by Haydn Preece-
(This article appeared in Glory Glory Southport FC – the brochure brought
out to celebrate our Championship Season)
Brian Kettle’s 1992 summer signings consolidated a team that had finished 7th
in the 1991/92 season – a consolidation that had been missing from many previous
Southport NPL campaigns. The potentially powerful squad had encouraging pre-season
wins against Wigan Athletic and Everton Reserves. New signings, towering centre-backs
Derek Goulding and Mark Schofield, featured along with the returning Alan McDonald;
and Peter Withers, a pacy ex-South Liverpool winger – who left Runcorn to limit
his travelling commitments while his wife was expecting their first child –
had also joined the squad.
Optimism was high in the Haig Avenue camp.
Yet the record-breaking season began in total anti-climax on August 22, with
a 1-2 home setback against Emley. A freak cloudburst was the culprit just as
an Emley through ball pierced the home defence. Looking offside the Emley striker
hammered the ball past Paul Moore. The only explanation for the linesman’s decision
was that he must have been unsighted due to the intensity of the flash storm.
A crowd of 415 had witnessed
a promising performance- if not three points. Four days later a visit to Highbury
Stadium saw Fleetwood snatch a 1-0 lead as Southport trailed with under 12 minutes
to go. Optimism and spirit seemed to be draining from the supporters; after
so many disappointments since 1978 just another season seemed to be here. Even
the national press reported a Fleetwood victory the next morning. Yet the season
actually began that night!
Two late goals from Tony Jarvis and David Gamble secured all the points and
the season of records had begun.
From August 26 to November 7 ‘Port were undefeated in the league, as a new formation
gelled at Haig Avenue. Alan McDonald, originally a midfielder in his first spell
before leaving for Witton, Altrincham and Accrington Stanley, slotted into the
Determined when going forward and with an eye for goal, his sorties were a major
contribution to the goals tally. Mark Schofield began the season in what appeared
a rather flat back five in the first two games, then he moved further forward
and took the central midfield anchorman’s role.
Strong in the air and the tackle, the robust Schofield was a dominating force,
his power supplementing both his forwards and defence.
The promise of goals galore began on August 31 when Southport recorded their
consecutive win, with a 7-1 trouncing of Chorley – Mark Brennan netting two
four goals in four games. Incredibly, Southport hit Chorley for six away on
30, and despite a spirited ATS Lancashire Cup Final Chorley succumbed 5-2 in
extra time, on April 19 at Burnden Park. Glenn Buckley’s luckless men had conceded
18 goals to ‘Port during the season.
By mid-September, Southport had defeated Buxton in the FA Cup first qualifying
and gained a top two league spot. September 19 was a key date in the club’s
Steve Haw, a diminutive forward, made his debut at Matlock Town, and hammered
in two in a 5-2 rout. A header from Ian Baines’ cross announced Haw’s arrival
his personal record breaking goal-scoring crusade was set in motion.
Haw, a highly experienced player, had left Marine due to problems over internal
disciplinary matters before the 1992/93 season began. Always a fierce competitor
in Boxing Day/Easter fixtures, he demonstrated a great deal more in what was
undoubtedly his best season.
Haw’s close control and attacking style bedeviled defenders and he was prepared
to shoot with either foot; with never-say-die running and tackling Brian Kettle
had unearthed a ‘goal-den’ gem.
Linking with Peter Withers the duo formed a speedy, highly skilled strike force.
By no means tall, they exploited their pace to unlock opponents either on the
flanks or straight down the middle. The ‘Port therefore played without a traditional
centre-forward after Jarvis departed in September but the goals just kept flowing
from all angles.
By the season’s completion only left-back Dave Fuller had not figured on the
scoresheet but his overlapping moves contributed to many goals in his 66 appearances.
With gates increasing – 542 watched the FA Cup 2nd qualifying home tie with
Chadderton, and 904 saw the tense 1-1 tussle with Morecambe – it became obvious
the Southport public were beginning to return. The 4th qualifying round of the
FA Cup proved a watershed.
After what Brian Kettle described as an excellent performance in a goalless
Holker Street, Southport beat their ex-league colleagues 3-2, on what turned
out to be a very wet and emotional night. Three outstanding goals by Derek Goulding,
Alan McDonald and Mark Schofield, sent the ‘Port into the First Round draw.
Just after half-time Alan McDonald hit a superb 25 yarder, from the right, into
the roof of the net to equalise, and Mark Schofield’s rasping 25-yarder secured
the tie in front of a tremendous crowd of 2.082.
