10-man Avenue claim three points at home of struggling North Ferriby
A first-half strike from Oli Johnson saw Mark Bower’s side surge into the play-off places, seeing off rock-bottom North Ferriby United with a 1-0 victory.
With Jamie Spencer suspended, experienced midfielder Danny Boshell was recalled to the starting eleven in Avenue’s only change from last week’s comprehensive league win against Blyth Spartans.
The visitors started brightly, and their first chance fell to winger Wayne Brooksby, but his mishit volley was far from predictive of the performance he would go on to have.
North Ferriby’s Mason Warren was the first to call Steven Drench into action, striking low from distance to no avail as the effort lacked the power required to worry the veteran goalkeeper.
Avenue soon found a way to break the strugglers down, as Oli Johnson rifled home from a Luca Havern knock-down to edge the visitors ahead and Johnson ahead of Adam Boyes in the top-scorer charts. The home fans, however, were incensed, as defender Jordon Cooke hadn’t been allowed to return to the pitch following a facial injury. Supporters and players alike vented their frustration, something that would become a common occurrence throughout the game.
Almost immediately after the first goal, North Ferriby had a huge chance to draw level. Ross Barrows delivered deep from the right to Kuda Muskwe, whose first-time volley was tipped over the bar by Drench.
Home fans were convinced they had pulled one back soon after, as defender Mark Gray prodded home from a Steve Brogan free-kick. However, to the dismay of the EON Visual Media stadium, the linesman flagged for offside to deny the relegation-battlers an equaliser.
The home side were then dealt another blow, as Cooke re-opened the facial wound that had previously withdrawn him from action and was substituted prematurely.
This came after Muskwe had squandered a golden opportunity, with the on-loan Rotherham forward losing sight of a lofted delivery and skewing the ball harmlessly wide.
With half-time on the horizon, Avenue had two opportunities to extend their lead. Nicky Wroe’s driven effort was beaten away by Ross Durrant, before Shane Killock’s acrobatic volley soared over the crossbar.
The second-half saw North Ferriby emerge the stronger side, and Callum Rzonca’s skilful evasion of Nicky Wroe forced Brooksby to drag him down and present the home side with the first chance of the half. Curtis Bateson’s free-kick, however, was lifted far too high to trouble Drench.
Brooksby, for all the problems he was causing the home side, inadvertently denied Wroe a shot on goal when the captain’s effort was drilled into the winger’s back.
Muskwe was an aerial threat for North Ferriby throughout, and came the closest to converting a header in the 66th minute when he clipped the bar after meeting a Warren delivery.
Despite failing to capitalise on an array of chances, the home side did receive a boost when Boshell saw red for a challenge Mark Bower was unimpressed to see the punishment it did.
Surprisingly, Avenue remained firmly in the hunt for a second, and came the closest to equalising during the remaining nineteen minutes. Johnson squared to Boyes, who despite having only Durrant in his wake, couldn’t net his first of the afternoon and struck the crossbar.
Despite this, the landscape of the afternoon could have shifted somewhat significantly just minutes earlier. Bateson leapt higher than his marker a minute into added time, and would have seen the net bustle had it not been for a magnificent stop from Drench.
Avenue managed to hold on, and the three points earnt saw them surge into the play-off positions. The next challenge sees fellow high-fliers Brackley Town visit the Horsfall Stadium next Saturday.