Non-league football: Brave Garforth lose out to Avenue

15 April 2015.......          Bradford Park Avenue v Garforth Town, West Riding County Cup final at Valley Parade.'Garforth's Sam Jones runs at Avenue's Paul Walker   Picture by Tony Johnson
15 April 2015....... Bradford Park Avenue v Garforth Town, West Riding County Cup final at Valley Parade.'Garforth's Sam Jones runs at Avenue's Paul Walker Picture by Tony Johnson
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A 78TH-MINUTE strike from Chib Chilaka earned Bradford Park Avenue their first County Cup success since 1991 at the expense of brave Garforth Town.

The Miners, chasing their fifth success in the competition since 1998, produced an exhaustive and diligent defensive performance at Valley Parade, only for Chilaka to break their hearts late on.

Garforth, seeking their second high-profile Conference North scalp after stunning Harrogate Town 2-0 in the semi-final, came into the final dreaming of a repeat of their famous victory over Avenue in 2009 when they triumphed on penalties.

But despite a thoroughly committed performance, it was Avenue who claimed a spot of revenge for that loss - and avoid the ignominy of a fourth successive final defeat in the process.

Graham Nicholas’ Miners could still hold their heads high, despite failing to end their five-year wait for silverware, having last triumphed in the competition in a thrilling 5-4 win against Barnoldswick Town in 2010.

Given their higher divisional status, it was perhaps no surprise that Avenue had much the better of proceedings, particularly in the first period.

But Garforth, with keeper Ben Hunter and his back four in resolute form, repelled the pressure with the team working overtime across the pitch before half-time and after.

Avenue’s best moment in the first period arrived on 19 minutes when Paul Walker’s snapshot was tipped over adeptly by Hunter.

The Garforth keeper also beat away an early strike from powerhouse Chilaka, while Steve Boothman spurned two decent free-kick opportunities just outside the box.

The Miners’ forays upfield were in isolation, with their only chance seeing Luke Mangham fire into the side-netting from distance after Sinmi Oyebanji’s neat backheel.

On the restart, Avenue continued to dominate with Ryan Qualter bundling the home just wide following Boothman’s whipped-in free-kick.

Despite bossing territory, Avenue’s failure to break the deadlock gave Garforth hope, with a sign of their confidence coming when Sam Jones fired a long-ranger after some attacking assertion.

With Avenue playing their third game in five days, the Miners were entitled to bank on tiredness creeping in for the Conference North side, with their policy of containment having worked well enough.

A touch of frustration as well as fatigue was also an inherent danger for John Deacey’s side, also having to negotiate a bobbly Valley Parade surface.

Their mood wasn’t helped by Walker firing a volley over when well placed after Garforth couldn’t clear sub Craig King’s cross.

Just when extra-time was starting to look a distant possibility, Chilaka fired home a well-drilled finish low past Hunter after some neat link play finally breached the Garforth defence.

With their game plan changed by Avenue’s strike, Garforth threw caution to the wind and it almost paid off with an equaliser with Nick Black’s fine rising shot tipped over expertly by the underemployed John Danby.

Unlike last season when NCEL outfit Eccleshill produced a stunner at the death, there was no dramatic finale for Garforth as Avenue prevailed.

Garforth Town: Hunter; Hawksworth, Smith, McCarthy, Harris; Preece, Alali (M Simpson 82); Jones (Royles 86), Mangham, Oyebanji (Robertson 83); Black. Substitutes unused: Lund, C Simpson.

Bradford Park Avenue: Danby; Patterson (Lever 82), Qualter, Ainge, Howarth; Price, Marshall; Colbeck (King 65), Boothman (Barraclough 56), Walker; Chilaka. Substitutes unused: Hotte, Drury.