The final piece of the jigsaw was placed expertly by Brian Kettle with the signing
Dove from Buxton. A utility player at home at centre-half, midfield or as a
played all these positions as the squad’s resilience was tested in their 68
match endurance test. Joining Dove from Buxton was forward Stuart Thompson,
but due to the absence of any injuries up front Thompson did not feature, apart
from twice on the subs’ bench – coming on just once. Reward for a fine first
half of the season came with the club reaching the FA Cup Second Round for the
first time in 24 years. Battling from the first qualifying round on September
12 the ‘Port drew fellow non-league Blyth Spartans away, in the First Round
proper. Against a highly partisan home crowd and an early goal down, the players
fought tenaciously to overcome the North-Easterners with goals from the dynamic
duo Steve Haw and Peter Withers.
In the Second Round another long trip to Hartlepool on December 6 saw Southport
defeat – but receive a standing ovation from the 4,171 crowd. For 60 minutes
‘Port held their Second Division opponents. Centre-forward Andy Saville, later
to transfer to Birmingham City, hammered a hat-trick to end the Sandgrounders
Third Round dream.
Yet consistency continued to be the ‘Port’s trademark. The Boxing Day fixture
against local rivals Marine saw the highest league gate at Haig Avenue (2,078)
since the club’s Football League days. A hard fought 0-0 draw on a muddy pitch
(only passed playable at lunch time) was the ‘festive fare’. From January 9
Southport held top spot and with great confidence chairman Charlie Clapham launched
the new ground development plans.
On January 16 Southport dismissed the Championship pretensions of Frickley Athletic,
previously unbeaten in nine league games. They elected to kick against a gale
in the first
half and felt the wrath of an angered squad! Withers scored in the 2nd minute
and went on to record a first half hat-trick. Haw and Dove also scored in the
emphatic 5-2 victory.
The reason for such determination? On January 13 Accrington Stanley’s forward
Paul Beck had done a Maradona, punching in a goal under Paul Moore’s nose. Angered,
Moore sprinted 50 yards for a heated exchange with the referee – and found himself
sent off with just seconds to go. Fortunately ‘Port held on for a point and
Moore, suspended for three matches, only missed one league game – a 5-0 victory
over lowly Goole.
John Routledge deputised in goal.
Cup glory continued in the Liverpool Senior Cup. A crowd of 1,285 saw Peter
Withers score a spectacular goal in the 115th minute against Liverpool Reserves.
Liverpool had secured extra time with just 11 seconds of normal time to play,
but even the brilliance of Bruce Grobbelaar could not deny Withers a dipping
25 yard drive.
In the semi-final a strong Tranmere Rovers side found the ‘Port in brilliant
with League experience the Tranmere outfit could not come to terms with the
rampant part timers. Goals from Goulding, Dove and Walmsley put Southport into
the final, on a night when the squad showed they had the potential to play in
the GM Vauxhall Conference. On May 11 Southport traveled to Goodison Park and
defeated Burscough in a rather subdued final.
The club received no favours from Marine on Easter Monday.
With the champagne on ice the Mariners ruined the day by ending 2-I victors
in front of a 1,611 crowd. It was Southport’s first league defeat since November
7. Highly experienced skipper Kevin Mooney had warned all season that even the
best teams have a bad run – but thankfully for the Haig Avenue faithful, it
April 17 will go down in Sandgrounders’ folklore as a day of mass celebration.
Just as 20 years earlier when the atmospheric 1-1 home draw with Hartlepool
saw Southport gain
the Fourth Division Championship, an historic 4-0 victory at windy Emley sent
the massed golden-clad supporters ecstatic. A Withers hat-trick and a David
Gamble penalty had done the trick.
The celebrations in Yorkshire carried on well into the night, ably helped by
the faithful Emley fans who showed tremendous hospitality.
Brian Bennett (away trips organiser) presented Charlie Clapham with a trophy
from the travelling supporters as a thank you for achieving success, after 20
years of waiting. Many of the older supporters on the pitch after the Emley
game had been at Haig Avenue two decades earlier; it is hoped the younger ones
will not have to wait a similar time span.
The next home game versus Frickley saw 2,230 turn out to see the HFS League
Champions’ presentation – which was videoed for posterity! Frickley formed a
line of honour to applaud the home side out, but in a hard fought match Southport
had to show great professionalism in gaining an (irrelevant) 2-1 victory. Again
that man Stevie Haw scored two – setting a new goal-scoring record on an emotional
afternoon. Incredibly, Winsford featured in three of Southport’s last five fixtures.
In the President’s Cup ‘Port could not overcome a 2-0 first leg deficit, going
down 4-5 on aggregate – despite a storming 4-3 victory at Haig Avenue in the
return leg. The runners-up then ended Southport’s season the way it had begun
with a home defeat.
However. in the last fixture of the wonderful season Southport had a 2-1 victory
over Burscough in the Liverpool Senior Cup Final, at Goodison Park. Kevin Mooney
to complete all 68 matches, limping off in the 82nd minute. Still a truly admirable