Avenue earn Emirates FA Cup replay following resilient display in Yorkshire derby
Mark Bower and his staff will be experiencing mixed emotions after a flurry of late opportunities were denied to force a replay in the 3rd qualifying round.
The game truly reflected the cliché of ‘a game of two halves’, with goal scoring opportunities increasing in frequency in the second half, in rather dramatic fashion.
The opening 45-minutes was a cagey affair, with the two Yorkshire outfits seemingly cancelling each other out as they battled out for a place in the next round. Joe Leesley and George Thomson both tested the Avenue backline with a series of crosses, as Simon Weaver’s Harrogate looked to stretch their National League North counterparts in the early stages. The returning Luca Havern, however, had seamlessly returned to the impressive form he demonstrated before his injury, and the Harrogate frontline received little change from him or defensive partner Mark Ross.
Avenue did, however, come close to breaking the deadlock on two occasions in the first half. A looping header from Adam Boyes came close to catching out Harrogate’s James Belshaw, and Javan Vidal fired over from close range following a game of head-tennis in Harrogate’s twelve-yard box. Despite these opportunities, neither side ended the first half having had any chances that could be described as clear-cut.
Harrogate emerged the brighter side in the second half, attacking with a pace and intensity that had yet to be seen in the encounter. Joe Leesley drove past Ryan Toulson on the right and found Thomson in the box, but the latter failed to remain composed, and struck to the wrong side of the crossbar. It was then the turn of defender Warren Burrell to unnerve Avenue’s away following, as his acrobatic effort struck the crossbar with pressure continuing to mount on Mark Bower’s side.
It wasn’t long, however, before Avenue began to find their stride in what had been a difficult half thus far. Nicky Wroe skewed an attempt from 20-yards wide of Belshaw’s post, but this half-chance signalled a change in tempo for Avenue. Wayne Brooksby, now operating on the left flank, cut in and almost found the bottom left hand corner with a low drive, as cracks began to show in the Harrogate backline. Adam Boyes struck well from distance, and left the entire ground in disbelief as his shot somehow flew wide.
A frantic final ten minutes then ensued, as both sides desperately searched for the elusive opening goal. Ryan Fallowfield, a constant threat down the right for Harrogate, skipped his way past two defenders, but his attempt was far too central to trouble Steve Drench. However, Avenue were soon back on the front foot, as Wayne Brooksby’s teasing delivery came agonisingly close to being steered home by a Harrogate defender. At this point, the entirety of the CNG Stadium was on its feet, as ‘end-to-end football’ was epitomised in an exhilarating climax. The ball was threaded through to Javan Vidal, and despite the seemingly straight-forward nature of the chance, Terry Kennedy recovered to make a fantastic sliding challenge, denying Avenue in the dying minutes. The final chance of the game fell to Thomson, who was once again denied by Drench from close range.
In a thrilling encounter that embodied the spirit of the competition, both sides had chances to book their places in the next round, and supporters will be relishing the opportunity of seeing the sides do battle once again on Monday.
Harrogate Town: Belshaw, Fallowfield, Parker, Falkingham, Kennedy, Burrell Thomson, Emmett (Vann 78’), Leesley, Thewlis, Agnew (Burdett 72’).
Unused subs: Cracknell, Middleton, Curry, O’Hanlon, Day.
BPA: Drench, Ross, Kelly, Wroe, Havern, Toulson, Brooksby (N. Boshell 89’), D. Boshell, Boyes, Johnson (Clee 76’), Vidal.
Unused subs: Hall, Knowles, Nowakowksi, Spencer, Knight.