JOHNNY Saltmer can count himself unlucky to be out of the Bradford (Park Avenue) team at the moment, but his manager Mark Bower insists bringing in former Bantams keeper George Sykes-Kenworthy was a necessity.

Saltmer’s reward for saving two shootout penalties in Avenue’s FA Trophy second round win over Marine on December 1 was to be dropped in favour of Sykes-Kenworthy three days later for the National League North game at home to Brackley Town.

And after Sykes-Kenworthy’s sparkling display, including a late penalty save, to help Avenue to a vital league point at Leamington last weekend, it is likely he will keep the gloves for tomorrow’s mouthwatering FA Trophy third round tie at home to West Yorkshire rivals Halifax Town.

Bower said: “George has done well since he came in.

“He’s played in the EFL, so we know he’s someone of good quality, and it’s great for us to have two talented first-team keepers, especially with Covid being a potential issue over this Christmas period, in addition to us having a lot of games.

“There’s a bit of strength in depth there now, and I want them both to push each other for that number one spot.

“It was a huge gamble to only have one first team keeper going into the season, and we were lucky that the Marine tie had to be rescheduled because of the snow, as Johnny was ill on the day of the original game, and we’d have had to play a 16-year-old in goal.

“It just highlighted how light we were in that position, and it just so happened that George was free and available (having left Boston United last month).”

Another new man is Frankie Maguire, a central midfielder who has come in on loan from Sheffield United, after the talented Oliver Arblaster went back the other way.

Discussing the differences between the pair, Bower said: “Frankie is a bit different, as he’s box-to-box and a bit more aggressive than Ollie, with some extra bite in the tackle.

“Frankie’s still technically good though, and he has a good attitude. He’s not shy about being vocal, despite only being 18, which is good to see.

“Ollie brought us some really good quality in the spell he had here, so we hope that’s the case with Frankie.

“He’s still getting game time with Sheffield United’s Under-23s alongside (fellow Avenue loanee) Nickseon Gomis, so he’s playing plenty of minutes, and we’re excited to have him on board for the foreseeable future, as he can really grow at our level.”

It is set to be Maguire’s biggest test yet tomorrow when Avenue host in-form Fax, who are second in the National League.

But Bower enthused: “It’s a great draw, as they’re local rivals, we’ve not played them for a few years, it’s a home game and it’s just before Christmas, so it’s got all the ingredients you could want

“Obviously we knew they’d be our potential opponents before the Marine game was played, so we put extra emphasis on trying to get through.

“They’re playing ever so well in the league at the moment, and we know they’re a seriously good side, but we believe we can get a result.”

Bower is hopeful of having a fully-fit squad to choose from tomorrow, with the exception of poor Jake Hibbs (broken leg).

Defender Mitch Lund is still a slight doubt for the encounter at Horsfall though.