Former Bantams pair now locked in battle for promotion

Guiseley's manager Mark Bower.
Guiseley's manager Mark Bower.
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MARK BOWER may have played for and captained his home-town club – making his debut alongside the manager he faces today – but winning the Skrill North final would top it all.

The Guiseley chief can seal the final act of a truly remarkable 2013-14 campaign by clinching promotion to the Conference Premier at the fourth time of asking for the Lions, at Altrincham today (3pm).

Standing in his way in the opposing dug-out is a man who knows a fair bit about the play-offs in Robins chief Lee Sinnott, someone Bower knows well.

In April, 1998 and still in his teens, Bower, 34, came on for his debut from the substitutes’ bench in Bradford City’s Division One encounter at Norwich City, lining up alongside Sinnott, by then approaching veteran status nearing his 33rd birthday.

That remains a career highlight for the Bradfordian, who represented the claret-and-amber for a decade, but leading Guiseley to the Conference would eclipse everything.

It is something Sinnott memorably achieved for another West Yorkshire non-league outfit in Farsley Celtic in 2006-07 when they beat Hinckley in an epic final at Burton.

Sinnott, 48, won promotion three times during his time with Farsley and also took Alty to the play-offs last season, when they eventually lost to beaten finalists Brackley.

His record in non-league circles is an excellent one, as Bower acknowledges, but he is determined to be the one smiling at 5pm at Moss Lane today. Bower said: “I actually made my debut in the Football League 16 years ago at Bradford when I played alongside Lee.

“I have come across him every now and again and he’s a top manager and done very well wherever he has been.

“He took Farsley to the conference a few years ago and that was a remarkable achievement. He has put a good side together at Altrincham now.”

Offering his thoughts on today’s final, he added: “In terms of a one-off game and what it means, how far we have come and the turnaround we have managed to perform, if we can pull this off, it will be my most satisfying day in football.

“It’s been a remarkable journey this season and I can’t see anything in my career topping it.

“The brief was to get away from the bottom of the league and stabilise things. But we just kept winning games and the run of winning on Tuesday nights put us in a great position.

“We can almost look at it as a bit of a bonus we’re here. But there’s no way we will take it lightly, thinking we have achieved something already.

“We are in the final because we deserve to be. But we want to be in the Conference this time next week because we deserved to win the final as well.”

Between 800 and 1,000 supporters are expected to roar on Guiseley across the Pennines, hoping and praying it is a case of fourth time lucky in the play-offs after suffering three successive Skrill North end-of-season defeats in consecutive seasons.

Chairman Phil Rogerson has felt the pain of those losses, to Telford, Nuneaton and FC Halifax Town more than most and is just keeping his fingers crossed that for once the footballing gods will decree in Guiseley’s favour when the final whistle comes.

He said: “We hope the fates will finally be on our side, absolutely. Although football does have a habit of kicking you in the teeth.

“I’ve got to say Mark has pulled it around amazingly this season. 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 the Altrincham game away when we were 1-0 up and got tonked 4-1.

“It moved on from there; we went and won at North Ferriby United and went on a 13-match unbeaten run and people began to believe.

“We are on a roll, but so are Altrincham and it will be a very tight, even game.”

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