Despite leading twice, Bradford (Park Avenue) had to fight back on Saturday afternoon to earn a 3-3 draw away at Southport.
Both teams felt the ire of a blustery and very windy day, but maybe that was what contributed to the six goal thriller. Avenue manager Mark Bower wanted this fixture to be the game that kick started a great escape for his side that are currently languishing at the bottom of the National League North table, and they got off to the perfect start.
Lewis Knight’s inswinging corner on 15 minutes evaded everybody in the box and swung into the net directly off the post. It was a deserved opener for an Avenue side who had dominated the early stages of the game and gifted Knight his fifth goal of the season,
Both teams then had their opportunities to score in what was a very topsy-turvy affair. Resolute defending from the Avenue backline saw Astles and Sampson both having strong shots blocked, before Avenue had a glorious chance of their own to extend the lead — the ever present Tom Clare forced a mistake from Astles and raced through on goal, but the center back made sure to recover from his mistake and blocked Clare’s goalbound effort.
Avenue would’ve been looking forward to entering the break leading the game, and it looked like that was going to be the case until Southport equalised just on the stroke of half time through George Newell, who headed home past Nicholson after a long throw caused the Avenue defence problems.
Bradford didn’t let that phase them though, and returning out of half time, they once again looked the better of the two teams and it didn’t take them long to again take the lead. Tom Clare, who had a brilliant game for the Avenue, left some of the Southport defenders for dead with a magnificent touch and turn, before curling the ball past Hanford into the top right corner.
Much like earlier though, it was a case of Avenue not being able to keep hold of their lead. Just moments after making it 2-1, they were drawn back level as Brad Bauress slotted the ball past Nicholson.
Then what was a once promising game turned to complete disaster for Bradford as Southport took the lead for the first time on the 65th minute with Newell grabbing his second goal of the game, heading home from an Astles cross which left Nicholson stranded.
Avenue looked bewildered by the sudden turnaround of the game, and Southport had plenty of chances to kill the game off with Newell and Woods both having chances to extend their lead and end any hopes of an Avenue comeback.
Southport were then made to rue the missed chances as Oli Johnson assisted Billy Priestley to level the scores at 3-3. It was superb work down the right from Johnson, who sent in an inch perfect cross which was met by Priestley who headed the ball into the net with Hanford this time being the goalkeeper to be left stranded.
Momentum then swiftly changed and it was Avenue who were back on top looking to grab the winner with Lewis Knight having a wonderful opportunity to score but scuffed his shot wide.
Avenue were then reduced to 10 men in stoppage time as newest signing Stelios Demetriou was sent his marching orders for taking down Newell who was through on goal.
Despite being reduced to ten men, though, it was Avenue who had the final opportunity of the game, and it was oh so close. A miscue from Astles led Clare to finding himself through on goal, albeit at a tight position, he managed to get a shot away but it struck the outside of the right post in which was the final kick of the game.
In what was a rollercoaster of a game, both teams left with a point a piece, but both teams will also have been frustrated at not walking away with all three.