Boyes stuns league leaders with second-half equaliser
With Avenue’s form somewhat declining over the last few weeks, Simon Weaver’s Harrogate Town entered the third clash of the season with their local rivals with confidence in abundance.
They controlled the early stages of the encounter, and despite an early penalty miss, took a first-half lead through midfielder Jack Emmett. However, they could muster little response to the resurgence in Avenue’s tempo, and eventually conceded an equaliser when Adam Boyes headed home from a Nicky Clee cross within the opening five minutes of the second-half.
Mark Bower made just one change from Saturday’s defeat at Darlington, re-instating midfielder Jamie Spencer to the starting eleven in place of Nicky Clee.
The opening ten minutes were far from what Avenue fans would have hoped for, as lady luck seemed firmly against the visitors in an eventful start to the game. Within just three minutes, the home side were awarded a penalty, as referee Dean Watson controversially pointed to the spot following a challenge on Andrew Nelson by Ryan Toulson. Joe Leesley stepped up, but his spot-kick ricocheted off the post and into the clutch of a grateful Ed Hall.
Avenue were soon dealt another setback, with Toulson being forced off the pitch in a stretcher following a heavy challenge from Leesley. After a lengthy stoppage in play, experienced defender James Knowles was introduced, and play was resumed.
The eventful start seemingly knocked the wind out of Avenue sails, and the home side began to assume control of the tie. Terry Kennedy came excruciatingly close to breaking the deadlock with a powerful header from a corner, that was cleared off the line in dramatic fashion.
Harrogate’s recent loan signing Nelson soon caught his first glimpse of goal, forcing Hall to parry his effort from around 15-yards at the near-post.
The seemingly inevitable soon happened, as Liam Agnew found Emmett in a promising position, and the midfielder made no mistake with his low drive past the outstretched glove of Hall.
However, the visitors began to hit their stride after conceding, and an interchange between Spencer and Adam Boyes soon freed Javan Vidal, who could only find the side-netting with his effort.
Mark Ross was the next to give Harrogate a fright, as his long-range drive was struck with such venom that James Belshaw could only parry to the feet of Terry Kennedy, who was on hand to clear.
The tenacious Spencer then won a crunching tackle in the centre of the pitch shortly after the restart, before rattling the crossbar with a rifled effort from around 30-yards.
Nicky Wroe then came close to equalising, as his free-kick from a wide area fizzed agonisingly wide of Belshaw’s far-post.
With half-time just minutes away, Avenue made their second forced change of the evening, introducing Clee to the fray as Vidal hobbled off.
Just minutes after the restart, Avenue had the goal they craved. Substitute Clee whipped in a teasing delivery from the right, and no Harrogate defender could leap as high as Boyes, who headed beyond Belshaw and into to the top corner.
In the remainder of the second-half, both sides could have easily claimed the three points, as the encounter became wide open, and entertainingly end-to-end.
Harrogate supporters were incensed, as for the third time in as many minutes, a dangerous delivery from a wide area wasn’t capitalised on, with Nelson’s low-driven cross rendered futile by a lack of movement from his teammates.
Harrogate remained threatening, however, and Luca Havern was called into action when Josh Falkingham found Leesley unmarked in the box, but the Avenue defender was quick to react and make an excellent challenge.
Substitute Jordan Thewlis then had his head in his hands as he slid to meet an Emmett cross, but somehow fired over the crossbar from 3-yards out.
The final chance of the nail-biting game fell to Boyes, who just couldn’t get the ball out of his feet quick enough to unleash a shot from around 8-yards out after being picked out by Oli Johnson.
Avenue face Salford City on Saturday, with the game kicking off at 1:30pm due to damage to a floodlight at the Horsfall Stadium.
Avenue: Hall, Ross, Kelly, Wroe (c), Havern, Toulson (Knowles 10’), Vidal (Clee 45’), D. Boshell, Boyes, Johnson, Spencer (N. Boshell 86’).
Unused subs: Nowakowski, Hill.
Harrogate: Belshaw, Fallowfield, O’Hanlon, Falkingham, Kennedy, Burrell, Thomson (Thewlis 72’), Emmett, Nelson, Agnew, Leesley.
Unused subs: Curry, Cracknell, Vann, Middleton.