BRADFORD (Park Avenue) boss Mark Bower has warned that his side’s huge home game with Vanarama National League North relegation rivals Curzon Ashton today could be “just as hard, if not harder” than their matches with Chester and King’s Lynn Town.

Avenue looked to have no chance of beating the drop a week ago, but secured stunning wins over promotion chasing Chester (2-1) last Saturday and title favourites Lynn (1-0) in midweek.

And a win at Horsfall today would see Avenue move just eight points behind Curzon, with nine games left to play.

Bower said: “Curzon will just as hard, if not harder, than the last two games because they will come with a different mentality.

“The pressure was on the others (Chester and King’s Lynn) to beat us, whereas Curzon are a small team whose aim is to try and survive in this league.

“They will think if they can get a win, or even a point, there won’t be any way for us to catch them up.

“Their last two games saw them only just lose to York and then get a point with 10-men against Boston, so that just shows how good they are.

“It’s a big, big game. A lot of people felt we were done after the (2-1) Gloucester defeat last month, but all of a sudden we’ve had a couple of surprise results.

“If we can get another one against Curzon, it cranks it up again. But our next four games (including Curzon), the aggregate in the reverse fixtures was scored none, conceded 17, so improvement is needed there.”

It will surely be a different Avenue that goes into these games though, and no-one will have more confidence than former Bradford City striker Tom Clare.

He scored the opener against Chester and the winner against King’s Lynn, taking his tally to five league goals for the season since joining in November.

Bower gave his full backing to the youngster, saying: “His return is not too bad, in terms of starts to goals.

“He’s such a physical presence up there with his size, and yet he’s only 20.

“All the young players in our side tend to get cut more slack, but because of his size, Tom doesn’t seem to.

“He’s only a young player and it’s a really tough role, playing as the lone striker like he has been, although we have switched to two up front over the last couple of games.

“You always get a bit of inconsistency with young players but that job (lone striker) is one that takes years to master, so I’m really pleased for him”

Bower was pleased with the way his side had defended, from front to back over the last two games too, and he hopes they can take that forward.

He said: “We’re going in the right direction. You do need a bit of luck too, and a couple of deflected efforts that might have gone in against us over the last few months, that’s not happened (against Chester and King’s Lynn).

“Getting in front like we have in those two games just gives you something to hold on to.

“But we’ve played two free scoring teams in King’s Lynn and Chester and neither was a smash and grab win. (Goalkeeper) Tom Nicholson has barely had a save to make.

“Mitch Lund has filled in brilliantly at centre half and Stelios (Demetriou, who made a brilliant goal line clearance at King’s Lynn) has that experience at full-back.

“We’ve worked really hard from the front in those games, and they’ve not had many chances (either team) against us, let alone goals.”

It hasn’t all been positive over the past week, with Bower confirming that Adam Nowakowski and Oli Johnson, who both played a part against Chester and King’s Lynn, will definitely miss out on the Curzon game with injury.

He said he is confident though, that the remaining players will give their all to secure victory, in what is a must-win game for Avenue.