Bradford Park Avenue 1 FC United of Manchester 0
(after extra-time, 0-0 after 90 mins)
)The goal-poaching instinct of Tom Greaves saw Avenue finally reach their promised land as they gained promotion to the Blue Square Bet North Division.
Greaves’ clinical finish from three yard in the penultimate minute of stoppage time condemned FC United to another season in the Evo-Stik Premier Division and removed the threat of the penalty shoot-out lottery that was imminent.
There was already enough nervous tension around a packed Horsfall Stadium and Greaves’ goal was a more fitting end to an enthralling afternoon.
The first ten minutes of the game were a blur of action, with both teams looking for an early initiative, but from then on Bradford were firmly in the driving seat.
Former Avenue keeper Jon Worsnop returned to Horsfall in United’s colours and it was he who had to make the first save. Alex Davidson cut inside and made himself room for a shot but Worsnop gathered.
Davidson provided the next opening, only to see Nicky Boshell fire over from inside the area, but he was soon limping out of the game with a foot injury.
Club captain Rob O’Brien replaced Davidson and within two minutes he provided a cross for Richard Marshall but his header went into Worsnop’s arms.
The first of two controversial incidents happened midway through the first half. FC United winger Carlos Roca appeared to catch Avenue left back Martin Drury with an elbow. There was a long stoppage but no action from the referee.
Boshell fired over again, this time with a volley from the edge of the area after a corner, but the visitors ended the first half with a half chance of their own. Centre back Adam Jones’ header to a corner was easily plucked out of the air by Lamb.
Bradford bossed possession in the second half without really creating clear-cut chances, with FC United sitting deep and relying on the breakaway.
There were two almighty scrambles in the FC United area but both ended up with Avenue players having hands on heads as chances went begging.
If the visitors were fortunate when Roca was not – at least – yellow-carded for his challenge on Drury, they were exceptionally lucky to end the game with a full compliment after Jake Cotterill landed blows on an Avenue player as the pair hit the ground following a 50/50 challenge. There was an immediate melee but again no action from the referee.
The visitors stepped up a gear in extra-time while Avenue’s players looked tired after their endeavours throughout the game.
However, the home side had fresh legs up front. O’Brien, who only made the bench after recovering from a troublesome knee injury, was forced off in the 72nd minute and replaced by Matty James. Greaves came on four minutes before the end of the first extra period.
FC United threatened to steal the game but Avenue’s defence were stoic and then came the knife through Manchester hearts. With a little over 90 seconds remaining, Avenue launched another concerted attack which eventually led to Adam Clayton drilling the ball into the box and there was Greaves to add the crucial touch.
Delighted boss John Deacey said: “I thought we deserved it because we played well. We are all absolutely delighted. We just want to go and enjoy the celebrations now because these kinds of victories, days like this, don’t come around that often.”