ANDY Cook bagged his 50th Barrow AFC goal with a dead-eyed finish that breathed life into the Bluebirds’ National League campaign.

Cook was recalled to the starting line-up after overcoming a knee problem and his goalscoring prowess once again proved the difference as the talismanic figure banged home his third of the campaign not long before the break.

Lacklustre Southport lost the plot late on as Andrai Jones and Josh Thompson were sent off.

The Bluebirds saw off a toothless Sandgrounders outfit who remain bottom of the table. They already appear to be a strong relegation contender after struggling to lay a glove on their hosts during most of a clash that lacked sustained periods of quality play.

If Barrow know they face a big task to topple the division’s big guns – having already been beaten by fancied sides Grimsby, Forest Green and Cheltenham – then they at least know they should be more than a match for many of its lesser lights.

In the end, though, Edmondson’s men made hard work of sealing their second win of the season, adding to their 2-1 opening-day success against Dover.

Despite being the better side in general play for the most part – in offering superior hunger and ability in possession – they failed to engineer many clear-cut chances as their decision-making in the final third was found wanting.

This underwhelming affair produced too much huffing and puffing when, on another day, AFC could have blown the Sandgrounders away.

Edmondson was back in the dug-out after serving a five-match touchline ban, imposed for making a sexist comment in relation to a female official last season – a charge the manager still strongly denies.

New winger Benjamin van den Broek made his full AFC debut – replacing David Mellor in the side – while Cook came in for on-loan teenage attacker Sam Cosgrove.

Andy Haworth, playing on the opposite flank to van den Broek on the right, was full of running during the first half. But his efforts were often let down by poor end product.

In the first minute his shot deflected off-target. Early headers from Grand and Cook went astray, while the latter also nodded straight at keeper Andy Coughlin.

Coughlin’s impressive goalkeeping counterpart, Joel Dixon, got to the ball ahead of Southport striker Andy Bishop, after Grand miscued his clearance.

Paddy Lacey was hauled down by Andy Wright, before Jason Walker’s free-kick sailed over in the 15th minute.

Haworth aimed a fierce strike wide before he fired in a far less convincing long-range shot that also missed the target. Southport occasionally pushed the Bluebirds back, with George Williams preventing Mike Phenix from shooting on goal with a timely intervention.

Another Haworth shot from distance went high and wide, before his low attempt deflected harmlessly through to Coughlin on 29 minutes.

Cook delivered his decisive contribution on 39 minutes. The ball fell to Grand, who helped the ball on to Cook at the second attempt. The striker brought the ball under his spell, held off Luke Foster, and drilled his angled seven-yard drive into the left-hand corner.

Barrow started the second period positively, but they once again failed to carve out good chances as the game then fell decidedly flat.

Southport wasted a rare opportunity on 62 minutes as Bishop connected with Matty Challoner’s cross and volleyed wide.

Soon after, Neil Ashton and Walker produced crosses that did not pick out a team-mate.

AFC kept pushing forward without reward as lively substitute Elliot Newby was stopped in his tracks in the visitors’ box by Challoner’s well-timed challenge on 81 minutes.

Moments later, Newby’s left-channel strike was turned around the post by Coughlin’s save.

Newby was left in a heap in the 88th minute after being chopped down by Jones’ lunging tackle which was punished with a straight red card.

AFC endured a late scare as Dixon clawed away Thompson’s header in the third minute of injury time.

There was still time for Thompson to receive his marching orders as he was dismissed for kicking out at substitute Cosgrove. Barrow went on to extend their unbeaten home run this season to three games.

And Edmondson said of Cook: “Once he starts to pin defenders in the penalty area he’s a big unit to shift and we know he’ll hit the target.

“So it was pleasing for him. I thought that he generally did very well. He was getting a little bit frustrated in the second half when we were pumping balls up above him and he then has to fight for a few and centre-halves then like to unsettle.

“So he’s still got to learn that side of it, to channel his frustrations in the right way.

“But, generally, it was an excellent performance from him.”

Barrow AFC: Joel Dixon, George Williams, Danny Livesey, Simon Grand, Neil Ashton, Van den Broek (Elliot Newby 71), Alex-Ray Harvey, Paddy Lacey, Andy Haworth, Andy Cook (Sam Cosgrove 87), Jason Walker (Ashley Grimes 84).

Substitutes not used: Aaran Taylor, Niall Cowperthwaite.

Southport: Andy Coughlin, Matty Challoner, Josh Thompson, Luke Foster, Andy Wright, Andy Bishop, Gary Jones, Adam Blakeman (Jamie Allen 53), Andrai Jones, Mike Phenix (Paul Rutherford 76), Courtney Cameron (Connor Mccarthy 70).

Substitutes not used: Liam Nolan, Jon Viscosi.

Referee: K Evans.

Attendance: 1,343.