Result: Guiseley 0-4 Aldershot Town (The National League…er…National?)
Venue: Nethermoor Park (Saturday 22nd August 2015, 3pm)
This Saturday’s game was decided by the, surely, now famous Manchopper Draw. The marathon draw contained 61 teams in the pot, and it all boiled down to the final two, Boothstown FC of the Manchester League and Guiseley AFC of the National League. After an intense, nerve-wracking wait, Guiseley remained in the tub of travel meaning that Nethermoor was to be my destination for the weekend!
So, the morning of the 22nd of August arrived and I set off towards Manchester Oxford Road for my connection onwards to Leeds. Due to the rather large time gaps in between the trains, both there and back, of at least 25 minutes, it meant that there was very little need for rush nor stress. Super! As it was, the TransPennine service rolled in early, and I was soon rattling through the Pennine mountains and into the White Rose County, Yorkshire.
After stops in Stalybridge, Huddersfield and Dewsbury, the service arrived in Leeds, leaving me a 30 minute gap to get to Platform 3a, where the train to Guiseley would be departing from. When it finally arrived, I boarded and was immediately met with a cold blast of air, as I got on the most air conditioned train known to man. With thunderstorms on the way midway through the afternoon, according to the 100% trustworthy MetOffice, it was a relief to head into Guiseley in glorious sunshine and with about an hour to kick-off, I made haste to The Station pub.
Upon arrival, the pub was packed full of Leeds fans watching their side play Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road. They were joined there by a number of Aldershot fans, who’d made the long journey up and were doing their upmost to enjoy their day in West Yorkshire. There were a few home fans also dotted around the pub, as I made my way to the bar and was soon in ownership of a Desperados. Not long after, Leeds found the equaliser and this was met with numerous people jumping around the area around the big screen, with a group of Aldershot’s travelling band lending their support to the local favourites, too.
Not long after full-time in the Yorkshire derby, it was time for me to head down to the ground, so it was down the main road and past the adjoining cricket club, which was featuring a game today and the clubhouse/pavilion is split between the two clubs, football on the left, cricket on the right. The cricket came as a pleasant sight to a pair of Town fans who commented that if it all went wrong, then they could at least watch the cricket!
Turnstiles reached and £15 entry handed over, I was into Nethermoor, where I immediately parted with a further £3 for the programme and a free teamsheet (20p). As you enter down the side of the players’ tunnel, Nethermoor opens out in front of you and it is a rather smart ground. It features four stands, two seated stands on the far touchline and two covered standing areas on the near touchline, one of which is situated immediately next to you upon entry. Both ends are open. The far touchline also features the sponsor’s lounge and food trailer, which stand nearest the near end goal, with the near touchline also playing host to the clubhouse entry point and club shop, both of which are situated in the middle of the two terraces, along with a TV gantry. With the ground set out, it’s now time to head into the annuls of Guiseley AFC’s history….
Guiseley AFC were founded in 1909 by a group of local football fans. Their first success came four years later, winning the local Wharfedale League. After the First World War, Guiseley switched to the Leeds League and remained here until 1924 when they moved to the West Riding County Amateur League. After a treble of titles were won in the 1930’s, with a fourth added in 1939. After WWII, a fifth title was eventually won in 1956, which was followed by a fifth league switch, this time into the West Yorkshire League.
In this league, Guiseley achieved further success, especially in the Wharfedale Trophy, which Guiseley won on nine of ten occasions in the 1960’s. They then entered Division 2 of the Yorkshire League for 1968, but were relegated into Division 3 two years later. After being immediately promoted back to Division 2, the club gained promotion to Division 1 in 1974. After a relegation and re-promotion in the next two years, the latter as champions, they achieved two runners-up placings in 1980 & ’82.
Guiseley became founder members of the Northern Counties East League in 1982, and reached the FA Vase semi-finals during their tenure in the league. They went one better the next season, beating Gresley Rovers at Bramall Lane after a 4-4 draw at Wembley, alongside lifting the NCEL title, and with it, achieving promotion to the Northern Premier League in Division 1. In 1992, they reached the Vase final again, but this time lost out to Wimborne Town.
1994 saw the club lift the NPL First Division and reach the FA Trophy semis, losing out to Runcorn. After promotion, they remained in the Premier Division until 2000 when they were relegated, however they achieved promotion back again in 2004. 2002-’03 saw the Lions achieve the feat of reaching the FA Cup 1st Round, losing out 4-0 to Luton Town. They repeated the feat in 2010-’11, beating Redditch United 2-1, before bowing out to Crawley Town and again in 2012-’13, when they lost out to Barrow, in a replay.
