Park Avenue 0, FC United of Manchester 2
Avenue’s dreams of promotion to the Blue Square North ended in heartbreak for a second season on the trot when they lost at home to FC United of Manchester in the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-off semi-finals.
The Bradford club ended the Roses clash – watched by a crowd of 2,785 – with ten men following the dismissal of centre back James Riley early in the second half.
That second yellow came just minutes after the visitors had doubled their first-half lead.
The visitors broke the deadlock when Matty Wolfenden pounced on a rebound to slot in after Avenue keeper John Lamb had parried an effort from skipper Mike Norton. That sparked wild celebrations in the throngs of visiting supporters and smoke from a flare.
Avenue went close to an equaliser when an effort following a Martin Drury corner was headed off the line and onto the crossbar.
There was still all to play for at the start of the second half but just two minutes had elapsed when Norton latched onto Wolfenden’s ball across the area to steer in United’s second.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for Avenue’s chances in the 50th minute when Riley went for an early bath. His second booking was for dissent as he hurled the ball to the turf in frustration.
Norton had the ball in the Avenue net once again but was flagged offside and, as time ebbed away, Avenue striker Aiden Savory missed a glorious opportunity.
It was a phenomenal effort for Avenue to finish third in the table and gain home advantage in the play-offs after John Deacey had returned to the club for a third spell in the hot-seat. But ultimately, it proved to be a step too far.
FC United of Manchester now travel to Colwyn Bay to contest the play-off final on Bank Holiday Monday. Bay beat North Ferriby United by the same score-line in the other semi-final last night.
* Park Avenue’s reserves travel to Silsden tomorrow (3pm) knowing that a single point will secure the Lancashire League East Division title.