Bradford Park Avenue produced a scintillating first-half performance to help them to a 5-3 pre-season win over FC Halifax Town.
If Town’s pre-season schedule up until now had been progressing steadily, then an especially large hammer was thrown into the works as Avenue raced into a four-goal lead after a blistering first-half with goals from ex-Town man Richard Marshall, Nicky Boshell and two from the turbo-charged Alex Davidson.
Despite the supposedly non-competitive element to the game, the match retained its local derby intensity as Town produced a much-improved second-half showing to reduce the arrears after the break.
But just as goals from substitutes Sean Williams, Alex Johnson and Lee Gregory looked to have set-up a thrilling comeback, fellow sub Paul Bolland put the result beyond doubt.
Neil Aspin again tinkered with his starting line-up as Matt Clarke was given another chance to impress after playing 45 minutes at Clitheroe, with Paul Marshall also coming back into the side along with Josh Wilson.
With Mark Roberts partnering Clarke at the back, the Town defence resembled a land of the giants, especially up against Avenue striker Chib Chilaka, who latched on to a through ball before going down under Roberts’ tackle inside the box.
The Town defender may have felt harshly done by as he appeared to get the ball with his outstretched leg, but the referee pointed to the spot and ex-Shayman Marshall scored past Phil Senior at the second attempt after his spot kick was saved.
Avenue continued to impress, with Alex Davidson jinking past Clarke before firing off target, while Kevin Holsgrove saw a low shot across goal saved by John Lamb as Town tried to respond.
Davidson again drifted off the right flank to good effect when he was played in by Marshall, but his weak shot was comfortably saved by Senior, who was certainly seeing plenty of the ball.
So it was little surprise when a sweeping move culminated in Avenue doubling their lead as Paul Walker’s low cross across the box left Davidson with a tap-in at the far post.
Town nearly hit back straight away but Roberts’ header from Dan Gardner’s corner looped onto the bar moments before the impressive Davidson extended Avenue’s thoroughly deserved lead when he raced into the box before placing the ball across Senior and in off the far post.
That at least seemed to provoke a reaction from Town as Josh Wilson unleashed a low shot across the face of goal that whistled inches wide of the upright, but Roberts had to be alert at the other end to block Chilaka’s goal-bound shot.
Chilaka was then too quick for Clarke just before half-time and was clearly tripped on the corner of the box to win Avenue’s second penalty, which Nicky Boshell coolly slotted in sending Senior the wrong way.
Neil Aspin understandably reacted by making eight changes, one of whom was Williams, and the midfielder began the long road back to parity with a superb long-range strike that curled into the top corner from the edge of the box.
A few minutes later, Johnson converted the third penalty of the night to continue Town’s resurgence since the restart and restore some respectability to the scoreline.
Avenue’s first-half threat was by now a distant memory as Town continued to press and probe, driven on from midfield by the influential presence of Williams and Matt Pearson.
From the latter’s cross, Gregory beat Lamb to the ball with a diving header to bring the comeback into clear sight.
But that prospect was suddenly snatched away as Bolland slid the ball past Senior from inside the box to edge Avenue out of reach.
Park Avenue: Lamb, Dean, Price, Boshell, Quinn, Clayton, Chilaka, Hotte, Davidson, Marshal, Walker.
Scorers: Marshall (pen 10), Davidson (30, 34), Boshell (44), Bolland (86)
Shots on target: 11
Shots off target: 5
Halifax: Senior, Ainge (Toulson 46), Clarke (Lowe 46), Roberts, St Juste (McManus 46), Moke (Smith 46), Briggs (Pearson 46), Marshall, Gardner (Williams 46), Wilson (Johnson 46), Holsgrove (Gregory 46).
Scorers: Williams (48), Johnson (pen 54), Gregory (80)
Shots on target: 7
Shots off target: 9
Man of the match: Sean Williams