JUST 90 minutes after Mark Bower returned to the dugout at the Horsfall Stadium, Bradford (Park Avenue) were out of the relegation zone in the Vanarama National North after a deserved 3-2 victory over play-off hopefuls Hereford.

Bower led the club to back-to-back play-off finishes in his first spell but there was a parting of the ways at the end of last season. The board turned back to the former Bradford City centre back after a disappointing beginning to 2019/20 under Garry Thompson and then interim manager Marcus Law.

Avenue were second bottom of the table and had not won at home all season but Bower brought the magic back and the crowd went wild as they celebrated.

Two familiar faces had returned in the fortnight since Avenue’s last game as utility player Adam Nowakowski and defender Billy Priestley were in the squad. They started alongside Joe Green, the former Guiseley keeper making his Avenue debut.

Nowakoski was deployed as a holding midfielder but he pounced to steer home the opening goal after the visitors failed to clear a ninth-minute free-kick. It was half-cleared but, as the ball back in caused confusion for the Bulls defenders, Nowakowski slotted in.

Keeper Brandon Hall was beaten again midway through the first half as a rejuvenated Avenue mounted a rapid counter-attack following a corner for the visitors.

Debutant Green had done well to palm over the bar a ball that looped up and dropped towards his goal. The resulting corner was cleared at the second attempt and a deep cross to the far post picked out Lewis Knight, who netted a superb finish, hooking the ball on the volley over his shoulder past a stunned Hall.

Hereford halved the deficit soon after the half-hour from a questionable penalty after Mitch Lund was judged to have fouled Tom Owen-Evans, winger Peter Vincenti sending Green the wrong way from the spot.

Hereford boss Russell Slade had seen enough and words were exchanged in the dressing room. Owen-Evans didn’t reappear for the second half as Kelsey Mooney replaced the forward.

The change didn’t bring the desired effect as Avenue increased their lead just six minutes into the second half when they were awarded a penalty. Bulls right back Kieron Thomas bundled Avenue striker Dan Sweeney over and he got up to send Hall the wrong way from the spot before being mobbed in the celebrations.

It was a nail-biting last half-hour after Hereford cut the arrears for a second time. In a goalmouth scramble in Avenue’s area, Tommy O’Sullivan seized the opportunity to prod past Green.

But Avenue held on as Bower said: “The players have responded well and having a couple back who know the club and know this level made a big difference.

“I thought they played well as did Joe Green on his debut. When we were under pressure late on you need a good keeper and Joe’s handling was excellent. But from one to 11 everyone did well.

“We needed a good start and the early goal from Adam really helped to settle everyone down and boost confidence. The win has lifted everyone and to get it against a very good side who are in the play-off places is a massive boost.

“But there is a lot of hard work in front of us if we are to secure our place in this division. I hope no one is getting carried away because we’ve won one game – there is a long way to go and I’m sure there will be some difficult days along the way.”