Bradford (Park Avenue) produced the perfect response to Saturday’s humbling with a hard-fought win over promotion-chasing Spennymoor Town.
The Moors invested heavily in their squad over the summer and handed starts to former Bradford duo Rob Atkinson and Adam Boyes. However, it was their former employers that demonstrated a clinical edge and wrapped up a third win in four games.
The visitors dominated possession in the opening exchanges, and almost opened the scoring early on when Shane Henry latched on to a stray pass from Jake Beesley before sending a shot wide.
Despite spraying the ball around with relative comfort for large portions of the opening twenty minutes, Spennymoor never really troubled Steven Drench and resorted to audacious strikes from distance that the goalkeeper held.
Glen Taylor came closest, combining well with Rob Ramshaw but seeing his shot blocked by Luca Havern with Drench beaten.
Oli Johnson began to open the game up as his incisive runs down the left flank stretched the Spennymoor defence. He raced to the byline after skipping past Callum Williams but Ben McKenna couldn’t convert after connecting with the cross.
McKenna then turned provider with a teasing delivery from the right that found Beesley, but the forward flicked wide under pressure from Atkinson.
The hosts then won a free-kick barely an inch into the Moors’ half when Henry felled Chris Dawson. From the set-piece, the ball was worked out to the left where Johnson drilled a cross in from and picked out McKenna, who steered past Matthew Gould.
As momentum began to shift in the hosts’ favour, Gould became busier as shots rained down on the former Stourbridge stopper, who was a thorn in Bradford’s side during the FA Trophy clashes with his former employers last season.
A powerful drive from Conor Branson was palmed away by Gould whilst at full stretch and a cross from Johnson was deflected wide as Beesley arrived at the back post, ready to pounce.
Bradford were dealt a blow with seven minutes of the first-half remaining as Danny Lowe was forced off with an injury. The experienced Nicky Clee, however, had deputised at left-back on numerous occasions before and slotted in well as Lowe’s replacement.
Former Bradford marksman Boyes had the ball in the back of the net in the 41st minute and wheeled away to celebrate after meeting a Jamie Chandler cross and flicking past Drench. Luckily for the hosts, he had strayed offside and was penalised.
HALF-TIME: Bradford (Park Avenue) 1-0 Spennymoor Town
Boyes slipped in behind the Bradford backline early on in the second-half, but fired straight into the clutches of Drench after escaping his marker.
Pressure began to mount on the hosts, with Moors manager Jason Ainsley’s half-time team talk clearly paying dividends.
The slicker Spennymoor side that had emerged after the interval went close again as Boyes cut back to Mark Anderson but could only watch as he lost his balance and passed the ball wide.
Taylor forced Drench to beat away a low-drilled effort from the right-hand side of the box and the goalkeeper then did to superbly to thwart Atkinson, palming away a header powered towards him after the defender connected with Anderson’s corner delivery.
The referee was forced to dismiss appeals for a Moors penalty in the 72nd minute after Taylor and Shane Killock collided in the box, with the former convinced he had been bundled over.
Jamie Spencer had provided a much-needed injection of energy upon his return to the starting eleven, and he was crucial as Bradford looked to relieve the intense pressure they were under in the late stages. The midfielder wriggled away from Chandler and almost found the bottom corner with an effort that flew narrowly wide before turning provider for McKenna, who rattled the post.
The hosts hammered the woodwork once again barely a minute later as Branson struck goal wards but was denied by the post.
Spencer flicked the ball into the path of Beesley with a clever header but James Curtis was on-hand to sweep up and hook away from danger.
Former Bradford loanee Jake Hibbs was introduced in the final ten minutes and almost made an instant impact, unleashing a venomous strike from distance that Drench had to be alert to get down to and hold.
The visitors piled bodies forward as the full-time whistle approached but shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions by giving away cheap free-kicks with niggly fouls, stifling their own attacks.
FULL-TIME: Bradford (Park Avenue) 1-0 Spennymoor Town
Bradford (Park Avenue): Drench, Ross, Lowe (Clee 38′), Branson, Killock (c), Havern, McKenna, Dawson (Wroe 64′), Beesley, Johnson (Nowakowski 90+3′), Spencer.
Unused substitutes: Boshell, Knight.
Spennymoor Town: Gould, Williams, Brogan, Chandler, Atkinson, Curtis (c), Boyes (Foley 79′), Henry (Hibbs 81′), Taylor, Anderson (Johnson 69′), Ramshaw.
Unused substitutes: Thackray, Elliott.
Referee: Barry Lamb
Report: Tom Coates