Location: Horsfall Stadium, Cemetry Road, Odsal, Bradford, West Yorks, BD6 2NG.
Competition: ‘Evo-Stik’ Northern Premier League, Premier Division
Attendance: 353 (with around 60 from Frickley)
Admission: £8 (General admission)
Programme: £2.00 (40 pages / with 15 of adverts)
Refreshments: Pint of Tetley’s Smooth from the clubhouse = £2.60
Directions: Horsfall Stadium is located at Odsal Top, a couple of miles south-west of Bradford City Centre (with Bradford Bulls rugby league club also just down the road)
If you’re driving, then the best route is via the M62 to Junction 26, where it joins onto the northbound M606. Aim for Odsal Top roundabout (or follow signs for Bradford Bulls), and take the exit for Halifax Road (A6036 Westbound). About half a mile down here, you’ll come to the Kings Head pub on your left. Cemetry Road is the road going downhill immediately before the pub. Bierley Cemetry and Harold Park are notable local landmarks next to the ground. So, if you get lost, ask for these.
If travelling by public transport, the best thing to do is get a train to Bradford Interchange (rather than Forster Square) station, which also houses the bus station in the same complex. From here, the 681 or 682 bus to Halifax runs every half hour, and will drop you off at the Kings Head pub on Cemetry Road, with Horsfall Stadium being about a hundred yards down Cemetry Road on the left hand side (opposite the massive Bierley Cemetry).
Off The Pitch: Were it not for the six-lane running track separating the pitch from the spectators, BPA would be pretty much an ideal venue for non-league football. As it is, it’s still one of the more attractive awaydays, being relatively easy to get to by both public or private transport; boasting a nice enough pub (the Kings Arms) at the top of the road; an impressive clubhouse once inside the ground; and an overall set up that reflects a certain section of the local community’s love and belief in the club (certain other sections of the local community are more likely to support Liverpool, and are under the impression that the club folded years ago and no longer exists).
Park Avenue have been at Horsfall Stadium for 14 years now, and have worked well around the limitations of having a ground with an athletics track round the pitch – it’s nowhere near as bad as Rotherham or Brighton for instance, and feels much more like home than the squatting situation of those two. Its volunteers take an obvious pride in what they do, and the club seems to be keen to provide as many facilities and as much of an experience surrounding the game as they can with their resources at this level. The club shop is excellent – with old programmes, replica kit, clothing, flags, and several display boards’ worth of pin badges (including around a dozen different ones for Park Avenue) available. The match programme is currently £2 and definitely good value for money at that, and you can also get a photocopied teamsheet for 25p. Nice clubhouse too, with historical Park Ave memorabilia on show, and a TV showing BBC1’s afternoon sports coverage.
On The Pitch: This match could easily have been subtitled the ‘Managerial Merrygoround Trophy’, and it was Frickley who deservedly took the spoils, with new boss Peter Rinkcavage seeing his near-scratch team start to gel this afternoon, and the result prompting the immediate resignation afterwards of Park Avenue manager Simon Collins (himself a former Frickley player).
The secret to their success today seemed to boil down mainly to attitude and self-belief, with a determination to force the game despite being the away side, and despite half the team being new recruits. Of course, this in itself wouldn’t be possible without a capable set of players, and Rinkcavage has already gone a long way to moulding the side to fit his own requirements. Centre forward Ashley Longstaff looked particularly impressive, and was a real handful for Park Avenue all afternoon. However, it was the home side who took the lead on 17 minutes. What I assumed was an innocuous free kick just outside the area for a gentle push had in fact been given as a penalty, and Steve Burton duly despatched it. Frickley were not put off their stride though, and a deserved equaliser was not long in coming, courtesy of Mark Whitehouse’s 23rd minute finish from a James Kay cross. The Blues then grabbed the lead just before half time, when a shot by former Park Avenue favourite Kevin Sanasy hit the post, and Andy Lee pounced on the rebound.
The second-half’s play was very much “as you were”. A fine solo run and finish from Ashley Longstaff on 83 minutes effectively killed the game off – or at least it should have. But Frickley seemed to switch off for a minute. No sooner had the kiss-of-death cry of “easy, easy” emanated from one overconfident fan (I guess he probably hadn’t had the chance to use it for quite a while!), did the subjects of his praise give away a really soft goal, and with it Bradford were in with the chance of an unlikely point. Despite a frantic last few minutes though, which saw the home keeper venture up front for a corner in stoppage time, Frickley held out fairly comfortably for a vital victory in their battle to get out of the relegation zone. And while the home fans went straight to the club house to drown their sorrows, Bradford manager Simon Collins went straight from the changing room to hand in his resignation. Still, at least one Bradford team was on the up today – but had City really scored five second-half goals at home to Oxford, like the BBC teleprinter that flickered away on the TV screen in the corner claimed? The furrowed brows on the Park Avenue fans seemed to simultaneously reflect both team’s results perfectly today.