Manager Garry Haylock made just one change from the team that defeated Barrow the previous Saturday, with on-loan striker Adrian Pătulea returning to the side after suspension at the expense of Liam Enver-Marum, who dropped down to the bench. A reasonable midweek crowd of 753 watched the game, with a hardy contingent of 17 from Hayes & Yeading who had braved the long journey up to the North-West. It was these 17 that went away the most disappointed, after witnessing a strong display that left the Southport fans grateful for the final whistle and a clean sheet.
Pătulea started in a lively fashion, ghosting in behind the static Southport defence as early as the 3rd minute, but his attempt at a shot was blocked. Play immedaitely moved down to the Hayes & Yeading end of the pitch, where striker Steve Daly attacked the centre of the United defence at pace, before passing to Liam Blakeman who could only find the boot of Adam Bygrave, who's clearance cleared the immediate danger.
As the clock moved towards the quarter-hour mark, Hayes & Yeading started to exert more pressure, and a good one-two between Peter Holmes and red-booted Michael Malcolm resulted in a shot from Holmes, cleared away by the mountainous Sandgrounders defender, Earl Davis. No sooner as this move had broken down, Pătulea again turned away from his marker to give Holmes another chance, but his 18 yard effort cleared the bar by a distance.
A rare Southport attack followed on 21 minutes, when Matty McGinn moved past Bradley Pritchard on the right, moving the ball in to Alan Moogan, who stung keeper Lee Harrison's gloves with a fierce effort from 25 yards. Harrison parried the ball out for a corner, which was easily defended by the United rearguard.
Chances were still coming thick and fast as the game moved towards the half-hour mark, with Patulea making space to fire a shot at keeper Tony McMillan from the edge of the area, which McMillan managed to dive full stretch to tip round the post. Immediately after this, Lee Brown made a run down the left, his pin-point cross finding Peter Holmes whose shot was again tipped over by the impressive McMillan. On 36 minutes, James Mulley won the ball on the edge of the Southport box, moving the ball quickly inside to Michael Malcolm, whose vicious shot from the angle hit the top of the crossbar and away from danger.
Pătulea soon arrived in to the referee's notebook, when he was booked for "simulation", after being apparently being brought down in the Penalty area, but the half meandered towards the whistle, with no further action troubling the 'keepers at either end.
Garry Haylock was forced in to making an enforced change at half-time, when a recurrence of Lee Harrison's injury resulted in Josh Lennie being thrown in to the action for the second half. It was then Southport who had the brighter start as United struggled to get going after the half-time break, with three chances in the opening five minutes. Matty McGinn was causing problems from set pieces in and around the box, firing a 25 yard freekick just over the bar on 48 minutes, and then when Peter Holmes needlessly fouled Alan Moogan on the edge of the box, another shot came in. Josh Lennie appeared to see the ball very late, and with the ball skidding in to the far right of the goal, Lennie dived right, and tipped the ball round the post.
As United settled, the fine passing football that has been the trademark of the team this season started to shine through, but the crucial last part eluding the United strikeforce. On 50 minutes a cross from James Mulley found Pătulea in space in the box, whose shot was blocked, but the ball span to the on-rushing Pritchard, who should have done better than hitting the side netting from 10 yards. A few minutes later, the impressive Michael Malcolm beat Earl Davis for pace chasing a long through ball, his shot being beaten away for a corner by McMillan. United continued to press for the opening goal, and with Malcolm breezing past the defence at will, another cross came in, but was blocked by the Southport rearguard.
Garry Haylock decided that a change was necessary, and after 66 minutes Pătulea was replaced by Liam Enver-Marum in an attempt to find the breakthrough. However, the game seemed to go in to a lull for 10 minutes, although there continued to be no pressure on the United goal. On 76 minutes, another United corner was taken short by Peter Holmes who found Jamie Hand a full 30 yards out - A drive, very similar to the breathtaking goal scored away at Grimsby, came from his boot, which the keeper superbly tipped away from danger. It seemed as though nothing was going to enter the net!
The final substitution was made in the 78th minute, with Mulley replaced by Ahmed Deen, but apart from a good cross-shot from Bradley Pritchard which was inches away from Michael Malcolm, the game seemed to be petering out to a draw. As the game moved in to the three minutes of added time, defended Earl Davis carelessly lunged at Malcolm, giving United one final chance to carve out a victory, but Ahmed Deen could only see his free kick deflected away for a corner,
The second half was almost completely dominated by United, but a breakthrough could not be found, and Garry Haylock would have been disappointed that the long journey home to Middlesex would have to be made considering what could have been, what would have been a deserved United victory.
Report by Andy Corbett.
United Man of the Match: Michael Malcolm.