After a week of nostalgic trips down Memory Avenue, harsh reality came calling for the former Football League club yesterday as they saw an early lead transformed into a heavy defeat by Second Division Bristol City in an entertaining FA Cup first-round tie at Horsfall Stadium.
While the margin of Bristol City's win flattered them, they now stand only one win away from a possible third-round money-spinner at Old Trafford or Highbury. All that Bradford's part-timers have to look forward to is an uphill fight from 20th place in the UniBond League.
The match had an explosive start, as if Avenue were intent on making up for lost time. Four goals arrived between between the fourth and 13th minutes, during which time both teams were in front and City's Kevin Amankwaah scored his first goals since a near-fatal car crash two years ago.
Avenue, who were pronounced dead in 1974 and were not resurrected for 14 years, delighted the crowd at their new home in Cemetery Road by taking a fourth-minute lead. James Stansfield's long throw caused panic and Andy Hayward hooked in the loose ball, a reminder that Avenue still boast the fastest-ever League goal, Jim Fryatt's fourth-second strike in 1964.
The advantage was too short-lived for the Avenue faithful to enjoy it. Within two minutes, Amankwaah, an England Under-17 cap who interested Arsenal before breaking his neck in a road accident, rose to glance in Luke Wilkshire's corner. Nominally a right-back, Amankwaah revelled in an advanced role and two minutes later prodded in Christian Roberts' cross to put City ahead.
Only four minutes passed before the green-and-white favours were raised again in the manner modelled by no less than Bill Clinton (the former US President was persuaded to pose with a scarf by the club's commercial manager after a business convention, and the picture still adorns the social club). Hayward's clever pass led to a shot by Simon Collins, whose second attempt was turned into his own net by Danny Coles.
"I was just hoping Bristol would keep defending that way," Avenue's manager, Trevor Storton, said later. Unhappily for Bradford, the next, decisive aberration, with the tie still evenly poised 10 minutes after half-time, came from Stansfield. Lee Peacock's cross carried no obvious threat, but the centre-back dived to head the ball into his own goal.
This time there was no way back for Avenue. The outstanding Wilkshire gave City a two-goal cushion with his first goal since a summer move from Middlesbrough, his cross-shot tearing past Matthew Boswell. Lee Matthews rolled in the visitors' fifth after Boswell's uncharacteristic fumble.
Goals: Hayward (4) 1-0; Amankwaah (6) 1-1; Amankwaah (8) 1-2; Coles og (12) 2-2; Stansfield og (55) 2-3; Wilkshire (67) 2-4; Matthews (83) 2-5.
Bradford Park Avenue (3-4-1-2): Boswell; Stansfield, Wood (Walsh, 86), Crossley, Mitchell, Collins (Smith, 81), Benn, Serrant; Oleksewycz (Wright, 82); Hayward, Maxwell. Substitutes not used: Quinn, Tracey.
Bristol City (3-5-2): Phillips; Coles, Butler, Hill; Amankwaah, Wilkshire (Clist, 86), Burnell, Brown (Lita, 86), Woodman; Peacock, Roberts (Matthews, 74). Substitutes not used: Fortune, Stowell (gk).
Referee: M Pike (Barrow-in-Furness).
Booking: Bradford PA: Wood.
Man of the match: Wilkshire.