BRADFORD (Park Avenue) boss Mark Bower has sadly had to wave goodbye to Reece Staunton, and he hopes the young defender can now somehow force his way back into City's first team.

Staunton was given a run in a back three under Stuart McCall at the start of the 2020/21 season, but a bad hamstring injury put him out of the team, and he never regained his place.

Asked if the 20-year-old's loan spell at Avenue had been a success, Bower said: "Reece offered us a bit of quality, and him being one of our few left-footed players helped.

"He's definitely grown up since we last had him on loan a couple of years ago.

"He's a more physical player, and a stronger one, and he really helped us in games while he was here.

"Hopefully, gaining more experience in men's football, rather than just playing the odd friendly at City, will have helped him.

"It's going to be difficult for him, but I hope he can go back there now and try and push his way into the first team again."

Avenue's players have come through the Covid issues that affected the club over the Christmas and New Year period, but with Isaac Marriott leaving to join Altrincham on Christmas Eve and Staunton and Nickseon Gomis (Sheffield United) rejoining their parent clubs, it is not the strongest squad right now.

So on the prospect of hosting Chester tomorrow and then Gateshead on Monday, Bower said: "It's possibly going to end up being quite tough for us, and we need a couple of extra players in.

"There'll be some in our squad who we don't want to expose to two games in three days, given how the last couple of weeks have gone.

"It's not an ideal situation for us (with Covid) but then it's not for any team at the moment, and we might benefit in the coming weeks.

"We're definitely hoping to get one or two in for Chester and Gateshead, and we're just waiting to hear back on enquiries for a couple of players.

"With us losing Isaac, Reece and Nickseon, we need to try and get stronger down the left.

"We're also working on getting a forward in, but we need to make sure any new attacker is better than what we've already got."

Discussing their two upcoming opponents, Bower said: "Chester have just had a change of manager (former York City boss Steve Watson has come in) and they've had some decent results over Christmas and New Year.

"They've just drawn at home to (rock-bottom) Telford, but they played a lot of that game with 10 men, they picked up a great point against (third-placed) Fylde before that, and had a good win at Telford on Boxing Day.

"They'll go into our match with some confidence, but we know we can give teams a good game if we do our jobs right.

"Gateshead are the best team we've played this season, and they've got a good mix of everything.

"They keep the ball well, and are a possession-based team, so our 3G pitch will suit them, but they have a bit of steel too.

"They have a bit of ruthlessness about them, and they're a side who can defend well and are a threat from set-pieces.

"They can beat you in a few different ways, so it will be difficult, but we had a bad result (a 6-2 defeat) in the FA Cup up there earlier in the season, so the lads want to put that right."