GUISELEY’s Easter programme may look fairly benign on paper, but Mark Bower is not one to be hoodwinked.
The fourth-placed Lions, unluckily beaten for the first time in seven games at play-off rivals Chorley on Tuesday, are on their travels again against Colwyn Bay tomorrow before hosting another relegation-threatened Vanarama North side on Bank Holiday Monday in Stalybridge Celtic.
But boss Bower, for one, is not getting lulled into a false sense of security and believes that this year’s division is the strongest ever.
Bower said: “The league this year, with Ferriby winning the trophy and the run Worcester had in the FA Cup, is stronger than it’s ever been before.
“Teams at the bottom can cause upsets like they have been doing all season and you have to respect them.
“Colwyn Bay are a side who we have known for a few years. When they had a bad run and dropped into the bottom three, I felt with the quality they have got, it was probably a bit of a false position.
“They have put a run together since and won three on the bounce and that has pulled them back out again.
“We seem to be getting teams in form. Chorley had won three on the bounce and Colwyn Bay have as well.
“Brackley also made it very difficult and it needed a moment of magic from Oli (Johnson) to get us going.”
Bower could welcome back several players tomorrow with the likes of Danny Hall, Wayne Brooksby and Gavin Rothery on the mend. Ben Parker is still out.
While their narrow 1-0 midweek loss at Chorley, who leapfrogged them in the table, represented a bitterly disappointing night for Bower – left furious with the performance of the officials – he is confident that if his side replicate their display at Victory Park between now and season’s end, they will confirm a play-off spot.
He added: “I have every confidence in this group of players that we can produce wins at this level.
“They have been a bit hard to come by of late, but performances have deserved better. We have only conceded three goals in seven games, so there’s lots of things to be positive about.
“If we can just start taking chances, we will be in a good place and we have bodies coming back for the weekend. Apart from Ben Parker, most are there or thereabouts.
“We have got to make sure we pick up enough points to be in that top five and give ourselves a chance of going one better than last year.”
Tomorrow’s action sees Bradford Park Avenue welcome title-chasing AFC Fylde, while mid-table Harrogate Town head to second-from-bottom Stalybridge.
FC Halifax in action at the Shay this afternoon against fourth-placed Macclesfield To-wn, a must-win fixture for Neil Aspin’s eighth-placed side, who kept their play-off quest alive with a 2-1 win at Nuneaton last time out.
Town are without striker Richard Peniket for the rest of the season.
IT may HAVE been an uplifting week so far for Frickley Athletic, but ending it in style represents an onerous task.
The Blues, fresh from booking their place in the final of the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Cup final for the fourth year running on Tuesday and claiming a crucial three points in their survival quest at Rushall Olympic, entertain high-flying Ilkeston in a toughie in South Elmsall.
The East Midlands outfit are gunning for promotion from Evo-Stik Premier Division and lie second with Karl Rose’s side one place above the drop zone, with work still to do to retain their divisional status for another season.
A hat-trick of Gavin Allott penalties accounted for Rushall last Saturday, while an own goal and late strike from Luke Jeffs saw them beat Handsworth Parramore 2-0 in midweek to book a county cup final date with Nostell at Rotherham United FC on May 1.
Both Ossett sides have been in contrasting form ahead of Easter with Ossett Albion seeking their fourth win on the spin at Bamber Bridge after victories over Prescot Cables, Farsley AFC and Kendal Town.
Ossett Town, in contract, are aiming to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat in their home game with Radcliffe.
Farsley, whose play-off quest is all but over, visit fourth-placed Northwich, while Scarborough travel to Prescot.
Brighouse play host to Kendal.
GARFORTH TOWN’s last home league win was a memorable one and how they could do with another against Tadcaster tomorrow.
You have to go back to January 17 for the Miners’ last home victory in the NCEL Premier, a 6-1 drubbing of Retford with Graham Nicholas’s side eager to end the wait and claim some bragging rights.
Elsewhere, Thackley host leaders Worksop and lowly Liversedge visit fellow strugglers Maltby – both 3pm. Yorkshire Amateur visit Winterton today (2.30pm).
Tomorrow’s Division One action sees leaders Pontefract Collieries visit Penistone Church (7.30pm).
Second-placed AFC Emley welcome Hemsworth MW (10.30am), who have incredibly won their past eight away league games since October 21. Selby and Eccleshill head to Dronfield and Bottesford respectively and Knaresborough visit Worsbrough Bridge. All kick-off at 3pm.