Guiseley co-manager Russ O’Neill predicts another tight tussle

Guiseley joint manager Russ O'Neill.
Guiseley joint manager Russ O'Neill.
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GUISELEY’S mini New Year tour of the North West continues at Chester tomorrow – and given previous matches in the region so far this season, a nip-and-tuck tussle is highly likely.

The second-from-bottom Lions were edged out 1-0 at National League North rivals Southport on Tuesday night, with co-manager Russ O’Neill lamenting a game of fine margins that went against his side.

Despite the set-back, Guiseley retain a healthy seven-point advantage over the side currently occupying the final relegation place in FC United of Manchester – with two games in hand.

But with tomorrow’s trip to play-off candidates Chester being followed by an appointment at leaders Chorley next Saturday, the Nethermoor Park outfit are still minding the gap and conscious of coming out on the right side of the majority of keenly-fought matches between now and season’s end.

That was exemplified in the reverse fixture with Chester at the start of September, with an 87th-minute goal from Scott Garner looking like giving the Lions three precious points, only for a stoppage-time leveller from Jon Morgan to earn the Blues a dramatic draw.

Other tight margins have also seen Guiseley edged out by a single goal at the likes of Ashton and pegged back in a dominant draw at Stockport, while also securing a creditable draw after going behind at Altrincham.

While Guiseley’s defensive statistics of 31 goals against is the best record in the bottom half of the table, their goals for column could do with improving a notch or two – in their quest to find a ruthless edge.

Only Nuneaton, Curzon Ashton and Hereford have scored fewer goals than the Lions’ tally of 27, with second-bottom Ashton having scored more than the Nethermoor men.

Co-manager O’Neill said: “We knew this block of three games was going to be really tough.

“But I do not think any game is tougher than any other in this division. It is much of a muchness.

“I thought we gave a good account of ourselves (at Southport) and on another night, we could have come out with a win. We have just come out on the wrong end of a fine margin game.

“Southport was a bang-even game and we had as many chances as they did. It was one of those games with fine margins and we came out on the wrong end.”

Opponents Chester, managed by former Salford City duo Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley, remain hopeful of having a central midfielder in time for tomorrow’s game at the Deva Stadium.

The hosts are down on numbers, with key duo Gary Stopforth and Akwasi Asante adding to their absentees in an already congested treatment room.

Second-placed Bradford Park Avenue can do Guiseley a little bit of a favour by beating third-from-bottom FC United at the Horsfall Stadium tomorrow.

Mark Bower’s side are seeking to hit back and re-establish their promotion credentials after back-to-back defeats to Stockport and Guiseley.

Last weekend’s 3-0 loss to the Hatters represented the first time that second-placed Avenue have lost successive league matches since back in mid-September.

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Following a run of five matches without a victory, Harrogate Town take a break from National League action this weekend.

Simon Weaver’s men switch their attentions to trying to secure a place at Wembley when they visit Dover Athletic in the second round of the FA Trophy.

And the Town boss believes that tomorrow’s clash represents an opportunity to put their recent poor form behind them and shift their focus.

“It will be quite nice to have a break from the league and concentrate on something different – trying to advance in a competition that we really want to win,” Weaver said.

“It’s a chance to look at the bigger picture, at where we are overall, focus on something different and see if we can get that winning habit back.

“Dover are on a great run and this maybe isn’t the best time to be playing them, however Saturday’s game is one that we’re really looking forward to.

“We will be going all out to get a positive result, but there’s no pressure on the lads.

“Although we haven’t been on the best run, we haven’t been talking about our results, but focusing on our performances, which have largely been good.

“We just need to tighten up defensively.”

Elsewhere in the Trophy tomorrow, FC Halifax Town host Solihull Moors.