After their Nethermoor ground was badly burned in an arson attack in 2008, they rebuilt the damage to the ground and were rewarded with promotion to the Conference North the following year, via a 2-0 success over Ashton United, securing automatic promotion as champions in the club’s centenary year. The next season, the club’s first in the Step 2, the club reached the play-off final, losing out to AFC Telford United.
After a further two play-off semi-final defeats in the next two seasons, they, once again, reached the play-off final in 2014, where they lost out to Altrincham in the final minute of extra time, as Greg Wilkinson netted with his first touch after coming on. This was one of the, if not THE, most dramatic moment I’ve seen live at a game. Last season saw Guiseley finally end their play-off hoodoo, with two defeats over Lancashire sides. First, AFC Fylde were vanquished in the two-legged semi-final, before they fought back from 2-0 down to beat Chorley 3-2 at the Magpies’ Victory Park to win promotion to the National League top-flight, for the first time in the club’s history.
Guiseley have also won numerous cup honours; the NPL President’s Cup (1994) & Challenge Cup (2009), alongside nine West Riding County Cup wins, between 1979 & 2012. A new club badge has also been unveiled for this season onwards.
Back onto the present day and the two sides entered the field to sunshine (still no sign of the promised storms), before kicking off and playing the early stages at a frantic pace. The Lions had the better of the initial chances, but it was Aldershot who broke the deadlock, when a foul in the build up wasn’t given and Richard Brodie coolly slotted past Steve Drench. 0-1.
The game continued to ebb & flow, with both sides creating half-chances, but you always felt as though Aldershot looked the more likely to net again, and this duly came with around 10 minutes to the break, when Lions’ keeper Drench could only parry a shot into the path of the onrushing Jim Stevenson, who lashed home for 0-2.
This is how it remained until the break, whereupon I finished off my piping hot chips & gravy (£2.50), before heading into the clubhouse and, more specifically, the Guiseley Supporters’ Club desk, where I’d been told to go & find SC secretary Craig Shearstone for a Supporters Club badge. After I asked him where I could find said secretary, he informed me that it was in fact him and handed me a badge, plus a 12th man clip on badge too, as an added bonus. Cheers!
After a quick talk with Craig, who enlightened me on the likely style with which Guiseley would likely respond to the score-line during the second period, I thanked him for the badges and headed back outside, leaving Craig at his post. The game had just gotten back underway and if I’d have been a minute later heading out, I’d have missed an outstanding piece of play by Town’s Cheye Alexander. The left back picked up the ball outside the area, before beating three men on his way into the box and slotting into the back of the net, past the onrushing Drench. WHAT A GOAL! 0-3, game over.
Despite Guiseley looking more threatening after the went to all-out attack and with big striker Liam Dickinson causing some trouble, they still failed to find the net and after Brodie had spurned a good chance when shooting straight at Drench, rather than passing to the unmarked and better placed Matt Barnes-Homer, he added gloss to the score-line with 15 to play, converting a low cross at the back post, but being slightly injured in the process, causing him to be subbed off as a precaution. To their credit, Guiseley continued to battle on gamely until the final whistle, but their best chance came when Tom Craddock fired a shot which was well held by experienced Town ‘keeper Phil Smith.
Upon the end of the game, the vocal Town fans were left to celebrate their teams win, with one Guiseley fan leaving slightly early due to his dismay. Most, though, could accept the fact that, on the day, they’d just been done, without playing badly at all. 4-0 wasn’t that much of a reflection of the game, but Aldershot showed their prowess in front of goal, whereas the hosts lacked the ability to take their chances when they arrived.
So, I headed back to the station, where I again had a further 25 minute wait, but not before a superb comment by an Aldershot fan to his mate.
“Why’s it so hot?!”
“Dunno. It’s the hottest day in Yorkshire for 200 years!”
“No, I don’t know”.
Tremendous. Anyway, after reboarding the air conditioned, hospital-smelling train back to Leeds, it was soon onwards back to Manchester. Upon passing by Elland Road, lo and behold, here was the storm. Well done, MetOffice, you got there eventually…
Game: 7- Entertaining game, throughout, with no shortage of chances.
Ground: 7- Really smart looking ground, with different viewpoints available.
Fans: 8- Friendly, knowledgeable and gave good backing to their team.
Food: 8- Really good stuff.
Programme: 8- Good amount of articles, with all sorts of people within the club.