Dream ends for non-league Guiseley after spirited FA Cup run

Image Credit [FA]

The Gryphon looks back on Guiseley’s FA Cup campaign, which started in September with Staveley Miners Welfare and ended at the hands of League One Fleetwood last week

The Lions kicked off their FA Cup campaign in late September, defeating Derbyshire’s Staveley Miners Welfare 4-0 in the second qualifying round. It is a long road to Wembley for non-league clubs, who face a number of qualifying rounds before Football League teams enter the competition in the First Round and Premier League and Championship teams join in the Third Round. The Lions hoped to repeat their historic 2017-18 campaign, where the West Yorkshire club reached the Second Round for the first time in their history. League Two Mansfield Town eventually dispatched nine-men Guiseley 3-0 in last year’s competition.

In the next qualifying round, the third of four, Guiseley made life difficult for themselves against Cleethorpes Town, who took the Lions to a replay in early October. At Nethermoor, however, Guiseley showed their quality and experience of the competition, as Odejayi headed home to put the Lions into the fourth and final qualifying round.

Next up was Stourbridge, who visited Nethermoor in late October. Another home victory for Guiseley ensured their passage to the First Round proper – and a significant sum of prize money. Stourbridge were defeated 3-1, after two late goals from Kaine Felix and Lewis Walters allowed the Lions to pull away from the Glassboys.

The Lions would continue to enjoy playing at home throughout the run, and as a result, a home fixture in the First Round was ideal for a team growing in confidence, despite mixed form in the league. The opposition, League Two Cambridge United, had endured a difficult start to the season, and Guiseley fans were quietly confident of an upset before the game in November.

The match itself threw up one of the shocks of the round and a thrilling game of football. Guiseley went 4-0 up after 55 minutes, playing their League Two opponents off the pitch for the majority of the game, with Will Hatfield’s volley the highlight of a magnificent game of football. The final score was 4-3, as Cambridge’s superior fitness nearly earned the U’s a replay in the dying embers of the game. Nevertheless, the Lions marched on and entered the Second Round for the second successive year.

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Will Hatfield’s cracker against Cambridge was one of the highlights of Guiseley’s cup run. Image Credit [Ilkley Gazette]
By this stage of the competition, Guiseley were just one of six teams representing the National League North and South, the sixth tier of English football, left in the FA Cup. The draw was another home tie, this time against League One opposition, as Guiseley welcomed Fleetwood Town to Nethermoor on a wintery Monday evening in December.

The Second Round was where Guiseley’s run ended the year before, and it would prove to be a step too far once again in 2018.

Guiseley put up a good fight under the lights, producing a number of opportunities to draw level in front of over 2,000 at Nethermoor, with many more watching live at home on BT Sport. The game ended 2-1, and the Lions will rue their missed chances, with Liburd and Clayton going close in both halves.

The Third Round was within grasp for the Lions, but this Guiseley team can hold their heads high. They did not look out of place against a Fleetwood side three divisions above them and performed significantly better than the year before, where the Lions exited the cup in acrimonious fashion, going down to nine men against Mansfield Town.

The FA Cup is synonymous with teams like Guiseley; a part-time, non-league outfit who dreamed big, and caused a few upsets along the way. You will be hard-pressed to find a more exciting and manic football match anywhere in the world, let alone just in the FA Cup, than Guiseley’s seven-goal thriller against Cambridge United last month. Scenes like that are what makes non-league football and the early rounds of the FA Cup so pulsating, as for a brief moment, a small town in West Yorkshire had dreams of Wembley.

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Joey Barton’s Fleetwood side was one step too far for the Lions. Image Credit [Blackpool Gazette]
For now, attention turns to the National League North, especially after a disappointing exit in the FA trophy this week versus Lancaster City, who sit 16th in the Northern Premier Division, the league below the Lions.

Cian Fox