It only occurred to me after I had already made the decision that I was perfectly eligible to go and support my own team on Non League Day but, as a Grimsby Town fan struggling to truly accept our place in non league and unable to finance the trip down to Forest Green, I thought I would lend my support to a local non league side instead.
Technically speaking, Guiseley isn’t my local non league club since I live about 20 miles away, but when I realised they had three former Mariners in their squad I was interested to see how they’d perform in the Conference North. Ciaran Toner, Danny Boshell and Jamie Clarke – a trio of midfielders that were regular starters under Alan Buckley about four years ago – were all named in Guiseley’s starting XI against Vauxhall Motors (they’re from Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, by the way).
Guiseley, nicknamed The Lions, went into the match third in the table having won all three of their home matches at Nethermoor Park so far this season without conceding a goal. The Motormen, on the other hand, had lost two of their first three games on the road and were hovering in lower mid-table with seven points from six games. I think most people would have expected a home win. But this is non league football – anything can happen.
The visitors should have taken the lead when a loose back-pass sent Vauxhall forward Josh Wilson clear but after rounding Guiseley keeper Steve Drench he was denied the chance to tap into an empty net from six yards out by an incredible last ditch challenge from recovering central defender Mark Bower (who used to play league football with Bradford City). It probably would have been an undeserved goal as the Lions had looked the brighter side in the opening exchanges.
Guiseley opened the scoring on 18 minutes when striker Nathan Ellington slotted home coolly from 12 yards. The lead was doubled just after half an hour when an excellent cross from Jamie Clarke went right across goal and summer signing Danny Forrest was there at the back post to stoop low and head the ball back across the wrong-footed Scott Tynan in the Vauxhall goal. Boshell was subbed off just before half time after he tweaked his hamstring.
It was a deserved 2-0 lead at the break but the home side really stepped it up in the second half.
Time and again the Lions picked their way through a fragile Vauxhall defence. One excellent passing move opened it up for midfielder Michael Burns to waltz through but his low shot was well saved by Tynan. Minutes later Gavin Rothery saw his 20-yard curler saved before Forrest started to torment Vauxhall right back Andy Taylor. Guiseley continually shifted play out to the left where Forrest had the beating of Taylor every time to create a number of chances – but many sailed over the bar. Taylor was eventually subbed off.
Then, with 20 minutes to go the home side brought on Simon Baldry and he scored less than a minute later after an excellent pass by Toner picked him out at the back post. Motors left back Lee Dames was then correctly sent off for a two-footed lunge on the halfway line before Baldry added a fourth.
There was just enough time at the death for Wilson to score a consolation for the visitors from the spot after he was upended by Drench and the keeper was given his marching orders. Clarke went in goal but couldn’t keep out the penalty.
Guiseley would argue that the scoreline should have been a bit more emphatic as they created a host of chances. They played neat, passing football and looked a well drilled side. Perhaps it will come as no surprise to Grimsby fans that Toner looked accomplished in central midfield while Boshell was composed and hardly put a foot wrong before he had to be taken off. Clarke was comfortable at right back and put in a great cross for the second goal. To be honest, the whole Guiseley team were well balanced, organised and just a bit too good for the opposition in every department. On this showing, they’d have the beating of the Mariners.
Stand-out performer was striker Forrest. He had pace, trickery and the beating of his man every time. As an opposing defender would say, he was a pest. He never stopped and he played with a smile on his face.
As for the ground, it was small but tidy with an excellent playing surface that encouraged good football. Refreshments were cheap – although I’m not sure what the bowl of mint sauce was all about on the table outside the kiosk. Is mint sauce on pie and mash just a Guiseley thing or what?
So then, five goals, two red cards, lots of good football (almost exclusively by the home side, it has to be said) and a decent family atmosphere. What more could you want on Non League Day? Certainly on this basis Guiseley can expect another good season and an increase in attendances (they normally average 300-400 but got 530 today). If you’re in the area and can make a home game I’d recommend you go.
The final word, however, must go to the heavily tattooed Vauxhall keeper Tynan. The fans are very close to the pitch at Nethermoor but he engaged with them in the right spirit and even had the time to compliment some of the Guiseley players. However, when a Vauxhall defender clearly handled on the line and the fans asked Tynan whether it was a penalty (which the referee didn’t give), his reply – with a wink and a smile – was: “To be honest, I didn’t see it.”