BRADFORD (Park Avenue) need a miracle to survive now, after a heartbreaking 3-2 home defeat to league leaders Radcliffe yesterday.

Radcliffe were aware a win would put them on the cusp of lifting the Northern Premier League Premier Division title with four games still remaining, while Avenue knew victory could put them within one point of safety.

But on a nightmare afternoon at Horsfall, the hosts came away with nothing after blowing a 2-0 half-time lead, while relegation rivals Basford United beat Worksop Town 3-1, leaving Avenue seven points adrift of survival with only three games to go.

Danny Whitaker’s side welcome Basford to Horsfall this coming Saturday for their next league game, where anything other than a home win will send Avenue down for a second successive season.

It was an interesting team selection from Whitaker against Radcliffe, with two of his most influential players over the last few weeks, Jake Daniels and Jordan Preston, only making the bench.

With impressive young midfielder Will Lancaster and newly-signed Bradford City legend James Hanson on there too, Avenue certainly had plenty of talent to bring on if required.

But though Radcliffe unsurprisingly dominated the opening quarter, their only real opening came when Josh Hancock headed a good chance over the bar.

And instead, Avenue took a shock lead after 25 minutes.

Adrien Thibaut, who scored in his side’s 2-2 draw at Ilkeston Town on Saturday, was brought down in the box by a despairing challenge from Radcliffe keeper Mateusz Hewelt.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Adrien Thibaut forced the Radcliffe keeper to bring him down for a penalty in the first half.Adrien Thibaut forced the Radcliffe keeper to bring him down for a penalty in the first half. (Image: John Rhodes.)


Edy Maieco, Avenue’s other goal scorer at the weekend, gave the BD6 side the lead from the subsequent penalty, which he tucked away via the post.

Ross Flavell has been excellent in goal for Avenue over the last few weeks, but Whitaker gave new man Craig Ellison the nod to start between the sticks yesterday.

He played a big part in preserving the home side’s lead when he saved brilliantly from Radcliffe striker Jake Thompson just before the half-hour mark.

Instead, Avenue doubled their advantage after 35 minutes, as Maieco cut inside and whipped a shot into the far corner to bring up his brace.

Ellison was again on hand to deny Thompson from close range just before the interval, with Avenue sitting pretty at half-time.

Thibaut had a half-chance to make the score 3-0 with a back-post header from Harry Colville’s cross 10 minutes after the break, with Radcliffe instead halving the deficit moments later.

The visitors won a corner, and Nicky Adams’ ball in was put into the roof of the net by Lois Maynard.

In the blink of an eye, the score was 2-2, as Anthony Dudley slotted a perfect through ball into Thompson, who slid his subsequent strike into the bottom corner beyond Ellison.

The Avenue debutant was on hand to deny Maynard a second goal on the hour mark, but he failed to stop his side going behind on 66 minutes, when Scott Duxbury headed home Adams’ free kick.

Hanson came off the bench for Avenue, and almost scored a memorable late equaliser when a loose ball dropped kindly to him.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: James Hanson came closest to snatching a point for Avenue, which, while not ideal, would have been far better than nothing.James Hanson came closest to snatching a point for Avenue, which, while not ideal, would have been far better than nothing. (Image: John Rhodes.)

But his effort was brilliant blocked by the Radcliffe defence, who then saw out seven minutes of injury time to claim victory and break Avenue’s hearts.

They will seal the title if they win at home to Matlock Town on Saturday and Macclesfield drop points in their next game, in eight days' time, at Bamber Bridge.