Chib Chilaka’s last minute goal saw Bradford (Park Avenue) pick up three crucial points with a hard fought victory against a spirited Leamington FC outfit at the Horsfall Stadium.
Paul Holleran’s men punished the Avenue for their failure to make the most of earlier chances as Daniel Newton gave the Brakes the lead. However, the hosts replied with two goals in eight minutes as Danny Glover and Paul Walker found the net. But, the away side equalised from a free-kick as substitute Matt Dodd found the bottom corner. With the game in the 90th minute, Chilaka’s left-footed shot squeezed past the Brakes goalkeeper Anthony Breeden to record an important win in the league.
John Deacey gave a debut to new signing defender Ryan Black, who arrived from Buxton FC. Also, Ryan Qualter was handed a home start and Paul Beesley returned to the starting eleven as Chris Howarth dropped to the bench and Alex Davidson and Jordan Deacey were missing through injury.
The Avenue nearly took an early advantage with a quick counter-attacking move. From a Brakes corner, the home side pushed forward and Glover’s neat pass was collected by Adam Clayton, but his right-footed effort flew over from 14 yards.
Shortly after, Hotte had another opportunity to put his side in front. A number of tidy passes ended with Walker’s cross dummied by Glover and the ball was picked up by the captain, but the ball bobbled off the surface and Breeden dived at his feet to deny the midfielder.
Qualter nearly marked his first start in the green and white with a goal. An inswinging free-kick from Walker was met by the centre back, but his header was easily saved by Breeden from 10 yards.
Once more, Walker was involved with an excellent piece of individual skill to nearly assist the first goal of the evening. The winger bypassed two markers and fired an inch-perfect 40 yard diagonal ball to Beesley who flicked the ball to Glover, and the striker’s ambitious overhead shot went wide.
Again, Glover had a chance to open his account for his new club. The recent signing found himself inside the penalty area, and he connected with Hotte’s inside pass but his side-footed effort went over from 12 yards.
Before the break, the visitors were unable to convert an opportunity following an Avenue error. After Clayton lost out in a 50/50 challenge on the centre-circle for a loose ball, Ricky Johnson drove forward towards goal, but his attempt blazed over from 12 yards.
After the half time whistle, the Avenue were continuing to pile the pressure on their opponents but were unable to find the net, as Beesley was unable to tap home from close range after good defending by the Brakes.
Then, Leamington FC broke the deadlock with their first shot on target. The Brakes midfielder Newton was alert to a poor clearance from the Avenue, and fired a low effort past Lamb from 12 yards.
The night was becoming frustrating for the Avenue.
Firstly, an excellent pass from Jamie Price found Walker and his strike was pushed away by Breeden towards Black who drilled a low shot wide from 14 yards.
Then, Glover was unable to keep his shot down from close range. A delivery from Black was flicked into the path of the striker, but his right-footed shot flew over from six yards.
However, the Avenue’s fortunes changed and Glover scored his first goal for the Avenue. Walker played the ball back to Richard Marshall on the left wing, and the midfielder delivered a superb cross and Glover’s guided header went past Breeden into the top corner from 10 yards.
And then, John Deacey’s men took the advantage. A lovely chip from Hotte was flicked by substitute Chib Chilaka towards Walker who managed to fire the ball into the bottom corner.
In a further twist, the visitors equalised. A lofted free-kick from the goalkeeper found its way to Dodd, and the substitute’s accurate shot found the net from 12 yards to the delight of the travelling Brakes fans.
As the game approached its end, the Avenue were looking for a late winner, but Marshall was denied by an outstretched Brakes foot and the ball went out for a corner. Then, a teasing delivery from a flag-kick was headed against the bar, and the game seemed to be appearing to end as a draw.
But there was a final chapter in this enthralling match.
A long ball from the defence was flicked into the path of Chilaka, who rolled against his marker inside the penalty area and struck a left-footed shot past Breeden into the bottom corner sending the Avenue dugout and fans into scenes of celebration to seal a vital victory in The Skrill North.
Bradford (Park Avenue): Lamb, Black (Howarth 86) Knowles, Price (Chilaka 70), Qualter, Clayton, Beesley (Gardner 70), Hotte (capt), Glover, Marshall, Walker.
Subs not used: Maxfield, Hume.
Scorers: Glover (72), Walker (80), Chilaka (90).
Leamington FC: Breeden, Higgins, Morley, Hawker, Daly, Mace, Moore (Dodd 58), McNamee, Newton (Connolly 65), Johnson, Chilton (J.Green 79)
Subs not used: W.Green, Fenney.
Scorers: Johnson (55), Dodd (82).