Sublime Smales-Braithwaite Brace Maroons Marine Play Off Charge

Guiseley sealed a fantastic win on the road as they came from behind to beat high flying Marine 3-1 at the Marine Travel Arena writes Edward Robertson.

Manager Paul Phillips was pleased with his side’s mentality. “We had a lot of things thrown at us throughout but we’ve stayed in the game. I thought we deserved to get back in it when we did, and then to put it to bed when we did, that’s a sign of a good team.”

Sporting their all-maroon ‘Raise the Roof’ third kit, the Lions were on the back foot in the first half. Early on, a defensive mishap released Jordan Lussey who produced a wicked ball across the face of goal. To the travelling fans relief, the ball was just out of the lunging Marine striker Ben Hodkinson’s reach and went wide.

Marine continued to trouble the Lions as Hodkinson’s dangerous low cross took a deflection, forcing Cam Mason into an important early save after only 15 minutes.

Phillips made the brave decision to change things around for Guiseley with only 20 minutes on the clock. Debutant Alejandro Muchada, having been asked to play an unfamiliar left back role, was replaced by Bradford City loanee Harvey Rowe in a rejigged back line.

The change shored things up but the Mariners continued to knock on Guiseley’s door. A precise through ball split the Lion’s defence giving Hodkinson a clear route through on goal, however substitute Rowe proved his metal with an important block.

As the opening half ticked on Guiseley continued to withstand home pressure. The deadlock was almost broken on 43 minutes when a precise corner was headed over the bar by Jonathan Spittle.

Just a minute later the home side finally made the breakthrough. Another corner was deflected through to the unmarked Mark Haworth. The former Guiseley man showed no remorse for his old club as he coolly slotted home to give the Mariners a deserved lead.

Another change for the Lions came at the break, the unfortunate Rowe was forced off with injury to be replaced by Lewis Whitham. The tricky winger was making a much-awaited return to the side following a knee injury.

The home side looked set to continue the second half just as they had finished the first. In pursuit of the all-important second goal Sol Solomon produced a dipping cross that left Mason stranded and found Hodkinson at the back post. The Marine man couldn’t force the ball over the line though thanks to some frantic last ditch defending from the Lions.

Guiseley grew into the game with Whitham leading the charge.

However, it was Lewis Hey’s expertly curled in corner that proved pivotal. Hey picked out Kallan Murphy on the edge of the six yard box. Murphy’s powerful header was no match for Marine goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant, as he equalised for the Lions with his first goal for the club.

Moments later the Lions were dealt a blow when Whitham was withdrawn with what appeared to be a recurrence of that knee problem.

The travelling contingent urged their team on. The goal had invigorated Guiseley, and the Lions almost poked their noses in front when Hey’s free kick fooled Passant, but crashed off the upright.

Despite the enforced changes Guiseley kept on top. The final ten minutes of the match saw all the action played in Marine’s half. Benni Smales-Braithwaite produced a defence splitting pass that released Scott Bakkor whose clever lob was well saved by Passant.

As stoppage time loomed the defining moment came. After miscommunication at the back between the Marine defenders, the ball fell to Smales-Braithwaite on the edge of the penalty area. Spotting the Marine goalkeeper off his line, the Barrow loanee expertly lobbed the ball over Passant to give Guiseley the lead and send the travelling fans into raptures.

Deep into added time the electric Smales-Braithwaite sealed the three points in sensational style. After substitute Jake Cassidy won possession in the Marine final third, Smales-Braithwaite skilfully beat two defenders before producing a curling shot that fooled the goalkeeper and rippled the net. The goal guaranteed Guiseley the three points.

After a difficult couple of weeks it was an afternoon to savour for the Lions. The win provides a glimmer of play off hope for the Nethermoor faithful. The result leaves Guiseley seven points adrift of the play offs with the same number of games to play. After the match Phillips acknowledged the importance of the players returning from injury.

“Let’s not hide away from it, we’ve let ourselves down in the last couple of weeks but when you get Cassidy back, when you get Whitham back and you get a bit of strength in depth, we’re as good a team as anyone, and we’ve shown that today.”

Marine 1-3 Guiseley | Saturday 11th March 2023 | Rossett Park

Attendance: 1270

Team: 1. Cam Mason, 2. Kwame Boateng, 3. Alejandro Machado (21′ Rowe) (46′ Whitham) (73′ Cassidy), 4. Ross Daly, 5. Isaac Assenso, 6. Leigh Whelan, 7. Benni Smales-Braithwaite, 8. Lewis Hey, 9. Kallan Murphy, 10. Scott Bakkor and 11. Courtney Meppen-Walters.

Subs: 12. Lewis Whitham, 14. Jake Cassidy, 15. Harvey Rowe, 16. Mark Lees and 17. Lewis Gardner.

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