Bradford Town's Trowbridge Road ground is just a 10 minute walk out of the very picturesque town of Bradford on Avon, on the South-Eastern edge of the town. Being situated within the residential area of the ton, there is limited parking at the ground itself but plenty of on-street parking within a short walk. Entry is through a double wrought-iron gate which leads into the area behind the town end goal. Here you will find the small parking area, the food bar and separate tea and hot drinks bar. This area also houses the toilets and players & officials changing areas. The clubhouse, which is shared with the Spencer Moulton Bowls Club, is separate and can be found just on the other side of the car park area. On the Trowbridge Road side of the ground there is covered standing and covered seating, backed by a grass bank and the wall that separates the ground from the road.. The opposite side has no cover and is open to a series of smaller football pitches. The far end of the ground is backed by trees and two large, quite old houses built in a style very typical of the area (Bradford on Avon is very similar in architectural style to nearby Bath).
Hosts Bradford Town currently sit atop the Western League Premier Division, three points clear of closest rivals Plymouth Parkway but having played one game more. They have lost just once at home in the league, a 3-2 defeat to Street back in September. This run in the Vase equals their previous best performances, where they have twice reached Round 5, suffering a 2-0 home defeat to Highworth Town in 2014-15 and a similar result at Marske in 2017-18. This season they have so far beaten Solent University (a) 7-2, Hamble Club (h) 1-0, Lymington Town (h) 1-0, Baffins Milton Rovers (a) 3-2, Bridgwater Town (h) 4-3 aet and Buckland Athletic (a) 2-1.
Arriving well in advance of kick-off, I took a quick snap of the staring line-ups, which had been written on a board behind the car park end goal, and set off to find a good vantage point whilst marking the teams on my match day programme. What I had failed to notice is that the Leighton Town team on the board did not match the one that their official Twitter account had tweeted.
Most games of this importance start with both sides being a little tentative, sounding each other out until they relax and start to play their own games. Not in this case though. From the off, both sides were into their strides pretty quickly, promising to make it an interesting game.
It was the home side who began get the upper hand in the opening encounters though, gradually pushing the game into The Reds' half of the pitch. Leighton didn't seem to mind this too much and were seemingly content to deal with whatever Bradford had to offer. It was noticeable that Bradford wanted to get the ball forward quite quickly whereas Leighton were much keener to play ground passes and, with the wind from the approaching storm starting to pick up, keeping the ball low may well prove to be the wiser tactic.
With 14 minutes on the clock and with the ball having spent the majority of that time in the Leighton half, The Reds launched what was their first meaningful attack. Worton, in the Bradford goal, spilled a cross but was fortunate to see a defender hack clear to the edge of the box. However, the ball was controlled by James Towell who then proceeded to plant a perfect half-volley over the keeper and into the top corner t make it 0-1. What a superb strike to give his team the lead.
Bradford were straight back on the attack in what was now becoming a really fascinating game,especially as a neutral. For the next 15 minutes the ball was again predominantly within the confines of the Leighton half. That was until just before the half-hour mark when Leighton once again hot their hosts on the break. Towell was again heavily involved, sprinting don the left flank, drawing the keeper over and then crossing perfectly for Danny Webb to tap into the empty net for 0-2. Two goals against the general run of play was no coincidence. Leighton were executing a game plan here, and executing it very well.
Unfortunately, the second goal prompted some disturbance behind the Leighton goal where a group of their noisier fans had gathered. These fans, mainly kids and teenagers, generate a good atmosphere with chanting and their drum. However, as I noted in the game against Northwich and as has been seen at a few other games (Eynesbury in the last round I believe was an example), they have a small group who seem to want to provoke the opposing fans and take the 'banter' one step too far. It's such a shame because their actions drag down the reputation of the club. I'm sure that it is just one or two that spark the confrontations, but I do hope the club can get it under control.
Anyway, back to the game. Bradford, despite now being two down, continued to take the fight to their opponents but could not seem to find that final ball or the precise finishing touch. They did, however, manage to get a foothold back in the game in added time in the first half. A ball into the Leighton box was nodded down by Gary Higdon for Matt Morris to force over the line. 1-2 and game on in the second-half?
HT Bradford Town 1 Leighton Town 2. Bradford had about 80% of the play but were caught out twice by Leighton. Some great defending from the away side has kept Bradford at bay until the final minute of the half. All to play in the second period.
Chances went begging for Bradford who, by the hour mark, had started to lauch the ball towards the tall Higdon more and more. To be fair to the triker, he was winning a number of high balls but the Leighton defence was always quick to mop up.
On 77 minutes we had another stoppage in play as a plstic water bottle was thrown onto the pitch by a Bradford supporter. Teh bottle was aimed, but missed, the assistant on that side of the pitch who had given a few marginal decisions in favour of the away team. There's no excuse for this behaviour though and, as the referee stopped the game and reported the incident to officials, there coudl be repercussions for the club.
With five mnutes to go, Leighton once more executed their party trick to perfection. Bradford were now pushing for an equaliser as hard as they could but Leighton sucked them in and then quickly broke forward. Once again it was Towell who did the damage, breaking through the Bradford back line before squaring for substitute Archie McClelland to apply the final touch. 1-3 and game over.
FT Bradford Town 1 Leighton Town 3. On another day Bradford could have run out handsome winners but it was just not to be today. You have to say that this was largely down to the game management shown by Leighton Town. They soaked up everything that Bradford could throw at them and, when they did get a chance, they took it every time. As a neutral you had to feel for Bradford, who were arguably the better team. However, Leighton executed their game plan to absolute perfection and will be difficult opponents for whoever they get in the Quarter-Final.
Bradford Town: Worton, Whitcombe, Stocks, Davidson(c), Keet, Lye, Maddison, Griffiths, Higdon, Pollard, Morris. Suns: Powell, Baggs, Watts, Symonds, Sawyer
Leighton Town: Kirkwood, Bryant, Resch, Murphy, Towell, Frederick(c), Turner, Osborne, Foulger, Webb, Silford. Subs: Campbell, McClelland, Adams, Condon, Donkor, Waters
Ground Number: 227