TO say the odds are not stacked in Guiseley’s favour ahead of tomorrow’s trip to home kings Barrow is the understatement of the season so far.
Clipping the wings of the Bluebirds at their Holker Street fortress where they have won a magnificent seven Vanarama North matches this season and have not so much as dropped a single point represents probably the toughest task the Lions will face this term.
And that is without factoring in the injuries to key players down the spine of the Guiseley side which is untimely in the extreme for manager Mark Bower.
Stalwart defender Danny Ellis, who has pulled a hamstring, is out for several weeks and while Danny Hall is back jogging following a broken leg, it is expected to be another six weeks until he returns.
Up front, there are issues too, with top scorer Adam Boyes unlikely to feature due to a persisstant ankle problem, while Alex Johnson will not be risked after only making his 45-minute comeback from a spell out in the County Cup in midweek.
The upshot is that Guiseley, in sixth spot in Vanarama North, a point behind Oxford City, but with three games in hand, must do it tough against Darren Edmondson’s second-placed side.
Bower said: “Having your two main centre-halves and centre-forwards out does make it difficult.
“It is almost making my selection easier as there are not many options.
“We have run with a relatively small squad. We can stand a few injures as we have done earlier in the season, but if you keep picking them up, it’s difficult – no matter how big your squad is.
“These are the kind of periods you have to get through and grind out a few results. We have got to stand up and be counted.
“It is just unfortunate that it has happened where we have our two hardest games of the season, at Grimsby last weekend and Barrow this weekend.
“But we cannot complain about that and I could not fault the lads who came in at Grimsby for their effort.
“We still have got quality and should be able to go there and put on a decent performance.”
Bower believes their Cumbrian opponents tomorrow will be ‘the team to beat’ this season with the quality at Edmondson’s disposal and the financial wherewithal to further boost his ranks further significant weapons.
But neither is Bower cowed by tomorrow’s challenge, with Guiseley having shown their credentials against higher-ranked side throughout his tenure so far.
He said: “I think they are going to be the team to beat this season with the spending power they have got to bring people in when they see fit.
“They have had some terrific results at home and have brought in a lot of lads from a higher level as well. I expect them to be up there challenging at the end of the season.
“But it will be a good test to measure ourselves up against them and we can definitely go up there and get a result if we show a bit more quality than last week.
“It will be very difficult. But we have a good record against teams up at the top, we beat Oxford and Stockport and got a goalless draw at Fylde, which in hindsight has turned out to be quite a good result. In the past, we have also done well against the top teams as well.
“If we are at it, we can give anyone a game in this league.”
Elsewhere, Harrogate Town welcome Stockport and lowly Bradford Park Avenue host fellow strugglers Tamworth.
FC Halifax visit Wrexham in the Conference.
ANGRY Farsley AFC boss Neil Parsley is demanding a reaction from his side tomorrow – after branding last weekend’s display at Padiham as unacceptable.
Farsley switch tack to FA Trophy business at home to Evo-Stik Premier outfit Blyth Spartans, seven days on from a wretched 3-1 league loss in Lancashire, against rock-bottom hosts who took three points at home for the first time this term.
Parsley read the riot act after the game to his players, who have the chance to get back in his good books tomorrow.
He said: “Padiham was poor and without a shadow of a doubt, our worst performance of the season.
“Yes, we had a couple of players missing. But in non league, it is few and far between when you have a fully-fit squad to pick from and by no stretch of the imagination is it an excuse.
“The players who represented the club didn’t perform and these are the same players who did ever so well before Saturday.
“Standards and the will to win dropped last Saturday and it was unacceptable.
“We all know teams lose and draw football matches, but there is a certain manner in that. Certainly, I am not accepting the standards the players gave me on Saturday. I am not having that.
“They are doing themselves an injustice if they carry on in that vein.”
Acknowledging Farsley face a tall order against the north-easterners tomorrow, Parsley added: “Having watched Blyth this week at FC United, I can see they are decent; they are athletic, physical and hard to break down.
“To say we have our work cut out is an understatement.
“They have obviously done well to get to the first round of the FA Cup, but we are at home and can hopefully give a good account of ourselves.
“The trophy has an aura about it and like the FA Cup, it has its financial rewards as well as the accolade of being able to pit our wits against teams from higher leagues.
“I have had some good runs in the trophy over the years, although it has been thin in the past couple of years.
“A bit like in the FA Cup, but we put that to bed a little bit this year.
“If we could do the same, that would be good.”
Other Trophy first-round qualifying ties saw Frickley welcome Marine and Ossett Town host Trafford.
Goole visit Prescot, Scarborough host Darlington 1883 and Whitby welcome Ramsbottom.
In the Evo-Stik First Division North, Harrogate Railway entertain Brighouse and Ossett Albion are at home to Lancaster City.
BEECHNUT LANE is the place to be as far as the Northern Counties East League is concerned tomorrow – if the recent form of both combatants is anything to go by.
Derby bragging rights are not just on offer ahead of Pontefract Collieries’ Division One derby with visiting Hemsworth MW, but also a potential big psychological boost of three points in both in-form sides’ promotion quest.
Colls head into the game on the back of an impressive 2-0 victory at high-flying rivals Clipstone, thanks to Mark Whitehouse’s double.
A win tomorrow over Wayne Benn’s Welfare, coupled with defeat for Clipstone would take the third-placed hosts to within two points of leaders AFC Emley, but the fifth-placed visitors also have plenty of incentives themselves.
Namely moving to within a point of Colls with victory, while Hemsworth are also entitled to reminisce upon how they have won on their last two league visits to Pontefract, triumphing 1-0 on each occasion.
Colls joint-manager Duncan Bray said: “I think they are unbeaten in five and we have not been beaten in four matches and it is two in-form teams facing each other on Saturday.
“Since we have been in charge, we have had four games against Hemsworth and we have had two at our place and we have lost both and then won both at their’s.
“The games seem to be always decided by the odd goal and it is always a fiery game.
“It is probably a bad time to be playing Hemsworth, but they probably think the same in terms of playing us.
“Anything could happen on Saturday and it should be a great game.
“Hemsworth have done brilliantly and Benno has done really well there. They have three or four lads who are absolutely superb.”
Elsewhere, Knaresborough Town go to Penistone Church and Eccleshill visit Lincoln Moorlands.
In the top-flight, the bottom four square off with Nostell visiting Retford and Glasshoughton going to Armthorpe.
Garforth and Liversedge welcome Staveley and Maltby respectively.
Albion Sports go to Parkgate and Thackley host Bridlington.
NCEL Premier leaders Tadcaster are in FA Vase first-round action at Winsford United, with Yorkshire Amateur travelling to St Helens Town.
Selby host Seaham Red Star and AFC Emley go to North Shields.