28.2.2015

Vanarama Conference North

Bradford (Park Avenue)

Hotte (10)

Hednesford Town

(1) 1

(0) 0

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MoTM

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367

Ben Bailey

W L W D W W W W W L

AFC Fylde (H) 3.3.15

The Pitmen's recent fine form comes to an end this afternoon as an early goal from Nathan Hotte earns Bradford (Park Avenue) three crucial points in their quest to move away from the relegation dogfight below them

A 2-0 win over old foes North Ferriby United in midweek had seen Rob Smith's men move up into scarcely-believable third place in the table, despite Smith once again performing a minor miracle in simply putting eleven fit players out on the pitch due to several ongoing issues with many names in the squad. On-loan Lloyd Kerry was the one returning face to the XI that had started at Grange Lane as he replaced Andy Todd in midfield. Paul McCone's return from injury saw the centre-back named amongst the substitutes for today's trip to Yorkshire

Avenue returned to the Horsfall Stadium after a keenly-contested local derby at Guiseley in midweek, clinching a 2-1 at Nethermoor to move three points clear of the drop zone in the process and out of the bottom three. Manager John Deacey made one change to his side for the visit of the Pitmen this afternoon as Luke Dean came in for Simon Ainge

The Horsfall Stadium pitch - so often a contentious issue for both sides since Avenue moved in during the nineties - was once again in a poor state, as both sides struggled to contend with large patches of muddy, bobbly turf win the early stages of the game. Defender Billy Priestley was to have the first chance of the afternoon in the fifth minute as he headed Ryan Qualter's flick-on from an Alex Pursehouse free-kick past Dan Crane, only for an offside flag against the midfielder to deny him the opener as the goal was ruled out

The Pitmen were also pulled back by an offside flag in the opening exchanges as Steve Diggin's run in behind the Bradford defence in the eighth-minute latch onto Kerry's long ball forwards was pulled back as Diggin was in an offside position when the ball was played

The hosts took the lead with their next move forwards in the tenth minute of the game; a swift break through the centre of the pitch involving Qualter and Price saw the ball played into the path of Nathan Hotte on the right-hand corner of the Hednesford penalty area, with the striker taking the ball into the box before rifling an angled drive beyond the reach of Dan Crane at his near post, despite Bailey's best efforts to block the shot

The burly Diggin was giving the Avenue defence plenty to think about with his movement, making a darting run onto Jamey Osborne's pass in the fourteenth minute but saw his left-footed shot on the run blocked by Chris Howarth

Richard Batchelor made one of his typically bustling runs from midfield three minutes later, holding off Craig King's challenge and drilling in a shot from twenty yards out that took a bobble before being deflected behind by Qualter

Dean was the first player to have his name taken in the twentieth minute as his rash challenge on Tom Thorley in midfield had the Hednesford bench up on their feet demanding retribution for the Bradford player. Kerry took the resultant free-kick and floated it into the Bradford penalty area, where on-loan striker Nick Rushton headed over Jon Danby's crossbar from eight yards out with a looping effort

Osborne's tricky run was halted by King twenty-five yards from the Bradford goal on twenty-three minutes, handing the Pitmen a free-kick just to the left-hand side of the box. Darren Campion took the kick but got a little too much on it as the ball sailed over the heads of all of the incoming sky blue shirts at the far post and out of play for a goal-kick

Five minutes later, Hotte's close control saw him take the ball away from Bailey and play Paul Walker into space down the left-wing. The former Buxton man stole half a yard on James Hurst before whipping a cross to the near post, where Chib Chilaka's header was held by Crane low down to his left

Paul Walker was involved again for the hosts just after the half-hour mark as Thorley's left-wing corner was cleared by the hosts and played up to the winger, who broke quickly down the left before drifting inside as he reached the Hednesford penalty area. Hurst did well to recover and put winger off sufficiently for him to scuff his shot into the ground and put it wide of Crane's post. Walker appeared to injure himself in the build-up as his standing foot got stuck in the sticky turf, but continued after a bout of treatment

A spell of pressure from the Pitmen saw them continue to knock on the door without really troubling the Avenue defence; neat and patient play on thirty-four minutes saw Osborne and Rushton link up well, with Osborne squaring the ball to Glenn Walker just outside the penalty area, with the winger lifting his shot high over the crossbar

Priestley's game was brought to a premature halt on thirty-six minutes as he was forced off due to picking up an injury in a clash with Batchelor, being replaced by Sam Patterson in the centre of midfield

With five minutes of the first half remaining, Price's late run into the Hednesford penalty area saw him head Pursehouse's free-kick back across the face of the Hednesford goal, but the ball was slightly too far in front of Chilaka to turn home and Kerry cleared the danger

The final action of the first half saw the referee produce the first in a series of questionable decisions as Osborne was sent sprawling by King thirty yards from goal, only for play to continue as the ball ran kindly to Glenn Walker. The winger was allowed to play on and looked to send over a cross to Diggin but bizarrely was pulled back by the referee for the original foul on Osborne, despite quite a few seconds elapsing since the foul on the midfielder. Kerry took the resultant free-kick, only for the referee to blow for half-time as soon as the kick was taken

