As we approach 2013, the past year will live long in the memory for Bradford (Park Avenue).
Lewis Sale looks back at a successful year for the club.
The New Year started with volunteers entering an empty Horsfall Stadium, and handed a spare pitch fork, with heavy rain putting the game against FC United of Manchester in doubt. As the sun came out, the various people who came to help, tried to drain the water from the playing surface, striving to get one of the biggest games of the season on. After an inspection, the game went ahead, and Bradford fell to a heavy 5-2 defeat. It was not the last time FC United of Manchester would visit in 2012.
Despite the loss, the Avenue went three games unbeaten in the league, and progressed into the next rounds of the Doodson Sport Cup and the West Riding County Cup in January.
But, then the weather continued to cause problems for many non league sides in February, and Bradford were affected with four consecutive postponements. When they returned to action, the Avenue were knocked out of the Doodson Sport Cup, falling to a 2-1 defeat to North Ferriby United. Again, despite a bad start to the month, the men in green and white ended the month unbeaten in four. Following victories against Mickleover Sports and Whitby Town, the Avenue drew at Kendal Town. However, they faced a difficult test against Blue Square Bet North outfit Harrogate Town in the semi finals of the West Riding County Cup. In a midweek clash, the Avenue were forced into naming assistant manager Mark Hume as their only substitute. Nevertheless, Bradford took the game to extra time and a brace from Tom Greaves ensured their place in the final at the Coral Windows Stadium against Guiseley AFC.
However, John Deacey remained focussed on the task of earning promotion from the Evostik Northern Premier League. Within two weeks, Bradford (Park Avenue) had earned a victory and a loss to Stafford Rangers, by the same scoreline; 3-1. Following a win against Buxton, Bradford travelled to leaders Chester FC, and, with a victory earlier in the season, the Avenue were looking to complete a league double. At half time, the task looked unlikely, trailing 3-0. But, in the second half, the visitors came close to a remarkable comeback, falling to a 3-2 defeat to Neil Young’s promotion contenders. Despite the defeat, the Avenue thrashed Ashton United and Kendal Town, and saw off a spirited Buxton outfit at the end of March.
On a cold Monday night at the Horsfall Stadium, two of the promotion contenders met, as Chorley FC, led by former professional footballer Garry Flitcroft, arrived to put pressure on a confident Bradford side. However, an entertaining match between two attacking sides ended with an Avenue victory, as Richard Marshall converted a second half penalty.
Ahead of their date against Guiseley AFC, Bradford were unable to win a match in two league fixtures, drawing to already relegated Burscough, and losing to playoff outsiders Rushall Olympic at the Horsfall Stadium. Then, on a perfect night for football, Bradford (Park Avenue) were facing their local neighbours Guiseley AFC at the home of Bradford City. In front of a healthy crowd, Simon Baldry rose to nod in a last minute corner, giving the Lions’ a dramatic victory against a stubborn Bradford side, and retain the West Riding County Cup. The defeat did not affect the Avenue, as they bounced back with a convincing 3-0 victory against Frickley Athletic. As the month was approaching its end, Bradford faced a difficult end to the regular season, and with places to play for in the playoffs, the Avenue had to face Northwich Victoria and Chorley FC away from home. The Avenue supporters grew apprehensive, as Bradford fell to successive defeats.
The playoff fixtures were arranged, and Bradford (Park Avenue) faced Hednesford Town in one of the semi finals. After a disappointing end to the season, Bradford went into the dressing rooms at the break, in the lead courtesy of Richard Marshall and Adam Clayton. After half time, the Avenue were dominant and thrashed their opponents 5-0 to set up a place in the Playoff Final against FC United of Manchester.
The date of 5th May was one of the most important for the club since its reformation. With a bumper crowd expected, the conditions were ideal for an occasion such as the Playoff Final, with the reward, a place in next season’s Blue Square Bet North. As the game kicked off, both sides were cautious and aware of the prize. With the scores level at the break, both sets of fans were looking to be the 12th man. However, the second half saw chances missed by both teams, and therefore, went into extra time. Again, without a clear opportunity, the game appeared to be heading to penalties. But, with two minutes left, Nathan Hotte received the ball outside the box, and spotted Adam Clayton on the right wing. The right back delivered a teasing low cross and substitute Tom Greaves’ outstretched boot directed the ball into the bottom corner. As the goalscorer ran, arms aloft with his fellow team mates chasing him, the Avenue fans celebrated, knowing it was unlikely there was chance of a comeback. Then, shortly after the restart, the referee blew his whistle, and Bradford (Park Avenue) were promoted to the next level of non league football.
The club and its supporters were able to celebrate promotion at the Presentation Evening held at the Horsfall Stadium. Following a speech from manager John Deacey, the major awards were handed out, and it was a night to remember for midfielder Nathan Hotte. The hard working player won the Managers,’ Players,’ and Supporters,’ Player of the Year Awards.
It was a busy pre-season for John Deacey, Mark Hume and the Board, as they set out to compile a squad capable to compete in the Blue Square Bet North.
August and the first day of the season arrived quickly, and the newcomers to the league were handed a tie against Worcester City at the Horsfall Stadium. Following a difficult first half, Bradford managed to gain a point, after Richard Marshall’s terrific strike in the final minute. Afterwards, the Avenue travelled to Vauxhall Motors and a fine display was rewarded with a 3-1 victory. The final two games of the month saw Bradford face local neighbours Harrogate Town and FC Halifax Town, both ending 1-1.
The next month proved to be tough for the club. Despite extending their unbeaten run to five games, after a 5-4 win at Corby Town, the Avenue suffered three consecutive defeats to Stalybridge Celtic, Brackley Town and Altrincham. But, the month ended with a home victory against Boston United, as Nathan Hotte’s first half goal was enough to separate the two sides.
In October, Bradford were unbeaten, and John Deacey was awarded the Manager of the Month. Following a narrow win against Gloucester City, the Avenue produced a magnificient defensive display to draw against Evostik Northern Premier League champions Chester FC. Further to this, Bradford defeated Bishop’s Stortford and Colwyn Bay. In the cup competitions, John Deacey’s men crashed out of the West Riding County Cup to Guiseley AFC, but, secured a place in the FA Cup with Budweiser First Round, with a hard fought 4-1 win against Ossett Albion.
The following month began with a trip to League One side Doncaster Rovers in the FA Cup with Budweiser. Despite losing 3-1, it was a day to remember for many, because on the pitch, the players produced a display that the large number of travelling supporters could be proud of. Nonetheless, the Avenue suffered consecutive defeats to Stafford Rangers in the FA Carlsberg Trophy and Solihull Moors. However, two victories against Hinckley United and Workington saw the Avenue climb into the playoff places.
The good run of form continued, as Bradford defeated Histon FC on the opening day of December. Furthermore, the month ended disappointly, with four consecutive defeats without scoring a goal to Worcester FC, Gainsborough Trinity, Guiseley AFC and Stalybridge Celtic.
Across the past twelve months, Bradford (Park Avenue) have reached the West Riding County Cup Final, the Playoff Final and secured promotion from the Evostik Northern Premier Division to the Blue Square Bet North. It is a year to remember for Bradford (Park Avenue)
What will 2013 bring…?