Guiseley 3 County 0 ; ( Conference North) 12 August 2014.
This same fixture last season, saw us beaten 2-0 by Guiseley, who went on to narrowly miss out on promotion, and after Saturday`s opening day hiccup against an overly muscular North Ferriby side, there was no shortage of nervous glances being exchange twixt members of the Blue and White Army, in the build up to kick off, this time around.
In the event, the anxiety was justified ,as County went down 3-0 to a Yorkshire side, who ,even at this early juncture, looked a solid bet for promotion to me. They certainly proved to be altogether too good for a County side struggling for early season form, with top notch displays from a clutch of players- most notably attacking wing back
Alex McQuade, spearhead Adam Boyes, Gavin Rotherby and ex Hatter Oli Johnson (in the first half). Theirs was a thoroughly well rounded team showing, held together by solid defence and laced with strong and purposeful runs from deep positions that promised much and very nearly overran County.
In the event, a clutch of decent saves by Hurst ensured defeat did not become abject rout, and the County keeper, who never stopped cajoling his fellow defenders, looked our M.o.M to me, but I also gave Lees some credit, despite the performance of McQuade down the left. Lees moved to right back and looked as solid as Saturday, whilst trying to get forward. Other than that, there`s not much to write home about......Dennis had a couple of late strikes that the keeper somehow kept out......Spencer ( on for the disappointing Sharp after the break) fired one home, but was denied by the liners flag, and Gregson and O`Halloran ,at the centre of the County back four, did their best against a mounting tide of attacking play from Guiseley ,especially late on. The trouble was that the County rear guard needed the sort of assistance rendered to Guiseley by their mid fielders, who were quick on the ball, equally ready with an incisive pass, and ever willing to run ( always towards County`s goal)and shoot...... and they simply were not getting it!
Back to kick off time though, and unbelievably more obnoxiousness on the roads around LS20, saw us in the ground with a mere 9 minutes to spare....time enough to buy and consume a pie ( meat & potato), programme and team sheet before the off. At which point I give notice that I have taken Jeff ,the Blog Gastronomic Adviser, to a tribunal, as he has now taken it upon himself to take on a second job and now moonlights as the County Programme`s Food Critic. You will apparently need to read that worthy organ to obtain full details of the Nethermoor food last night.
Lordy had opted for a couple of changes in the starting line up, bringing Sharp and O`Halloran in for Ryan and Belezika, who were both on the bench, as was Scott Spencer for the second time in two. The Lions had two ex Hatters in their line up, Danny Boshell and Oli Johnson, but there was thankfully no Kevin Holsgrove, as he had flown elsewhere, but you would not bet heavily against the chances of them finding another such gem, so the apprehension previously hinted at, was real from me, as County took the field in their Robinson`s `Dizzy Blonde’ number, to take on last season`s beaten play-off finalists.
Despite the absence of Glenn Belezika, there was a reassuring familiarity about the County back four of Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran and Duxbury, whilst it was good to see Sharp given a chance to shine up front where he and Nathan Woolfe would presumably be charged with providing width.
The early action saw both Gregson and O`Halloran called on for quick responses as Adam Boyes probed every inch of County`s rear. Gregson`s intervention was top notch as the number nine looked to be clean through. Duxbury joined in too, and a foul on him saw Woolfe away from the free kick, and Sharp inches from reaching his early cross.
Already there had been one scare through Boyes, and another surfaced ,after only 7 minutes, when Oli Johnson surged through County`s left flank to plant a really good ball in the box that almost saw Boyes , who was smack in front, open the scoring- instead Lees found touch and the danger was averted, but for how long?
Not long I fancied, as again Oli Johnson made headway down the right, dismissing O`Halloran`s challenge briskly before again pinging one over for Boyes to go for. He did....but so did Gregson, and once more the danger was no more, on the back of a calm clearance.
Less than 10 minutes had elapsed, and there was seemingly no respite for County ,in particular for Danny Hurst, who made a decent diving save to thwart Danny Forrest. Danny Boshell latched onto the loose ball from this encounter and fired in a shot that missed out, but not by much- the ball crashing into the now damp ad hoardings ( it was sheeting down now ,and would do for large portions of the game) with an ominous thud!
The tenth minute arrived with a quick break from County that saw Dennis clear and one on one with Steven Drench, the home keeper. A shot looked on as Dennis drew the keeper away from goal, but it did not materialise, instead he passed it wide to Woolfe who was inches away again from reaching Sharp at the back post with another deep cross.
That perhaps offered hope of something better to come, and Hurst added to a brief feeling of confidence with an assured catch after Boshell and Forrest had tore into the Hatters rear guard. But Johnson kept plugging away at us down the right, and Gregson again did brilliant work to stop Boyes from putting the first goal away from it.
All this time....Woolfe, with help from Duxbury, was trying to provide options down the left, but Guiseley defended in numbers and well, Danny Ellis better than most, and Woolfy`s efforts tended to hit an impenetrable wall, and.....not only that .....Ellis found time to sneak forward and tease his forwards into action with a series of tasty balls. One such saw Gavin Rotherby dart clear, and there seemed every chance he would score until Hurst clawed the forward`s goal bound effort out of the damp evening air!
That was encouraging and potentially inspiring work from Hurst, and I looked to see if County would respond, and they did get a chance......but having won a debatable free kick....and Milligan having forced Drench into error with it....the blues then did not attack the corner that followed,
and any chance was gone, like my chances of staying dry as all around me headed for cover as the mother of all storms erupted from the skies above Nethermoor!
No matter.....I was buoyed to see County attack again through Dennis, but his shot went behind off Ellis. Again County did not challenge for the corner that followed, but that did not seem to matter when Milligan latched onto the ball and shaped to send Woolfe away, but the County number eleven did not respond when Milligan slung his pass down the flank and again it was back to the drawing board for County.
