HARROGATE Town bowed out of the County Cup with a whimper on Wednesday night.
Simon Weaver’s side were outplayed by their lower league opposition, who deserved their win.
The game looked well set at 1-1 going into the break. Chib Chilaka’s penalty cancelling out Jordan Deacey’s free-kick.
But after a goalless second half, it was Park Avenue who wanted it more, scoring two in extra-time to win it.
Tom Greaves grabbing both.
Park Avenue came out of the traps early in the first half.
Nathan Hotte had a great opportunity to make it 1-0 when he was sent clean through, but he shot straight at Mark Cook on six minutes.
But it was a warning shot Town didn’t learn from.
Just a minute later a foul by Alan White on the edge of his own area gave Jordan Deacey the opportunity to fire home a deflected set piece past Mark Cook.
It was a goal the away side deserved and they controlled the game for the next ten minutes.
Town huffed and puffed but they lacked the composure their hosts were showing on the ball. Chib Chilaka and Will Turl were exposed up front and didn’t get a sniff.
But after their nervous start they slowly got back into the game, with midfielder Lee Elam the driving force.
His dangerous cross was well cleared on 42 minutes and a free-kick was hit straight at John Lamb.
Town continued to press and levelled the match a minute from half-time. Chilaka’s beautifully weighted ball found its way to Turl who was brought down by former Harrogate Railway man James Riley in the box.
Referee Mr Madley waved away the Bradford protests and booked the centre half.
Chilaka placed the ball on the spot and smashed home the equaliser.
In the second half Town had a lot of the ball but couldn’t find a way past Park Avenue ‘keeper Lamb.
Chilaka forced an excellent save by shotstopper.
A mad scramble in the box nearly saw Chilaka score his second of the match, but the referee and assistant said his header never crossed the line despite huge protests by the Town fans behind the goal.
On the break Bradford did look dangerous. Cook had to be at his best to save Davidson’s goal bound shot with three minutes remaining.
The game kicked into life in the final minutes as both teams went for the win. Sub’ Robbie Youhill forced a corner after a lightning fast break. But it wasn’t to be as the game petered out to extra-time.
In the first period of added time Park Avenue really should have regained the lead when Billy Law found some space in the Town box but he wasted it.
Town didn’t learn from this. They failed to clear a Bradford attack and from the second passage of play Greaves fought his way into the box and fired home on 99 minutes.
There were big appeals for offside but waved away by the referee.
Youhill looked Town’s only real threat in attack. He had a shot deflected over. He was then brought down on the edge of the area after a strong run. The midfielder dusted himself down and took the kick himself but it flashed wide of the post.
After the break Weaver’s men pushed hard for the equaliser. Lamb made an excellent save to tip over Will Turl’s header from a Youhill corner.
But Park Avenue looked dangerous on the break and sealed the win in the closing minutes when Greaves broke free, and chipped Cook.
The striker ripped his shirt off in celebration to seal their passage into the final where they will play Guiseley at Bradford City.
It proved to be a successful return to Town for Wetherby Road legend John Deacey. For current boss Weaver, it’s back to the drawing board ahead of Saturday’s trip to FC Halifax.
A disappointed Town boss, Simon Weaver, spoke to the Advertiser after the game: “Bradford deserved their win, I thought they played well,” he said.
“Of course we wanted to win, we want to win every game. But it was the West Riding County Cup, it wasn’t the FA Cup. The most important thing for us is the league, we’d much rather get three points on Saturday.”
Harrogate Town: Mark Cook; Jake Picton; Craig Radcliffe; Matt Bloomer; Alan White; Paul Heckingbottom; Jack Emmett; Paul Bolland; Will Turl; Chib Chilaka; Lee Elam. Subs: Richard Pell; Dan Clayton; Paul Brayson; Alex Meechan; Rob Youhill.
Bradford Park Avenue: John Lamb; Billy Law; Martin Drury; Jordan Deacey; James Knowles; James Riley; Tom Greaves; Nathan Hotte; Richard Marshall; Matty James; Alex Davidson; Mark Hume.