Spirited Avenue keep the dream alive
Bradford Park Avenue made a late surge into the play-off positions whilst ensuring Harrogate Town would have to fight it out in the end-of-season showcase to seal promotion.
The hopes of the two sides provided a sharper edge to a Yorkshire derby that was going to have one regardless, and both sets of supporters contributed to the electric atmosphere within the ground.
Chances were few and far between in the early stages, with the rivals cancelling each other out and struggling to carve open opportunities. Harrogate dangerman George Thomson was the first to call Avenue stopper Steven Drench into action, forcing him to palm a low drive wide of the post.
Minutes later, it was the visitors’ goalkeeper James Belshaw that was thrust into the action as he was forced to keep out a close-range effort from Adam Boyes.
The hosts took the lead after 24 minutes when Wroe’s out-swinging corner was met by Boyes, whose header looped over a helpless Belshaw and into the top corner.
Mark Bower’s in-form side had an opportunity to double their advantage shortly after, as a Belshaw clearance failed to reach the halfway line and Oli Johnson was given the chance to try chip the goalkeeper. The Avenue forward’s audacious lob from 25-yards, however, sailed over the crossbar.
The visitors began to knock on the door more frequently as the first-half reached its latter stages but couldn’t find a way past Drench as the goalkeeper held efforts from Jake Wright and Jack Emmett.
A half-chance fell to Warren Burrell immediately after the restart, but Shane Killock made a crucial block to deflect the Harrogate defender’s half-volley wide.
A catalogue of errors from both sides led to an eventful period in the game and three bookings were dished out in the midst of some desperate defending.
Harrogate eventually crumbled under some intense Avenue pressure, with the home side doubling their lead with a remarkable goal. Johnson pulled back to an advancing Wroe, who showed impressive skill to flick to the back-post where Frank Mulhern was waiting to steer past Belshaw.
Harrogate came agonisingly close to pulling one back when Wright escaped his marker at a corner but headed wide when he should have really converted.
The on-loan striker did eventually find the target when he reacted quickest to hammer home from close-range after Drench parried a low drive from Dominic Knowles.
Boyes then brought an abrupt end to Harrogate celebrations, tucking away after Belshaw had palmed a Johnson strike into his path following a mazy run in which he weaved his way past three defenders.
Simon Weaver’s side couldn’t recover from the late blow, allowing Salford City to clinch the title despite losing to Boston United.Avenue now sit in 7th place but could lose their grip on the coveted spot if Spennymoor Town gain four points from their final three games.
Bradford Park Avenue: Drench, Ross, Hill(Atkinson 89’), Wroe (c), Killock, Havern, Brooksby, Spencer, Boyes, Johnson, Mulhern(Boshell 81’)
Unused substitutes: Toulson, Hall, Smith
Harrogate Town: Belshaw, Fallowfield, Swain (Thewlis 71’), Falkingham (c), Burrell, McCombe, Thomson (Kerry 77’), Emmett, Wright, Knowles, Agnew (Beck 61’)
Unused substitutes: Cracknell, Kennedy
Referee: Richard Bartlett