Guiseley v Wrexham
Nethermoor Park / Conference Premier / 12th April 2016
Has anyone ever travelled back from Bratislava via London to make a game of non-league football in Yorkshire? Well, if they have they can join the club. At 7pm on Monday night I was sipping beer in the bar of Bratislava Airport – 24 hours later I was sipping beer in the club bar at Guiseley’s Nethermoor Park. Not a bad effort.
I will make a confession here: we hadn’t really wanted to go to Guiseley – well at least not this Tuesday evening. Me and my pal Craig have had a strange infatuation with Shaw Lane Aquaforce for a rather long while now, yet every time we go to visit the club something blocks our plan. We have vowed that one of us is not allowed to visit Shaw Lane for the first time without the other. Sadly, weather called off Shaw Lane Aquaforce’s Tuesday night fixture against Goole AFC and Guiseley was the fallback. Not that it was a disappointing fallback – far from it. Guiseley had been on my hitlist for a while and with time running out for me in the north before I move onto the continent in the summer, it was good to finally make it over to Guiseley.
I woke up Tuesday morning in my mate’s house in north London after landing in Luton airport late the night before. By 11am I had made it to my train in London Euston and was all aboard for the trip back to Manchester. I had a very pleasant train journey, but some definitely didn’t. My seat was located next to the train manager’s cabin and soon there was a steady flow of passengers making complaints. About what? Well, this Tuesday was also the evening of the big Champions League quarter-final between Manchester City and Paris SG and so certain carriages of the train were full of boisterous PSG fans, already tanked up en route to Manchester. I heard more than a few ‘the bloody French!’ comments.
I made it back to Manchester without any heightened hatred for the French and after a quick hour or two at home, I was back at Manchester Piccadilly ready to head into Yorkshire. By now, we had heard word that Shaw Lane’s game was in doubt but I was already en route to Huddersfield. Instead of heading all the way to Barnsley – where Shaw Lane Aquaforce are based – I was heading to Huddersfield, as tax-dodging student Craig wasn’t finishing uni until 5pm, so he agreed to drive us to our destination.
I headed straight for Warehouse, possibly my favourite bar in Huddersfield to wait for Craig. However, I was soon texting my southern friend bad news after receiving a tweet from Shaw Lane Aquaforce: Aquaforce off. That left us with our second option of Ossett Albion: that was now off too. Bloody weather! I told Craig to meet me in the bar to discuss our plan and soon he came drifting in wearing our jacket (we both own the same Topman jacket and genuinely have to text each other before we go out anywhere together to check who’s wearing ‘the jacket’ – we don’t want a clash).
As I sipped at my beautiful Jaipur (I’d missed craft ale so much out in Slovakia), we decided we’d either head to Barnsley v Oldham or Guiseley v Wrexham. Craig had visited both grounds before and I had been to Barnsley before , but never Guiseley. It would seem silly to not go to Guiseley on that fact alone, plus the fact it would be cheaper. It was settled. We were off to Guiseley. We eventually got back to Craig’s flat about 5pm and soon we were in Paddy ready to go; Paddy is the name of his trusty (well…sort of trusty) red Fiat.
I do enjoy a good road trip in Paddy and that’s usually down to Craig’s rather diverse music playlists ranging from tasteful to pure cheese. Our journey today then definitely started down the tasteful route with a good old singalong to the Stone Roses’ I Am the Resurrection and a bit of Catfish and the Bottlemen. Now I love a bit of cheesy pop music, but Craig was just taking it too far today. I enjoy my Eurovision as much as anyone, today though Craig was introducing me to random Croatian pop music alongside those rather bland power ballad songs you get in Eurovision. Sadly, I never got to commandeer the music like in the past.
Yet, the journey flew by as I regaled Craig with my misadventures in Slovakia, whilst I think he hardly listened and focussed on singing along to his random Europop. The journey from Huddersfield offered no real blips and the only thing that really surprised us was that as we circumnavigated Bradofrd, how there were no signs for Guiseley. I would soon realise why when we arrived into Guiseley: Guiseley is small – really small. So fairplay to a football club in a town of that size for getting itself into the top tier of non-league football.
