Bradford Park Avenue season review

Bradford Park Avenue chief executive officer Bob Blackburn predicted promotion success for his club when he stated “this is our year” back in August.

The owner’s vision was not 100 per cent correct because he felt Avenue would claim the Evo-Stik League Premier Division title and the one automatic promotion place. The fact that they made it up via a third consecutive play-off added to the drama and euphoria.

Horsfall Stadium was a cacophony of noise as Bradford beat long-term rivals FC United of Manchester in the play-off final with almost the last kick of the season’s final match.

There were less than 90 seconds remaining and a penalty shoot-out loomed but Tom Greaves’ 118th-minute winner avoided what would have been a nerve-jangling and unsatisfactory end to the campaign.

It began with a home defeat on August 13, when fellow promotion favourites Hednesford Town came to Bradford and departed with maximum points.

Fortunately John Deacey’s men were soon into their stride and won eight of their next nine league fixtures, the only blemish being a 5-2 defeat to FC United at Gigg Lane.

Avenue lost ground in the race for the championship in October when they had a home game against Kendal Town postponed due to a waterlogged pitch and then faced a spell of four consecutive cup ties.

But they bounced back in convincing style by going on another four-match winning streak from the start of November. The first game in that month was at home to leaders and title favourites Chester and Avenue edged it 2-1, with Richard Marshall on target and Adnan Ahmed netting a stunning winner.

Inconsistency dogged the side during December and January and, with the first four fixtures in February all falling foul of the weather as severe winter weather gripped the nation, it was difficult to pick up any momentum.

Avenue may only have picked up six points in January but they lost just one of four league games in the month. That was at home to FC United, who repeated the scoreline from the reverse fixture as they romped to another 5-2 victory.

March was a strange month, beginning with a win but featuring a WLWL four-game sequence as they all ended 3-1!

There were four goals in the next game but all for Avenue as they turned over Buxton at home, then beat Kendal 4-1 and Buxton 3-1 away. They topped that with a 1-0 win over second-placed Chorley at the start of February.

Marshall netted two spot-kicks in that run and notched one from open play – matching Greaves, who also bagged three in that spell of four victories. Nicky Matthews and Alex Davidson were also on target.

Davidson had begun the season in Blue Square Bet North with Guiseley but was with Avenue’s rivals North Ferriby United when Deacey swooped to snap him up in February. The forward made an immediate impact with a brace against Mickleover Sports on his home debut.

Matthews was signed from neighbours Thackley and quickly stepped up to the higher level.

Only one victory was earned in Avenue’s last five games and they ended the regular season with back-to-back away defeats against Northwich Victoria and Chorley, although they already knew a play-off spot for a third season on the trot beckoned.

Northwich lost an appeal against being removed from the play-offs, despite finishing above Avenue, following financial irregularities. That meant Deacey’s men would have home advantage in the end-of-season semi-finals and also saw FC United sneak into the frame even though they finished sixth.

Avenue faced a visit from Hednesford Town and they got their revenge from that opening-day defeat when a storming display saw the home side comfortably through to the final.

Deacey’s side went nap as Marshall bagged a brace, one from open play and one from the spot, with Adam Clayton, Martin Drury and James Knowles also on target in a 5-0 win while goalkeeper John Lamb weighed in with a penalty save just before the interval.

Had Chorley won their semi-final against FC United, then they would have had home advantage in the final. But they were beaten by the Mancunians, who went into the play-offs with nothing to lose and a determination to make the most of their fortune at the expense of Northwich.

Instead it was Avenue who were about to profit with a second helping of revenge. Beaten 5-2 twice during the campaign, it was Bradford’s turn as Greaves’ late winner capped a dominant performance and, in tumultuous surroundings, earned a deserved promotion to Blue Square Bet North.


Appearances (maximum 58): 54 Adam Clayton, 50 (+1 sub) Nathan Hotte, 49 John Lamb, 49 (+1) Richard Marshall, 48 (+4) Rob O’Brien, 42 (+7) Ross Daly, 41 (+5) Martin Drury, 37 James Knowles, 37 (+6) James Riley, 36 (+9) Nicky Boshell, 30 (+15) Jordan Deacey, 24 (+4) Aiden Savory, 22 (+19) Tom Greaves, 21 (+13) Michael Duckworth, 16 (+8) Matty James, 15 (+2) Alex Davidson, 12 (+5) Nicky Matthews, 11 Matty Plummer, 9 Amjad Iqbal, 6 James Coates, 6 (+23) Billy Law, 4 (+4) Jimmy Beadle, 4 (+6) Curtis Bernard, 4 (+7) Matt Dempsey, 3 Clark Lydon, 3 (+4) Alex Noteman, 2 Mark Hudson, 1 (+3) Adnan Ahmed, 1 Sam Denton, Dean Overson, 0 (+4) Mark Hume, 0 (+2) David McNiven, 0 (+5) Dempsey Smith, 0 (+1) Brice Tiani.

Goals: 19 Marshall, 17 Greaves, 12 O’Brien, 9 Savory, 6 Clayton, Duckworth, Hotte, 4 Boshell, Davidson, Knowles, Matthews, 3 Deacey, Drury, James, Riley, 2 Beadle, Bernard, Daly, Law, 1 Ahmed, Hume, 2 own goals.