HISTORY-MAKING Guiseley manager Mark Bower has spoken of his pride after the Lions were promoted to the Vanarama Conference for the first time – defying considerable odds in the process.
The Nethermoor men produced a marvellous comeback from 2-0 down at half-time to beat hosts Chorley 3-2 in a roller-coaster encounter.
All this came after a nightmare start which saw Guiseley only arrive 50 minutes before kick-off at Victory Park and then go behind after just five minutes.
But the Lions rallied in stunning fashion to finally book their place in the Conference through the play-offs at the fifth time of asking.
Bower said: “It’s a nice feeling. I got the job in September of last season with the brief of consolidating last season and getting promoted this time and that is those two boxes ticked.
“It’s a proud moment for me and Bosh (Danny Boshell) and Martin (Stringfellow). For me and Bosh, this is our first managerial job and the first season we have prepared a season from pre-season all the way through.
“I guess the game epitomised our season. The M62 was closed and we had to take a massive detour and we didn’t get here until ten past two and the referee wouldn’t put the kick-off time back.
“OJ (Oli Johnson) was also ill and it kind of summed up the whole season.
“At half-time, it was a pretty low dressing room. But I did sense there was that belief that we could cause them problems and get back into the game.
“In the first half, we were poor and off the pace and were making bad decisions and trying to play football on what can’t be described as anything more than a cow field.
“It was a disgrace of a surface to be honest for a play-off final.
“We played without any intelligence and played into their hands and it was 2-0 and they could have had a couple more.
“But the one thing that gave us some belief was the fact that even though we played badly, we created three really good chances and the game could have been 5-3 at half-time.
“We said at half-time we wanted to go a bit more direct and get on those seconds balls better, which we started doing.
“For our first goal, there was a great bit of quality with Bosh’s ball and Boyesy’s touch and finish was superb.
“And once we got it back to 2-1, I didn’t think we’d draw, but go on and win the game. It looked like Chorley had gone and didn’t know what to do.”
The Lions made the worst possible start as they conceded within five minutes after Andy Teague got his head onto a corner which went past the line and into the goal, despite Guiseley goalkeeper Steve Drench’s best efforts.
Guiseley nearly equalised when Oli Johnson found Boyes but his effort was well smothered by Sam Aston.
Chorley thought they had doubled their lead when Teague was found from a free-kick and he converted a free header but the linesman’s flag went up.
But the respite was temporary and, from a Guiseley corner, Chorley were able to break with James Dean’s clearance finding Paul Jarvis, who worked his way into the area and struck a deflected effort past Drench. Guiseley started the second half by putting Chorley under intense pressure and it soon paid off when a long through ball from Boshell found Adam Boyes, who controlled excellently before firing home just after the hour mark.
Boyes and substitute Liam Dickinson started to put the Chorley defence under intense pressure and a free-kick from Wayne Brooksby soon found the latter, who headed into the corner of the goal to draw Guiseley level on 73 minutes.
The comeback was then sealed five minutes later when Nicky Boshell tapped the ball home for the winner.
There was time for late drama when Chorley substitute Matt Flynn saw his header hit the underside of the bar, but the visitors held on for a famous win to the delight of their 921-strong contingent of away fans.
Savouring the greatest day in the club’s history, chairman Phil Rogerson said: “We’d had an awful journey over and nothing went right in the morning. But in the first half, we still showed signs of being the better football side.
“Although I am rather surprised with the result, I have to say! I can’t put it into words what this means after all these years. It’s just amazing and you begin to wonder what you have done.
“A lot of people have taken us over the line such as Steve Parkin and the other directors and John Gill. Then there’s the vast amount of volunteers who are there every game.”