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  • Writer's pictureHead Scout

Lambs Unleashed

Tamworth 4-0 Southport (National League North)



I was at the Old Vol in Caythorpe last night for a bite to eat and a couple of pints. The place was once a good old run down after work ‘locals only’ village boozer but now looks like the Love Island Villa and attracts celebrities like Forest footballers, Notts cricketers and local BBC News presenters which is all a bit ‘Instagram’ famous for me but the food was at least half decent. We opted not to sit inside an outdoor glass pod though, but instead ate our meal in a room that had real life plants growing out the walls and ceiling.

 

Today I’m hobbling with a sore foot which has given me standard nightly jip of late as I take Bruce to the mother in laws ahead of my commute down the M1 and onto the M42 and through the back end of Tamworth as I pass Statfold Country Park.

 

The Lambs were silenced in defeat at Chester in their last match but they’re still in a dogfight with Scunthorpe at the top of the National League North. The chase really hotting up after 21 games with just a two point gap leaving little margin for error.

 

I’ve never actually seen Southport play well and they got tonked last time out in the FA Trophy by high flying National League leaders Chesterfield 6-1. They're fifteenth and have otherwise done ok in recent weeks, the last league match ending in a 1-0 win at Buxton.



 The Venue

 

I’ve managed to find a space on the Kettlebrook Road which saves a few quid in using the clubs official car park and I walk through to the reception where I’m told where to go despite my name not being on the guestlist.

 

A quick wee before ordering a tea, I also buy a snickers as a guy serving food tells me there’s a minimum charge of £5 to use my card, I luckily have a twenty pound note which he accepts, whilst flipping some burgers and charging me £3.50.

 

The stench is fried onions as I help myself to milk on the side before walking to my desk in the media section five rows up and not far from half way. The sun belting down in my eyes behind one of the goals, it’s really warm as I take my coat off and tell the Tamworth Radio presenter setting up, “I can’t believe it’s December”.

 

The ground is quaint, red painted low roofed and compact with terraced houses behind the far side, some quirky floodlights like something your auntie Thelma would have in her hallway dangling down from the ceiling. The green synthetic carpet glistening under the sun as I notice on the concrete floor where I’m sat, those annoying bits of black rubber hoops that come standard on these horrible but efficient all weather pitches, these bits have made it has high as the top tier of this cushty little West Midlands football ground. I don’t miss my days of playing five a side when I used to offload them all in my bathroom after getting home on a Wednesday night and taking off my socks before hopping in the shower following an hour’s run around with mates.

 

The Game

 

Since last Saturday, I keep getting early goals in the games I cover and that happens again today as within six minutes a free kick is curled home by Tshikuna from outside the area after a rash challenge by a lunging Southport leg goes punished.


The home side are on it as they attack their opponents goal. Midfielder Tom Tonks is tiny but he can throw it a mile. Tamworth have a bit of everything from the barrel chested no nonsense defender Liam Dolman to the tricky Kyle Finn out wide, they also have quite a bit of pace in Ben Acquaye, Chris Wreh and the thick set Tshikuna who all link excitedly together.


Southport are nothing special, but they have a player I remember from his academy days at Nottingham Forest. Balding midfielder David Morgan now 29 is captain of the Sandgrounders and is a former Northern Ireland youth international who has had two spells at Haig Avenue since 2017.


Morgan takes all the set plays but can’t impact his team to a positive persistence on Tamworth’s back line. At the other end Tonks tricks everyone and throws short for Acquaye to hook in over his head and double the home sides advantage.


There’s a few handbags and it’s nitty picky, stop starty and irritatingly slow as referee Melissa Burgin stamps her authority on the game. At one point I’m thinking she’s abandoning the match for something which was said in the crowd to her. The bookings have totted up for each side prior to the break as she frequently talks to the teams dugouts and her own assistants. When play finally resumes, Chris Wreh, a home debutant suddenly has time and space to make it three. It’s going to be a long, miserable way back to Southport from here.


The Score


Half time can’t come soon enough for the away side and in fairness to Southport they improve and have a go in the early stages of the second 45. The game suddenly becomes open, end to end even as the away side play more directly on the break as Tamworth themselves push players forward as 'everybody' wants a goal.


Andy Peake has made some substitutes and welcomes back club captain Ben Milne along with last season’s top scorer Dan Creaney from injury. The depth of quality the side has is impressive and I like the way they have that bit of everything in their makeup. Right winger Kyle Finn has been quiet but he has time and space with ten left and wraps his left foot around the ball to curl home a beauty from outside the area. There’s time for more attempts late on as Tamworth search for five but not before Finn brawls with Southport sub Jack Bainbridge which surprisingly goes unpunished. Plenty of fight in both sets of teams but one is miles ahead of the other in talent and technique department.


The Stars


Nathan Tshikuna shines a light for me as a powerful progressive player in the final third. His touch of class coming off his right boot when he scored an early free kick. On the left, Ben Acquaye was effective, direct, tricky, quick and on the right, Kyle Finn certainly has some star quality.


Defensively, I like the keeper Jas Singh who’s most competent whilst Jordan Cullinane-Liburd is an elegant centre half who reads the game really well. Less elegant, but even more educated is Liam Dolman who was awkwardly fantastic as he always is when I watch him. He’s one of those players due to his rounded shape that attackers will always fancy getting the better of, until they actually play against him and he smashes them to pieces, using that weight to every bit of effect, he's almost impossible to run around.


Few positives for Southport but in the second half especially, Tyler Walton was at least confident and direct down the right wing and he caused problems on the break, defensively Southport weren’t at the races but their goalkeeper Chris Renshaw can at least sleep easy tonight that he played his part in keeping the score down.


The Verdict


I told a Tamworth press guy that ‘Scunthorpe will be everyone’s Cup final and that just might play into your hands’ as the title race hots up further into 2024. Nobody will be looking forward to playing Tamworth but some will fancy taking the big scalp of Scunny, that might just be the difference when it comes to the seasons end with little to choose between the two sides.


Southport are a funny old team who I’m still yet to ever see play well... I’m sure they have something to offer in the National League North, I’ve just not yet seen it myself in the last year as I look for signs of 'what they are good at?'... Now sitting eighteenth with a five point margin on the bottom four, the really surprising thing for me however, is that they are also five points off eighth and a potential playoff push.


The Teams


Tamworth: Jas Singh, Matt Curley, Kyle Finn, Luke Fairlamb, Ben Acquaye (Kai Williams 85), Jordan Cullinane-Liburd, Liam Dolman, Nathan Tshikuna (Ben Milnes 72), Jamie Jellis, Tom Tonks, Chris Wreh (Dan Creaney 74).


Southport: Chris Renshaw, Matt Thomson, Harry Flowers, David Morgan, Marcus Carver, Tyler Walton (Michael O'Neill 78), Keenan Quansah, Josh Hmani (Jack Bainbridge 61), Brad Holmes, Will Squires, Richie Bennett.


3:00pm Kick Off. Saturday 16th December 2023, The Lamb Ground, Tamworth (att 1,100).

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