Leaders Gloucester City remain unbeaten in National League North this season as they drew 4-4 in a thrilling, topsy-turvy contenst against Bradford Park Avenue at the new Meadow Park.
Once again, Matty McClure and Akwasi Asante were on the scoresheet for the Tigers, making them the two leading scorers in the division, but manager James Rowe was disappointed with his side’s defensive display.
“It was certainly a good advert for the league with eight goals scored,” Rowe said.
“Obviously we are disappointed to concede four, but credit to Bradford.
“The professionalism out of possession wasn’t good enough and that’s why we conceded four.”
The visitors arrived with the aim of being the first team to defeat Gloucester in the league this term.
They were faced with the league’s most fearsome strike partnership made up of McClure, the leading goalscorer in the division, and Asante, both in red-hot form.
City manager Rowe made two changes to the starting line-up with Louie Moulden and Tommy O’Sullivan making way for Rhys Lovett and Josh Thomas.
As expected the game started rapidly as City defender Liam Daly’s volley struck the post in the second minute.
However, just four minutes later it was Bradford who took the lead through Lewis Knight.
City failed to deal with Bradford’s short corner and Knight whipped a beautiful ball into the box and it somehow managed to find its way past everyone into the back of the net.
Rowe’s side eased back into the game after a slow start and his side started to create chances of their own with Bernard Mensah and Asante coming close.
The Tigers’ were rewarded in the 16th minute after George Carline’s throw found its way to Asante who fired in from close range to level.
It did not take long for the home side to take the lead as Park Avenue’s Dan Atkinson stopped Carline’s effort only for the rebound to find McClure who tucked away to give his side the advantage.
It was the frontman’s eighth goal of the season, his predatory instincts helping his side once again.
City continuously pushed for another goal and in the 22nd minute referee Sam Mulhall awarded a penalty after Daly’s header struck Jordan Windass’ arm.
Asante stepped up and calmly converted the spot kick past Atkinson to extend City’s lead to 3-1.
The Tigers were firmly on at the half hour mark but a defensive error allowed Bradford to pull a goal back in the 32 nd minute.
Omar Sanyang latched onto the mistake and after his effort was saved by Lovett, the ball found its way to Jake Hibbs who remained calm and smashed the ball into the City net to make it 3-2.
Park Avenue had the chance to go level five minutes before the break but Lovett pulled off an outstanding save to deny Sanyang.
City thought they had added another on the stroke of half-time after Ben Morgan bundled the ball into the net however the linesman raised his flag for offside.
The second half carried on in the same vein as the first with the visitors scoring early on once more just a minute after the restart.
Left-back Harry Boyes found himself in acres of space and he let fly a left-footed strike that flew past Lovett in the City goal bringing the scores level at 3-3.
Park Avenue continued to mount the pressure with an electric start and in the 52nd minute, Windass rifled in a first-time strike to put his side 4-3 up following fine build-up play.
However, the Tigers managed to draw level once again after Bernard Mensah headed in Kevin Dawson’s enticing cross.
Both sides pushed for a winner with City’s golden opportunity coming through substitute Tommy O’Sullivan, but the ball was scrambled away triggering a Park Avenue break.
Adam Nowakowski’s square ball was cut out by Jack James into Lovett’s hands as a breathless game finished all-square.
The game was filled with excitement from the first whistle to the last but neither side could find a winner and Rowe was left disappointed to have let slip a two-goal advantage.
He said: “We are disappointed because we were 3-1 up and as a team collectively we have to defend better.
“We need to be a bit more professional out of possession and the players know that themselves.”
Asante was the game’s star performer as he took his tally on to seven.
Asante and McClure combined have scored 15 of the Tigers’ 23 league goals this season.
However, City may currently be overly reliant on the potent front line as they have failed to keep a clean sheet so far
Up next for the Tigers is a derby at Hereford FC on Tuesday night (7.45pm).
Gloucester City AFC (3-4-1-2): Lovett; Morgan (O’Sullivan 74), Daly, Thomas; Carline, Gunning, Thomas, Whittle (James 66); Mensah; McClure, Asante. Subs not used: Robert, Bailey-Nicholls, King
Bradford (Park Avenue) AFC (4-5-1): Atkinson; Windass, Ross, Lund, Boyes; Hibbs, Toulson, Marriott, Clee, Sanyang (Nowakowski 85); Knight. Subs not used: Huffer, Downing, Lyons,
Referee: Sam Mulhall.
Star Man: Akwasi Asante.