FINISH off the job – that’s the emphatic message from Guiseley boss Mark Bower ahead of their Skrill North final date with destiny at Altrincham tomorrow.
The Lions rise to the play-off final, from the depths of despair in early autumn where they were residing third-from-bottom may already be fairytale stuff, but Bower himself is now purely focused on the final chapter, reaching the Conference Premier.
One school of thought suggests Guiseley, seeking a touch of karma after three successive doses of play-off heartache, can reflect on a remarkable season whatever happens at Moss Lane tomorrow (3pm) after an incredible seasonal turnaround.
But Bower’s competitive juices dictate that he is only interested in victory tomorrow afternoon and will be as disappointed in the extreme if Guiseley fail to clear the final hurdle.
And there’s the added incentive of righting a wrong following a 4-1 loss at Alty in October, the club’s seasonal low point.
Bower, whose side head into the game on the back of just one loss in 19 matches, said: “When we started the run where we had 20 games in 10 weeks, we knew getting to the final would be a magnificent achievement. But there’s no point being here, if we are not going to go out there and finish off the job.
“There’s added ingredients to the final. We went to Altrincham in October at the lowest point of our season in terms of the second-half performance we put in. Some of the players in our team will be wanting to put that right.
“It was painful because in the first half, we were in control and 1-0 up at half-time. But the second was bitterly disappointing.
“But it possibly acted as a turning point for our season as we went 15 or 16 games unbeaten and have only lost four league matches since then. It possibly opened my eyes in terms of what needed to be done and stood me in good stead for the job ahead.
“A lot of things have changed since, although after a bad experience, you just want to put it right.
“Then there will be the added pride of getting promoted to the Conference National, which would be a remarkable achievement. That’s certainly the aim and we are coming up against a team who like ourselves pass the ball and play good football.
“They are a good team who finished above us in the league and who beat us at home and are on home soil again. We know it will be difficult, but will be going there to win it.”
Bower, without the services of Wayne Brooksby (broken jaw) and ex-Robins player Danny Boshell, has certainly come a long way with his Guiseley side since taking over and while the Altrincham defeat represented a seasonal low point, he has cited the victory at North Ferriby, also in October, as the moment which gave his side true belief.
The fates were such that Ferriby were the side eliminated in the semi-finals, with the task ahead now being to ensure Alty – whose home game with the Lions was also such a big seasonal moment – go the same way.
Bower added: “The performance at Ferriby when we brought Danny Boshell back and Adam Lockwood had just joined and Gavin Rothery was back from suspension was a key moment.
We got the formation going and it has served us well.
“We out-footballed them across the park and you just knew there was a good side and that with a bit of luck with injuries, we could put a run togetherand we did.
“Possibly not to end seven points off the top of the league, although at third-from-bottom, we were in a false position.”
PHIL ROGERSON admits that Guiseley’s decision to promote from within when they appointed Mark Bower as boss has reaped major dividends.
Bower may have been a managerial rookie when he came in after Steve Kittrick left last autumn, but the 34-year-old has massively vindicated the faith shown in him since.
While Guiseley will be going all out to end their play-off hoodoo at Altrincham, Lions chairman Rogerson insists the club and Bower will be able to look back on a memorable season whatever happens.
Bower suffered some dark days early in his tenure, with a low point ironically arriving at Alty in early October when Guiseley slumped 4-1 and were in the relegation positions.
But after that abject afternoon, he hasn’t looked back, orchestrating a truly remarkable renaissance which could be crowned by the club clinching Skrill Premier football for the first time.
Rogerson said: “Mark has pulled it around amazingly. We had an iffy start after the disappointment of the play-offs and Mark came in and life got more difficult initially.
“But coincidentally, we turned it around after Altrincham and people began to believe.
“We felt Mark had the right experience and I always think bringing in someone internally is a huge advantage.
“We did it with Neil Parsley and someone who has been a first-team captain and knows the squad can hit the ground running. They see what needs changing. It doesn’t always work, but it has in this case.
“Whatever happens, this season has been a great one. For us to get to a play-off final in Mark’s first season is amazing.
“If we don’t do it on Saturday, he will have another year to have a go at it. Fingers crossed that we do it, though.”
Scores of fans have taken up the club offer of free coach travel to Altrincham and the Lions could be backed by a travelling army of 1,000.
Rogerson added: “Everything is gearing up for a day out with hopefully, the right result. We had seven coaches booked at the beginning of the week, which is fantastic and will probably have more.
“We traditionally have a fair following of people who travel independently and I suspect we’ll get as many driving. There could be 800 to 1,000 there.
“We are up for it. We have crept up the rails a bit and we go there as underdogs, and there’s not really the pressure we have had in previous years.”