Result: Bradford Park Avenue 2-4 Altrincham (Skrill Conference North)
Venue: The Horsfall Stadium (Monday 11th November 2013-7.45pm)
After booking myself on the supporter’s coach the previous Wednesday, the evening of Monday the 11th saw me heading across the Pennines and into Yorkshire. I have to be slightly against Yorkshire, due to my affiliation to Lancashire County Cricket Club, where I am a member. So, how did the 20/20 at Old Trafford go then?!
Back onto the subject at hand then, at the risk of inciting any further threats against myself, and after finishing work I headed straight for the Vine Inn on Washway Road in Sale, the first pickup point for our transport tonight. At around 4.40pm, the coach loomed into sight, and we were to travel in luxury thanks to one of Altrincham’s sponsors GoGoodwin’s Coaches. After further stops including Moss Lane, we set off on the short hop to the West Riding.
After paying the £14 for travel, the coach arrived at the Horsfall Stadium shortly after passing the home of Bradford Bulls RLFC. With the coach being unable to turn into the car park, I disembarked and crossed the road, and made my way toward the turnstiles, whereupon I parted with a further £11 for entry. After passing through to the other side, I was greeted with the sight of a number of steel cabins painted in the clubs colours of green and white. I couldn’t see anyone selling a programme, so I decided that the club shop would be the best place to start looking for one. Well, not only did I find one, there must have been a fair few of tonight’s programmes along with a few thousand from past games, not only from PA’s history, but from all clubs. Extraordinary!
After purchasing the magazine for tonight’s game (£2) and a teamsheet for a further 25p I also bought a Trafford programme from the 1999-2000 season for 50p and the Official Programme from the Espana ’82 World Cup for £1. I was very happy with my night so far! Exiting the shop, I began a pictorial tour of the ground, including the one stand which runs along the left touchline as you enter, and the ‘pavilion’ opposite which serves as the changing rooms for the sides. The pitch at the Horsfall is bordered by a running track, which can, for some supporters, negate the atmosphere somewhat from the game, due to the distance from the pitch the supporter’s are. After taking my seat on the extreme right of the seats, nearest the small terraced area, the teams soon emerged out into the field. Other than these two structures, the Horsfall stadium has little to serve up for supporters, with a few braving the sharp wind and standing in the open, on the far side. The ground has a capacity of 3,500, with 1,800 being accommodated within the single seated stand. Before the action got underway, I thought to myself this would be a perfect time to begin the…..
Bradford Park Avenue were formed in 1907, and are one of 35 clubs to have played in all the top four-tiers of English League Football, and the only one to play below the current fifth level (Skrill Premier). Their history actually stretches as far back as 1863, when the original Bradford FC Rugby League club was formed. Whilst in the Rugby Football Union, they won the Yorkshire Cup, before becoming founder members of the Northern RFU winning one title and one challenge cup. However, here is where their love affair with rugby league ended.
In 1907, a majority of club members were part of what is still referred to as ‘The Great Betrayal, as a number of clubs decided to abandon the Northern Football Union (later Rugby League), and change to Association Football. The minority of members decided to break away and maintain rugby relations as Bradford Northern. These replaced Bradford in the Northern Union, with the Park Avenue ground going on to host the new football club. A short lived Bradford football side had ran alongside the rugby club. These started in 1895, and ran until 1899 when they were closed down due to mounting losses. During their short existence, Bradford FC won the West Yorkshire League along with Hunslet (shared) and the Leeds Workpeople’s Hospital Cup in 1895-96. They also competed in the FA Amateur Cup 1896-97 before progressing to the FA Cup for the following two seasons up until their demise. The final two seasons were spent in the Yorkshire League, with the last season being played at Birch Lane rather than Park Avenue.
However subsequent popularity of the game saw the new club apply for the Football League, but were denied entry. Instead, they joined the Southern League(!), replacing Fulham who had been accepted by the Football League. In 1908, and still known as Bradford FC, they were accepted into the Second Division of the League, and reached the FA Cup Quarter Finals in 1912-13. They were promoted to the First Division in 1914 as Second Division runners-up. Donald Bell VC played four games for the club, before joining the war effort in 1914, earning the VC for bravery at the Somme. Sadly, he was killed later that year. At the end of hostilities, the club entered a decline, and despite a further FA Cup quarter final being reached in 1919-20, they were relegated to Division 2 in 1921, and to the Third Division the following season. In 1928, they won the 3rd Division (North) and were promoted back to Division 2, where they remained until 1950, when they were relegated back to the Third tier. Along the way, they achieved a third quarter final appearance in the FA Cup, this coming in 1945-46. In 1958, they were put into Division 4 after reorganisation of the leagues. Although they were promoted as winners of the Fourth Division in 1961, they dropped straight back to where they came from two seasons later. In 1962-63, the club achieved their best result in a League Cup, reaching a 3rd Round replay. After struggling for a while, the club was voted out of the Football League in 1970, and replaced by Cambridge United. The club dropped into the Northern Premier League, and to try to solve their financial difficulties, they sold off Park Avenue in 1973, which meant a ground share with rivals Bradford City began. Sadly, this did not solve their turmoil and the club entered liquidation in 1974. They immediately reformed as a Sunday League club, playing in the same colours.
A new club was formed to pave the way for a return to Saturday football, and the name of Bradford PA was resurrected for 1988-89. They initially joined the West Riding County Amateur League, before joining the Central Midlands League. After a single season the club moved to the North West Counties League. The Sunday League side merged with the new Saturday club in the mid-90’s, and 1995 saw the North West Counties title won, and a move to their current home undertaken, following brief sojourns in Bramhall and Batley Rugby grounds. After a 9-year stay in the NPL, and an FA Cup first round appearance in 2003-04, the club became founder members of the Conference North in 2004. Just one season later though, relegation occurred back to the Unibond League(NPL). The following year, the club were again relegated, now to the Unibond Division 1 North. However, after just one season at this level, they returned to the Premier Division as champions. In 2011-12, a further first round FA Cup appearance was achieved and in May 2012, the club returned to the Conference North, with a play-off victory over perennial bridesmaids FC United of Manchester.
