Bradford (Park Avenue) suffered their fourth consecutive defeat, without scoring a goal, against Stalybridge Celtic at Bower Fold.
John Deacey’s side went behind after a 3rd minute goal from Jamie Mullan, and were lacking the final finish in the first half. After the break, Stalybridge Celtic added a second goal courtesy of Tom Buckley, before the Avenue were reduced to ten men, as Richard Marshall was shown a second yellow card.
The Avenue lined up with a debut for loanee Jordan Snodin in centre midfield, replacing the suspended Nathan Hotte. Also, Rob O’Brien lined up as number ten in place of Jordan Deacey, who starts a two match ban. Meanwhile, young forward Tom Corner was given the nod ahead of Jamie Jackson as the lone striker. Prior to kick off, John Deacey was forced into making a late change, as winger Alex Davidson was withdrawn with injury, and was replaced by the returning Matty James for Bradford.
The first opportunity of the game fell to Tom Corner. A driving run by Rob O’Brien, allowed the midfielder to cross for Corner, and the striker could only find the hands of the Celts goalkeeper Alex Cairns.
A minute later, the home side scored the opening goal. A quick counter attack saw Jack Laird smash the ball from distance against the crossbar, but, a fine rebound from Jamie Mullan gave John Lamb no chance from 16 yards.
After a whirlwind opening five minutes, the Avenue tried to respond immediately. Bradford were looking to tricky winger Paul Walker for some inspiration, but, a loose ball was struck by Rob O’Brien over the bar from 25 yards.
Furthermore, Bradford were denied an equaliser by a superb block off the line. A corner delivered by debutant Jordan Snodin was met by Adam Clayton with a glancing header, but, Greg Wilkinson rose to nod the ball away from danger.
The attempts at goal continued. This time, good build up play by the Celts midfield set up the goalscorer Laird, and his shot skimmed the post from 20 yards.
The Avenue were looking the most likely to score, almost repeating the performance against Guiseley AFC on Boxing Day. Bradford winger Matty James was able to escape the attention of Callum Warburton, and his inside pass was struck by Richard Marshall with power, but Cairns was alert to palm the ball away.
Despite the Avenue’s dominance, there was a real threat from the home side’s front men. A fine cross from winger Buckley was met by Jack Laird, but Clayton did enough to force the striker’s header over the bar.
With the half drawing to a close, the visitors came even closer to getting level on the scoreboard. A diagonal ball from Marshall spotted the run of his fellow winger Walker, and his left footed delivery was not converted by the outstretched Matty James inside the box.
Nonetheless, Jim Harvey turned away in frustration, as his side were unable to double their advantage into added time. Again, Tom Buckley was the man to create problems down the right wing, and after running across the field of the pitch with the ball, Mitchell Austin decided to take the ball off his feet, but, fired a left footed shot over the bar from distance.
HALF TIME: STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1-0 BRADFORD (PARK AVENUE)
After a short delay to the second half, due to an injury to referee S. Oldham, it was Bradford who were agonisingly close again to scoring. Again, Walker drifted inside to gain possession, and, the number eleven was able to swing in a low cross, but, his delivery was missed by two Avenue players inside the area.
Somehow, the Avenue were unable to get their goal, as Alex Cairns was doing everything possible to keep a clean sheet. The young goalkeeper was equal to two crosses from the visitors, with Tom Corner lurking for a rebound.
Then, the Celts extended their lead. Following a good save from Cairns, his team mates caught the Bradford side lacking in numbers, and Jack Laird squared the ball to Tom Buckley, who fired a low shot from 20 yards, which found the bottom corner.
Growing in confidence, the home side’s striker Jack Laird had another attempt on target. A long ball from Warburton was latched onto by Austin, and his pull back was struck first time by the number nine, but, Lamb produced a good save to deny the striker from 10 yards.
To add further misery for the Avenue, Richard Marshall was shown a second booking, and therefore dimissed. The midfielder picked up his first yellow card for a foul, and then, shortly after, Marshall committed another offence, giving the stand-in referee D. Fisher no choice but to reduce Bradford to ten men.
The Avenue appeared to struggle against the rainy conditions, and also, having to play with ten men. Nevertheless, they continued to show character, and a deep cross from Walker was met by substitute Danny Holland at the back post, but Cairns easily caught the ball.
With the game into added time, John Lamb produced another fine save to deny embarrassment for Bradford. A short corner was worked well by Laird into the path of substitute Jordan Barrow, but, his deflected shot was tipped over by the Bradford goalkeeper.
FULL TIME: STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 2-0 BRADFORD (PARK AVENUE)
Stalybridge Celtic: Cairns, Bleau, Warburton, Ryan, Platt (c), Haywood (Hatch 76), Buckley, Wilkinson, Laird, Mullan (Barrow 81), Austin (Osborne 72).
Subs not used: Lees, Bembo-Leta.
Scorers: Laird (3), Buckley (60)
Bookings: Austin, Warburton.
Bradford (Park Avenue): Lamb, Duckworth, Price, Marshall, Knowles (c), Clayton, James, Snodin (Daly 77), Corner (Jackson 61), O’Brien (Holland 60), Walker.
Subs not used: Greaves.
Bookings: O’Brien, Marshall x2
Sent Off: Marshall.