BRADFORD (Park Avenue) boss Mark Bower admits Simon Richman had been pencilled in to return to the club for a while and hailed the instant impact the experienced midfielder had on his comeback.

Avenue lost 2-1 at Ashton United on Tuesday night, but played far better than in their defeat to Workington three days earlier, and Richman’s experience will be needed in a Northern Premier League Premier Division clash at Stafford Rangers this Saturday, especially with Jamie Spencer out for the season with a knee injury.

Bower confessed: “We had a good idea a while ago that Simon would be available to us around this time of year, as he’s had other commitments for the last couple of months.

“We know what Simon brings and it’s a shame we’ve lost Jamie, because a midfield at this level with those two as options, along with Harrison Hopper and Will Lancaster, would have been one of real strength.

“You could argue it’s perfect timing in some ways, because the midfield was very inexperienced after we lost Jamie.

“He had a good impact at Ashton, and it was no coincidence that we improved when he came on midway through the first half.

“He still needs to build up his match fitness, but he’s naturally a very fit lad anyway.”

Poor Spencer will have to wait a long time before building up his fitness, with Bower saying: “He’s on his feet, in a leg brace, and he was at both games over the last few days around the lads.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Jamie Spencer's injury is a season-ender.Jamie Spencer's injury is a season-ender. (Image: John Rhodes.)

“It’s six weeks before his surgery though and I’m gutted for him, because he’d worked so hard to get back from injury.

“We’ve got talented young lads in midfield but they need experience around them and Jamie was one of those who could bring that.

“He’s a strong character though, so he’ll do what’s needed so he’s raring to go next season.”

Mason O’Malley had only just returned from injury, but he had to be replaced by Richman early on at Ashton, with Bower saying: “It was like a rugby challenge on him.

“He’s got some shoulder damage so we’ll have to see how that settles, but everyone else came through okay.

“Myles La Bastide is near to returning and Jak Whiting should be available for Stafford, so we’re hoping to have the numbers up for that game.”

Bower’s side are just two points above the drop zone, so could do with winning on Saturday, but the Ashton performance pleased him.

He said: “I was impressed with Ashton early on but George (Sykes-Kenworthy) had little to do after that.

“I thought we were the better side in the last hour but just lacked cutting edge.

“We’ve performed on a level playing field with one of the best sides in the league, and I felt if we’d got a goal to make it 2-2 in the second half, we’d have gone on to win it.

“We’d have won that game more often than not playing like that, so there were plenty of positives and the performance was what I wanted.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Lucas Odunston's goal at Ashton was in vain.Lucas Odunston's goal at Ashton was in vain. (Image: John Rhodes.)

Turning that into a win at Stafford would be ideal, with Bower saying: “It’s not about where Stafford are in the table, we’ve just got to focus on their strengths and weaknesses.

“The performances from us have generally been good but we need the points now.

“If we play like last night we’ll be alright, but it’s just about performing consistently well now, and if we do the points will take care of themselves.”