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Monday, 06 July 2015

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Stags mauling won’t make Barrow easy prey - Southport boss

SOUTHPORT boss Liam Watson has refused to be drawn into a dangerous false sense of security by Barrow AFC’s 8-1 Mansfield mauling.

THE LATE SHOW Richie Baker and Adam Boyes celebrate Baker’s late winner in AFC’s 3-2 victory over Southport at Holker Street in October. Baker is suspended for tonight’s re-match, while Boyes will lead the line REF: 50039597B016

While Dave Bayliss’s men were being put to the sword on Saturday, Southport were busy claiming their first win in four Blue Square Bet Premier games with a 1-0 victory over relegation-haunted Nuneaton Town.

Victory leaves Southport sitting 13th in the table – nine places and 10 points clear of third-from-bottom Barrow, having played two games more.

But having witnessed Barrow’s superb recent successes over high-flying duo Newport (2-0) and Luton Town (1-0), plus his own team’s 2-1 home reverse against Mansfield Town last month, Watson will not be taking anything for granted in tonight’s Haig Avenue clash.

“Barrow have played Newport, Luton and Mansfield in their last three games – if someone had offered Dave six points out of nine he would have snapped their hands off,” he said.

“I think Mansfield are the best team we have faced this season, certainly attacking-wise, because when we played them a few weeks ago they were really powerful. Dave wouldn’t have expected to get beat 8-1, but it was always going to be a tough game.

“And, at the end of the day, it is only one game isn’t it? The wins against Newport and Luton have really pulled them into the survival pack because the bottom 12 are in the scrap.

“It doesn’t matter who you play and what’s gone on in the previous game, because every time you get a point in this league it’s a good one.

“That’s especially the case when you are a part-time team like us. Dave has been a winner as a player and as a manager, so his players are going to have the same mentality and I know we are going to be in for a tough evening.”

Southport are a picture of inconsistency at home, with a 14-game record of five wins, six defeats and three draws.

Having earned promotion to the Conference Premier in 2010 the part-timer’s season is at a crossroads, as they trail the play-off places by 11 points and stand clear of the drop zone by 10. Watson now believes his side are entering a crucial stage of the campaign, although his top priority is ensuring the Sandgrounders do not sink into the relegation mire.

“This little period will dictate where we are as a team and we’ve also got a really tough run-in,” added Watson.

“It depends what the magical survival number is – people always used to say it was 46 points, but it is more likely to be 50 this year.

“We’ve got 16 matches left and over the next six games I’d like us to get around nine points and, if we achieved that amount, we’ll have 48 points, meaning we would need one more win in our last 10 games.

“If somebody offered you that, you would snap their hand off.”

Watson, a former England C attacker, had to rebuild his squad in the summer after losing a number of key players, including their former top-scorer and talismanic striker Tony Gray.

But he still has plenty of attacking weapons to unleash, including the highly-rated and versatile attacker Shaun Whalley who has attracted interest from Football League sides.

The 25-year-old has netted seven goals this season – one less than top scoring midfielder Karl Ledsham.

“Shaun has probably been our best player for a couple of years,” said Watson.

“On transfer deadline day last month there was an awful lot of interest in him and I fully expect to lose him in the summer.

“He’ll certainly move into the professional game at one level or another.

“But we were lucky enough that we never accepted the offers and he’s got another year to run on his contract.

“He’s been exciting as he scores goals, wins penalties and he has a great delivery from set-pieces.

“It’s going to be really difficult to replace him when the time comes, but we’ll just enjoy him while we’ve still got him.”

lBarrow AFC are expected to finalise a one-month loan deal for an experienced centre-back who plays for a Football League club.

Speaking last night, assistant-boss Ashley Hoskin said: “Somebody might be coming in before tonight’s game.

“The player himself is quite keen to come, and we’ve just got to tie in with his club about what sort of money we contribute to his wages, plus one or two other bits. If we get this player it will be a massive boost for the club.

“He has got Football League games under his belt and he would be a presence at any club.

“He’s a big lad, he’s a talker, an organiser and the bottom line is he’s a winner.”

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