Sheffield Wednesday put their off-field problems behind them as they defeated Southport in the first round of the FA Cup.
A solitary Gary Teale goal in the first half had given Wednesday a half-time lead, but a mad fifteen minute period saw Southport equalise twice, only for Wednesday to take the lead and then extend the difference.
Two goals from Clinton Morrison and strike partner Neil Mellor helped Wednesday to reach the second round, while Chris Spurr sealed the 5-2 victory after Paul Barratt and Matty McGinn had both equalised respectively for a defeated Southport.
At a time when many football fans are turning their backs on overpaid, overrated Premier League stars, a traditional FA Cup tie was just what was needed as financially-struggling Sheffield Wednesday faced a Southport side who hadn’t won in three games.
The tie was a traditional David versus Goliath encounter, with three-time FA Cup winners Wednesday fifty-six places above Southport in the domestic pecking order. The difference in quality, though, did not worry the yellows, with left-back Chris Lever firing over within five minutes after strong attacking play. It was Wednesday, though, who broke the deadlock in front of a packed Haig Avenue.
After a game of head-tennis in the Southport penalty area, Morrison volleyed the ball across goal to find Teale at the back post. The former Derby County midfielder tapped home under little pressure to give the Owls the lead, with Southport all the more aggrieved as centre-back and captain Adam Flynn was forced to leave the field shortly before the goal to receive treatment for a head injury.
Southport didn’t lose heart, though, and, after various Sheffield attacks were broken down by the determined Sandgrounders’ back line, midfielder Paul Barratt, who saw a lot of the ball out on the right-wing, fired a volley wide from just outside the area.
Highly-rated midfielder Giles Coke then hit the bar for Wednesday after a neat lay-off from a free-kick. The experience that Sheffield Wednesday boasted in their side seemed to give Alan Irvine’s side the advantage, especially in thwarting any Southport attacks. Matty McNeil was quite frequently all on his own as the midfielders failed to support him, leaving Darren Purse and Mark Beevers the easy job of clearing long balls that came their way. Purse probably should have scored five minutes before half-time, side-footing a volley high and wide from inside the area.
Irvine’s side also had vast experience going forward, with Morrison and Teale both practiced Football League players, while Neil Mellor, who blasted two decent chances over the war and dragged another wide before half-time, used to play for Liverpool, among other Championship and League One sides.
While Southport managed to keep the score at 1-0 going into half-time, their defence was too easily breached and, had Wednesday’s attacking options been more potent, the score line would have read very differently. The lack of chances created by Southport was another issue for manager Liam Watson to raise during the break, with Sheffield Wednesday’s ‘keeper Nicky Weaver barely troubled in the first forty-five minutes.
Southport came out of the changing room with much more purpose and, within seven minutes, Barratt brilliantly lobbed Weaver after Liam Blakeman’s perfect ball through. A small pitch invasion soon ensued as a giant killing seemed to be on the cards.
The ecstasy didn’t last long, though, as Mellor, who was taunted throughout the first half, tapped home after Morrison turned-and-shot expertly, only to see his shot hit the post and bounce into the path of Mellor.
Watson clearly wanted his side to add something extra to their play and, as Matty McGinn and Tony Gray came on for Liam Blakeman and Chris Simm, Southport equalised once more. McGinn’s long throw was headed back out to the midfielder, who rifled a volley through a crowd of legs to take the scores level. A classic cup-tie was now on the cards.
Unfortunately for Southport, though, Sheffield Wednesday came back and took the lead for the third time, Morrison rounding the ‘keeper to score his first goal in thirteen games after a fine pass from Teale. Morrison then doubled his tally and his side’s lead just a minute later after good work from Mellor on the wing set up Morrison, who was now on a hat-trick.
It was defender Tommy Spurr, though, who scored Wednesday’s next goal, firing in from close-range after he calmly controlled the ball in the penalty area from a corner. Spurr’s goal ended an incredible twelve minute period which saw six goals.
With the game effectively over, the teams seemed to sit back and, Southport especially, became tighter at the back as they looked to keep the deficit as small as possible. Wednesday did hit the bar with a few minutes to go but the win was theirs, setting up an exciting second round FA Cup draw.
Southport 2 – 5 Sheffield Wednesday
Barratt 52 Teale 11
McGinn 57 Mellor 54
Morrison 60, 61