ENJOYING a stress-free end to the season would be just the ticket for Guiseley chairman Phil Rogerson – for once.
Frayed nerves in late April and early May have gone with the territory for Lions supporters and the club’s hierarchy over the past decade which has seen the Nethermoor outfit always fighting for something – whether that be promotion, a play-off spot or clinching safety.
As the current campaign reaches its business end, Guiseley still have work to do to avoid another dramatic late denouement, although there is a realistic prospect of the Lions resolving their seasonal fates over the next few weeks if results go their way.
As it stands, 17th-placed Guiseley, whose five-match unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt in last weekend’s 4-0 home loss to Dover, stand five points clear of the side currently in the final National League relegation position in fourth-from-bottom Woking.
It’s a handy buffer and victory in tomorrow’s encounter at second-from-bottom Southport would, at the very least, preserve that or potentially enable Guiseley to take a giant stride to safety – well ahead of time in comparison to last season’s ‘Great Escape’.
A win at Haig Avenue would also take Guiseley up to 49 points, the tally which proved enough to clinch them safety following heroics on the final day of last term – and Rogerson believes that tomorrow’s match is of fundamental importance.
On a see-saw year for Guiseley, who beat Southport 2-1 in the reverse fixture in October, thanks to goals from Jake Cassidy and Michael Rankine, Rogerson said: “It would be nice for a quieter end to the season. It would be amazing if we could pull it off after the ‘Great Escape’ of last season.
“It has almost been the other way around this season to last in that we started well last season and this time it was a pretty disastrous start and a battle getting out.
“Now a couple of wins and we’d be mid-table. That’s the daft thing.
“It has been a really amazing turnaround, albeit with a few unfortunate injuries in the last few weeks.
“It would have been nice to have got something out of last Saturday, but Dover are a good side pushing for promotion, which makes this Saturday a bit critical.
“We are going to get occasional blips and hopefully we can get a good result at Southport, which is going to be critical, with results on Tuesday night not being particularly helpful.”
While one more victory might well be enough to secure National League football for another season, Rogerson believes that two more wins would definitely rubber-stamp safety, although 50 points could yet be enough.
Roberson, who is backing Yorkshire rivals York City to pull away from trouble, added: “It has always been very tight at the bottom and there’s always the fact that two-thirds in this division are full-time and we are in the part-time league and we were not doing well in the lower half of that.
“But if you put a few wins together, it makes a huge difference. With six games to go and being five points clear, I think another two wins would definitely see it right and three or four points will probably be enough.
“To me, York look like they are going to get themselves out of it as they have brought some players in.”
Meanwhile in the National North tomorrow, 11th-placed Harrogate Town travel to the team one place above them, Tamworth, third-placed FC Halifax Town play at Kidderminster Harriers while 18th-placed Bradford Park Avenue make the trip to Alfreton Town.
Frickley Athletic will face possibly the biggest game of their season in their bid to beat the drop as they prepare to host ninth-placed Grantham Town tomorrow in the Evo-Stik Premier, writes Ben Groom.
Athletic are a point from safety with five games to play and will need to make their home form count if they are to climb out of the bottom four, their last victory coming at home against Matlock Town at the end of Feburary. The Blues are yet to score since the return of manager Karl Rose and are looking to end a run of six successive defeats that has seen them slip into the relegation zone. Despite losing his first two games, Rose was able to beat the transfer deadline with the signing of forward Zeph Thomas from Stafford last week and will be hoping his addition can give Athletic an edge in the run-in.
By contrast, visitors Grantham Town will arrive at Westfield Lane full of confidence having won six of their last eight away fixtures. Ninth-placed Grantham are unbeaten in their last six and will be looking for a repeat of their 3-0 victory over the Blues in November.
Meanwhile, in Division One, Farsley Celtic can extend their lead at the top when they host Droylsden, having climbed into first place after their victory over Mossley in midweek. Celtic, who have played a game more than their title rivals Lancaster City, lead the way on goal difference whilst visiting Droylsden can move up to 12th with a win.
Elsewhere, Ossett Town travel to Radcliffe Borough looking for their first away win since the start of February. After the two played out a 1-1 draw in midweek, Town will be hoping to make their home advantage count and know a victory could close the gap on the top four to three points.
Ninth-placed Brighouse Town travel to Kendal Town looking to extend their unbeaten run to eight games after a second-half comeback saw them clinch at point against Tadcaster Albion in midweek. Town could climb into seventh with a victory whilst Kendal will be looking to close the gap on their hosts to three points.
Sixteenth-placed Tadcaster Albion host Prescot Cables aiming to close the gap on the top half of the table whilst Ossett Albion hope to avoid a fourth straight loss at fourth-placed Trafford.
Second-placed Pickering Town travel to Handsworth Parramore knowing a victory could see them climb to the top of the Northern Counties East League Premier, writes Ben Groom.
Pickering will be looking to end a run of three games without a win and are two points behind leaders Cleethorpes having played three games more.
Liversedge host leaders Cleethorpes as they look for their first win in seven games.
Tenth-placed Hemsworth Miners Welfare visit Athersley Recreation hoping to close the gap on their opponents to two points whilst Garforth Town travel to AFC Mansfield knowing a win will see them climb into the top half.
Seventeenth-placed Harrogate Railway host Clipstone and will be looking to end a run of eight successive defeats, their last league victory coming at the end of January.
Meanwhile, in Division One, AFC Emley could extend their lead at the top and will be looking for their eighth consecutive victory as they host Shirebrook Town, whilst second-placed Pontefract Collieries could move above them with a win at home over Campion.
Knaresborough Town will not have given up hope of earning a play-off place as they travel to Teversal whilst 11-placed Selby Town visit Eccleshill United looking to extend their unbeaten run to six games.
Glasshoughton Welfare visit Ollerton Town whilst Yorkshire Amateur travel to fourth-placed Grimsby Borough.