Jake Beesley’s second-half penalty earned Bradford (Park Avenue) all 3 points in this weekend’s 1-0 victory over Nuneaton Borough.
The visitors are rooted to the foot of the National North table but they arrived at the Horsfall Stadium determined not to lose.
Boro matched Bradford in a goalless first half which saw the home side dominate possession, but neither side were able to create any clear cut chances.
An enforced change at half-time saw Oli Johnson replace Danny Lowe after an injury sustained in the warm up caught up to him.
He completed the first half but was unable to continue, with Oli Johnson coming on in his place Romoney Critchlow-Noble dropped from midfield into the back four.
It was a change that marked a vast improvement in Avenue’s attacking play and Nuneaton were forced to employ spoiling tactics, which lasted until the avenue broke the deadlock from the penalty spot.
Johnson made a run down the right flank and served up a superb cross for Beesley who was fouled inside the six-yard box. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Beesley fired the resulting spot-kick high into the net.
Park Avenue manager Mark Bower admitted it wasn’t the best display from his side but was delighted with the win.
“It was a frustrating game to be involved in and must have frustrated the crowd as well.
“They (Nuneaton) came to frustrate us from the start and they sat really deep, but then we got the penalty, which was one, and got in front. The game opened up after that which you would expect and we had more chances.
“Their keeper made three big saves with his feet, we hit the bar and had one cleared off the line. We could have been three or even four goals up but we didn’t get that second goal which kept them in it.
“While we had good chances Nuneaton also came into the game and we needed a couple of last-gasp pieces of defending to keep our clean sheet.
“But it is a clean sheet and a big three points for us, and at this stage of the season the result is all that matters.”
Beesley’s penalty gave Bradford a boost and – with the visitors looking for something on the break – it led to some glorious openings for Avenue. However, Boro keeper Cam Belford made three excellent saves to deny
Lewis Knight, substitute Danny East and Johnson.
Belford was finally beaten, but saved by the woodwork when Conor Branson’s header hit the underside of the bar before being cleared, preventing another effort that was hooked off the line.
Avenue’s defence also cleared two efforts off their goal line. The first came when Critchlow-Noble got a toe to the ball after keeper Charlie Andrew had missed his attempt to punch a cross, and the second when the resulting corner caused a scramble in a packed goalmouth.
Bradford saw the game out comfortably in the remaining four minutes, plus the three added – and it was necessary as the three clubs around them in the play-off places all won.
The top three clubs all lost, meaning that Avenue are now just two points behind third-placed Brackley Town with three games of the season remaining.