Guiseley tasted defeat in injury time at the end of extra time in today’s Skrill North Promotion Final.
Last time the Lions visited Moss Lane they were on the wrong side of a 4-1 defeat with ex-Lion James Walshaw grabbing hat-trick, a result that meant few at the time would have given them a chance of being in the end-of-season play-offs for a place among non-league’s elite. But such is the turnround that has been achieved by manager Mark Bower and assistants Danny Boshell and Martin Stringfellow that Guiseley were within seconds of taking home side Altrincham to a penalty shoot-out in this afternoon’s Promotion Play-Off Final.
Having lost just one of their last twenty league games, the Lions went into the Final bereft of Wayne Brooksby and Danny Boshell, Brooksby through a broken jaw sustained last Saturday at North Ferriby, influential midfielder Boshell because of a gentlemen’s agreement that he would take no part in any game between the sides this season following his move to Guiseley from Altrincham.
Making their second appearance in four years in the season-ending Final, and with the game seemingly heading for penalties, the Lions were undone by substitute Greg Wilkinson, who scored with his first touch to win the tie in the last minute of extra-time. He fired a loose ball home after keeper Steven Drench had parried a Kyle Perry effort.
The winner came after a close contest between two well matched sides had seen both give their all in search of the vital winning goal. On 51 minutes it was the home side who broke the deadlock, when James Lawrie side-footed home James Walshaw’s pull-back to beat Drench from close range.
The Lions responded immediately, and when the ball broke to substitute Danny Forrest in the area his shot was deflected behind for a corner. From it, Jake Lawlor got his head to the ball, allowing Forrest to bundle it home in the resulting melee.
Both sides had spurned good openings prior to that, with Alty’s first chance coming after just six minutes when Nicky Clee played Reeves in on goal, but the Robins’ top scorer cleared the bar with only Drench to beat.
A couple of minutes later, Guiseley had their first real opportunity as Adam Boyes’ volley was deflected behind for a corner.
At the other end, Jake Moult’s fine effort from 25 yards flew inches wide and then a few minutes later, Andy Holdsworth’s cross caused confusion in the Altrincham box as centre-half Gianluca Havern headed the ball out of the hands of his own keeper, Stuart Coburn.
On the half-hour mark, Oli Johnson slipped Adam Griffin’s tackle and pulled the ball back to Alex Johnson, who lifted his shot over the bar.
Then on 38 minutes Coburn was almost embarrassed by Gavin Rothery’s effort from 30 yards and he needed two grabs at the ball as the visitors finished the half on top. Seconds before the whistle, Oli Johnson’s close-range shot clipped off Coburn’s leg and somehow squirmed past the post.
Three minutes after the break, Andy Holdsworth’s free-kick was flicked on to Danny Ellis, whose volley was beaten out by Coburn before the home side struck the first blow only to be pegged back by Forrest.
Both sides had multiple opportunities to win it before full time, the best for the Lions coming when substitute Kevin Holsgrove’s shot hit the bar before being tipped over by Coburn and when Boyes’ shot was saved by Coburn low to his left.
However, it was Wilkinson who broke the hearts of nearly 1,000 Guiseley followers in the record crowd of 4,632.
8-Johnson (O) (Meynell)
10-Johnson (A) (Forrest, 57) (Holsgrove)