Bradford (Park Avenue) fell to their sixth defeat in seven games, losing to promotion contenders Brackley Town at St James’ Park.
Despite a close first half, the Saints’ converted their chances after the half time whistle, as Steve Diggin bagged a goal, and also, the striker saw an effort deflected into the net by Adam Clayton, after Glenn Walker opened the scoring. The Avenue managed to score a consolation as Michael Duckworth fired a fine shot past Billy Turley from 25 yards.
John Deacey was forced into one change for the trip to third placed Brackley Town, as Matty James replaced the suspended Richard Marshall in the Avenue midfield.
For the first half, Bradford were having to play up the slope and against the wind. The visitors were struggling to deal with the frontmen of the Saints in the opening five minutes, as both, Jefferson Louis and Tom Winters saw efforts on goal blocked.
With both sides seeming to cancel each other out, Bradford created their best chance of the game so far. A driving forward run from winger Paul Walker, saw the number eleven spot Matty James, and his inside pass to midfielder Alex Davidson was delivered into the box first time, only for Brackley’s centre back Ryan Austin to clear the ball away.
Furthermore, the Avenue wasted a good chance to take the lead. Following fine work from Ross Daly, the midfielder passed to Walker, and his lay off to Davidson, was not struck sweetly, only for James to pick up the rebound and fire wide from 10 yards.
A minute later, the hosts responded with an opportunity to open the scoring. The Saints managed to get the ball to right winger Glenn Walker, and his pinpoint cross was headed wide by Louis from eight yards.
Again, Jon Brady’s men were unable to find a way past Bradford goalkeeper John Lamb. A lovely through ball from the midfield fell into the feet of Steve Diggin, and as James Knowles slipped on the turf, the striker was one on one with Lamb, but his effort drifted wide of the post.
With the home side looking confident on the attack, the Avenue were finding it difficult to stop their momentum. As possession was lost by the visitors in the middle of the pitch by Danny Holland, Saints’ left winger Tom Winters flighted a cross, but, Diggin’s header was picked out of the sky by Lamb from 16 yards.
Once more, the home side were unlucky not to take the advantage. A free kick was awarded against Bradford, as Matty James tripped Tom Winters. From the resulting set piece, Diggin decided to take an early shot from 25 yards, but, Lamb was alert enough to tip the ball wide.
As the pressure was relentless from Brackley Town, the team in red and white were denied by John Lamb again. A cross from Winters was controlled by his fellow winger Walker, but, his tame effort was kept out by the Avenue goalkeeper from close range.
As Bradford were forced to withdraw Matty James with Rob O’Brien due to injury, again, Diggin squandered another opportunity to get on the scoresheet. A long ball from right back James Clifton was misjudged by the Avenue’s Knowles, and despite cutting inside from the right wing, the Saints’ number nine dragged his shot wide from inside the penalty area.
With the game approaching half time, Bradford were awarded a free kick, 25 yards from goal, as Eddie Odhiambo was adjudged to have fouled Michael Duckworth. However, the left back’s curling effort went straight into the hands of Saints’ stopper Billy Turley.
Despite the impending half time whistle, the Avenue were able to catch their opponents on the counter attack, as Alex Davidson was fed by substitute Rob O’Brien, and his pull back was met by Jordan Deacey, but, he was unable to connect properly with the ball.
HALF TIME: BRACKLEY TOWN 0-0 BRADFORD (PARK AVENUE)
After the break, the opening five minutes were relatively quiet with goalscoring chances. However, the best chance fell to Bradford, as O’Brien controlled a clearance, but, the midfielder blazed his effort over the bar from outside the box.
However, it was the home side that took the lead after 56 minutes. The home side’s left winger Tom Winters was set free on the left flank, and his pull back was met by the sliding Glenn Walker, who managed to toe-poke the ball past Lamb from close range.
Shortly after the goal, the Avenue should have equalised. A long ball was controlled and laid off by Holland into the feet of O’Brien, but, the substitute’s effort flew over the bar from 20 yards with only Turley to beat.
At the opposite end of the pitch, Brackley Town backed by their supporters behind the goal they were attacking, nearly witnessed their side double their advantage. Once more, the lively Winters chipped the ball into the area, and Knowles’ header was controlled by Louis inside the box, but, the striker fired his left effort wide from ten yards.
Despite their dominance, the Saints’ were always looking over their shoulder as the Avenue pushed further forward to find a way back into the game. Bradford’s front three were looking to combine to break down the stubborn home side defence. But, the Avenue were forced into long range efforts from Davidson, and the experienced Turley was equal to keep the ball out of his net.
Eventually, Jon Brady’s men were able to extend their lead against Bradford. Again, Tom Winters was the architect with a deep cross, and his delivery was met by Steve Diggin at the back post, and the ball squirmed underneath John Lamb.
A minute later, the home side scored their third goal. The Saints’ striker Steve Diggin managed to find a way past his marker, and his effort was deflected by Adam Clayton past the helpless Lamb from ten yards.
However, the Avenue managed to get on the scoresheet with a fine individual goal. From the kick off, Bradford’s Michael Duckworth played a one two with O’Brien, and the youngster struck a fine effort from distance into the top corner.
Despite the result in seemingly no doubt, the hosts may have added a fourth to the scoreboard. A ball over the top from Winters found substitute Gary Mulligan, and his squared ball was struck first time from Owen Story over the bar from six yards.
FULL TIME: BRACKLEY TOWN 3-1 BRADFORD (PARK AVENUE)
Brackley Town: Turley, Clifton, McDonald (Sharpe 80), Odhiambo, Austin, Nisevic, Walker, Solkhon (c), Diggin (Story 86), Louis (Mulligan 64), Winters.
Subs not used: Sandy, Corcoran.
Scorers: Walker (56), Diggin (80), Clayton o.g. (81)
Bradford (Park Avenue): Lamb, Clayton, Duckworth, Daly, Knowles, Price, James (O’Brien 34), Davidson (Snodin 72), Holland, Deacey, Walker.
Subs not used: Corner, Drury, Hume.
Scorers: Duckworth (83)