Gloucester City 3 Bradford Park Avenue 3
Gloucester City kicked off their Vanarama North campaign with an absorbing six-goal draw against Bradford Park Avenue.
A brace from striker Charlie Griffin and a simply wonderful free-kick by captain Billy Jones wasn’t enough as the Yorkshire side pegged back the Tigers on three separate occasions.
Paul Walker’s lob with seven minutes remaining tied up the game after a Matty James header and Richard Marshall’s confident penalty meant it ended with the sides sharing the points.
In front of a bumper crowd at Whaddon Road and with six players making their competitive debuts for the club, City started with intent as Matt Groves flicked a header wide of the post.
Veteran striker Griffin showed his class after four minutes, a bullet header after a teasing Adam Mann cross excellently saved by John Lamb.
Two more excellent opportunities fell the big forward’s way, an attempted chip that soared just over followed by another powerful header.
The visitors first chance was a big warning, Chib Chilaka’s deflected ball found its way into James’ path but Mike Green stood firm and denied the Bradford man one-on-one.
Debutant Chris Jones, signed from Welsh champions The New Saints, looked to imprint his mark on the game with a stunning ball, but Griffin’s header was flicked over.
Griffin’s persistence paid off handsomely in the 34th minute, latching on to a horrible back pass by Ryan Qualter the veteran tucked home the Tigers opening goal of the campaign.
Bradford hit back just before the break. Joe Colbeck’s fantastic delivery finding James free in the box to head home the equaliser.
Park Avenue continued their upward momentum forcing Green into the two best saves of the match, firstly tipping over Walker’s long-range effort followed by pushing Chilaka’s effort onto the woodwork.
City went ahead with Griffin drilling a penalty home after Chris Jones had been felled in the penalty area.
The Welsh winger almost supplied himself with a goal but his low drive fizzed inches wide followed by Sam Avery dancing through the Bradford defence to poke an effort that swerved just away from goal.
The game was tied with 15 minutes remaining, Marshall blasting home into the top corner after Matt Williams had dragged the leg of James in the box.
The lead only lasted three minutes as Billy Jones leathered a trademark free-kick into the bottom corner to restore City’s advantage, a stunning finish from the Football League veteran.
But it wasn’t to be an opening day win for Tim Harris’ men as Walker found space in the middle and lobbed calmly over Green for a third equaliser.
Marshall had an attempt go perilously close deep into injury time as both teams remain undefeated after their first game.
Gloucester City: M Green, S Avery, B Jones, S Hamilton, M Williams, A Connolly, M Richards, C Jones (E Chamberlain 70), C Griffin, A Mann (S Wilson 77), M Groves (T Webb 81). Subs not used: M Green, M Preece.
Bradford Park Avenue: J Lamb, G Black, M Drury, J Rea (R Marshall 64), R Qualter, S Mallory, J Colbeck (S Kerr 64), N Hotte, C Chilaka (D Frost 67), M James, P Walker. Subs not used: C Howarth, J Price.