Guiseley welcomed Hereford to a sunny Nethermoor Park for their 11th fixture of the 2019/20 National League North season. Both sides ended last season at the wrong end of the table (19th and 17th respectively), but, whereas Hereford sat 15th at the start of the day on 12 points, Guiseley had enjoyed better fortunes in the opening 10 games sitting in 5th position at the start of the day on 17 points.
As such the Lions kicked off as favourites to take the win; something they didn’t manage in either fixture against the Bulls last season, drawing 1-1 at home and losing 1-0 away. Although it was the visitors, who had the better of the opening exchanges – forcing a corner within the first 5 minutes; playing their first game since former Oxford and Coventry midfielder Andrew Whing joined the club as First Team Coach.
Hereford couldn’t make this early pressure pay, and Guiseley opened the scoring on 9 minutes through the league’s August player of the month, Aaron Martin; having done well to force a defensive mistake and rob possession on the left-wing, Martin held off his opponent to cut inside onto his right foot and fortuitously looped a deflected half cross, half shot over Hereford’s keeper Brandon Hall into the far corner to put the hosts 1-0 up.
The Lions continued to apply pressure and were unfortunate not to go into half time with a bigger lead after Aram Soleman’s deflected shot almost bobbled up over the diving Hall in the Hereford goal on 24 minutes, however, the visiting shot-stopper was eventually able to pluck the ball from above him on the line. The Bulls, meanwhile, mustered little more than a speculative attempt from Reece Styche in the first 45 minutes, who’s shot from just inside the Guiseley half, at around the half-hour mark, flew over the bar.
Into the second half, and Guiseley kept up their attacking pressure with an intent that suggests they may well be in the mix for the playoffs come the end of the season; however, the crowd of 873 at Nethermoor had to wait until the 81st minute until the Lions’ lead was deservedly doubled. The hosts had looked a better side since the introduction of Gabriel Johnson on 57 minutes, and his persistent hard work paid off when he was able to work enough space on the right to fire a low cross into the Hereford penalty area. This was half-cleared at first, but only as far as the ruthless Aaron Martin, who bagged his second goal of the afternoon, sweeping the clearance home into the bottom left-hand corner from the penalty spot to make the score 2-0.
Just five minutes later, Martin completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot; Johnson was involved once again, being bundled to the ground as he stretched for a diving header at the back post, with referee Sam Mulhall giving the penalty after a slight hesitation. Martin duly stepped up and wrong-footed Hall, sending his shot into the top right-hand corner to wrap things up at 3-0 on 86 minutes.
There was just enough time for Hereford to finally force a save out of young Guiseley keeper Marcus Dewhirst, playing the first game of his second loan spell at the club having arrived from Sheffield United in the week; Ash Bradley romped forward on the counter-attack and fired a low shot goalward from the edge of the box, however, Dewhirst did well to quickly get to his left and palm it away to safety.
All in all, Hereford didn’t cause Guiseley too much trouble, and the Lions never really had to hit top gear. Nevertheless, you’ve still got to take your chances in football and Martin did just that on three decisive occasions, bringing his tally to an impressive 14 goals in 11 games. In doing so, he has helped propel Guiseley ahead of Alfreton Town into 4th place.
Guiseley’s next fixture is at home to Stockton Town in the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round on Saturday 21st September. After four straight seasons fighting for survival at the wrong end of the table in the fifth and sixth tiers, it seems the Lions can finally start looking upwards again.
Man of the Match: Aaron Martin, Guiseley AFC.