BRADFORD (Park Avenue) came close to pulling off a major shock in the Vanarama National North as they led at half-time at promotion-chasing Chester, only to end with a 2-1 defeat and ten men after a late red card for Isaac Marriott.

The opening spell was all the home side but they couldn’t get a sight of Joe Green’s goal and, after a shot from the Blues’ Brad Jackson had gone close at one end, from the counter-attack Oli Johnson placed a close range effort just wide.

Avenue’s next attack was soon after the quarter hour and it stemmed from Alex Hurst seizing possession ahead of Jackson and lashing a shot from distance. It was dipping and Chester keeper Russ Griffiths was forced to palm it for a corner, from which Billy Priestley gave the visitors the lead.

Chester had a lot of first-half possession but little to show for it as Joel Taylor hit a free-kick straight at Green and Blues debutant Elton Ngwatala did well to burst through, only to scuff his shot wide.

Bradford were good value for their half-time lead but it all went wrong soon after the interval and it was a controversial goal that began the comeback.

A ball over the top took a deflection and dropped for former Guiseley loanee Anthony Dudley and, with only Green to beat, he slotted in the equaliser.

Avenue immediately claimed offside but the match officials were unmoved. The incident seemed to unsettle the visitors and they allowed mistakes to creep into their game.

Five minutes later, Chester’s Jackson carried the ball forward and found Akwasi Asante and his shot from the edge of the area took a big deflection before finding the top corner of Green’s net.

In the penultimate minute Marriott picked up a second yellow card and was sent off.

While the defeat leaves Avenue still four points adrift at the foot of the table, Chester remain in the same position as they and the two clubs above them, leaders King's Lynn Town and second-placed York City, all won.

Park Avenue manager Mark Bower said: “There are obviously positives to take out of it but there is also a huge sense of injustice about it.

“We were beaten by an offside goal and a shot that took a massive deflection. The equalising goal was a joke.

"The assistant and the referee missed a long ball that came off their man who was offside. There was no argument that the player it came off was behind our defence but they thought it was one of our men.

“They more or less put their hands up to that one after the game but it’s hard to take because we deserved a point.

"We played like we did at Gloucester (last week’s 2-0 win in the FA Trophy) barring one ten-minute spell at the start of the second half, but we deserved something from a tough game against a full-time side.

“We were a goal up – a really good goal from a set-piece - at half-time and we’d had the best chance of the half other than the goal when OJ (Johnson) went close. We knew they would keep the ball well but they didn’t really get through.

“The goal that should never have been given really knocked the stuffing out of us and we had a bad ten minutes. That was a poor reaction on our part. We need to be stronger than that and get on with things no matter what the circumstances.

“But I can’t criticise the lads at all. Chester’s other goal was a speculative strike that took a wicked deflection so the lads have been unfortunate. A lot of things have gone against us recently but that’s what happens when you’re down there, but if we keep doing what we are we’ll pick points up.”