BRADFORD (Park Avenue) bowed out of the Vanarama National League North play-offs after a 1-0 defeat.

Despite a valiant effort from Mark Bower’s men, his side succumbed to a late goal from Spennymoor Town, who now advance to the semi-final at Brackley on Sunday.

Avenue had the run of the play for the first 70 minutes, but they just could not make their chances and possession tell.

While many would have been settling down for the eagerly anticipated Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Liverpool, there was a more important matter for these two sides in the lower echelons of the game.

Safe passage through three knockout rounds in the play-offs would see a valuable Vanarama National League berth awarded.

There was an element of déjà vu for Avenue who took part in the eliminator round last year, having finished in the exact same play-off position of seventh.

Despite a slump in their final few games, Bower’s men went into this fixture with confidence knowing that, unlike last year, when they jumped into the final spot on the last day, Avenue had spent much of the campaign at the head of the table.

Spennymoor could count on the firepower of the division’s top scorer, Glen Taylor, who has notched 25 league goals.

But Avenue had their own form of potent ammunition in the form of 21-goal loanee star Jake Beesley.

This, alongside the fact Bower’s men were coming up against an in-form Spennymoor side, whom they’d beaten twice previously in the league, promised a tasty affair.

Avenue began in a determined manner, getting stuck in and ensuring Spennymoor had little to build on.

Dangerman Taylor had a few decent touches early on and looked to be ready to strike, but the Avenue defensive line quelled the issue, as they did for the rest of the half.

Conor Branson was particularly impressive, sitting in front of Luca Havern and Danny Lowe, which provided an extra layer of protection against the early onslaught of long balls.

Nicky Clee seemed to be struggling on the left against Spennymoor’s Rob Ramshaw, who was their biggest first-half threat with balls into the box.

But he, and the rest of the Avenue side, worked themselves into the game.

Right-winger Lewis Knight was proving troublesome for the Spennymoor defence anyway, but as target-man Beesley got into the match, Knight became even more potent.

Beesley had cut a frustrated figure in the early exchanges, but his speed and presence of mind on the break to play it out wide to Knight on the counter provided the game’s first real chance.

The winger took a touch too far though and weak appeals for a penalty were waved away by the referee.

Another came when Beesley ran into the box, flicked it over the defender’s head and went down after being challenged, but nothing was given.

It was Jamie Spencer who nearly gave the Avenue fans in a healthy crowd of 1,509 something to cheer about though.

Again, Beesley was in action and his hold-up and neat short ball allowed Spencer to run on to the right of the box before he fired a shot goalwards.

Spennymoor keeper Matt Gould looked dodgy during the first half and his parry here wasn’t great, but his defence were alert enough to clear quickly.

The hosts then had an audacious attempt and it didn't go too far off.

Stephen Brogan laid the ball off from a free-kick around 35 yards with Taylor sprinting on to meet it.

His shot was fired towards goal, but it just evaded the top corner.

It was a brief sign of light for Spennymoor in this first half of small margins.

Avenue came out roaring in the second, but their early pressure was matched by Spennymoor who worked themselves into the game.

Ramshaw and Lewis Hawkins in particular were linking up well, and it was the duo who gave the hosts a decent chance early in the second half.

A moment of chaos where a big challenge on Danny East cannoned into being a useful through ball for Avenue lead to a decent chance.

Winger Keane Lewis-Potter ran onto it and with Spennymoor trying their best to get back, their clearance landed at the feet of Spencer who hit it over the bar.

As the game stretched into the latter stages, nerves began twitching.

Spennymoor began stringing passes together and the telling moment came in the 80th minute courtesy of winger Hawkins.

Scott Harrison drove from deep into the middle of the park, which was becoming more open as Avenue tired following a momentous effort of pressing and high intensity.

The Spennymoor defender then slotted a fantastic ball through to the left for the on-rushing Hawkins.

It seemed the chance had gone when the advanced Mark Ross got back to track him goal-side.

But the winger took a touch or two to his right before curling a sublime effort into the top-right corner – unreachable by keeper Charlie Andrew.

Avenue pushed to equalise and were nearly caught out, first by a well-hit free-kick from Stephen Brogan, which Andrew did well to save low to his left, and then from a late counter.

The visitors may have had a chance when they were given a dangerous free-kick deep into added time, but it wasn’t to be.

A late winner had put an end to Avenue's journey a stage earlier than last season.