After missing a game at Carlisle City the week before, due to frost, I traveled to Bradford not to see City whose Valley Parade ground dominates the Skyline but to see Bradford Park Avenue. Unfortunately they no longer play at their historic Avenue ground, now a sports centre, still home to the cricket club and was until 1996 a venue for some Yorkshire Cricket Club games. Still I had wanted to visit this club for a long time and here I was.
For those with a long memory you have to go back to the 1969/70 season to remember them playing in the football league. It was in 1970 that they were voted out to allow Cambrdge United to take their place.
Bradford P.A. now play at Horsfall Community Sports Ground to the South of the city where they move to in 1994. They share the Bradford Council owned ground with an athletics track and West Bowling ARLFC with whom tthey will jointly experiment in a few weeks when Bowling will kick-off in a Challenge Cup match in the morning to be followed by a Bradford P A game in the afternoon. One interesting fact about the ground is that the seats in the main stand once watched cricket at Lords.
Bradford started life as a rugby league club in 1863 and were very successful in being finalists in the Challenge Cup twice, one of which they won in 1906 and were winners of the league in 1904. However all changed when a vote in 1907 was narrowly won by those wishing to change to association football in a move that was known as “The Great Betrayal”. They had started playing football in 1885 as part of the rugby club but were disbanded after a few years.
When they were reformed they first played in the Southern League but were elected to the Football League in 1909 and during their over 60 year stay their highest ranking was 9th in the top tier of English football and reached as far as the quarter finals of the F.A. Cup. Their voting out of the football League was the start of a downhill slope that eventually led to them stopping playing in 1974. The supporters would not give in and restarted the club playing in Sunday football where they gained promotions in the local leagues and in 1988 Saturday football was resumed. The Sunday club eventually stopped as everyone through themselves into the Saturday side which went through a nomadic period of ground shares and League changes as they clawed themselves back up the football pyramid. They have been in the National League North since 2012 where they sit today. perhaps in a few years and two more promotions it will bring them back to the football League.
Chorley like Bradford started life as a Rugby club switching in 1883 and played at the highest level of Lancashire football with many ups and downs. They were founder members of the Northern Premier League in 1968 but yoyo’d between leagues having one short two season spell in the Football Conference. In 2014 they were again promoted upwards to the Conference North later to be named the National League North and made it to the National League by the playoffs in 2019. People in the Non-League family will agree that they were harshly relegated in 2021 back to the National League North during the Covid curtailed season.
Bradford Park Avenue 0 Chorley 0
January 28th 2023 15.00pm kick off at the Horsfall Community Stadium
National League North
Bradford, peppermint shirts with white shorts: Chorley Black and White vertical striped shirts with black shorts.
There was easy parking at the ground where the car said it was 6.5 degrees and this temperature matched the grey overcast sky which just hung due to no wind. The football pitch is within a synthetic running track and is very flat being a modern 3 G surface. I am not a lover of this type of set up and like Newcastle Towns pitch I visited last year it gives me a feeling of disconnect. The 491 who turned up, Bradford City season ticket holders were allowed in for half price, did make some atmosphere from the back of a large seated stand which hold 1500 and runs for the full length of the pitch on one side. All other parts of the ground are open apart from a small covered standing area behind one goal. There is an old, what looks like a cricket pavilion, in the middle of the open side where the teams change and in one corner a group of facilities for the fans. There is a hospitality suite, warm friendly club house, club shop, the green army cafe and a program shop with old books and programs, all of which were being well used.
The football was unfortunately not inspiring with Chorley taking control of the first 20 minutes attacking on both flanks with Bradford getting back into the game with their own forays down the wings. Chorley could have gone in at halftime one ahead as on 44 minutes they hit the corner of the crossbar and upright with the home defense well beaten.
Chorley again came close when within 5 minutes of the restart they headed just over from a corner. Chorley maintained the pressure but in the last 15 minutes the home side came to life and put the visitors under constant pressure. Bradford’s manager was booked for comments about the referee’s decisions after he felt they should have been awarded two penalties in the space of a few minute. Chorley hung on for a point each which helped neither side with Chorley vying for a play-off place and Bradford trying not to get dragged into a relegation scrap.
My player of the match was the home sides goalkeeper, not for spectacular save but competent catching of many high crosses and his marshaling of his defense. He just seemed calm all afternoon.
Well onto the chips and they made the journey all worthwhile, cut from real potatoes, hot, tasty a good consistency and a good portion. They were very slightly greasy but who cared they had just scored 83 to go top of my seasons chip league. The chips still had skins on and they were delicious, something that the judges on ‘Master Cheff’ get sniffy about. The football was dull but the afternoon was one to savour.