Football: Harrogate Town 1-1 Bradford Park Avenue

Anton Brown won the man of the match prize
Anton Brown won the man of the match prize

Leigh Franks’ injury on his return to fitness hindered Harrogate Town as Bradford Park Avenue hit back to force an FA Trophy replay on Monday night.

Simon Weaver’s depleted Town squandered a first-half lead provided by Chris Hall’s header as Park Avenue levelled the third qualifying round tie 1-1 at the CNG Stadium.

Visiting striker Nicky Boshell netted the equaliser two-thirds into the clash after a mix-up in the home defence.

Returning Town favourite Chib Chilaka missed a host of chances for his Bradford side, and deflected a glorious chance wide with a minute left on the clock.

Weaver was again forced to field players out of position with injuries rife throughout his squad.

Without captain Shane Killock, right-back Dwayne Samuels and the versatile Adam Nowakowski, the boss chose Dave Merris to partner Franks at centre-half.

Craig Nelthorpe reverted to left-back, with experienced campaigner Matt Bloomer on the right.

The changes led to a tepid opening quarter. Chilaka’s centre from his right-wing berth was the only early threat, which Bloomer swept away for a corner.

Craig MacGillivray then took a nasty knock, but substitute stopper Peter Crook was not needed as his replacement.

Hall led Town’s line with muscle but failed to link with fellow frontman Liam Hardy. But Town’s system worked better when they reverted to a five-man midfield with Hardy on the right and Cleveland Taylor tucked inside.

Hall failed to latch onto Bloomer’s long ball, before he drove promisingly at the BPA defence to no avail.

The striker then made a hash of Taylor’s dangerous cross as Town, roared on by a band of scarf-waving youthful supporters, looked the likeliest to make the breakthrough.

Sure enough, the Yellow and Blacks scored when they were on top. Park Avenue defended Merris’ searching cross well, only to allow Chris Hall to win the next aerial challenge and loop a header from Bloomer’s centre over opposition stopper John Lamb.

A muted celebration followed from the former Bradford player, but a roar of approval befitted what was only his third goal since arriving in the summer.

In response, Chilaka forced past two Town defenders but blazed his effort well over MacGillivray’s bar.

With Weaver’s change in shape, Town flowed. And their secret weapon, Franks’ gigantic throw caused difficulty each time it was launched.

Hall again found space from Franks’ arrow but he and Hardy both failed to double the lead from eight yards, Lamb saving impeccably from Hall.

Merris, reading the game like his own autobiography, put a heavy challenge through Chilaka. An unwelcoming gesture which saw the brutish forward square up to his former teammate, however referee Billy Khatib kept his cards in his pockets.

Chilaka mistimed an ugly acrobatic effort before Town winger Adam Mitchell failed to chip across to Hall when racing through on goal.

The visitors came into the game as half-time approached. The dangerous Paul Walker forced a corner as he danced to the byline before Deacey hit the side-netting.

Franks suffered an ankle injury after falling awkwardly on his goalline, and he was replaced by young midfielder Alex Metcalfe at the break.

The gap his towering frame left was soon shown. Jordan Deacey, son of BPA boss John, was foiled at his feet by MacGillivray moments after the ‘keeper saved Walker’s cross-come-shot.

Weaver removed Hall for Paul Beesley on his return to fitness after a cracked rib. It was a decisive move that essentially cost Town a physical forward outlet.

Merris burst forward and sent a 40-yard shot narrowly wide, but the visiting Greens looked sharper on the ball in the second period.

And their pressure warranted the equaliser when Boshell pounced. The striker picking up the scraps after Town’s make-shift back four failed to clear Walker’s left-footed cross.

Dominic Rowe replaced the ineffectual Hardy to add pace down Town’s right. But it was BPA’s substitute Jason St Juste who nearly put his side in front when his deep cross needed tipping over by MacGillivray.

Visiting defender James Knowles then headed a glorious chance wide at the back post before Anton Brown’s fine block tackle stopped another BPA attack.

The battling Brown was dominant in midfield. And his presence created three late long-distance drives. Each one found its way closer to the net with the final effort pushed away by Lamb.

He was then presented with the ball from a back pass, but after turning slowly in the box his scooped shot was headed clear by Steve Mallory.

Sunderland loanee Adam Mitchell then saw his sweet first-time strike palmed clear by Lamb.

Both sides starter looking longer in their passing, as edginess crept in.

The match required a hero. And it set itself up for Town’s former fans favourite Chilaka.

But the winger misjudged a late header, before deflecting a goal-line clearance well wide to force the reverse on Monday.