IT is not only Barcelona who perform footballing comebacks – just ask Guiseley.
Back at the start of October, Guiseley were nine points adrift of National League safety and propping up the table after a wholly unlucky 13 opening matches of what promised to be a wretched, forgettable and exceedingly long campaign.
What has happened since has been one of football’s unheralded triumphs of 2016-17, with the fact the 17th-placed Lions find themselves now heading towards mid-table and six points clear of the relegation positions representing an outstanding achievement for everyone connected with the Nethermoor club.
In the current six-match league form table, only Gateshead have picked up more points than Adam Lockwood’s side, who play host to play-off chasing Aldershot tomorrow afternoon – seeking a third straight league victory and fifth in six matches.
It is no one-off purple patch either and if the league table was purely based on results since the end of November, only tomorrow’s visiting Shots have taken more points.
Yet for a grounded manager like Lockwood, the arrival of the in-form Hampshire visitors represents a reminder that his side’s work is not done yet.
But if they continue to show the same collective spirit, organisation, togetherness and fortitude as they have done in recent months, then the Lions should comfortably achieve their season’s aims.
Although Lockwood is plainly the sort who drives for more.
The Lions, typically by their recent standards, shrugged off adversity in last weekend’s long trip to Plainmoor to face Torquay United.
It says everything about Guiseley’s character that they rallied in magnificent fashion after seeing Jake Lawlor dismissed early in the second half to prevail 2-1, courtesy of strikes from Jake Cassidy and Will Hatfield.
It has ensured spirits are soaring ahead of tomorrow’s encounter with the sixth-placed Shots in a battle between two of the division’s form sides, with the visitors unbeaten in 2017, with their last league defeat coming 12 games ago at Chester on December 17.
Lockwood said: “The heart and endeavour that we are showing won’t half give us a good chance of achieving our goal. We have got a lot of hard work still to do. Our performance last weekend was poor and we have got to be better. But we made up for it in other things such as game management.”
On the palpable sense of unity at the club, he added: “We are a very small club and the people behind it from top to bottom are all pulling in the same direction and they are great people. We are trying to head in the right direction and everyone that is connected with the club needs to play a part in that and they must be seeing a team and squad of people that they are very proud of, as I am.”
The major blot on the landscape at the moment is Guiseley’s plethora of red cards with the club having seen five players dismissed in their past 11 matches.
Lawlor’s sending off last weekend comes hot on the heels of Danny Lowe’s second dismissal of the season, against North Ferriby, with both missing Saturday’s game – with Guiseley’s red mist being something that Lockwood is seeking to eradicate.
He said: “This year, we have lost too many players to suspension and it is something we have to really look at.”
NATIONAL NORTH/EVO-STIK LEAGUE
The goalscoring exploits of Harrogate Town’s man of the moment Simon Ainge have seen him named the Vanarama National League North’s Player of the Month.
The defender-turned-striker has netted 17 times already this season, despite spending the majority of the campaign playing as a centre-half.
A revelation since taking up a more advanced role in Simon Weaver’s team in January, 29-year-old Ainge has plundered 12 goals in his last seven appearances.
And four strikes in as many games during Town’s unbeaten February earned him a gong which he admits he is only too happy to receive. “It’s nice to get the recognition after what has been a good month for both myself and more importantly the team,” Ainge said.
“It’s usually the strikers that get the headlines in football, and having spent most of my career as a defender I’m quite enjoying getting the praise for a change. Things are going well at the moment and I’m enjoying my football as much as I have in a long time.”
Tenth-placed Town travel to the team directly below them in the league tomorrow – Gloucester City when they will look to close in on the play-off zone.
There is a Yorkshire derby at the Horsfall Stadium where 18th-placed Bradford Park Avenue host fifth-placed FC Halifax Town.
It’s also derby day in the Evo-Stik League Division One North when Farsley Celtic host Ossett Albion.
Second-placed Celtic moved to within three points of league leaders Lancaster City on Tuesday night courtesy of memorable 7-0 triumph at Ramsbottom United in which James Walshaw and Lewis Nightingale netted hat-tricks.
The Celts also have two games in hand on their table-topping rivals City, who travel to Colwyn Bay.
Elsewhere in Division One North, fifth-placed Ossett Town travel to Bamber Bridge, Brighouse Town host Ramsbottom United and Tadcaster Albion play at Trafford.
In the Premier Division, Frickley Athletic have a tricky looking trip on the agenda at fifth-placed Warrington Town.
Frickley are currently three points above the relegation zone and victory would increase that buffer significantly.
Second-placed Pickering Town will be looking to pile the pressure on leaders Cleethorpes Town as they play host to Bottesford in the Premier Division. Pickering found a late equaliser away at Maltby Main last time out and a victory this weekend could shorten the gap at the top to four points.
Elsewhere, Hemsworth Miners Welfare can close in on the top 10 with a victory at fifth-placed Handsworth Parramore, who remain unbeaten in the league since the beginning of January. Harrogate Railway will be looking to bounce back from their loss to Hemsworth last time out as they travel to league strugglers Parkgate, while 10th-placed Liversedge host Albion Sports knowing a victory will see them climb above their visitors and into sixth.
In Division One, second-placed AFC Emley travel to local rivals Yorkshire Amateur hoping to close the gap on leaders Pontefract Collieries to three points.
Meanwhile, Knaresborough Town can move into the top six with a win as they entertain Eccleshill United, while Selby Town welcome Hallam as they look to bridge the gap on the top half. Elsewhere, Glasshoughton Welfare host Winterton Rangers looking to fend off the teams below them while league strugglers Nostell Miners Welfare will be hoping to avoid falling further adrift at the bottom as they visit 16th-placed Brigg Town.