Ainge on target again as nine-man Town sink Avenue
Simon Ainge turned out to be Harrogate Town's matchwinner once again as the men from the CNG Stadium claimed a 1-0 victory over Bradford Park Avenue.
The defender-turned-striker followed up last weekend’s four-goal haul with a 10th-minute effort, and although he later joined strike partner JP Pittman in having early bath after seeing red, nine-man Town dug deep and clung on for a fine win.
The same eleven men that put six past Alfreton seven days earlier started for Town, and they got off to a fine start as Ainge rose in the box and sent a thumping header from Joe Colbeck’s cross past visiting gloveman Jon Worsnop.
Ainge then set up Pittman who struck the crossbar before ex-Town man Adam Nowakowski went close at the other end when he nodded Nicky Boshell’s free-kick narrowly off target.
Pittman was given his marching orders in first-half stoppage time for leaving the ground when sliding in to a challenge on the edge of the Avenue box, but the hosts went into the break with their slender advantage intact.
Luke Shiels came close to doubling the lead with his head early in the second half when he got on the end of Joe Leesley’s corner, while Danny Boshell could have levelled things up after home stopper Peter Crook sent the ball into his path, but he fired over the top.
A second yellow card then saw goalscorer Ainge dismissed and his side go down to nine men in the 64th minute, and when Tom Platt brought down former Town loanee Reece Webb-Foster in the box soon afterwards, Avenue looked certain to get back on terms.
Crook, however, had other ideas, diving to his left to save Nicky Boshell’s penalty and then recovering to stop the follow-up.
The Bradford outfit pressed hard for an equaliser, but it was Town that almost grabbed the game’s next goal when Colbeck made progress down the right before forcing Worsnop into a decent save on 88 minutes.
Six minutes of added time were indicated, but despite Avenue sending ball after ball into the home box, Simon Weaver’s men held out to make it seven points from nine in 2017, securing a first clean-sheet in the league in more than two months in the process.