Madeley breaks Avenue hearts
A dramatic stoppage-time equaliser from substitute Sam Madeley earned Curzon Ashton a point after the Nash fell behind to an Oli Johnson opener.
Nicky Clee and Javan Vidal were both forced out of the action on Boxing Day with injuries, and neither featured in Mark Bower’s starting eleven for the instant reverse fixture. Clee was ruled out of the matchday squad altogether, and Vidal had to settle for a place on the bench. Assistant manager Danny Boshell was drafted into the midfield, as was two-goal hero Wayne Brooksby, who was keen to help Avenue continue their rich vein of form by repeating his antics of the previous week.
Heavy rain descended on the Tameside Stadium as kick-off drew nearer, but Curzon were forced to deal with more than just a downpour during the early proceedings. Avenue started on the front foot, looking to test Cameron Mason as much as possible in the Nash goal.
Nicky Wroe and Brooksby both fired long-range efforts towards Mason in the opening ten minutes, but neither saw their speculative strikes fly past the ‘keeper.
Both sides were left reeling by the offside flag in the early stages, as both Adam Boyes and Jordan Wright were penalised for failing to beat the trap as they bared down on goal.
Avenue came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when Boyes flicked across the box to Johnson, who couldn’t connect with the delivery and saw it flash past him.
The hosts grew into the game as the half progressed, and almost opened the scoring through Jordan Wright. He spurned a golden opportunity to give the hosts the lead when he skewed wide at the vital moment after racing through the Avenue defence. He then came close to redeeming himself barely two minutes later, forcing Steven Drench to parry his well-struck effort from the right.
With the home side beginning to look more comfortable, the visitors were dealt another blow when Shane Killock went to ground clutching his back for the second time in the game. The ever-present defender was substituted, forcing Avenue into a re-shuffle that shifted Mark Ross to centre-back and Javan Vidal back into the side at right-back.
Although there was certainly improvement from Curzon, Avenue undoubtedly looked the most dangerous of the two sides. Matt Hill was unlucky to not see his teasing delivery capitalised on, as the ball seemingly ricocheted off every player in the box before being hacked clear.
However, hearts were in mouths on the stroke of half-time when Niall Cummins’ effort was made even more threatening by a cruel deflection that almost saw the ball loop over Drench.
Conditions worsened somewhat significantly after the interval, but the elusive first goal seemed very much on the horizon as the action restarted.
Johnson’s chipped effort almost caught Mason out in the Curzon goal early on, and substitute Sam Madeley almost made an immediate impact with a venomous strike that forced Drench into making an impressive stop.
Avenue have been lauded for their ruthlessness in front of goal throughout the season, and once again demonstrated their clinical edge when Johnson powered home a header from a Ross delivery to edge the visitors ahead.
The wind was very much behind Avenue’s sails after the goal, and the momentum almost allowed them to extend their lead. Boyes would have found himself one-on-one with Mason had it not been for two vital interceptions by defenders, and Vidal danced his way to the by-line before seeing his drilled cross flicked wide of the post by Jonathan Hunt.
The final ten minutes saw Mark Bower’s side attempt to weather the storm both in the literal and figurative sense, as Curzon mounting the pressure on the leaders.
With blue shirts piling forward in droves, Avenue eventually succumbed to the onslaught and conceded in the dying moments. Madeley leapt to meet a corner with mere seconds remaining, and saw the ball fly past a helpless Drench to salvage a point for the Nash.
Bradford Park Avenue: Drench, Ross, Hill, Wroe (c), Killock (Vidal 29’), Havern, Brooksby, Boshell (Nowakowski 79’), Boyes (Knight 87’), Johnson, Spencer.
Unused substitutes: Toulson, Hall.
Curzon Ashton: Mason, Baillie, Wright (Wharton 75’), Hunt (c), Shaw, Stott, Brooke (Madeley 51’), Regan (Marshall 63’), Cummins, Clark, Guest.
Unused substitutes: Rowney, Thornley.