Bradford Park Avenue 1, Stalybridge Celtic 1
Bradford Park Avenue’s final home game of the campaign ended with a tame second-half display which allowed Stalybridge Celtic to come from a goal down and snatch a crucial point.
The visitors’ status in Skrill Conference North was sealed for another season, thanks to substitute Josh Green’s 71st-minute strike.
Bradford remained tenth, despite only taking one point, and a win at Oxford City next Saturday will see them stay there.
The home side were far from their best in their final bow in front of their own fans but Bradford boss John Deacey said: “We have to be satisfied with that. I thought we played well and full credit goes to Stalybridge.
“They were battling to stay in this division and they fought hard, and I’m pleased for them because they are a good club. I wouldn’t have liked to see them drop out of the league.
“That doesn’t mean we handed it to them. We made one mistake and that let them in for their goal. It was difficult for us because we had a lot of players missing and we lost our talisman (Jordan Deacey) in the warm-up.”
The manager’s son was named on the teamsheet and by the PA announcer but, after taking part in the warm-up, he wandered out of the dressing room with a tracksuit on and sat on the bench.
Hasty rearrangements led to Scott Maxfield coming into the starting line-up and Richard Marshall playing much further forward than expected. The changes affected the home side settling down.
Stalybridge had a lot of possession in the opening quarter of the game but once Bradford had adjusted to the new system they wrestled the initiative back.
They were knocking on the door when shots across the face of the Celts’ goal from Chib Chilaka and Paul Walker went agonisingly wide of the far post. A couple of headers from set-pieces also went just wide of the target.
Avenue finally broke the deadlock following another dead-ball situation. A 41st-minute corner was well delivered by Grant Black, James Knowles headed it down and Chilaka lashed the ball home on the spin as it sat up.
Just minutes into the second half, Avenue lost midfielder Jamie Price to injury. With skipper Nathan Hotte, who was already carrying an injury, forced to replace Price, it was the beginning of the end for the home side.
Stalybridge began to gain control and an equaliser was on the cards. It arrived following a quick breakaway from an Avenue corner and was finished by Green, who curled a shot from just inside the area around Lamb.