Bradford (Park Avenue) made it five games without defeat as they took an important three points away from Ashton United in their impending battle with promotion.
Goals from Conor Branson and Jamie Spencer sealed Avenue’s third win in five games and kept them well inside the play-off places as the season comes to it’s climax.
A tough opening half an hour from a Bradford perspective came to a welcome end, with a strong performance towards the end of the first period which would have pleased boss Mark Bower.
The hosts needed the points in their battle to secure their sixth tier status for next season. Yesterday’s defeat coupled with FC United of Manchester’s impressive victory at Telford leaves Ashton second bottom, three points adrift of Guiseley.
The early exchanges mainly consisted of link-up play between Kallum Mantack, Connor Dimaio and Craig Hobson. Despite creating no clear cut chances the intent was impressive.
On 24 minutes it was almost an opening goal. Matt Regan, who has form for scoring against promotion contenders, almost did so again when his header crashed against the upright with Charlie Andrew rooted.
Bradford’s first effort came courtesy of Macaulay Langstaff who received the ball on the left flank, cut inside and unleashed an effort which had the Avenue fans gasping in despair as he missed the target.
Half chances from Regan, Langstaff and Branson didn’t do anything to hamper the score line and neither ‘keeper was tested beyond their obvious abilities.
At half-time the game was goalless and although pleased with the back four, and the attempt at football considering the worsening condition of the pitch, Bower will have been asking for more in the dressing room.
As a result of the pitch, playing football did prove difficult and the game was being played at a frantic pace, with both sides showing energy and willingness to make their mark on the game.
Bower was first to utilise his substitutes. Danny East, who more often than not makes a positive impact off the bench, came on for Alex Hurst to add an extra dimension to the attack.
A couple of chances came and went for Jake Beesley, our on-loan Salford man was denied on both occasions, latterly by a brilliant smothering save from the home goalkeeper George McMahon.
It was Bower’s second change which drew initial praise. Oli Johnson marked his return from injury and was involved in the first goal. Branson’s magnificently placed header gave the hosts stopper no chance.
Controversy struck with fifteen minutes to go, Lewis Knight was hacked down for what looked a certain penalty and although initially flagging, the assistant was overruled by Amy Hurst and no spot-kick was given, much to the dismay of the travelling Avenue army that made the journey down.
The final change came with thirteen minutes to go. Ever-reliable Adam Nowakowski came on to sit in the middle of the park and cope with the aerial bombardment which was seemingly imminent.
There was a scare for the visitors on 89 minutes. A stinging shot from Dimaio tested Andrew’s handling but he couldn’t hold on and it was Jamie Reed steaming in to put it over the bar.
Any hopes of a late fightback were extinguished when Avenue struck the second goal to seal all three points on the break. Jamie Spencer capped off a man-of-the-match display with a goal to send the Avenue army barmy.
Next up for Mark Bower’s side is a trip up north n what promises to be a crunch clash with fellow promotions chasers, Spennymoor Town.
McMahon, Crowley, Regan, Chalmers, Ashworth, Kay (Reed 77′), Jennings (Tomsett 69′), Goulding, Hobson, Dimaio, Mantack (Sheridan 66′)
Bradford (Park Avenue)
Andrew, Ross, Clee, Hurst (East 59′), Killock, Havern, Knight, Branson, Beesley (Johnson 66′), Langstaff (Nowakowski 77′), Spencer