GUISELEY manager Mark Bower has ordered his Lions side to be early risers in their Vanarama Conference North promotion quest – and avoid the pitfalls of a slow start for the second year running.
The Nethermoor outfit’s fourth play-off defeat on the spin, the cruellest of extra-time losses to Altrincham in the final in May, may have been heartbreaking in the extreme, but Bower feels his side could have foregone the need to bother with the play-offs had they started the 2013-14 season better.
For large chunks of last term, certainly from late October to the end of 2013 and from late February onwards, Guiseley’s form was title class. Bower is hoping for his side to carry on from where they left off in the first half of 2014, starting at Leamington tomorrow.
Bower, mindful of how Guiseley won just two games in their opening 11 league fixtures last term, said: “The reason we didn’t win the league last season was because we didn’t start well and there’s a massive incentive to start well this time and be in touch going into the autumn.
“That is the message we have been getting across. Had we done that last season, it could have been a different story.
“We were also on such a run and on a crest of a wave towards the end of the season that it is important that we get back on the bike straight away and really push on.”
Given Guiseley’s near-miss last term, Bower is under no illusions that his side will be right at the forefront of the betting for promotion.
But with the likes of Harrogate and Barrow having strengthened considerably, he is expecting another teak-tough competition.
He added: “I am sure people will expect us to be challenging at the top of the table.
“But you look at the likes of Harrogate and Barrow in the way they have recruited and they have certainly splashed the cash to try and make an impact and have spent a lot of money on strikers.
“I think those two are the obvious ones we will want to catch. Tamworth have also recruited well and Hednesford, having had a good season last year, have improved.
“Those four will definitely be challenging and then you will always get an unknown quality maybe like a Fylde or a Chorley.”
Guiseley’s recruitment has seen them bring in experienced FC Halifax duo Ryan Toulson and Danny Lowe along with ex-Bradford City midfielder Jack Stockdill. Former Bradford Park Avenue player Nicky Boshell has also returned to Nethermoor to link up with brother Danny, the Lions assistant-boss.
Defender Alex McQuade has also joined to provide cover with Lowe set to be out for three weeks after injuring his groin in last weekend’s friendly at Farsley, a game which saw Danny Hall break his leg.
After his fine loan spell last term, Adam Boyes’ move to Nethermoor has also been made permanent, with Bower more than happy with his summer business.
Bower said: “It was strange having come so far to lose it in the manner we did. But we put plans in place before the game, one plan for going up and one if we stayed down.
“And after what happened, I sat down with Danny Boshell and started planning straight away and after the play-off finals. We had offers in for the players we wanted to keep and thankfully everyone who we offered deals to have stayed with us.
“We haven’t had too much activity but the ones who have come in are quality players and ones we think can improve us further. I was really pleased to get Boyes committed and his form towards the end of the season and the partnership he formed with Alex and Oli Johnson was unplayable at times.
“Adam was a main target for us as soon as the season was over, regardless of which league we were in. We wanted to get him tied down and thankfully did that. Hopefully, he can carry on from where we left off last year.
“We hope all the signings that they will help us kick on. Touls and Lowey have got experience of getting promoted from this league and played regularly in the league above. Boyes will get us goals and I felt we just needed that left-sided player in forward positions in Nicky Bosh.
“He will score and create goals.
“Jack has also been really impressive in pre-season and we are pleased to get him tied down too.
“With the squad we have got, we have competition for every single position on the pitch now with the numbers and versatility of players we have got.”
Harrogate kick off at home to Tamworth, while Bradford Park Avenue visit Gloucester.
FC Halifax visit Dover in the Conference Premier.
THE Toolstation Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Premier Division keeps getting stronger – just ask Glasshoughton Welfare.
With limited resources, the club, under the management of Jon Miles, is sticking steadfastly to recruiting and promoting local talent in their quest for success, while a number of others get out the cheque book.
The side everyone is talking about are Barnsley-based Shaw Lane Aquaforce, managed by former Glasshoughton and Ossett Town chief Craig Elliott, who kick off the season with a mouth-watering clash at Tadcaster Albion, who finished third last season.
Welfare themselves have an intriguing start at the newly-named Handsworth Parramore, another side tipped to do well this term.
Parramore were ironically denied promotion by Welfare, who beat them in a key game at the end of last season, and memories are likely to be fresh, according to Welfare chairman Phil Riding.
He said: “There’s a bit of spice as we cost them promotion last season when we beat them.
“Looking at it, it is a cracking division.
“A couple of teams have come up who have a bit of money, such as Shaw Lane Aquaforce and that class and quality can only be beneficial and it will enable players to get in the shop window.
“There do not seem to be any weak teams and it looks a strong division.
“Before, you would just have two or three teams who would be bankers and now there’s a number of good teams and it’s about earning the right.
“First of all, for us, it’s about 45 to 50 points and being safe. After that, as always, you evaluate and set targets.
“You get to Christmas and it’s one of three things.
“It’s either a relegation battle, mid-table security or pushing for honours.”
Liversedge, under the management of Alan Colquhoun, will be hoping for an improved 2014-15 and start at home to Cleethorpes at Clayborn.
Another side who toiled last season, Colquhoun’s old club Nostell, visit Maltby Main.
Graham Nicholas’ Garforth Town – buoyed by a positive pre-season – play host to Parkgate.
Thackley, whose recruits during the summer include ex-Bradford City defender Luke O’Brien, go to Barton Town, while Albion Sports host Heanor.
ANOTHER season, another new manager for Selby Town.
The Robins have had a multitude of different figures in the dug-out in the past few years, with Dave Ricardo the current man in charge.
The opening-day NCEL Division Two fixture list has certainly afforded him few favours with a tough trip to much-fancied AFC Mansfield tomorrow, with stability very much the aim for Selby.
Big things are expected of Brian Davey’s Knaresborough Town, who kick off their campaign at home to Hallam.
Davey will be assisted by former Glasshoughton manager Rob Hunter, who has brought a few of players to the club from Welfare.
Another side tipped to go well are AFC Emley, who shrugged off a slow start last season to impress.
Darren Hepworth’s side get the first chance to show their credentials when they make the long trip to Grimsby Borough.
After knocking on the door again last term, Pontefract Collieries, under Nicky Handley and Duncan Bray, will be seeking to make an early declaration of intent at home to Winterton Rangers.
New recruits at Colls include former Shaw Lane midfielder Lee Swift.
Elsewhere, Yorkshire Amateur – under the management of Phil Harding and Lincoln Richards – hit the road south to Nottinghamshire outfit in Bottesford in their seasonal curtain-raiser.
Eccleshill United start off league life without goal machine Marcus Edwards at home to Louth, while Wayne Benn’s Hemsworth MW are also afforded home comforts when they play host to Teversal.