Town draw a blank in FA Cup clash

Jordan Thewlis battles it out with the Bradford Park Avenue defence during Saturday's FA Cup encounter. Picture: Mike Whorley
Jordan Thewlis battles it out with the Bradford Park Avenue defence during Saturday's FA Cup encounter. Picture: Mike Whorley

Harrogate Town and Bradford Park Avenue will have to do it all over again on Monday night after their FA Cup third qualifying round clash ended in a goalless draw.

While far from a classic, Saturday’s meeting at the CNG Stadium kept the 911-strong crowd interested throughout, however neither side quite did enough do force a decisive moment.

Visting Avenue began the game brightly, but it was the other end that their National League North rivals looked to carry the greater threat.

Steven Drench in the Bradford goal had already been pressed into action by Jordan Thewlis when he was further extended by a George Thomson strike from the edge of the box.

At the other end, home stopper James Belshaw touched an Adam Boyes effort over his crossbar.

Town began to enjoy more possession as the half wore on, however, Avenue were organised at the back and afforded their hosts little space to play in, in and around their penalty area.

A training ground routine from a free-kick on the left edge of the box saw Thomson teed up, but his low 20-yarder was pushed around his upright by Drench.

Javan Vidal was afforded a sight of the Harrogate goal as the half drew to a close but his effort went high and wide and the teams headed down the tunnel for the interval with the scores still locked at 0-0.

Arguably the clearest opening of the contest arrived shortly after the resumption when Joe Leesley did superbly down the left, taking the ball past two defenders and then delivering a low cross into the danger zone.

Striking a Bradford man, the ball broke kindly for Thomson 15 yards out, but Town’s number seven got his finish all wrong, picking out the fans behind the goal rather than the back of the net.

As had been the case in the first period, with each passing minute, Simon Weaver’s side began to see more and more of the ball.

Once again, Avenue closed ranks and made things difficult for the men in yellow and black, who could certainly have used the presence and aerial prowess of injured nine-goal striker Simon Ainge.

With 65 minutes on the clock, a left-wing corner sparked a bout of pinball inside the visitors’ six-yard box and Warren Burrell’s acrobatic attempt hit the crossbar.

That was as close as Town came to breaking the deadlock and, as they appeared to run out of ideas in the final quarter of an hour, it was Bradford who claimed the ascendancy.

Ex-Harrogate winger Wayne Brooksby cut inside from the left flank and bent one over the top before Boyes’ fine curling effort from the opposite side finished just the wrong side of the upright.

Brooksby then threatened again as he came inside and unleashed a low shot, only for the excellent Terry Kennedy to dive in front of the strike and divert it over his own bar.

In the first minute of time-added-on, Belshaw saved well from a header following a corner and Josh Falkingham then bravely through himself of the way of Boyes’ follow-up.

Avenue continued to turn the screw and only a perfectly-timed sliding challenge close to his own goal from Kennedy thwarted another late raid.

There was still time for Thewlis to launch a last-gasp counter-attack, but his 94th-minute attempt at snatching victory just failed, the pacy forward bursting past retreating defenders and into the area, but seeing his strike deflected narrowly wide of Drench’s near post.

Harrogate Advertiser man of the match: Terry Kennedy just about edged out Josh Falkingham. The centre-half was a dominant presence in the air and made a number of crucial and well-timed interventions, while Falkingham is an irrepressible force in the centre of the park, who rarely wasted a pass.