An interesting side note is that the club are officially known as Bradford AFC Park Avenue, switched around to avoid confusion with City. Bradford AFC was chosen as the name, due to the fact City had already registered both this suffix and United too.
Back onto the night at hand, and the two teams entered the field of play, both wearing their ‘home’ strips, Bradford in their green and white vertical stripes, and Altrincham in their familiar red and white strip. The game kicked off at a pace, and it took a matter of two minutes for the deadlock to be broken, as the Yorkshire side went ahead through Nicky Boshell’s close range strike. It took until the quarter hour mark for Alty to respond. A ball into the box was only half cleared and the ball ended up at the feet of the deadly Damian Reeves, who fired home from 15 yards. The game continued to be an end-to-end affair, with both sides playing some entertaining, fast-paced football, and on 25 minutes, it was Avenue who once again forged ahead, when Jordan Deacey pounced on a loose ball and poked home from 6 yards. This wasn’t too be the last action of an exciting half though, and the best goal was left to last. A long ball over the top was taken down over his shoulder by Reeves, who controlled on the volley, chested the ball back down and slotted confidently past Avenue ‘keeper John Lamb.
Half-time arrived to give everyone some much needed breathing time. I decided a trip to the tea hut was in order, and after purchasing some decent chips and gravy for £1.50 (I think), I returned to my seat, and realised that I was sat directly behind another seat that had been adorned with the poetic line of ‘Shaymen, Bradford is s***e. There was also a guy sat nearer the front doing a crossword, who had clearly been confused by the seats that would look more at home during a lunch break at Headingley Cricket Ground! There was also a local junior quarter final taking place, where Dean Field Sports J.F.C. went through as 4-0 winners, although they did possess a blond lad who looked a real good player.
The second half saw both sides continue to go for it, a draw was clearly not on the agenda for either outfit, and on the hour Greg Wilkinson’s effort from range took a wicked deflection off an Avenue centre-back and flew into the far corner, past the already committed Lamb, who was diving away to the opposite side. It was Wilkinson’s first goal for the Robins. Soon after this, Avenue’s Simon Lenighan was withdrawn to the relief of the home support who were clearly underwhelmed by his performance tonight (and to be fair, they did have a case), and the PA announcer summed up their mood by announcing the substitute as “Coming on is number 12 Chib Chilaka for number whatever, I don’t know”. Brilliant!
And the home fan’s mood was to worsen before the end, when Alty cult hero Nicky Clee struck a 35 yard (at least) free-kick past Lamb at his near past. No doubt the ‘keeper would be very disappointed to have been beaten from this distance, but credit Clee for the power and direction he got on the strike. Alty’s fans got a little worried when manager Lee Sinnott introduced big front man Kyle Perry (ex-Tamworth), and quicksilver winger Brian Smikle, who has always looked decent enough to me, and again, Smikle endeared himself to me by creating one or two problems down Avenue’s right flank during his late cameo. Avenue centre-back James Knowles saw yellow, then should have seen another for a lunge at Perry, but somehow got away with it, and was immediately replaced to protect himself proving he really should have gone. However, there was to be no further goals and the referee ended the game to signal that the points would be returning over the border to Trafford. Unfortunately at the end of the game, a Bradford fan took a nasty fall off the bottom of the steps and split his hand open, as well as taking a whack in the mouth. He seemed okay after attention by Avenue’s physio, which was good to see as it could have been a lot worse.
So, after boarding the coach back to Sale, I disembarked back at the Vine, and my Dad was good enough to drag himself out of the house at 11pm to get me from outside the old Liberty’s nightclub. Thus ended a great night, watching a good level of football, at a new ground for myself. 87 grounds done, hoping to make 100 by the season’s end!
My Bradford PA M.o.M.- Nathan Hotte
My Altrincham M.o.M- Damien Reeves
Ground:7- Liked the ground, a little light on stands though, but this is down to the multi-sports useage.
Game:10- Great game, couldn’t have asked for much more
Food:7- Not too bad for the price. Real chips too!
Programme:8- Good informative programme.
Fans:8- Good bunch, no real vocal backing for the home side though, and a lot of stick for poor Mr Lenighan.
Value For Money:9- Can’t go too wrong with the prices for a Step 2 game!
Referee:6- Was ok, but lost his way at points when it got a bit feisty.
BRADFORD P.A.: 1.John Lamb, 2.Chris Haworth, 3.Scott Maxfield, 4.Richard Marshall, 5.James Knowles, 6.Adam Clayton, 7.Simon Lenighan, 8.Nathan Hotte(c), 9.Nicky Boshell(1), 10.Jordan Deacey(1),11.Paul Walker. SUBS: 12.Chib Chilaka(p), 14.Steve Mallory(p), 15.Tom Corner(p), 16.Charlie Clamp, 17.Jason St.Juste
ALTRINCHAM: 1.Stuart Coburn, 2.Shaun Densmore(c), 3.Matt Doughty, 4.Jake Moult, 5.Gianluca Havern, 6.Scott Leather, 7.Greg Wilkinson(1), 8.Simon Richman, 9.James Walshaw, 10.Damian Reeves(2),11.Nicky Clee(1). SUBS: 12.Carl Rodgers(p), 14.Brian Smikle(p), 15.Max Pouncey, 16.Kyle Perry(p), 17.-.