BRADFORD (Park Avenue) have made another key addition to the squad for the upcoming Northern Premier League East Division season.

They have brought in centre-back Alex Francis from Radcliffe on a season-long loan deal, as they look to reshape a backline that struggled last term.

A defensive lynchpin at the club for years, Avenue keenly felt the loss of the retiring Luca Havern, while fellow centre-half Mitch Lund, the club captain, hardly played due to injury problems.

And with talented left-sided defender Mason O’Malley missing a big chunk of the season due to injury too, a enormous amount of pressure fell on right-back and stand-in skipper Lucas Odunston, at the age of 23.

While he had a stellar individual season, it was a lot to ask of him to marshal an inexperienced and ever-changing defence.

Avenue therefore went on to concede an eye-watering 85 goals in their 40 league games on their way to relegation, more than anyone except rock-bottom Atherton Collieries.

But the signing of Francis should help Danny Whitaker's side improve that defensive record, especially in a lower-quality division.

Francis joined Radcliffe in January last season, while he continued to play for former club Irlam on loan.

Across all competitions in 2023/24, he made a mammoth 57 appearances and kept nine clean sheets.

Francis only actually made one appearance for Radcliffe last season, in their final game of the season against Gainsborough Trinity, but he did enough to earn himself the man of the match award for his performance.

It meant he played his part, however small, in his side’s NPL Premier Division triumph, as they earned automatic promotion up to National League North.

Relegated Bradford (Park Avenue) unsurprisingly lost both of their league games to champions Radcliffe last season.Relegated Bradford (Park Avenue) unsurprisingly lost both of their league games to champions Radcliffe last season. (Image: John Rhodes.)

He is the second new defender Avenue have signed this summer, alongside impressive young right-back Kareem Hassan-Smith, who has arrived at Horsfall from Albion Sports, who he helped reach the Northern Counties East League Premier Division play-off final last season.

Both Hassan-Smith and Francis could make their debuts for Avenue on Wednesday, July 10, as they play their opening pre-season friendly away to Campion.