Alfreton Town recorded their long-awaited first win of the season to climb off the foot of the Vanarama Conference in the process.
The Reds recorded a 2-0 win away to Southport to pick up their first win in an unforgettable 17 games stretching back to when they defeated Tamworth 4-2 on 18th March.
Karl Hawley was given his first start up front alongside Joe Ironside, with Massiah McDonald reverting to the bench, and his inclusion was instantly merited with an assist and a goal inside the opening nine minutes to put the Reds firmly in control.
Other changes saw Chris Smith return to the heart of the defence after a spell out injured, whilst Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Anthony Howell were recalled after suspension, their positions vacated by Dan Gray, Jake Sheridan and the injured Nathan Hicks.
The whole shape of the game was formed in that initial nine minute period, with Ironside scoring the third goal of his loan spell within 90 seconds of the start when he charged down Dominic Collins’ attempted clearance and the ball rebounded off him before bobbling into the net.
Hawley’s exquisite back-heel had set up the move, with Tom Shaw’s shot blocked before Hawley’s deflected effort was directed at Collins.
Southport thought they had leveled the score after seven minutes when a neat move involving John Marsden, Danny Hattersley and David Fitzpatrick ended with Paul Rutherford smashing a header against the crossbar from close range.
That miss was immediately punished with Alfreton forcing a right-wing corner, which Shaw delivered deep with a deft flick-on by Smith, Hawley cutting in to send an angled drive arrowing into the bottom corner of the net with Southport’s defence all at sea.
It was fairly mundane stuff after that initial surge of activity, but that format clearly suited the Reds, who were able to comfortably control the game, Howell embarking on a protracted run in the 11th minute before firing tamely at keeper Danny Lloyd-Weston.
Hawley then scuffed a decent chance wide from just outside the area, then at the other end on 19 minutes Reds’ keeper Cameron Dawson comfortably held Stephen Brogan’s free-kick.
The young loanee keeper’s confidence increases every game and he competently dealt with a powerful Scott Kay header from Brogan’s 22nd minute cross, then Fitzpatrick fired a pot-shot over from 30 yards as the Sandgrounders were held at bay.
Successive crosses from Brogan did cause concern though six minutes before the break, with Hattersley heading across the face of goal from the first and a scrambled corner the product of the latter.
Andi Thanoj sent Hawley through on 41 minutes, but the ball would not settle for the striker and he was quickly crowded out by recovering defenders, then Hawley was left clear by Jordan Keane only for Lloyd-Weston to somehow prevent a third goal with his legs.
Seven minutes into the second half Rutherford squandered a golden opportunity for Southport to claw their way back into the game when sprinting free before inexplicably cutting inside with only Dawson to beat, a decision that allowed Luke Graham to block.
Ironside’s effort from 22 yards was held comfortably by the keeper, then after 64 minutes Joe Connor’s shot was deflected behind by Shaw from an Andy Mitchell cross.
A 70th minute corner led to Mitchell’s volley being held by Dawson, then in response Howell saw his shot blocked before forcing Lloyd-Weston to parry as he latched on to the follow-up with the assistance of Ironside.
Too little too late Southport created a couple of chances in the closing stages with Danny Whitehall’s header from a Rutherford cross glancing off a Reds’ defender for a corner, and a John Gorman free-kick whistling millimeters over the bar.
ALFRETON: Dawson; Wood, Smith, Graham, Rowe-Turner, Keane, Howell, Shaw (Sheridan 68 mins), Thanoj, Ironside (Clayton 87 mins), Hawley.
Subs not used: Igiehon, McDonald, Gorman.
Att: 832 (41 away)