Late winner send Avenue into dreamland
Bradford Park Avenue ended the regular season by defying the odds and securing a play-off spot thanks to a dramatic late winner from Adam Boyes.
Mark Bower initially named an unchanged starting eleven but was forced to make a change before kick-off when Matt Hill flagged up an issue with his calf in the warm-up. Central defender Rob Atkinson was drafted in as an emergency replacement, shifting Shane Killock to the vacant left-back position in the process.
Avenue had to deal with an onslaught of early pressure in the opening exchanges and Steven Drench had to make an excellent save to deny Dan Bradley within the opening two minutes.
The visitors did have opportunites of their own despite being under mounting pressure and Nicky Wroe struck the post with an effort that lacked power, but left Brandon Hall stranded.
Kidderminster dealt a blow to Avenue’s play-off hopes with 14 minutes on the clock when Elton Ngwatala’s cross found Dan Bradley. The Harriers forward showed excellent composure to steer past Drench and deflate the Yorkshire play-off hopefuls.
Emmanuel Sonupe had impressed for Kidderminster in the reverse fixture at the Horsfall Stadium and caused Avenue problems throughout the first-half.
He cut in from the right before unleashing a curling effort that dropped just over the crossbar.
Kidderminster remained firmly on top for the remainder of the first-half, spraying the ball around with confidence and looking comfortable in defence.
Mark Bower’s side did, however, come close to opening the scoring when Oli Johnson pulled back to Jamie Spencer on the edge of the box, but the midfielder sliced wide. Immediately after, Johnson forced Hall into making a spectacular stop to keep his low drive out.
Opportunities fell to Sonupe and Ngwatala as the half approached its end, but Drench was in top form to thwart the Harriers’ talented frontline.
Frank Mulhern tested Hall quickly after the restart, forcing the busy stopper to beat away a drilled effort from just inside the 18-yard box.
The hosts almost doubled their lead when Sam Austin found himself with only Drench to beat, but Avenue’s ‘keeper continued to demonstrate why he is so highly-rated with another save.
As the half progressed, Avenue threw more and more bodies forward but were repeatedly thwarted by the hosts’ sturdy backline.
This was until a deflected corner delivery fell to Mulhern on the edge of the box, who buried the ball in the bottom corner with a perfectly executed finish.
News of Spennymoor Town’s lead against Southport had already filtered through to the Aggborough Stadium, setting up a tense finish to a thoroughly entertaining second-half.
Kidderminster, did, however, eventually crumble under intense Avenue pressure. Johnson worked his magic down the right before drilling across goal and Boyes stabbed home at the back-post after the ball took a series of deflections in a brief scramble.
Avenue will now visit Kidderminster again on Wednesday night, looking to secure a place in the play-off semi-final.
Kidderminster Harriers: Hall, Vaughan, Austin, Weeks, Digie, Taylor, Sonupe, Truslove (Waring 60’), Brown, Bradley (Pearson 45’), Ngwatala.
Unused substitutes: Croasdale, McQuilkin, Ironside.
Bradford Park Avenue: Drench, Ross, Atkinson, Wroe (c), Killock, Havern, Brooksby, Spencer (Vidal 74’), Boyes, Johnson, Mulhern (Boshell 90+5’).
Unused substitutes: Toulson, Hall, Smith.
Referee: Scott Simpson