TO SAY Guiseley’s players cut a dejected bunch in the Edgeley Park dressing rooms on Saturday was probably the understatement of the year.
Pegged back by a hugely controversial late penalty from Stockport County’s Phil Jevons with the last kick of the game in a roller-coaster 3-3 Skrill North draw, the Lions were left to lick their wounds after seeing two valuable play-off points slip through their grasp.
It effectively means the margin for error in their top-five quest is even more slight ahead of tonight’s encounter with visiting Stalybridge.
Manager Mark Bower isn’t dressing down the importance of the Nethermoor test and has simply described it as a “massive, massive game.”
Perhaps the only saving grace for ninth-placed Guiseley at the weekend was the fact that play-off rivals Harrogate Town and Solihull Moors also failed to pick up win bonuses, something Stalybridge achieved in a 3-1 away-day success at Vauxhall Motors to boost their survival hopes at the wrong end of the table.
On the keynote nature of tonight’s clash, Bower, whose side can move within five points of fifth-placed Harrogate – with three matches in hand – if they triumph this evening, said: “Saturday was a difficult one to take, but you are always going to get setbacks and we have set ourselves a pretty tall target to get to in order to push towards the top of this league.
“We’re not far from where we want to be with that and good teams bounce back and we’ve got to do that on Tuesday night.
“It’s a massive, massive game for us. After Tuesday, we go into a really difficult game at the weekend against (leaders) North Ferriby and the games are coming thick and fast.
“We knew that would be the case and we’re right in the thick of it now, but if we perform like we did on Saturday, I’m sure we will pick up plenty of points.
“It was a really good performance and there were plenty of positives. Wayne Brooksby played well, but the lads all over the park did. It was difficult to think of anyone who didn’t.”
After a quick-fire double-header against Stockport, Guiseley face more Cheshire opponents in double-quick time in the Celts, with Bower’s side travelling to Bower Fold in eight days’ time for the reverse fixture.
Tonight’s game sees Guiseley renew acquaintances with two former players in Paul Ennis and Andy McWilliams and despite 18th-placed Celtic’s lowly position, Bower feels they are in a bit of a false position.
He added: “They have certainly improved over the past couple of weeks.
“I’ve seen a few of their performances recently and watched them against Brackley a couple of weeks ago when they were very impressive and deserved to comfortably win that game.
“I know they are towards the foot of the table, but we cannot take them lightly.”
Also in action tonight are one of Guiseley’s play-off rivals in Brackley, who play host to lowly Gloucester.
Paul Quinn’s Brighouse Town will be seeking to put a welter of pressure on the NCEL Premier Division top two of Tadcaster Albion and Barton Town Old Boys by triumphing at mid-table Thackley, whose league form has dipped off after an impressive start to the campaign.
Town have won five of their last six league matches and have seen their colours lowered just twice in the league so far this calendar year.
Elsewhere, Liversedge, who lie fourth-from-bottom, play host to Worksop Parramore at Clayborn, with Dave Thompson’s side seeking to end a worrying run of five successive defeats.
Fellow strugglers Nostell Miners Welfare will be attempting to secure more home comforts with their fifth consecutive win at the Welfare Ground in all competitions against Armthorpe.
Albion Sports visit Lincoln Moorlands, while Glasshoughton welcome Staveley. Eccleshill can go fourth with victory at Worsbrough Bridge in Division One.
In the Evo-Stik First Division North, Harrogate Railway visit Northwich, while second-from-bottom Wakefield entertain Salford City, beaten 3-0 by their relegation rivals Ossett Albion on Saturday.