Non-League football: Trophy exit prompts Lions to re-set their league goals

Guiseley manager Mark Bower.
Guiseley manager Mark Bower.
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Guiseley manager Mark Bower believes his side’s defeat in the FA Trophy could prove to be a blessing in disguise as it means they can now focus solely on their league campaign.

The Lions host Leamington tomorrow at Nethermoor Park hoping to bounce back from their 2-0 defeat to Chorley which saw them eliminated from the first round of the FA Trophy.

Bower acknowledges it wasn’t a good enough performance last weekend, but admits that the league is their main priority.

He said: “We had a disappointing result but other than that we have been playing well so we just have to put it down to a bad day at the office.

“I have no complaints and we got exactly what we deserved.

“Five or six of our players had their worst games of the season and when that happens it is always going to be an uphill struggle.

“The challenge now is how we respond. We wanted to go as far as we could in that competition but I suppose the positive out of that is we can just concentrate on the league now which is what’s most important.”

Guiseley, who boast former Leeds United left-back Ben Parker amongst their ranks, have enjoyed a promising season so far, sitting third in the Conference North.

However they are more aware than any other team in the division that it is ultimately how you finish the season that matters the most.

Despite having made it to the play-offs for the past four seasons running, Guiseley have failed to clinch promotion each time, twice falling at the last hurdle in the final. Bower is relaxed about the remainder of the season, and is determined not to let the club’s previous failings have any effect on the current crop of players.

He added: “There’s such a long way to go and it is so tight at the top that it is impossible to predict. I know it is a typical football cliché but we can only take each game as it comes.

“We have only lost two league games since August, both against Barrow who are top of the league. I’d argue we were really unfortunate in both of those. We played well but just didn’t get that bit of luck or a decision that needed to go our way.”

Over the festive period the Lions face a local derby with Harrogate Town and then a huge clash with second-placed AFC Fylde, providing Guiseley with a good test of their credentials.

Bower added: “Christmas can be tough simply because of how many games there are.

“That can be a real positive though. A few wins on the bounce and the table can look very different.

“Obviously it can go the other way as well so it’s important we keep picking up results.

“The fixtures have thrown up a few big games at the top of the table so if we get some wins it will be a massive boost and can make a big difference.”

Elsewhere Harrogate Town travel to Tamworth where a win would take them above their opponents and into mid-table.

Bradford Park Avenue host fellow strugglers Gloucester City at Horsfall Stadium as they look to create a gap between themselves and the division’s relegation places.

In the Conference, Neil Aspin’s FC Halifax Town welcome second-bottom Nuneaton Town to The Shay.

Town will be looking to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat at Torquay in their last outing as they target the end-of-season play-offs.

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MANAGER Billy Miller is looking forward to locking horns with an old adversary when his Harrogate Railway side travel to Brighouse Town tomorrow, writes ROB CONLON.

Miller and his opposite number Paul Quinn go way back to when Miller was in charge of Liversedge and would regularly compete against Brighouse in the NCE League.

Since then Quinn has masterminded Brighouse’s promotion to the First Division North – an achievement Miller has a lot of respect for.

He said: “Paul and I know each other quite well from my time managing in the NCE.

“He’s a very good manager and a good bloke who also likes his team to play good football.

“It will be nice to be back competing against each other after a while and hopefully we can get the win.”

Brighouse have made the step up in divisions relatively comfortably and find themselves in 13th position coming up to the halfway stage of the season.

Meanwhile, Harrogate are arguably the surprise package of the season, belying one of the smallest squads and smallest budgets in the league to proudly sit in eighth place, only six points off their target of 40 for the whole campaign.

Spirits are high on the back of a seven-game winning streak, which included a 3-0 win over New Mills in their last outing thanks to goals from strikers Nathan Cartman and Malachi Farquharson, plus one from Stephen Bromley. However gaffer Miller argues their results over the traditionally tricky festive period could determine their success.

He said: “We won’t start to make any daft predictions yet.

“We have some tough fixtures coming up against some good local teams.

“Christmas is always a difficult time to play anyway due to the conditions you inevitably have to compete in.”

Should Harrogate make it eight wins on the bounce and results go their way they could well move up to fifth in the table.

Elsewhere, Farsley AFC host Droylsden hoping for a repeat of their 2-0 victory in the reverse fixture back in September.

Ossett Town travel to second-bottom New Mills while Ossett Albion face a tough task at home to in-form Spennymoor Town, who won 2-1 in midweek.

In the Premier Division Frickley Athletic travel to Rushall Athletic.

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AFC Emley chairman Terry Higgins is optimistic about the club’s future as his side sit top of Division One the North East Counties League at Christmas, writes Oliver Roby.

Emley, who have suffered just one home league defeat this campaign, sit five points clear of second-placed Clipstone at the halfway stage of the season and Higgins puts the on-field success down to the hard work done behind the scenes over the last few years.

“We did well despite losing a few key players last year and we’ve managed to keep the vast majority of those players together,” he said. “The guys are enjoying themselves on the pitch which is what we’re all about.

“We’ve got a very strong Under-19s team who won the double last year and a development squad who are producing some fantastic results. I think, fingers crossed, all the foundations we’ve been putting in place over the last couple of years are starting to bring some rewards.

“Even though we are top we don’t want to get too carried away. We’ve got a lot of games stacked up in January and February so they will undoubtedly be key months for us and it will be tough.

“But we’ve got five home games in a row between those months, so, if we can start making the Welfare Ground a bit of a fortress, we will do well.”

Off the field, the club have launched an online shop and, with attendances on the rise, the chairman is hopeful of a bright future: “Our attendances are as high as anyone in the league and about 10 per cent up on last year which is really positive.

“We’re seeing a lot of new faces and we’ve got some new sponsors too which is brilliant. All in all, the club is looking really strong which bodes well for the future.”

Looking ahead to the derby with Yorkshire Amateur, 3pm Saturday, Higgins is expecting a tight affair: “Much like every team in this league, they’re a difficult side to play against. We lost last time against them so it will be a good test. Hopefully we can get a good crowd down and it would be great to see even more new faces too.”

Meanwhile, in the Premier, Tadcaster Albion host Heanor Town, while Garforth host Cleethorpes and Pickering are at home to Parkgate. Liversedge are on the road and face Glasshoughton as Notsell MW travel to Barton Town Old Boys.

In Division One, Hemsworth MW and Selby Town face away trips to Worsborough and Knaresborough respectively, while Eccleshil United travel to Pontefract Collieries.

Mike Fondop.

Guiseley let slip two-goal lead at the Daggers