Guiseley’s results make a strong case for the defence

Oli Johnson.
Oli Johnson.
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AS a fully paid-up member of the former centre-halves’ union, three straight wins and three clean sheets is just the ticket for Mark Bower.

His Guiseley side have not just fulfilled his remit of making a flying start to the campaign to expunge memories of last season’s cruel play-off heartache and slow seasonal opening, but also produced some eye-catching defensive statistics along the way.

The resolute Lions, who face a Roses trip to Fylde in Vanarama North tomorrow, have not just won all three league games so far to sit top of the pile, but are yet to concede as much as a goal, all this despite being without the injured duo of Danny Lowe and Danny Hall.

It’s the sort of statistic that augurs well and for Bower, it’s a case of ‘long may it continue’.

The Lions boss said: “If you stop the ball going into your net, you have every chance.

“We have defended well and as a team. The Worcester manager recently commented on how hard the lads were working and we have a good shape and are proving difficult opponents to play against.

“But we have good players and a good goalkeeper, so I expect us to be tight at the back.”

While Guiseley’s early schedule has not seen them face any of the division’s fancied teams yet, Bower insists his side’s achievements should be provided with context in terms of some unfortunate injuries ensuring he has yet to pick from a full deck.

He added: “You look at some of the other sides who are going to be up there and it’s fair to say they have had trickier starts.

“But all these games need winning.

“To do it in the manner we have has been really pleasing. You look at last Saturday and we had four players out including three who started the play-off final and Danny Lowe as well.

“We had four injuries to big, big players. So to produce results with all that is extra-pleasing.

“We said that last season’s start cost us and we have started well this year and have more points now than we had at the end of October last year.

“But what we can’t do is get carried away.

“That said, I’d rather be in our position than any other in the league at the minute.”

On opponents Fylde, he said: “Fylde certainly like to get the ball down and pass it and they have brought in some good players over the summer and teams who come up always have that momentum.

“They had a great win at home on the opening day, so it will be difficult for us, but we need to go about our business as we have done in our first three games.”

Oli Johnson could be back in the fray for the Lions tomorrow, but Bower is still without long-term injury victim Hall.

Alex Johnson is still a few weeks away from a return with Lowe also ‘not quite ready yet’ according to Bower, who has no imminent plans to enter the transfer market and is happy to work with what he has got at the moment.

Still in search of their first league win of the campaign, Simon Weaver’s Harrogate Town – who in mitigation will point to their teak-tough run of fixtures against Tamworth, Bradford Park Avenue and Hednesford – are afforded no fixture let-off tomorrow at home to Barrow.

Fifth-placed Avenue, who have made an encouraging start to the season, visit Gainsborough tomorrow.

Proudly sitting in top spot of the Conference Premier, Neil Aspin’s FC Halifax put their 100 per cent record on the line at Chester.

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IF THE early signs are anything to go by, it could be another noteworthy campaign for Knaresborough Town.

On the back of lifting the NCEL League Cup last term and finishing a commendable sixth in Division One, Brian Davey’s side are injecting further wind in their sails with two wins from two in the league, while also being through to the next round of the FA Cup in their first-ever foray in the famous old competition.

In just their third campaign in the NCEL, the graph is an upward one and after eighth and sixth-place finishes respectively, hope is high of further incremental improvement.

Not that the club will put themselves under any undue pressure.

Davey said: “We are doing well and have a good squad together and we are always trying to improve.

“Our priority last year was to get our reserves through into the West Yorkshire Premier, so the gap becomes a little bit closer and we have a bigger squad to pick from.

“This season, we’d like to finish in the top four. And as the old saying goes, if we are there or thereabouts at Christmas, then we can sit down and decide what we do we need to do.”

He added: “But we will not take it too seriously and the main aim is to enjoy our football.

“The lads work all week and when it comes to the weekend, you don’t want pressure on people.

“Yes, it will be hard as there are some fantastic teams at this level with the top 10 last year having teams like Worsborough, Emley and Shirebrook. These sort of teams are hard to beat.

“We just need the consistency we showed in the second half of last season and if we do that, we will be quite capable this year.”

An intriguing derby sees Selby Town, who have made a sound start to the season, head to Pontefract Colls tomorrow, with another local affair seeing Yorkshire Amateur at home to Hemsworth MW.

AFC Emley visit Clipstone and Eccleshill host Winterton.

A top-flight derby sees Paul Marshall’s Tadcaster welcome Glasshoughton.

Elsewhere, Garforth, in fifth, host another side who have started off well in Heanor, with Thackley heading to Maltby.

Liversedge, yet to pick up a point, are at home to Parkgate, with another side on zero points, Nostell, visiting Staveley.

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TWO games, two wins – but Brighouse Town won’t be caught making brash predictions despite their super start to life in the Evo-Stik First Division North.

Paul Quinn’s side are level on points with much-fancied Salford City and Lancaster City at the summit and are one of just three teams who boast a 100 per cent record after two matches.

But don’t expect them to get giddy with Quinn adamant that it will take 10 games before Town will have any kind of barometer as to how they might fare in their maiden season at this level.

Quinn, whose side visit Clitheroe tomorrow, said: “It’s an excellent start although we have shown two gutsy performances so far without really getting going.

“But we have got the job done and got the result and shown resilience and character in both games.

“We are obviously pleased we have got the points on the board early, but there is a lot of improving to do still.

“I have always said: ‘let’s get the first 10 games out of the way before starting to set some long-term goals’.

“At the moment, we just want to win as many games as we can and keep improving and getting used to the league. There are a lot of things we have learnt already.

“We need to keep adapting and if we can pick up some points, then great.’

“Obviously, there are always going to be question marks in terms of whether new teams can learn and cope with this league and in terms of confidence, it’s important to get a few wins on the board. But we are nowhere near the finished article yet.”

Quinn has given opportunities to the bulk of the side who enjoyed such a splendid NCEL Premier campaign in 2013-14, but admits to being priced out of the market in a couple of prospective moves for newcomers.

That’s the nature of the beast at this level, according to Quinn, who remains happy with what he has got, by and large.

Elsewhere tomorrow, Farsley, who picked up three points in midweek at home to Ossett Town, are on home soil again against Padiham.

John Reed’s Ossett go to basement boys Warrington Town, while Ossett Albion, without a win, host Northwich Victoria.

Harrogate Railway head to Droylsden, with Scarborough Athletic playing host to New Mills.

Premier Division activity sees Frickley Athletic make the lengthy trip to the Black Country to face Halesowen Town.

Goole AFC entertain Leek Town in a First Division South fixture.

Conference fixtures: Shay to host Halifax’s first derby with Lions