GUISELEY have chapter and verse on nervy play-off instalments and expect Saturday’s second-leg clash at Kellamergh Park to be another tense addition to that list.
The Lions take a slender 1-0 advantage across the Pennines, thanks to Jake Lawlor’s 32nd-minute strike and while it enables them to head west in credit, the tie remains delicately balanced.
Fifteen points may have separated the Roses pair in the regular 42-match season, but Mark Bower spoke about the table counting for nothing ahead of last night’s game, with his Lions side dispelling that theory for fair portions.
But Fylde showed just why they have been such an offensively-strong side this season in pushing Barrow so close to the title. Fortunately, they reckoned without Steven Drench who made three excellent saves, to follow on from another telling block in the Coasters’ sole moment of first-half danger.
Fielding nine of the side who started the 2-0 play-off semi-final victory over North Ferriby 12 months ago, Bower was clearly pinning his hopes of his mainstays of last season coming up trumps when it matters.
And it was Guiseley who had the better of the first half and they were rewarded with a neatly-taken goal from Lawlor to provide them with a deserved advantage. It was a half in which the likes of Oli Johnson had his moments alongside Gavin Rothery as both displayed their appetite for the big-game environment, while the central midfield axis of Andy Holdsworth and Danny Boshell provided experienced engine-room nous.
At the back, the Lions backline, in which Danny Lowe excelled, were resolute and only really troubled once on 24 minutes when Drench impressively beat away Danny Lloyd’s stinging drive after a lovely pass from Michael Barnes, with Danny Rowe heading the rebound over.
Other than that, it was Guiseley who were on the front foot, with Danny Hall’s 14th-header flashing agonisingly across goal, but his central defensive partner Lawlor fared better just after the half-hour.
Rothery’s ball found its way to Johnson on the left, who conjured an inviting cross, which was nodded home from a few yards out by Lawlor for his fifth goal of an excellent campaign.
Fylde soon fired a warning in the early stages of the second half when an inch-perfect pass from Tom Hannighan found Lloyd and his fine swerving 25-yarder was tipped over adeptly by Drench.
But soon after, Guiseley were desperately close to doubling their lead, with desperate defending blocking Adam Boyes’ follow-up after Ben Hinchcliffe parried Wayne Brooksby’s goalbound low shot. Drench then made his third telling save to instinctively save Rowe’s point-blank effort before Johnson saw a shot saved and headed over soon after as Guiseley sought a relieving second.
Play switched to the other end, with ex-Lions player Josh Wilson’s header cleared off the line by Boshell before Lloyd’s low shot was clawed away brilliantly by Drench, who also denied sub Ritchie Allen late on.
Guiseley: Drench; Toulson, Lawlor, Hall, Lowe; Holdsworth; Brooksby, Rothery, D Boshell, O Johnson (L Dickinson 76); Boyes (N Boshell 90). Substitutes unused: A Johnson, Stockdill, S Dickinson.
AFC Fylde: Hinchcliffe; Denson, Langley, Hannigan, Sumner; M Barnes (Allen 64), Baker (Tonsett 85), B Barnes, Wilson (Blinkhorn 75); Lloyd-McGoldrick, Rowe. Substitutes unused: Booth, Charles.