A late equaliser from former Bradford man Lee Spires denied his former club a victory in the first friendly fixture of the summer.
Mark Bower named a starting eleven comprised of first-team talent, trialists and Academy defender Lewis Johnson. The latter featured as a substitute against Brackley Town in the league last season and was called upon again after impressing for the club’s youth side.
Bradford started the game on the front foot, with Danny East and Johnson forcing the Silsden goalkeeper to race out and collect deliveries ahead of a lurking Adam Boyes.
The Cobbydalers’ first glimpse of goal came when their central midfielder wriggled away from Danny Boshell and saw his powerful strike held by Steven Drench.
However, their National League North opponents began to ask questions of the Silsden stopper on a more frequent basis as the half progressed. A Bradford trialist blazed over from close-range after the ball fell kindly for him in the box, a chance that was followed by another almost immediately. A trialist right-back raced down the right flank before pulling back to Danny East, who struck with venom but couldn’t find the right side of the crossbar.
The prolific Boyes had cut a frustrated figure throughout the opening thirty minutes but soon had an opportunity to open the scoring. An inch-perfect cross from the left found its way to the striker but his header looped over the crossbar.
The visitors then won a free-kick in a central position after a trialist was hauled to the ground, but the same hopeful lifted his effort over the woodwork.
On the stroke of half-time, a Bradford trialist tried his luck from distance but was denied by the Silsden stopper, who managed to hold on to the well-struck effort.
HALF-TIME: Silsden 0-0 Bradford (Park Avenue)
Mark Bower introduced a new cohort of trialists after the break, as well as first-teamers Ryan Toulson, Ben McKenna, Gianluca Havern, Nicky Wroe and Shane Killock. Academy forward Bradley Oliver also entered the fray, with fellow youngster Matt Rowntree joining him midway through the second-half. Adam Nowakowski also featured, taking the place of a trialist during the final 45 minutes.
Bradford started brightly, with Ben McKenna embarking on a mazy run down the left before serving the ball on a plate for a trialist. The hopeful, however, rifled over the crossbar from just inside the 18-yard box.
The visitors were soon rewarded for their pressure when a trialist drifted out to the right before seeing a chipped effort sail over the goalkeeper and into the top corner.
The opening goal seemed to light a spark in Silsden, who began causing problems for Bradford. The hosts’ right-sided midfielder unleashed a powerful strike that forced Bradford’s trialist goalkeeper to parry and pounce on.
The trialist stopper was then called into action when a Cobbydalers forward struck from around 25-yards, but he scrambled across to hold the effort.
Bradford were, however, unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Luca Havern was seemingly shoved to the ground inside the box. Despite protests, the referee didn’t give Silsden’s Yorkshire counterparts an opportunity to double their lead from 12-yards.
The returning McKenna had posed a threat throughout the second-half and after skipping past a Cobbydalers defender with ease, was clipped and gave a trialist an opportunity to try his luck from a free-kick. The resulting effort was struck through a gap in the wall but couldn’t find a way past the Silsden stopper.
As the final whistle approached, it was clear that Bradford weren’t content with their advantage as they continued to hunt for a second goal. Oliver bustled around the pitch, continually putting Silsden defenders under pressure and demonstrating an ability to bring others into the game with impressive link-play. The partnership of Rowntree and Wroe in midfield proved effective and Silsden found breaking through the lines difficult, enabling Bradford to contain their threat and attack with intent.
Despite continuing to press forward, a late Silsden sucker-punch denied Bradford victory. Lee Spires, a former player at the Horsfall Stadium, was in the right place at the right time to steer past Bradford’s trialist goalkeeper and earn the Cobbydalers a draw.
Bradford will face their next pre-season test on Saturday when they take on Hemsworth Miners Welfare at the Fitzwilliam Stadium.
FULL-TIME: Silsden 1-1 Bradford (Park Avenue)
Bradford (Park Avenue) first-half: Drench, Trialist, Clee, Trialist, L. Johnson, Trialist, Trialist, Boshell, Boyes, East, Trialist.
Bradford (Park Avenue) second-half: Trialist, Toulson, McKenna, Trialist (Rowntree 70’), Havern, Trialist (Nowakowski 70’), Wroe, Trialist, Killock, Oliver.