A late goal from Jonathan Franks sealed victory for Hartlepool United against Bradford (Park Avenue) at a humid Horsfall Stadium.
With the game looking to end in a stalemate, substitute Darren Holden drove forward before spotting the unmarked Franks, and the winger guided the ball home into the bottom corner past Tom Morgan.
With only one minute on the clock, the hosts nearly took an early lead. After good work from Martin Drury, the left-back spotted the run of Joe Colbeck, but his right-footed effort was saved by Pools goalkeeper Scott Flinders from 14 yards.
Shortly after, Chib Chilaka was denied the opening goal by resolute Pools defending. A deep free-kick from Steve Mallory was nodded by Ryan Qualter into the path of the striker, but his turn and shot was superbly blocked by Matthew Bates.
Once again, the home side threatened the Pools goal. Nathan Hotte found Colbeck, and on the counter-attack, the winger drove forward and cut inside his marker. But, Colbeck’s left-footed effort was easily gathered by Flinders.
At the opposite end of the pitch, former Bradford defender Michael Duckworth, who wore the captain’s armband, delivered a deep cross to Marlon Harewood. At the far post, the striker met the delivery, but his header flew over the bar.
Before the break, Colbeck had another opportunity for the home side. Receiving possession with his back to goal, Chilaka flicked the ball to Nathan Hotte, who spotted the winger on his right. After taking one touch, Colbeck struck a low shot that drifted wide from 18 yards.
After half-time, both teams made changes, including the Avenue who wore their away kit for the final 45 minutes.
But, the Pools who held off the threat of their opponents in the first half, were looking threatening on the attack.
The Avenue defender Paddy Miller lost possession to the lively Luke James, who ran with the ball towards goal. With James about to unleash a strike, Hotte denied him an attempt on goal with a superb sliding tackle inside the penalty area.
Both teams were trying to find a way to break the deadlock, and it was the visitors who finally scored the first goal of the afternoon.
Holden was able to find space down the left wing, and pulled the ball back to Franks, who slotted the ball into the bottom corner from 14 yards.
After the opening goal, Colin Cooper’s men managed to hold onto their lead and claim a narrow victory against the Conference North outfit.
Bradford (Park Avenue): Maxted, Black, Drury, Turner, Qualter, Mallory, Colbeck, Hotte, Chilaka, P. Walker, M. James.
Second half: Maxted (Morgan 50), Howarth, Miller, Kerr, Hewitt, Hotte, Frost, Turner, M. James (Baker 50), Marshall, P. Walker.
Hartlepool United: Flinders (Rafferty 45), Austin (Jones 84), Duckworth (Holden 60), Parnaby (Richards 60), Bradnock-Brennan, Bates (Miller 60), L. James (Smith 84), B. Walker (Franks 60) Harewood, Bopp (Woods 60), Compton (Rowbotham 60).
Subs not used: Hawkins, Nearney, Collins
Scorer: Franks (79).
Photo by: John Rhodes