The hosts had shaded a low-quality first period, although neither goalkeeper had been particularly over-worked with chances at a premium at both ends. Paul Walker's earlier injury saw him admit defeat at the break, with the winger being replaced by former Bradford City man Joe Colbeck. The Pitmen also made a change as Stoke City's on-loan winger Adam Thomas came on in place of Kerry

The hosts started the second half strongly and Crane had to be alert to deny Chilaka just four minutes after the start as the lively striker escaped the attentions of Bailey to get on the end of King's pass, forcing the experienced stopper into a save low down to his left to push his right-footed strike around the post for a Bradford corner kick

Two minutes later, one of the oddest sequences of action anyone in the ground will ever be likely to see led to Hednesford manager Smith being sent to the stands. Since Hotte's opening goal, Bradford's bench and ball boys had purposely broken up play by failing to return the ball to play in a timely manner; the Hednesford bench had had enough of this gamesmanship and decided to take matters into their own hands by keeping the ball amongst themselves when Bradford looked to take a throw-in in front of them. The Bradford physio took exception to this and encroached on the Hednesford dugout in a bid to retrieve the ball, prompting a bout of pushing and shoving amongst the two benches. The referee waded into the conversation and sent Smith to the stand, despite admitting afterwards that he didn't actually know why he had sent Smith off!

With Larry Chambers now barking out the orders from the bench, the Pitmen picked up the tempo and Glenn Walker drilled a long-range effort wide of goal on fifty-four minutes after a clever flick from Osborne had played the former Brackley man into a pocket of space

Osborne himself tried his luck with one of his trademark long-range efforts three minutes later, making a run from deep to pick up Thomas's pass but lifting his fiercely-struck effort just over Danby's crossbar

Former Chester man Danby denied Rushton a leveller on the hour mark, parrying the Wrexham loanee's snapshot from ten yards out and pushing it away from goal, where Dean completed the clearance

Dean made a timely block to deny Diggin on sixty-four minutes, sticking out a leg to deflect the striker's shot away from goal after Glenn Walker's cross was swept towards goal by Diggin's first-time effort

Bailey headed high over the crossbar from Thorley's deep corner kick on sixty-seven minutes as he arrived at the far post to beat Howarth and Danby to the cross

At the other end, Crane made another fine stop to deny Avenue on seventy minutes as Howarth's well-struck free-kick was pushed away from goal by the stopper as he dived full-length to his right

Two minutes later, good play down the left from Bradford saw Colbeck link up with Howarth to cross for King, who controlled the ball well in the penalty area but struck an angled drive straight into the side-netting from twelve yards out

The hosts looked the more likely to score at the point, with Qualter's quickly-taken free-kick on seventy-six minutes finding Hotte in space as the Hednesford defence appealed in vain for offside, only for the Bradford goalscorer to drag his shot wide from a good position ten yards from Crane's goal

Danby denied Batchelor two minutes later as the former Leamington man got on the end of Thorley's fine threaded pass but struck his firm shot straight into the arms of the home stopper

The momentum was swinging back the other way as the game entered the final ten minutes, with the Pitmen looking a threat going forwards. Hurst made a move forwards to latch onto another fine move in midfield involving Thorley and Osborne, unleashing a powerful shot from twenty yards out that struck Dean and ended up bouncing off along the athletics track behind Danby's goal for a Hednesford corner kick

Two minutes later, Thorley got himself into a promising position after exchanging passes with Rushton but saw his well-struck effort take a nick off Howarth and drop well wide of Danby's right-hand post

This was to be Thorley's final contribution to the game, as he was forced off with a knock on eighty-six minutes; he was replaced by another one of the Pitmen's loan army, Thomas Strain

Glenn Walker's clever wing play saw him trick his way to the left-hand byeline with a couple of minutes remaining, standing up a cross to the far post that Danby got a fingertip to, denying Rushton a chance to nod the ball from close range

The Pitmen's frustrating afternoon was summed up in the last minute of the game as another piece of poor officiating saw the assistant on the main stand side fail to spot Chilaka standing five or six yards offside as he ran onto a pass from King. The excellent Bailey managed to get back and put the striker off as he drove the shot wide of goal, but the missed offside was all too much for the combative Batchelor, who berated the match officials for their shortsightedness and was sent off by the referee for foul and abusive language

There were more choice words between the two benches at the final whistle, whilst Osborne and Campion both giving the match officials their views on their second-half decision-making before trudging off. For the Pitmen, defeat sees them drop down a place in the league table to fourth, ending a run of five successive wins and seven unbeaten in Conference North until today. Smith's side will look to shake off today's disappointment when they return to Keys Park to face title favourites AFC Fylde, whose recent poor results had seen them leave the door open for in-form Barrow to usurp them in the race for the title

Bradford Park Avenue: Danby, Pursehouse, Howarth, Dean, Qualter, Priestley (Patterson 36), King ©, Price, Chilaka, Hotte, P. Walker (Colbeck 45)       Subs Unused: Colley, Boothman, Barlow

Hednesford Town: Crane, Hurst, Campion ©, Bailey, Kerry (Thomas 45), Thorley (Strain 86), Osborne, G. Walker, Diggin, Rushton, Batchelor  (90)       Subs Unused: Robinson, Todd, McCone