Bradford Park Avenue are expecting a bumper crowd as they host FC United of Manchester in tomorrow night’s Evo-Stik League Premier Division play-off semi-final.
John Deacey’s men snatched home advantage for the one-off clash to determine who goes through to Bank Holiday Monday’s final with a 3-1 away win on the last day of the regular season. Avenue clinched third spot as FC United suffered a defeat and had to settle for fourth.
The Horsfall side will be keen to go one better than last year but know the might of their opponents. At the end of the last campaign, Avenue were second to Guiseley and in the box seat for the play-offs, only to end up beaten in the final by Boston United after extra time.
Both Guiseley and Boston have done well in the Blue Square Bet North competition this term and are challenging for promotion to the top tier of non-League football.
Avenue have seen that and desperately want to emulate last season’s rivals but are aware of the popularity and financial clout of the club born out of the Glazers’ takeover at Old Trafford.
“To have finished third, above FC United, is amazing after the position we were in when John (Deacey) returned as manager,” said Avenue chairman John Dean.
“I think we were 16th and almost half of the season was gone but John and his assistant Mark Hume have done wonderfully well. When we won at Mickleover in the last league game, it was our eighth victory on the trot.
“The players, the management team and even the supporters were disappointed because it was 3-1, which meant we had let a goal in. The last goal we conceded before that was April 2 – and Mickleover got their goal in the 88th minute, so that made it more galling in a way.
“For us all to be so upset just because we let one in late in a 3-1 win shows what brilliant form we have been in and we hope John can keep working his magic for the next two games and take us up, especially after last year’s bitter disappointment against Boston.”
The down side of the win at Mickleover was not, however, the goal conceded as Avenue suffered injuries that may hamper Deacey’s selections for tomorrow.
Striker Tom Greaves, who passed 20 goals for the season in last Saturday’s 4-0 home win, was rested but fellow forward Nicky Boshell pulled up with a hamstring strain and midfielder Nathan Hotte was carried off.
Hotte was able to walk after the game but only tentatively, so he and Boshell will have late fitness tests. But James Knowles does return to the squad after serving both his one-match bans in the last two fixtures.