FT: Bradford Town 1 (Davidson 76)
Plymouth Parkway 2 (Annear 37, Trott 63).
For their longest journey of the season (a 296 mile round trip), Parkway travelled to Bradford on Avon to meet 8th placed and in form Bradford Town who were on a 9 match unbeaten league run. The day started badly with the coach breaking down at the top of Haldon Hill, just outside Exeter. After a few frantic phone calls, a mechanic and replacement coach arrived resulting in a 1 hour delay. The kick off was put back to 3.30. On arrival at the ground at around 2.15, it was discovered that the Club, whilst en route to the game, had received the sad news that long time club stalwart, former Chairman and now club President Jim Parsons had passed away through the night. Jim had been associated with the club for many years and had been hugely instrumental in the clubs progress and had provided inspirational leadership in getting the club to where they stand today. He will be sorely missed by all connected with the club and the wider local football community in general. Looking to make it 6 wins on the spin, Parkway were forced into making changes from Wednesday night’s victory over Cadbury Heath with Adam Carter and captain Shane Krac both injured. Rob Farkinsand Jordan Trott returned in defence with Stewart Yetton partnering Jordan Annear up front and Mike Smith and Aaron Bentley dropping to the bench.Mikey Williams saw an early shot fly just over before Bradford began to assert their authority in midfield making a high tempo start pushing Parkway on to the defensive. With Will Hailstone and Dan Cottle looking lively and dangerous up front, Bradford continued to press with Parkway unable to gain any decent possession or create any forward momentum. Bradford had an early chance on 10 minutes which was well defended as they continued to put Parkway under pressure. On 16 minutes Parkway were given a let off when the strong running and top scorer Hailstone turned sharply in the box only for his close range shot bounce off a post and away to safety. Bradford continued to dominate in midfield playing neat, incisive football as they continued to create half chances. Parkway were struggling to stay in the game and Bradford almost took the lead on 18 minutes when a Cottle shot was blocked at close range. Bradford had a golden opportunity to take the lead on 20 minutes when the impressive, tricky Cottle was tripped in the box by Rob Farkins for a no arguments penalty. Hailstone stepped up only to see his powerful kick superbly pushed out by Kyle Moore who then made an equally impressive second save, holding on to the fiercely struck rebound. An outstanding double save. Moore was called into action again shortly afterwards making another fine save as Bradford continued to press with the Parkway defence coming under constant pressure but defending doggedly and determinedly. Parkway finally had their first shot on target on 24 minutes with a Billy Palfrey long range effort being comfortably saved by the previously untroubled Jordan Dibble. Palfrey was again on target on 26 minutes with another long effort being pushed behind at full stretch by Dibble. After weathering the early storm, Parkway gradually clawed their way into the game and began to gain some midfield possession and push forward. On 32 minutes a scramble in the Bradford 6 yard box saw an Annear effort blocked on the line with Williams follow up effort also hacked clear. With Parkway now looking more dangerous, they took the lead on 37 minutes. A forceful run from deep and a quality cross from the left by Trott found Williams on the right who cleverly chipped the ball into the danger area where the predatory Annear reacted quickest and bundled home from close range. Bradford’s Lee Davidson was shown the game’s first yellow card on 39 minutes with the final action of the half seeing the ever industrious Christian Pople fire just over from around 25 yards. Bradford were clearly the better side for the first 25 minutes with Parkway looking sluggish and subdued but defending solidly and gradually growing into the game for the last 20 minutes. However they could probably consider themselves slightly fortunate to be leading at the break. Parkway made the early running in the second half winning a couple of corners with Annear shooting just wide on 48 minutes. Play swung from end to end with Cottle continuing to threaten and Parkway being forced to defend strongly and play on the break with Yetton dropping back to bolster the midfield leaving Annear as the lone striker. On the hour a long range strike from Trott was gathered at the second attempt by Dibble with the ever alert Annear just failing to reach the loose ball. Parkway finally doubled their lead on 63 minutes. A fine ball from Ryan Lane on the right found Yetton in central midfield who swiftly moved the ball on to the supporting Trott on the left who lashed home a terrific 25 yard angled low drive which bounced off the slippery surface just in front of the unfortunate Dibble who maybe could have done better. The first substitutions were made around the 70 minute mark with Bentley replacing Yetton and midfielder Lewis Powell replacing defender Leon Greenland for the hosts. Bradford continued to look strong with Matt Morris firing just over on 72 minutes before being replaced by Martin Lenihan. On 76 minutes,after a period of Bradford pressure they finally pulled a goal back which their efforts deserved. A corner from the left found central defender Davidson in the clear at the back of the box who lashed home a powerful half volley from around 12 yards to set up a nervy last 15 minutes for Parkway. The hard working Annear was replaced by Smith on 80 minutes as Parkway came under increasing pressure but continued to defend manfully as a unit. Parkway could have restored their 2 goal advantage on 82 minutes when a long ball from defence saw Smith win and guide an accurate header to Williams who raced clear of the last defender, round the keeper but took a touch too many allowing Dibble to recover smartly and smother the shot. Palfrey became the first Parkway to be booked on 87 minutes as Bradford pressed with Pople following him into the book shortly after. Bradford replaced defender Jack Whitcombe with Nick Pullman as they searched for a late equaliser which they almost got with a Cottle free kick from 25 yards being blocked with the follow up shot also being cleared to safety. Going into stoppage time Tiegan Rosenquest replaced Lane as Parkway looked to run the clock down and hang on for the win which they managed to do despite further Bradford pressure. An absorbing, entertaining game with Parkway, not for the first this season, grinding out their narrow victory showing grit, determination and the desire not to be beaten in difficult circumstances against a very good Bradford side who pushed them all the way. Had they scored their penalty who knows which way the it would have gone in a game of fine margins? I’m certain Jim Parsons would have been very proud of the teams performance. Parkway move up a place to 4th on goal difference above Bridgwater whose game today at Willand Rovers was postponed having played 3 games less than them. More drama ensued as on boarding the coach to leave at 6 there were issues in releasing the hand brake! After more frenetic phone calls, departure was delayed by another 15 minutes, finally arriving back in Plymouth just before 9.30, almost 12 hours after leaving. Parkway now make the relatively short 142 mile round trip to Wellington on Wednesday (think I might just drive to that one!) before league leaders and FA Vase quarter finalists Willand Rovers visit the rapidly changing face of Stadio Bolitho next Saturday. Apologies for length of report but it was quite an eventful day on and off the pitch.