Thursday, November 22, 2007

Avenue face tough Gigg Lane test

By Ian Whiting

Avenue's run of consecutive UniBond Division One North victories will be under severe threat on Saturday when they take on FC United of Manchester.

The promotion contenders briefly swapped second place in the table last week, with Avenue currently occupying the runners-up spot but only on goal difference as the pair trail leaders Curzon Ashton by just three points.

Avenue are hoping most of their core supporters will follow them over the Pennines to Gigg Lane, home of Bradford City's league rivals Bury. FC United have been tenants at the Coca-Cola League Two ground since being formed by disgruntled Manchester United supporters.

They have a huge following for a non-league club and Avenue's three or four hundred loyal fans face being outnumbered by as much as ten to one - but club captain Steve Connors feels the venue will bring the best out of the players in the Bradford squad.

"The lads will be up for it in the first place because it is against one of the teams in and around us in the table," said Connors, who began his career at Bury's neighbours Oldham Athletic.

"But I know they are all looking forward to playing in a stadium like Gigg Lane and the playing surface is very good.

"This will be one of the biggest tests of the season but we have won five on the trot, one of those against the league leaders, so we are confident.

"I know we have the quality in the squad to go and get a result against FC United but at the same time we all know how tough this game will be."

The teams have already met twice this season but not for league points. Avenue had home advantage in the FA Trophy preliminary round and although the clash at Horsfall Stadium ended all square, Avenue won the replay 4-1 and Connors was one of the scorers.

Paul Gedman started the rout that night at the beginning of October but Avenue boss Benny Phillips has confirmed his joint top scorer is facing a protracted lay-off following the injury he suffered in the 3-0 home win over Bridlington Town last Saturday.

Phillips said: "Paul's leg is still very swollen. I went to BRI to see him after the game and was pleased to find out that it wasn't a broken bone.

"We haven't seen much of him this week due to the fact that he can't drive because of the swelling and until that goes down the medical staff won't be able to tell how much ligament damage there is.

"If Paul is going to be out for a long time I will look to bring in another striker, either on loan or a short-term deal. He had seven stitches in an open wound so we are looking at a minimum two to three weeks before he gets back into full training."

· Avenue's reserves will be looking to strengthen their top-three place in the Lancashire League when they face Harrogate Town at Horsfall tomorrow night (7.45pm).