MARK BOWER believes fit-again Oli Johnson can prove a trump card in Guiseley’s quest to secure a second season of National League football.
The mercurial forward made his long-awaited comeback from a serious injury in the 2-2 midweek draw with Tranmere Rovers – almost netting a late winner in the process – with Lions chief Bower admitting his return comes at a timely juncture.
Guiseley, who visit Bromley tomorrow, have made a fair fist of their inaugural campaign at this level, but work still needs to be done to retain their status.
As it stands, the 18th-placed Nethermoor outfit are five points above the side currently occupying the final relegation slot in Altrincham with 11 games to go.
And Bower is banking on Johnson’s off-the-cuff attacking qualities turning a game or two in his side’s favour before season’s end.
On the fillip of the return of Johnson, who received a rapturous welcome after making his seasonal bow from the bench, Bower – whose side came from behind twice to draw with Tranmere – said: “You miss that quality and he got one-v-one against someone (against Tranmere) and he’s got that little turn of pace and that little trick and he buys himself a couple of yards.
“The chance opened up nicely and I was right behind it and it just didn’t have enough to curl back into that far corner.
“It would have been fantastic for him if that could have gone into the net after the nightmare period he’s had, really.
“You really felt for him doing his work and not being able to get on the pitch.
“But, hopefully the operations he had and rehab he has done will stand him in good stead now and we can gradually build him up and supporters can see the player that he is.
“Because we know that he’s a match-winner for us and he’s been sorely, sorely missed.
“With a lot of our games, you look at the number of draws we’ve had this season and we have lost a similar amount as teams going for the play-offs.
“In those tight games that are level, a little bit of magic from Oli could have turned one or two of those for us.
“So, he has been a big miss, but we will look after him right to get a bit more out of him for the rest of the season.
“We can’t expect too much too soon, but it’s great to have him back in our side.
“I think he gave everyone a lift when he came on the pitch, not just the lads on the pitch, but the supporters in the ground as well.”
Guiseley hit the road to 11th-placed Bromley tomorrow, seeking a seasonal double after a 2-0 win in the autumn.
However, the Londoners beat Yorkshire opposition last time out in a 1-0 midweek success over FC Halifax and are five unbeaten. Bower added: “It’s a tricky one. They have been a little bit up and down, but had a great start to the season and then a sticky patch a couple of months ago.
“Since then, they have won four of their past five games and drawn the other one, so it will be a really tough place to go.
“But on the whole, we have been doing pretty well and if we can keep that level of performance, then we have a great chance of going there and getting a result.”
Boss Neil Parsley is warning his Farsley Celtic players to avoid any semblance of complacency in tomorrow’s trip to whipping boys New Mills, writes LEE SOBOT.
The hosts are 18 points adrift at the foot of the Evo-Stik League’s First Division North, with one point from 30 games and a goal difference of minus 98. New Mills have conceded 117 goals while eighth-placed Farsley have lost just one of their last 16 league games with the Celts walloping Droylsden 6-0 last weekend.
The Celts could move into the top five with victory – and significantly improve their already decent goal difference – but Parsley stressed: “The only thing I will be looking at is the same three points as what we got last Saturday.
“To be honest, the goals don’t really interest me because I know if we are anything like our maximum then I think the goals will come. We see the stats stacked up against New Mills, they have not won and we don’t want to be the first ones.
“We don’t want to be sucked in to being the first ones for them to get a victory against.
“All I am concerned with is three points.”
Fellow play-off chasers Ossett Albion welcome 11th-placed Mossley tomorrow, while Brighouse Town go to fourth-bottom Droylsden. Third-bottom Ossett Town are at leaders Warrington Town while second-bottom Harrogate Railway welcome Lancaster City.
In the Premier, 10th-placed Frickley Athletic visit sixth-placed Stourbridge.
Leaders Tadcaster Albion have three or four teams hot on their heels – but boss Billy Miller says the Brewers are relishing life at the top of the NCE Premier, writes LEE SOBOT.
Albion missed out on the Premier Division title and sole promotion place in agonising circumstances last season with Paul Marshall’s men leading the way in the new year but ultimately fading to third.
Second-placed Handsworth Parramore now head a clutch of teams hoping for a similar slip one season later.
Albion host Retford United tomorrow and Miller knows Tadcaster’s position is the envy of the chasing pack.
“I think we’re really confident about it,” said Miller, assessing his side’s title chances.
“We’re one point ahead of Handsworth with a game in hand and then everyone else beyond that – we have then got two to three games in hand on them. So I think we are in a really, really good position at the moment.
“I think the key thing for us is that we are not looking over shoulders thinking ‘well they have got four games in hand on us.’ Everybody is looking at us at the top and thinking ‘well, not only have we got to catch them but they have also got their games in hand’.
“If we win our games in hand then it should look better then.
“I think if the league was fully up to date and everyone had played the same number of games then you’d probably find ourselves and Handsworth, followed by Cleethorpes and Worksop in there and then Bridlington would probably be behind them.
“I think people will be looking at it thinking ‘Taddy are in a great position but Handsworth are right on their tails’. Cleethorpes will be just sat there waiting for anyone to make any slip ups whatsoever.”
Miller also says his men have “no real dramas” concerning injuries or pending suspensions, and added: “I think from the players’ perspective, we never ever focus on what we might be doing in five or six games’ time.
“They are just focusing on the next game and that’s what’s really important.
“Our game was called off on Wednesday night but the players all came in to train and that’s the way it’s got to be.
“We’re in a really, really good position at this moment in time but there’s loads of games to play yet.”