After County finally got their season underway last weekend at the third attempt with that dramatic 1-0 victory at Tamworth, it's a case of home comforts this weekend as we return to Edgeley Park. The visitors to SK3 on Saturday are Bradford Park Avenue as we face the first of two games in three days over the Bank Holiday weekend.
County fans of a certain age will need no introduction to Bradford Park Avenue, with the West Yorkshire club being members of the Football League alongside Stockport County until 1970. Park Avenue are one of only 35 clubs in the country to have competed in each of English football's top four divisions, and they have the unenviable record of being the only one of those clubs to not now be competing in at least the Conference National. (We'll not talk too much about unenviable records, though; 110 consecutive years in the Football League, and all that.)
Park Avenue started life back in 1863 as a rugby club using the name ‘Bradford Football Club'. The club also began playing association football in 1895, and were initially members of the West Yorkshire League, before joining the Yorkshire League in 1897-98.
The original club was liquidated in 1907, and when a new club was established, they were formed simply as a football club. They initially joined the Southern League, but were elected to the Second Division of the Football League in 1908. They were promoted to the First Division in 1914, but relegation to the Third Division followed by 1923. Following a return to Division Two, they were relegated again in 1950, and after the league was restructured, they were placed in Division Four in 1958.
They were expelled from the Football League in 1970, being replaced by Cambridge United, and they were liquidated in 1974. After becoming an amateur outfit during the 1970s, another club known as Bradford Park Avenue – named after the club's stadium, to avoid confusion with local rivals Bradford City – was established for the 1988/99 season. In 2004, they were founder members of the new Conference North, but two relegations followed in the next two seasons. They returned to the sixth tier in 2012/13.
Bradford finished last season in 10th position with 57 points, seven ahead of County in 14th place. After a poor start, leaving our opponents 18th after five games, they then went on an impressive run, including just two defeats in their final ten games, to finish very comfortable in mid-table.
Park Avenue gaffer John Deacey, who has been in charge since 2010, has made some changes to his squad over the summer. Forward Brad Barraclough joined from Gainsborough Trinity, but Bradford have mainly strengthened their options in the middle of the park. Midfielders Joe Colbeck and Scott Kerr joined from Grimsby Town, while Danny Frost, Jack Rea, Matty James and Nathan Turner signed on. Defenders Sam Hewitt and Steve Mallory also joined our opponents during pre-season.
The West Yorkshire side have made a bright start to this season, remaining unbeaten so far. A 3-3 draw away at Gloucester City was followed up with two consecutive 2-1 wins at home, against Harrogate Town and Leamington FC.
However, the omens are good for County; last season, we scored six goals against Avenue, conceding just one. Liam Dickinson, Rhys Turner, Iain Howard and captain, Phil Jevons secured a comfortable victory at Edgeley Park on Boxing Day last year, before Jevons and Howard found the net at the Horsfall Stadium last February.
After a tough start to this campaign, there's a feeling of momentum gathering at Edgeley Park after the Hatters got their first points on the board last weekend with the last-gasp victory over Tamworth. Earning an away win whilst keeping a clean sheet were huge positives for Al Lord and his players, and with a local game against Stalybridge in Monday, everyone connected to the club is hoping that we can get our first home win of the season against Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday.
Tickets for the match are: £15 – Adults, £3 - 11-17 year olds, £1 – 10 years & under, £10 – all others.
Following complaints from supporters at our last home game, we would like to remind our fans that smoking inside Edgeley Park is strictly forbidden and will result in ejection from the stadium. The use of electronic cigarettes is also prohibited within the ground, in common with the vast majority of sporting venues and public buildings across the UK. We are keen not to normalise smoking, especially amongst our younger supporters. But other than that, enjoy yourself!