Bradford (Park Avenue) took a big step away from the relegation zone on Saturday as they secured an emphatic 3-1 victory at home against fellow strugglers Leamington.
The Avenue came into the game under immense pressure following back-to-back away defeats and a run of eight games without a victory dating back to early December. However, any nerves were soon dispelled after 25 minutes as Will Longbottom rounded off a superb passing move by firing a powerful effort beyond Leamington goalkeeper Ted Cann.
Bradford continued to assert their influence on the game and deep into first half added time Brad Dockerty doubled their advantage, latching onto a great through ball and firing his effort with fine precision into the bottom corner to send the Avenue into the break two goals to the good.
Sensing blood, the Green Army were quick out of the blocks after the interval and almost found a third when Harrison Hopper’s effort crashed back off the crossbar.
Any chances of Leamington finding a way back into the game seemed lost just before the hour mark when captain Jack Edwards received a second yellow for a late tackle on Mitchell Lund. The Brakes’ skipper was cautioned in the first half for an elbow on Jamie Spencer, a challenge which many in Avenue colours thought worthy of a dismissal itself.
With 20 minutes remaining the visitors found themselves reduced to nine men, a dangerous tackle from Louis Hall on Hopper deemed worthy of a straight red by the referee who showed no hesitation in dismissing the Leamington defender.
Undeterred by the rough tackle, it didn’t take long for Hopper to return to the thick of the action. Just a minute later the Avenue midfielder notched his side’s third of the afternoon after some great work from the industrious forward Eddie Church to find his teammate.
The Avenue took the three-goal lead as an opportunity to try and close the game out by keeping hold of possession, but their defence were undone in the final ten minutes by a rare Leamington attack. Dan Meredith produced a fine run down the right for the visitors, cutting back to Devon Kelly-Evans for a tap-in and a consolation goal.
After the game, Avenue boss Mark Bower was quick to praise his side’s performance, saying “we were really really good, I thought we moved the ball well and caused them problems”.
Bower also recognised the effort of his players prior to the two Leamington dismissals, adding: “whilst the last 20 to 25 minutes were not particularly enjoyable for anyone in the ground, I’m really really pleased with the performance for around about an hour where we’ve won the game against a really tough team to play against”.
The result has moved Bradford (Park Avenue) up to 18th in the Vanarama National League North, level on points with both Buxton and Kettering Town following their goalless draw on Saturday. More importantly, the Green Army are now four points ahead of the relegation zone and will be hoping results go their way in the midweek as a handful of sides also fighting for survival are playing catch up with games in hand.
Next up is a double-header for the Avenue as they face a trip to high-flying Brackley Town on Saturday, before returning home to host relegation-threatened Blyth Spartans on Monday in another crucial home fixture under the lights at the Horsfall Community Stadium.
FULL TIME: BRADFORD (PARK AVENUE) 3-1 LEAMINGTON
(25’) GOAL – Bradford (Park Avenue) 1-0 Leamington – Will Longbottom
(45+2’) GOAL – Bradford (Park Avenue) 2-0 Leamington – Brad Dockerty
(56’) RED CARD – Leamington – Jack Edwards
(70’) RED CARD – Leamington – Louis Hall
(71’) GOAL – Bradford (Park Avenue) 3-0 Leamington – Harrison Hopper
(81’) GOAL – Bradford (Park Avenue) 3-1 Leamington – Devon Kelly-Evans
Writer: Stephen Grimshaw (@sgsportswriter on Twitter)
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