Bradford Park Avenue 2 Stockport County 3

A GOAL deep into added time broke Bradford hearts as Park Avenue came out second best in a five-goal thriller against former Football League rivals Stockport County.

The Hatters had bossed the first half but Avenue deservedly pegged them back after the break and looked to have done enough to secure at least a draw, until County midfielder James Ball made it 3-2 when he netted a dipping volley which sparked a pitch inspection by the large number of visiting supporters.

It was a fourth straight victory in the Vanarama National North for the Hatters and their fans knew that their side had just climbed to sixth place and in the play-off positions..

The match at the Horsfall Stadium was subjected to a delayed 3.15 kick off following a traffic accident on the M62.

Stockport’s were soon in their stride and took a seventh-minute lead when a low ball into the danger zone by Matty Warburton ball hit striker Jason Oswell on the ankle and left the home defence flat-footed.

The visitors doubled their lead on the hour mark when Avenue keeper Steve Drench made a rare error. He dropped a lofted cross and Oswell pounced.

County substitute Sam Minihan’s foul in the 71st minute earned him a yellow card and led to the home side gaining a foothold.

The resulting free kick from Nicky Wroe wasn’t cleared and Javan Vidal’s low shot found the bottom corner.

Avenue were invigorated and went in search of the equaliser which they got eight minutes from time thanks to the efforts of one of their substitutes and the referee’s excellent advantage decision.

Jamie Spencer won the ball back with three committed challenges and sent Frank Mulhern through as he was held back by County’s Jamie Stott.

Referee Leigh Doherty allowed play to continue and Mulhern lashed a shot past Frank Hinchliffe, before the official produced a yellow card for Stott.

Avenue had the momentum and looked the stronger side going into the final minutes but were hit by the sucker punch.

Having seen his side’s promotion hopes dwindle even further, disappointed Avenue boss Mark Bower said: “It was a sickener in the end because the way the lads battled to get back into the game in that second half was different class.”

“We weren’t at it in the first half and they (Stockport) were the better side by a million miles. You could tell that it was our third game in a week and we’d rushed players back from injury.

“In the second half we got back into it and the goal gave us a lift and going into that final ten minutes at 2-2 I thought we looked comfortable but we’ve switched off for a minute, let a runner through and he’s not hit it cleanly but it’s flown in.

“That’s how it goes when your luck’s down, it’s a bit cruel in the end because in terms of effort and determination to get through a third game in six or seven days I thought we deserved something from it.”