Gloucester City 3-3 Bradford (Park Avenue)

Bradford (Park Avenue) claimed their first point of the Vanarama Conference North with an entertaining draw against Gloucester City at The Abbey Business Stadium.

Matty James, Richard Marshall and Paul Walker scored for the Avenue in a thrilling clash on the opening day of the new season in Cheltenham.

Charlie Griffin scored twice for the home side, and captain Billy Jones netted a brilliant free-kick but the Avenue refused to be beaten and returned to West Yorkshire with a point.

It was Gloucester City who had the first shot on target. Adam Mann gathered the ball on right before curling a ball into a dangerous area, but Griffin’s header was kept out by goalkeeper John Lamb.

Griffin was again causing problems for the Avenue defence, but he was unable to keep his header down after a great delivery by Matt Groves.

Five minutes later, the Avenue nearly took the lead. Chib Chilaka brought the ball down 40 yards out from goal, and after holding off two defenders, he placed a perfectly weighted ball to James. Driving forward and one-on-one with Tigers’ ‘keeper Mike Green, James tried to side-foot the ball home, but Green rushed out and saved well.

Shortly after, the visitors went close again. A through ball from Walker found right-back Grant Black, but the defender’s curling effort was tipped wide from 14 yards.

A mistake by Ryan Qualter gifted Gloucester City the lead. Turning towards his own goal, near the halfway line, the defender attempted to play a ball back to Lamb, but his pass was far too short and Griffin was alert to tuck the ball under Lamb.

Then, James equalised for the Avenue. Chilaka started the move, bringing the ball down before playing a ball out wide to Joe Colbeck. The winger swung in a delicate cross in the direction of James, who nodded home from six yards.

John Deacey’s men came out after the break and started the half with two great chances.

Jack Rea won the ball in midfield, and then sprinted clear before playing a pass to Walker. The winger cut inside and unleashed a right-footed effort from 25 yards, but his shot was superbly tipped over.

The Avenue again forced Green into another excellent save when Chilaka smashed a shot from the edge of the box, but his effort was pushed onto the bar.

The hosts regained the lead on the 58th minute from the penalty spot. Steve Mallory was adjudged to have fouled Chris Jones and a penalty was awarded. Griffin stepped up and scored his second goal of the game.

Shortly after, the Avenue manager John Deacey used all three substitutes bringing on Scott Kerr, Richard Marshall and Danny Frost.

On the 76th minute, the away side were, themselves, awarded a penalty when the Avenue substitutes Frost and Marshall linked up. The lively Frost picked the ball up inside the box before playing a clever lay-off to Marshall. Marshall looked to shoot but, the referee pointed to the spot, after blowing her whistle for a foul from Matt Williams on the midfielder. Marshall stepped up and smashed the spot-kick home.

But the Avenue weren’t on level terms for long as Tim Harris’ side took the lead for the third time. After another foul from Mallory, a free-kick was awarded, 25 yards from goal. On the whistle, captain Billy Jones curled a magnificent left-footed shot into the bottom corner past Lamb.

Five minutes later, the Avenue equalised again. A superb ball from Black, left Walker one-on-one with Green and the winger managed to lob the ball over the goalkeeper into the unguarded net.

Before the full time whistle, Bradford had one final chance to steal three points. James received the ball on the right and played a ball across the face of the goal, but the diving Marshall was unable to connect with the delivery and the game ended a draw.

Gloucester City: M.Green, Avery, B.Jones (c), Hamilton, Williams, Connolly, Richards, C.Jones (Chamberlain 70), Griffin, Mann (Wilson 78), Groves (Webb 82).

Subs not used: Mi.Green, Preece.

Scorers: Griffin (33), (pen 58); B.Jones (79).

Bradford (Park Avenue): Lamb, Black, Drury, Rea (Kerr 63), Qualter, Mallory, Colbeck (Marshall 63), Hotte (c), Chilaka (Frost 67), James, Walker.

Subs not used: Howarth, Price.

Scorers: James (41); Marshall (77); Walker (84).