Sunday, October 07, 2007

Avenue let off the hook

By Mike Crowther

Bradford Park Avenue 1, FC United 1

Avenue showed little of the form which had seen them score 21 goals in their last four matches - but a late equaliser earned them a replay at Gigg Lane on Wednesday.

Rory Patterson had given the visitors a deserved lead after 53 minutes and they came close to increasing it several times.

But Avenue's Paul Gedman equalised with 15 minutes left and only a point-blank save by goalkeeper Sam Ashton from Lincoln Adams prevented the hosts from snatching it.

There was a carnival atmosphere for the arrival of one of the best-supported clubs in non-league football, though the crowd of 1,310 was well below the record one hoped for.

But the dancing girls at half-time had provided more entertainment than the home side managed in the first period.

Their only shot on target came when skipper Steve Connors forced a routine save from Ashton a minute before the break.

United enjoyed the lion's share of possession but their only real chance came when Patterson set up sub Cayne Hanley, whose close-range effort was well saved by John Worsnop after 25 minutes.

It came after Sol Campbell look-a-like Adams had got the wrong side of his man but it was a rare mistake by the centre back, who was one of the few players to shine for Avenues along with goalkeeper John Worsnop.

Adams looked like he would be the fourth player to come off in only 34 minutes after injurying his left shoulder but he soldiered on after treatment.

Simon Carden, after a strong challenge from Connors, and Stuart Rudd, with a pulled muscle, had already been substituted for United, while Avenue full back Darren Hockenhull was replaced by Ali Brown after pulling up.

The first 15 minutes of the second half was all United. Andy Lee cleared off the line from Nicky Platt after the lively Jerome Wright had been left on his own to cross.

Then Patterson latched onto a throughball from Hanley and made it 1-0 after Avenue's Paul Collins had trodden on the ball.

Paul Gedman forced a good block from Ashton at the other end before the new signing from Hyde grabbed an unexpected equaliser.

Good work down the left by the striker saw him cross for Ben Jones, who clattered into Ashton. Gedman rifled the loose ball home despite a valiant block by Platt on the line.

Tom Baker fired home the rebound for good measure but the officials ruled that Ged-man's shot had already gone in.

As Ashton received treatment, the referee removed a hefty-looking stone from the pitch which had been thrown by someone outside the ground.

Adams almost snatched the win with a header from a corner before Worsnop again came to Avenue's rescue with a save from Hanley.

Avenue boss Benny Phillips was mystified why his side failed to sparkle. He said: "We didn't play well and I can't put my finger on it. I don't think it was the occasion because we have players who are used to playing in front of these type of crowds. At least we have the opportunity to put things right on Wednesday."

He added: "You have to keep things in perspective. United are a side who have been together for two seasons, while we have a group of players who have just been thrown together and are still learning to gel."

3:55pm today