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On This Day: April 28th

For the only time in our history Southport finished 92nd out of 92 clubs in the Football League on this day in 1959, following a 1-0 defeat at home to Exeter City.

SOUTHPORT 0 – 1 EXETER CITY

Stadium: Haig Avenue
Competition: League
Date: 28/04/1959
Attendance: 2646

Southport Line-Up: Jack RichardsonRoger DarvellHaydn BarkerGeorge BromilowBrian GreenTommy WilliamsTerry LeathJimmy McDermottBill DoddGeorge RankinJackie Grant

Trevor Hitchen’s return as manager in June 1958 was no surprise; speculation had been rife ever since Hitchen had piloted Wigan to their shock Cup win the previous November. At the A.G.M. he promised shareholders eleven fighters capable of lasting the full ninety minutes; he was confident of producing results to arouse enthusiasm in the town; but fitness could not compensate for lack of ability and financial restrictions inevitably limited his chances.

For two months the home results exceeded all expectations, but it soon became obvious that Southport lacked the strength to collect points on tour; particularly disappointing were two key newcomers to the attack-Gordon Davies and Bobby Cunliffe.

Despite an opening 5-1 defeat at Watford-last visited in 1905-the ‘Port remained undefeated at home until the return fixture in December; yet they lost every away match until January, when Haydon Barker’s fifteenth second goal secured a 1-1 draw at Hartlepools.

Shortly afterwards Southport signed Wally ‘Fielding, veteran schemer of the Everton attack, as player-manager; -Hitchen nobly continued as his assistant. The following Saturday, January 24th, Southport-reinforced by Fielding and little Jackie Grant, his Everton team-mate signed from Rochdale-best Gillingham 2-1; but this was Southport’s solitary win between November and April, in 29 consecutive league matches. The twenty-three away games finally yielded four points and not a single victory.

In the Cup third division Halifax Town outplayed Southport and won 2-0, With Cup receipts only £301, league takings down £2,500 and a net £3,000 paid in transfer fees, the club suffered a record loss of £7,746, raising the total deficit over £27,000. George Robertson succeeded Fred Thornley as chairman, and, with finances at a low ebb, a survival appeal was launched.

Hitchen’s youth policy produced just one class player—full-back Terry Leath, whose first-team debut came in this, the final league game, replacing player-manager Fielding who had failed a late fitness test.

Joining the Sandgrounders in seeking re-election were Oldham, Aldershot & Barrow and at the Football League A.G.M. all were successful. The voting however was uncomfortably close.

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