So near yet so far…..

Guiseley AFC 0 – Luton Town 1

Playing their first Trophy Quarter Final for 17 years Guiseley went out with their heads held high after competing head-to-head with Blue Square Premiership promotion contenders Luton Town at a packed Nethermoor with only Matthew Barnes-Homer’s strike separating the two sides.

Having relied on some of his fringe players in the Hatters squad to get them through the earlier rounds Luton Manager Richard Money fielded a strong looking line up from the start whilst his Guiseley counterpart Steve Kittrick welcomed back Ryan Toulson, Danny Ellis and James Walshaw who all missed the midweek draw at Harrogate Town.

On a bright but cold afternoon on a surface softened by heavy overnight rain Guiseley took the game to their more illustrious opponents and Warren Peyton signaled their intentions when he lobbed his free kick just over from 20 yards out. Defender Zdenek Kroca to Luton’s rescue shortly afterwards when James Walshaw steamed through.

The visitor’s first chance opening saw home keeper Steven Drench out quickly to save at feet of Alex Lawless whilst at the other end Walshaw put in a shot through a crowded area that just evaded the outstretched boot of Joe O’Niell at the far post. Walshaw’s free kick then warmed the hands of keeper Kevin Pilkington.

Having survived the early onslaught Town’s Amari Morgan-Smith got in behind the home defence and forced Drench in to parrying his shot away at full stretch and then saw the keeper deny Danny Crow with the follow up.

Having bossed the midfield in the first half the Lions opened the second half with Danny Ellis’ cheeky back header nearly catching Pilkington unawares. However, when the ball was played up field the central defender lost ball just inside his own half to the lively Crow, who seeing the half catching the Guiseley rearguard out of position, played the ball for Barnes-Homer to slip under the advancing Drench for the opener.

Buoyed by the breakthrough the visitors now began to finally show some of their quality as Fred Murray went close from 25 yards and Drench did well to block a Barnes-Homer effort from which Crow put the loose ball over the bar. The pair who had created the goal then combined to good effect again only for Ellis to get the decisive foot in and stop their progress.

In a frantic last fifteen minutes the Lions went all out for the equalizer as first a goal bound free kick from Peyton was tipped over by Pilkington and from the resulting corner O’Niell put his glancing header just the wrong side of the upright.

The home side then had strong appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Martin when Walshaw appeared to have been hauled down and George Pilkington did well to block substitute Luke Sharry’s powerful shot after he had been setup by Darryn Stamp’s cushioned header. Sharry was also involved again shortly afterwards but this time his teasing cross was punched off Walshaw’s head by Pilkington and despite an additional four minutes the Lions eventually ran out of time.

Home Manager Steve Kittrick whilst ruing the mistake that led to the Lions eventual downfall was nevertheless proud of the overall performance “We just lacked that cutting edge to get the victory having dominated the midfield for much of the first half” commented Kittrick.

Whilst Luton Assistant Manager Gary Brabin admitted that the management had been “Disappointed with the first half performance which led to harsh words at halftime” and that they had expected “a tough last quarter of an hour but were obviously happy with the final outcome”

HT: 0-0
Att: 1152

Referee: Stephen Martin 6/10

Star man: Luke Graham (Luton Town) right back

Match rating: 3/5

Guiseley: (4-4-2) Drench 8, Toulson 7 (Sharry 83, 7), Ellis 7, Ainge 8, Merris 8, Rothery 5 (Stamp 79, 7), Peyton 7, Boshell 6, Needham 5, O’Niell 8 (Forrest 79, 4) , Walshaw 7.
Unused subs: McEneaney, Coates

Luton: (4-4-2) Pilkington 7, Graham 8, Pilkington 6, Kroca 6, Murray 6, Keane 6, Barnes-Homer 6, Lawless 4 (Gnakpa 12 7), Howells 7, Morgan-Smith 8 (Poku 60, 5), Walker 7 (Crow 46, 6).
Unused subs: Tyler, O’Donnell

Shots on target 6/5
Shots off target 6/1
Corners 7/4
Fouls 9/4
Offsides 2/1
Yellow cards 2/0
Red cards 0/0