(Avenue won 3-2 on penalties)

THE main talking points for the City fans who swelled the Horsfall Stadium coffers last night centred on one player who went off at half-time - and another who wasn’t involved at all.

The Bantams used their annual pre-season trip to their Bradford neighbours to give the youngsters an experience of performing before a crowd.

The 2,354-strong audience saw a young City side whose only first-team squad connections were teenagers Dylan Youmbi and Harvey Rowe - and Jake Young.

Valley Parade’s forgotten man’s first appearance for the club since last October certainly caught the attention, although he didn’t get on the ball as much as he would have liked.

Deployed on the left of the three behind striker Harry Ibbotson, Young embarked on one 40-yard dash from his own half that had Avenue frantically back-pedalling.

But he was taken off at half-time, as agreed beforehand, and the situation remains unchanged that he is being encouraged to look elsewhere for his football this season.

“Jake hasn't been involved with the senior group and he needs game time, so we’ll see how he does,” said the watching Mark Hughes ahead of kick-off after obliging the long line of fans requesting selfies.

Another interested spectator was Harry Lewis, whose attempt to avoid attention by pulling a baseball cap over his eyes was fooling nobody.

After the “will he, won’t he” Barnsley speculation died down with the Tykes securing Middlesbrough keeper Liam Roberts, Lewis was his typically popular self with supporters.

And he was in the mood for some mischief when City’s official Twitter account was momentarily left unguarded in the press box, the keeper seizing the opportunity to post “the show goes on”.



Ryan East, taking in the match alongside him, then snapped a picture of Lewis at the keyboard as proof it was the man himself.

All fun and games off the pitch; on it, there was a refreshingly competitive edge to the contest.

Avenue, using their knowledge of the 3g surface to their advantage, were game opposition for the City rookies - some promising approach play only let down by the lack of cutting edge in the final third.

The Bantams had early chances through Youmbi, inside two minutes, and Gabe Wadsworth before one of Avenue’s gaggle of trialists forced a close-range reaction block from Heath Richardson.

It would prove to be a very eventful night for the City stopper.

City took the lead a minute before the break after some incisive play from Isaac Robinson.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Keeper Heath Richardson sees City's final penalty savedKeeper Heath Richardson sees City's final penalty saved (Image: Thomas Gadd.)

He looks a prospect and showed an eye for goal by cutting inside and unloading a low shot that had keeper George Sykes-Kenworthy beaten.

The former Bantam thought he might have got away with it as Robinson’s strike pinged off the inside of the post before running along the line and clipping the other post.

But Youmbi was on hand for the simplest of tap-ins to break the deadlock.

He stayed on until the hour point but Young and Rowe were both withdrawn at the interval - Young joining Lewis and East to observe the rest of the action from the media’s vantage point above the dressing rooms.

He had changed in time to see Avenue pick up the tempo and put City under threat.

Brad Dockerty turned Leon Brooks too easily inside the penalty area to open up a clear route to goal but Richardson blocked his shot and the follow-up header flashed past the post.

Avenue sensed an equaliser was coming - but not in the manner that it did arrive.

Brooks left a back-pass woefully short, allowing Will Longbottom to nip in and steal the ball away from Richardson before rolling it into the empty net.

Avenue nearly found a winner in the final moments when Jak Whiting clipped the bar.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: George Sykes-Kenworthy holds aloft the Tom Banks trophyGeorge Sykes-Kenworthy holds aloft the Tom Banks trophy (Image: Thomas Gadd.)

But with the game level at 90 minutes, penalties were required to determine the destiny of the Tom Banks trophy.

The home side blinked first with a trialist chipping over the bar but Sykes-Kenworthy instantly thwarted his old club as he kept out Harry Ibbitson’s effort with his feet.

Richardson saved from another trialist to hand City the advantage once more. But again, Sykes-Kenworthy brought the hosts back in it by thwarting Noah Wadsworth.

Experienced defender Mitch Lund calmly tucked away his spot-kick to make it 3-2 in Avenue’s favour and it came down to keeper on keeper as Richardson stepped up for City’s fifth attempt.

Once again Sykes-Kenworthy proved an unbeatable barrier to make it a hat-trick of saves and give Mark Bower’s men something to smile about as they build up to their Northern Premier League return.