It was almost also a moment to forget next, as a foul by Baker on Rotherby gave Guiseley the chance to come back at us via a free kick. County were slow to react and there was no challenge to Boyes as he rose in front of Hurst`s goal to get head to ball. It looked like a goal, but wasn`t as the forward`s firmly planted header carried the bar, but not by that much!
That was worrying ,and more worry followed as County had defending to do dealing with Johnson and Rotherby down the flanks and a growing number of probing balls emanating from Ellis.
It was not all Guiseley.....Duxbury was inches from Sharp with a cross, and Woolfe pinged a shot a foot or so wide of goal, but still the best stuff was coming from the home side ,and Jake Lawlor was unlucky to see a tasty through ball just elude the on-rushing Boyes in the box!
We were beyond the half hour mark now, and Guiseley were seemingly warming to their task, and it was `hearts in mouths` time next as Boyes side stepped Hurst and crashed a thunderous strike goal ward. It was going in and surely 1-0 to the Lions, until O`Halloran appeared to hook the ball brilliantly off the line! Great defending!
That was another potentially inspirational moment, but within 5 minutes it counted almost for nothing as Guiseley took the lead, and it came from a run by Lawlor down the right that totally shredded the County cover and gave Boyes little trouble in putting it away as he slid in at the far post!
That was depressing, but not that surprising based on what had gone before, and County prompted by Milligan, did try and respond, but the home defence held firm and within another 5 minutes Guiseley doubled their advantage, after Duxbury`s foul on Forrest set the Lions up with a free kick wide right. Captain Andy Holdsworth, who was doing a good job of policing Woolfe...Duxbury ...and anyone else who happened along down the County left, took it sending it to the back of the box where the excellent Danny Ellis powered in to slam the ball home!
The half ended with Rotherby running at County`s weary back line with bewildering speed, but a blast of the referee`s whistle said it was half time, and it was time to re-group and re-organise for County.
The re-start saw Moses on for Milligan, and Spencer for Sharp who had been particularly disappointing, but the early action saw County on the back foot as Guiseley produced a series of silkily smooth moves. Hurst did well to stop Holdsworh adding a third. For a time, County enjoyed some possession, but without ever looking that threatening about it, and it could not last and the 57th minutes saw Guiseley add that third goal via substitute Wayne Brooksby who gave the brave Hurst no chance with a smart finish.
Guiseley piled on the pressure after this- Rotherby going close with a header, but County somehow held out keeping it at 0-3, indeed Dennis almost got a sniff as Drench had a brief moment of indecision.....the moment passed however as did any chance of Dennis pulling one back.
I was encouraged though....and more so as a neat cooperation twixt Baker and Spencer saw the latter past McQuade and in the box, where he fired a perfect strike past Drench`s despairing dive into the net. 1-3 then.....except it wasn`t....the near side liner ( bless him!) had his flag up for.....err.....possibly offside (it wasn`t, trust me !)....maybe a foul ( absolutely not!)...so it must have been Spencer`s choice of after shave then, and it remained 0-3!
With Ryan now on for Woolfe, and with Spencer and Dennis trying hard to get something out of the game, County took the game to their opponents, but much of their work lacked conviction, failing to get beyond the edge of the box much of the time as the Lions defence held firm.
Inevitably, Guiseley hit back at County....again piling forward in impressive style, and Hurst did particularly well in this period to deny Boshell`s Danny and Nicky in rapid succession.
The County defence did well not to concede further around this time, but amazingly...so did Guiseley as Dennis reignited my interest with a corking run that saw him past McQuade and inside the box where he was desperately unlucky to see a neat strike brilliantly saved by Drench!
County were always vulnerable on the break though and they were indebted to Lees who was on hand to clear off the line after Rotherby had combined neatly with Danny Boshell and Boyes to terrorise County down the right.
Spencer tried to get a response at this point, but his pass to Ryan saw him miscue the ball over the top, and his decision to pass ( to Baker) shortly after rather than shoot, was probably a mistake, but as I say he was trying, but so were Guiseley at the other end and Gregson and O`Halloran both had to look sharp to deny Rotherby and Nicky Boshell who broke at speed.
With 6 minutes left Dennis gave us another glimpse of what might have been as a turn in the box saw him past his marker and on for a shot that beat Drench but sadly missed the target by inches!
McQuade then gave us two runs that thoroughly tested County- both times Nicky Boshell was really close to applying a finish- he didn`t though and it stayed 0-3, despite late efforts from Lees and again from Dennis.
Thoroughly drenched ....I was probably not alone in being pleased to hear the referee`s whistle to end it.
Much disappointment abounded after the game last night, and it was an undeniably disappointing result. I realise this next sentence will be seen as a useless parrot cry in some quarters, but the quality of the opposition in our first two games has to be bourne in mind when summing up or responding to the situation. Both North Ferriby and certainly Guiseley will be challenging this term in my view, it`s just our misfortune to have met them so early.
Two games do not a season make, and there`s ample time for things to be turned around by A.L .and his staff.
I for one will be at Tamworth ( if they let me in that is) on Saturday to get behind them. I`ll see you there then, and at the Development game tonight at Edgeley Park!
County line up:
Hurst, Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Milligan( Moses 45), Churchman, Sharp( Spencer 45), Baker, Dennis, Woolfe ( Ryan 63).
Substitutes not used:
Guiseley line up:
Drench, Holdsworth, McQuade, Parker, Ellis, Lawlor, Johnson, D Boshell, Boyes, Forrest, Rotherby.
Toulson, Brooksby, Stockdill, N Boshell, Dickinson.