Late Harrogate rally sees Avenue bow out of the Emirates FA Cup in 3rd qualifying round replay
After a hotly-contested stalemate just two days prior, very few could confidently predict what the outcome of the highly-anticipated replay would be. In the end, it was Harrogate who advanced into the final qualifying stage, putting Avenue to the sword with a deflected strike from Joe Leesley, and a delivery that met the head of an unfortunate Danny Boshell.
The visitors caught an early glimpse of goal with just seven minutes on the clock, as Liam Agnew weaved his way through the Avenue backline before failing to control his effort, which sailed harmlessly over the bar.
It was then the turn of Avenue to demonstrate the danger they posed to Harrogate’s often-watertight defence, as Oli Johnson rattled the post with a well-struck effort after latching on to a loose touch from Josh Falkingham.
The feeling that an opening goal was on the horizon began to grow in prominence as the first-half went on, and it wasn’t long before Joe Leesley gave the home side a scare, when his deflected shot beat Steve Drench but ricocheted off the frame of the goal.
The half could best be described as ‘end-to-end’, as Avenue came close to responding twice through re-instated winger Nicky Clee. He forced a strong hand from James Belshaw from long-range, before almost squaring to Johnson for a certain goal, after driving through two Harrogate defenders.
Avenue emerged for the second-half with a spring in their step, having demonstrated their potential to penetrate the Harrogate backline throughout the opening forty-five minutes.
Hearts were well and truly in mouths shortly after the restart, as Nicky Wroe hammered the crossbar with a thunderous strike from outside the box, before Wayne Brooksby volleyed the follow-up wide.
Then, in what could be considered a turning point in the match upon reflection, Ryan Fallowfield made a fantastic goal-line block to deny Johnson from close range, sliding in to prevent a goal many supporters had understandably began to celebrate.
It was soon after the chance that Harrogate struck, as a dubious free-kick decision allowed Leesley to unleash a powerful effort from around 25-yards, that was cruelly deflected and wrong-footed the helpless Drench.
Going behind didn’t seem to dampen Avenue’s spirit, as a lofted delivery from Johnson seemed destined to find the lurking Luca Havern, but Terry Kennedy was alert to clear the danger.
Avenue players began to pile forward in droves in a desperate attempt to force extra-time, but hearts were broken with just minutes remaining, as a Harrogate corner was met by Danny Boshell, whose header was directed towards his own net in calamitous fashion.
Mark Bower, rightfully, remained proud of his side, who had pushed a very strong Harrogate side all the way, and could have very easily come away with a victory.
Harrogate Town: Belshaw, Fallowfield, Parker (O’ Hanlon 90+5’), Falkingham, Kennedy, Burrell, Thomson, Agnew, Burdett (Curry 59’), Thewlis (Vann 77’), Leesley
Subs not used: Cracknell, Middleton, Day
Bradford Park Avenue: Drench, Ross, Kelly, Wroe, Havern, Toulson (N Boshell 86), Brooksby (Nowakowski 82’), Vidal (D Boshell 66’), Boyes, Johnson, Clee.
Subs not used: Spencer, Hall, Knowles, Knight