With no new players signed to beat the March 16th transfer deadline, many supporters felt that Southp
ort, despite having one of the best home records in the country would have an uphill struggle to avoid relegation — particularly as the professional staff numbered only fourteen, including two goalkeepers; but, starting with a 5-0 win over Shrewsbury Town on March 17th, Southport lost only two of their last fifteen games, collecting 19 points en route. Their away form improved and a run of 9 matches in which only one goal was conceded enabled them to climb rapidly up the table to finish in 8th position —52nd in the Football League — their highest placing ever.
An appalling start saw Southport lose their first four league games, yet no visitors repented Brighton and Hove Albion’s victory in the opening mach at Haig Avenue as Southport equalled their league record of only one home defeat. The highlight was a splendid 5-0 win over Stockport County; the return game at Edgeley Park, which County won 3-0 appeared on Granada television.
For the first time in the club’s league history no close season signings were made, although the staff of fifteen was augmented in mid-August by the arrival of Malcolm Russell, a strong and determined defender from Halifax Town. Despite initial criticism at Fred Molyneux’s transfer to Plymouth Argyle in September for £6,750, Russell ably filled the gap.
Don McEvoy reversed the team’s recent defensive complex and they played some attractive football. George Andrews and Terry Harkin led the attack; Andrews excelled and became recognised as one of the best headers of the ball outside the First Division. Harkin, despite winning his second Northern Ireland cap and scoring twice in a World Cup qualifying match against Turkey, became unsettled by crowd criticism and was transferred to Shrewsbury Town for £9.000 Alex Russell returned to form and showed marksmanship as well as scheming prowess with 13 goals.
After a victorious League Cup replay at Barrow Southport entertained Newcastle United and were unlucky to lose a sterling encounter. At Tranmere an Alan Spence goal brought a first round F.A. Cup victory – amazingly still Southport’s most recent win in the competition! Andrews’ equaliser at Belle Vue was annulled by Fourth Division Doncaster Rovers’ late winner in the second round. This disappointment was immediately followed by a superlative 4-0 win at Plymouth Argyle, managed by Billy Bingham; during this match John Armstrong broke a finger and, with Brian Reeves suspended, Geoff !Hickson was signed from Crewe Alexandra on a month’s trial.
Just before Christmas Alan Spence — with 108 first-team goals undoubtedly Southport’s best post-war free-transfer forward – departed to Oldham Athletic for a nominal fee. At the season’s close Brian Reeves, a cool and highly competent goalkeeper, retired from the game although he later occasionally assisted Formby as did full-back Eric Curwen, also released. Stuart Shaw, whose talents were not always appreciated by Southport supporters but, on his day, 3 devastating winger, was freed and joined Port Vale.
A profit of £4,773 was realised, thanks to £10,000 net transfer income. During the year Fred Thornley, Arthur Briscoe and Jack Clough ceased to be directors. Mr. Thornley became a Life Member and Mr. Clough was elected President. Dr. Robert Haddock, for many years the club’s Honorary Medical Officer and latterly a Life Member, passed away, whilst Len Peet, Deputy Editor of the “Southport Visiter” – better known as “The Scout” — whose associations with the club went back 35 years, died in January. A conscientious and scrupulous reporter with an encyclopaedic memory, he was sadly missed in the Press Box.
Southport achieved a Northern Floodlight League double, winning the Championship and again defeating Wigan Athletic — 5-3 on aggregate – in the two-legged final. The ever-reliable Arthur Peat deservedly became “Player of the Year”, securing 73% of the votes cast.
Season Summary reproduced with Permission from:
The Sandgrounder (Southport FC Matchday Programme) Article Series. Southport through the seasons. The League History of Southport FC, Compiled by Michael P. Braham and Geoffrey S. Wilde
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