GUISELEY boss Steve Kittrick has pledged to field his strongest available side in tonight’s West Riding County Cup final, despite the priority business of Blue Square North promotion.
The Nethermoor outfit, in the midst of a strength-sapping run of four games in eight days, tackle John Deacey’s Bradford Park Avenue at Valley Parade (7.45pm), with Kittrick unwilling to sacrifice putting a trophy in the cabinet in pursuit of league glory.
Guiseley, unbeaten in their last nine matches, lie in second spot in Blue Square North with just three games to go and are battling it out with Hyde for the title.
Yet despite facing a big game at sixth-placed Stalybridge at the weekend, Kittrick intends to field a strong side this evening as his troops aim to maintain their hold on the competition, having beaten Thackley at the same venue 12 months ago.
Guiseley required extra time to beat the Dennyfielders last April with nine of his starters that night backing up from a league game just two days before when, just as now, the Lions were firmly in the running for promotion.
Kittrick admits – in an ideal world – that the timing of this evening’s cup final could have been more kind.
But given that he is powerless to do anything about it, he wants his men to go all out and win for it for the second year on the trot.
He said: “I’ll be playing my strongest team that is available.
“Saturday is a massive game, but having spoken to the lads, they want to play. And as a manager, I’ve always played my strongest side and we’re playing in a cup final. A lot of clubs in this area have shown the competition disrespect, but we don’t.
“Obviously it’s a cup we want to win and having won it last year, we want to retain it if we can.
“The timing isn’t great, but we’ve got to get on with it and we’re looking forward to it and hopefully, it will be a good night.”
Lions keeper Steve Drench, who took a bang to his knee in Monday’s victory over Altrincham following on from suffering a whack on his nose in the recent win over Gloucester, is a doubt for Kittrick’s side.
Evo-Stik Premier play-off candidates Avenue will have the bulk of the support for tonight’s final, but with their pressing priority being league matters – especially after a disappointing Easter which yielded just one point from two matches – it remains to be seen whether Deacey will have one eye on league matters.
Deacey has also been critical of the timing of the final, having stated it should be played at the end of the season.
But with local pride and a trophy at stake, Kittrick is expecting a fired-up Avenue side, despite conjecture about the final scheduling.
He added: “With it being a Bradford team, there will be a few more people there and it’s probably a yardstick for them in terms of where they need to be if they are going to compete (in Conference North) next year.
“I’ve only actually watched them once this season, but I know they have got some good players – including several who I know from at Ossett (Town) and a couple who have played for me at Guiseley as well.
“They have a chance of going up. It should be a good game and I’m sure Mr Blackburn (Avenue’s chief executive officer, Bob Blackburn) will want to beat us and be top dog!
“That said, I don’t know how they are going to treat the game.
“I know they got beat on Monday, so they might treat it a bit differently than they would have done if they hadn’t lost.”