brodie turned in the area and scored his second to send the 550 members of the Cod Army into more new year celebrations.
Brodie’s afternoon was soon to end as the referee showed him a second yellow card when he brought down Akrigg, and the Town striker was to endure a torrent of taunts from the home crowd as he made the long walk across the ground and down the tunnel.
Southport’s, Godfrey Poku was the next player in referee Bond’s notebook as an eventful half drew to a close. Whalley tested Davies in added time, striking a firm shot to the keeper’s left.
Ten-man Town were reluctant to sit back and protect their half-time lead and it took just six minutes for them to score their fourth.
Shaun Beeley slipped a ball through for Vardy, who outpaced Davis before scoring from a narrow angle on the right for his first league goal in five matches.
Town played the ball around impressively and Southport’s Andy Parry was booked for a foul on Brown as the full-back pulled clear of him.
Southport tried to gain a foothold, Gray firing narrowly over from the edge of the area. Jonathan Brown replaced Davis just after the hour as the home side occupied more time in Town’s half, with Vardy hunting for opportunities on the counter-attack.
Milligan was replaced by new signing Danny Rose, after 71 minutes. With the debutant settling in well, Town struck again.
Mangan took the ball in from the left before firing an unstoppable right-foot shot past McMillan for his third goal in successive matches.
Vardy was booked for diving just before the end but made amends in the final minute when he ran on to a pass from Cavanagh to slam a left-foot shot past McMillan and seal a stunning victory.
Wrexham’s 4-0 win over Telford means that maintain their two-point lead over Town at the top, but Mellon’s men now have a nine-point cushion over third-placed Luton.
Southport: McMillan, Akrigg, Davis (Brown 62), Grand, Smith, Whalley, Moogan, Parry, Poku, Gray, Owens; not used: Nemes, Benjamin, Carden, Guthrie.
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, Brown, McNulty, Pond, Milligan (Rose 71), Briggs (Seddon 80), Cavanagh, Brodie, Mangan, Vardy; not used: Stephenson, Goodall, Vieira.
Ref: Bond; Att: 2,589