Approaching the game on this day in 1978 Southport knew already that they would be in the all too familiar place of needing to seek re-election over the summer.
Much of Southport’s success on previous such occasions could be attributed to the bluff, down-to-earth John Church, whose innocent enthusiasm for the club he had supported since childhood endeared him to all he met. New chairman Walter Giller on the other hand was an abrasive, assertive character who had upset one or two influential clubs on whose votes Southport could usually count; his previous record at Skelmersdale had hardly been squeaky clean and, in the final analysis, these peripheral factors outweighed the traditions and endeavours of fifty years of Football League membership. Yet it could not have been closer.
When the League A.G.M. was held at London’s Cafe Royal on June 2nd, the initial voting left Southport and Wigan Athletic tied for fourth place on 26 apiece, with Bath City running them close on 23. A second ballot was required and this time Wigan prevailed 29-20. Rochdale, 7 points adrift of Southport at the foot of Division IV, were re-elected comfortably. It subsequently transpired that Wigan chairman Arthur Horrocks — himself a director of Southport in the early ‘seventies — had canvassed the other clubs fairly thoroughly over a considerable period of time.
Whilst many Southport supporters had secretly feared this outcome, the shock of comprehending that League status had gone for good had a numbing effect.
The match at Watford therefore goes down in history as the last Football League game for the Sandgrounders.
WATFORD 3 – 2 SOUTHPORT
Southport Line-Up: Tony Harrison, Alan Wilson, Hughie Fisher, Tommy O’Neil, Gary Cooper, Geoff Gay, Pat Hilton, Chris Kisby, Eric Snookes, George Jones, John Higham,
Subs: Paul Birchall,
Goals: Tommy O’Neil (Pen), Gary Cooper