Southport 3-3 Bradford (Park Avenue)

TRAVELLING across to Merseyside is usually a rewarding trip for Avenue, having not lost in over 15 years at Haig Avenue, and it was no different for Mark Bower’s men this time out.

It was a determined showing from Bradford as they played their part in a thrilling draw against Southport, in a match on a sand ridden surface which could have gone either way.

The afternoon began with a tribute to Jordan Sinnott. The 809 people in attendance along with both sets of players stood to observe a minute’s silence in memory of the young footballer who sadly passed away last weekend.

Bower made a couple of changes from the side who lost 2-0 to Altrincham last time out. Tom Clare returned while Adam Nowakowski came in for Alex Hurst in a 4-3-3 formation.

There was no sign of the early collapses which have hindered the visitors in previous weeks as they looked the better team for large spells of the opening exchanges.

The excellent Nicky Clee set the tone from the get-go with a crushing challenge on David Morgan,seemingly winning the ball, but he was placed in the book due to the ferocity of the challenge.

Avenue then took the lead for the first time in a match since November when Lewis Knight amazingly netted directly from a corner, curling his cross onto the far post before it found its way over the line.

It was the best half of football the bottom-placed side have played in a while with Clee, Knight and Clare all working tirelessly and linking up well in the process.

Although, there was no rest bite for Bradford as on the stroke of half time, Southport found themselves level from a simple throwing routine.

Reagan Ogle launched onto the head of Dean Winnard who flicked towards the back stick where George Newell stood to butt home.

However, Avenue heads did not drop with Bower’s half time speech working wonders immediately after the break. Clare profited from some great play from Clee who beat two men before being dragged down.

The referee was not convinced with the penalty shouts and let play continue which allowed the tall striker to bend a lovely effort past Dan Hanford.

The away side were masters of their own downfall minutes later when Morgan pulled it back to Bradley Bauress to level the scoring.

The Bradford back line was seized once again when Newell scored his second.

Billy Priestley was lucky to get away with a drag down in the box before Nicholson made a good save but the ball eventual fell to the number nine to gain a brace with his head.

Bower was still confident that his team could get back into it and threw on Oli Johnson and Alex Hurst, switching to a more offensive 4-4-2.

The turning point came when Newell spurred a hat-trick chance by firing straight at Nicholson in a one on one situation.

A minute later, Avenue went up the other end and grabbed that all important equaliser, Priestley leaped above everyone to connect with Johnson’s cross.

The action was far from over there though as Bradford missed two big opportunities to steal the spoils. Knight failed to connect to a Hurst pull back while Clare smacked the post from an acute angle.

Sandwiched in between the chances was a sending off for Stelios Demetriou who brought down Newell as he was about to pull the trigger.

Although three points were needed, this battling performance shows that Bradford will certainly not go down with a whimper if relegation is to happen.

Player Ratings: Nicholson 6, Toulson 6, Priestley 7, Hughes 5, Demetriou 5, Nowakowski 6 (Johnson 7) Clee 7, Hibbs 6, Hall 6 (Hurst 7) Clare 8, Knight 8 (Lund N/A)