FRUSTRATED Bradford Park Avenue boss John Deacey was hoping to be toasting success twice tomorrow – but at least one lot of champagne will have to stay on ice after the Evo-Stik League Premier Division play-off final was put back yet again.
The showpiece, originally scheduled for last Saturday, was deferred a week following Northwich Victoria’s enforced relegation due to off-field matters and their subsequent appeal against the decision which banned them from the play-offs.
And then on Wednesday, Avenue – who thrashed Hednesford 5-0 in the semi-finals last weekend to book a home clash against FC United of Manchester – were told to suspend ticket sales for the final at the Horsfall Stadium and were called to a meeting later in the afternoon.
There, they were informed by West Yorkshire Police and Bradford City Council – who just 48 hours earlier had given the go-ahead to a Saturday 3pm kick-off – they could no longer play at that time and the final was put back 23 hours to this Sunday at 2pm.
It means rather than playing their own “cup final”, Avenue will be having a light training session tomorrow, though the second part of the planned schedule remains in place for Liverpool fan Deacey, who will be glued to the box along with a few like-minded members of his squad for the FA’s showpiece at Wembley between the Reds and Chelsea at 5.15pm.
Deacey said: “The club really tried their hardest to get it on on Saturday but they couldn’t do it. The council couldn’t provide the security people and the police said if there was any trouble at the game between Bradford City and Swindon and then an incident occured at our game they couldn’t cope.
“It’s awkward. We have a couple of lads who work shifts and had already made adjustments so they could play Saturday. Now they have to go back and try to change things again so they can play on Sunday.
“We are not full-time, all the lads work, so it is not ideal preparation. But that’s non-league football for you. The decision has been made and we just have to get on with it. And I would much rather have to deal with this than not be there, that’s the way I am looking at it.”
There was never really any danger of Avenue failing to make the final for the second time in three seasons.
After finishing fourth in the league – six points clear of FC United – they destroyed Hednesford last weekend with goals from Richard Marshall (2), Adam Clayton, Martin Drury and James Knowles putting them in control from start to finish.
FC United, meanwhile, won 2-0 at Chorley – Michael Norton and Astley Mulholland with second-half goals – to book their place in the final for the second successive season.
They won 2-0 at the Horsfall Stadium in the semi-finals last year – a year after Avenue suffered final heartbreak against Boston United – but Deacey says that result counts for nothing on Sunday when Bradford will be hoping it proves a case of third time lucky in their bid to return to Blue Square North.
Deacey said: “We have had plenty of encounters with them now and they have all been very tough games. I am expecting it to be very tough again and I am sure they feel the same. They are a very good side but we’ve proved we’re decent as well to get to where we have.
“We had a good win in the semi, we went out there with the right attitude and we have got to take that into the final now. We have to go out with the right attitude, put in a good performance and put them under pressure.
“I don’t think last year will have any reflection on the game at all. I have looked at the side who played that day and we have about seven different players in our team now. It’s going to be completely different.
“It’s going to be very, very close. It’s an occasion very much similar to Liverpool v Chelsea in that it’s a cup final and we have to make sure we put our best performance in on the day. The games we have had to get here don’t count for anything now.
“This is the third time we have knocked on the door and we have to try and do it this time, but it’s a very, very difficult task against a very good side.”
There could be one major benefit for Avenue due to the showpiece being delayed – and that’s not a seat at the FA Cup final! It gives skipper Rob O’Brien an extra day in his bid to recover from a knee problem which kept him out of their last-four clash.
Deacey has ruled out any trips to Wembley for his players who he wants in tip-top condition and totally focused on Sunday’s final.
Not that FA Cup final tickets would be easy to come by at this stage – even tickets for Avenue’s clash against FC United, limited to 1,000 per side, are proving red-hot.
“My phone hasn’t stopped with requests for tickets,” revealed Deacey. “It’s a big game and everybody seems to want to be there.
“I’ve had one player put in a request for 28 tickets so there is plenty of interest out there, which is good.
“We just need to make sure we are totally focused on what we need to do now.”