MARK Bower insists he is not feeling any pressure as Bradford (Park Avenue) boss, as he feels people have to be realistic about the challenges of the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

Heading into a break from the league, with FA Trophy third qualifying round action tomorrow and a West Riding County Cup first round clash on Monday for Avenue, the Horsfall side sit fifth-bottom after 10 games following relegation from National League North, just two points above the drop zone.

There have been murmurs of discontent from some sections of the fanbase, but Bower said: “I’ve got backing and you have to be realistic.

“Some people might have thought we’d be fine because we kept several players after relegation and that we’d walk all over teams.

“But there are some really good sides in this league and every game is a challenge.

“I’m not surprised it’s been tough and there are a couple of games we really should have won where we didn’t.

“We have regrets over those, but if we’d picked up those extra four or five points, people would be looking at our position and saying we’d made a decent start.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford (Park Avenue) have not won a league game since the end of August.Bradford (Park Avenue) have not won a league game since the end of August. (Image: John Rhodes.)

“But Saturday’s game against Nantwich is a chance for prize money and progress. If we get a win we can build from that too.”

Adding to that, he said: “We want to get as far as we can in the FA Trophy.

“We want to win any games we have at a decent level, as we’ve seen ourselves how one bad result puts you on a bad run, and one good one can get you going, giving you confidence and belief to turn things around.

We’ve not won enough games over the last few weeks, so we need one to lift spirits.”

Former Guiseley academy talent Lewis Hey made his Avenue debut in cup competition, the 1-1 FA Cup draw at Blyth Spartans, and could be integral again this weekend.

Officially, he is at Horsfall on dual-registration from Silsden, but Bower said: “We’d wanted to get Lewis for a while but he was injured.

“The dual-registration agreement allowed him to get games at Silsden as he was getting back to his best, but he wants to play at as high a level as he can.

“Lewis has been here with us ever since his debut against Blyth and he’s a versatile lad who can play in a few positions.

“He’s produced some good performances and he’s a technically good player who suits our 3G surface.

“We look at him now as a member of our squad, though he could still get games for Silsden if they require him and we’re happy to let him go.

“He’s nearly at full fitness and is close to the levels we want from him. We want to allow him to showcase his talent here with us.”

Bower expects experienced midfielder Simon Richman to be fit for this weekend, despite a battle scar below his knee from a poor challenge on him in Avenue’s last game, a 0-0 league draw at Stafford Rangers.

Hot prospects Myles La Bastide and Zak Kersey should be available, while Will Longbottom is likely to be out for another week with his knee issue.

Mason O’Malley has significant shoulder ligament damage though, and faces a few months on the sidelines.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Mason O'Malley (second right) will not be in action for a while.Mason O'Malley (second right) will not be in action for a while. (Image: John Rhodes.)

With those injuries in mind, Bower admitted he is set to blood several of the club’s youth players in the West Riding County Cup clash with Tadcaster Albion next Monday.

He said: “It’ll be a much-changed line up for Tadcaster.

“We’ve got a small squad and with a couple of those lads being out long term, and others carrying knocks, the last thing we want to do is lose first-team players to injuries in games that aren’t really going to help us get where we want to be at the end of the season.

“Monday will be an opportunity to look at some of those young lads against strong opposition.

We did that last season in the County Cup and the boys did well against Brighouse and were unlucky to go out on penalties.

“Hopefully a similar performance on Monday will be good enough to get us through into the second round.”