Bradford (Park Avenue) picked up their first away win of the season and first 3 points since October 11th with a 2-0 victory at Yorkshire rivals Harrogate Town.
The visitors won the game in dominant fashion, courtesy of an early goal from former Harrogate man Chib Chilaka, and a second-half stunner from Danny Frost. But in truth, the scoreline flattered the hosts as Avenue dominated the entirety of the 90 minutes.
The game started off at a great pace, and it was the pace of Avenue’s attackers that created the opener on just 5 minutes.
John Danby distributed early to right wing-back Joe Colbeck, who raced up the pitch before weighting a perfect pass through to Chilaka which was dispatched excellently for his sixth league goal this season.
As mentioned, the visitors lined up in a 3-5-2 formation at the CNG Stadium. This switch came after Avenue boss John Deacey had watched Harrogate and knew what to expect, and he got his tactics spot on in the brilliant victory.
Colbeck continued to be the danger man on the right hand side for Avenue, the Harrogate defence completely unable to deal with his pace, as he set up chances for Qualter, Colley and himself in the opening 15 minutes, when Harrogate chose to replace their left back and switch to 5 at the back. The attacking fivesome of Colbeck, Colley, Chilaka, Frost and Walker was just too much for them.
Just before that switch came a huge talking point. Lamin Colley raced through on goal, in very similar fashion to the Leamington game last week, and was once again felled by the back-tracking defender. The referee raced in and pointed to the spot, but as he reached into his pocket for a certain red card, he spotted the linesman’s flag up on the far side, and the decision was overruled.
Despite a distinct lack of action in his penalty area, recent form man John Danby had to be on his toes as Harrogate won a free kick just outside the corner of the box. Craig Nelthorpe took it and it was heading for the postage stamp, but for a wonderful fingertip save from the former Chester stopper.
Colbeck was in the thick of it again as Avenue won a free kick just outside the centre circle.
The winger nonchalantly strolled up to the ball before absolutely belting it at goal, forcing Phil Barnes into a very good save to pluck it out of the bottom corner.
Danny Frost tried to better Colbeck as the ball sat up nicely from 35 yards out, but Barnes managed to hold his volley well. Frost was doing well in the attacking midfield role behind the two strikers, and should have made it 2-0 on 37 minutes as he shot from 8 yards out, but it deflected agonisingly wide.
Danby had to be alert just before the break, as Walshaw pressured him from a low cross and he saved well to preserve the one goal advantage heading into half time.
Harrogate started quickly and created a chance early in the half which was headed wide, and looked to use that to push themselves forward in the match. However the wind was completely knocked out of their sails when Danny Frost unleashed an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 30 yards.
Just a minute later Harrogate did manage to put the ball in the back of the net, but the referee’s whistle had been blown long before for a clear foul on Danby.
Avenue also had one ruled out just 3 minutes after that, but it was turned in by a clearly offside Chilaka, who was found by Colbeck’s perfect through ball.
The sides then attacked each other, winning a number of corners each, but the visitors’ goal was never threatened and Avenue always looked more likely to score.
It wasn’t until the last 10 minutes, when Harrogate’s defence were clearly jaded, that Avenue created any more clear cut chances.
In the 82nd minute Chilaka was slipped in by Walker, and he only had Barnes to beat, but the resilient home keeper kept it out well. At the other end, Danby was determined to keep his clean sheet as he made another good save to deny former Avenue loanee Louie Swain.
In the dying embers of the game, Avenue had one last chance to put some deserved gloss on the scoreline, and it would have been a deserved goal too for the phenomenal Colbeck.
Harrogate had a corner which was cleared, and forward raced Howarth, Moke and Colbeck. Howarth beat the last man on the half-way line with a ball through to Colbeck, who was never going to square to Moke, and he looked to have beaten Barnes as he attempted to lift it over him, but Barnes’ left arm came out of nowhere to deny Avenue’s number 7.
It was a bonus for the Harrogate goalkeeper, who had earlier been named the sponsor’s man of the match. Read into that what you will.
John Deacey said after the match that: “we were outstanding. 2-0 does not reflect that game at all. Had it been 4 or 5, that would have been a fair result.
“I thought it was the best we have played all season. Every department was excellent. Joe Colbeck, outstanding. Chib Chilaka, outstanding. But it is very very difficult to pick anybody out individually because I thought they worked the system superbly and every single person did their job correctly.”
Harrogate Town: Barnes, Turner (Metcalfe 65), Meynell (Bloomer 15), Dean, Shiels, McGurk (c), Kerry (Swain 65), Nowakowski, Speight, Walshaw, Nelthorpe
Subs not used: Crook, Carole
Bradford (Park Avenue): Danby, Howarth, Price (c), Rea, Qualter, Moke, Colbeck, Walker, Chilaka, Colley (Barraclough 76), Frost (Marshall 65)
Subs not used: Heaton, Smith, Patterson
Goals: Chilaka (5), Frost (53)
Referee: B. Khatib