We found the ground quickly enough and were soon parked up on the road outside it. Clearly, everyone in Guiseley knows each other as on walking towards the ground we were asked were we Wrexham fans. I rather sheepishly said ‘no’ trying to downplay my Welsh accent as much as possible, before eventually unveiling myself to be a Swansea fan exiled in the north of England. When Craig told of his support for Crawley Town and his Huddersfield-dwelling, the locals seemed to find us an almost comical pairing and laughing at the idea that we had found ourselves in Guiseley on a Tuesday evening.
We had discussed in the car which end to go in with me being Welsh and all. Genuinely, I didn’t really care with me being a South Walian – I feel no real love for Wrexham, nor any hate for them either having thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Racecourse last year and the night out in Wrexahm celebrating Wales’ qualification for Euro 2016 will live long in the memory. So it was more through indecision that we found ourselves heading for the home end.
Craig had failed to visit a cash machine before arriving into Guiseley, but fortunately I had a big wad of money left on me from changing my Euros earlier in the day. So it was I who lent him the money to pay entry on the turnstiles telling him “not to spend it all at once.” It was £15 for me and £10 for the poor student.
Nethermoor Park is a decent ground and it’s impressive how the club has built it up over the years following the club’s steady rise up the non-league pyramid. Craig had come here last September and he noted how once flat areas around the ground had been converted into sort of small-stepped terraces – seemingly to fit in with Conference ground grading. The ground is generally a mish-mash of small, but tidy, stands with two small all-seater stands running down one side of the pitch and alongside the club offices, whilst opposite are two sheltered standing areas and the club bar. Unlike a usual Lost Boyos trip, which would see me taking in the local boozers, we had had no time tonight, so I directed us straight towards the club bar.
Impressive. Clearly the place has been well-looked after and undergone renovation of some sort recently, but the place fairly plush. The only issue was it was a bit small for the large crowd at Nethermoor tonight. There was plenty of bar staff working the bar, yet the queue just did not seem to be disappearing. Craig got bored of waiting in the queue for me and instead he went off searching for pie – although not before asking could he borrow some more money from the Bank of Lost Boyos. I persisted in the queue and was rewarded at the end with a beautiful pint of Yorkshire Blonde for my patience.
Once Craig had returned with his pie, we headed through the club bar, where I spotted groundhopping father and son Phil and Daniel Scanlon. Both are far, far more well-versed in European football groundhopping than I am and so I listened to them discuss Serbian football grounds, whilst I describe some of my Slovakian adventures from the weekend. It was a shame to have arrived at Guiseley so late, as everything felt a bit rushed with Craig encouraging me to finish my pint so we were pitchside ready for kick-off. Down the beer went and outside we headed.
Although it had belted down earlier in the evening, it was a fairly pleasant night now and we opted to stay out on the open terrace for the first half near the halfway line and nearby the more boisterous of the Guiseley support. There was a very healthy crowd of 1,046 at Nethermoor tonight with Wrexham bringing a large contingent from North Wales too. They wouldn’t have too much to sing about though.
What a game really! The first 25 minutes was pandemonium. Guiseley and their fans were well up for this on this evening and that opening half was one of the fastest pace games of football I’ve seen all season. Wrexham were battling to get into the Conference play-off mix, while Guiseley were trying to scarper their way away from relegation – Guiseley looked to want it more tonight.
Since he had bought his pie, Craig was hailing it as his ‘Pie of the Season’. Earlier in the season he had given that accolade to Everton, before he then claimed Bury had seized the crown; now, I have had pies at both of those grounds before and although both good pies, found neither particularly life-changing – this meant I was wary of his pie praise. I also noted that I had been there every time he had found a new pie of the season, so I clearly bring out the best in his taste buds. However, I had stated that the pie did look beautiful tonight and so as the game was still blossoming and I ventured over to the food hatch. I have to say that Craigy Bratt was spot on with his pie analysis tonight: my steak and ale pie was immense ! I was still slightly reluctant to award it my own ‘Pie of the Season’ award, but it was certainly a plucky contender. You’ll just have to wait for the annual end of season Lost Boyos awards to see who claims the prestigious ‘Lost Boyos Food of the Season’ accolade.
Just like the culinary delights on offer here at Nethermoor, the football on the pitch was brilliant too and in the 14th minute we had our first goal. Guiseley had been relentless in pressing from the front and when such pressure led to the ball falling for Oli Johnson, he made no mistake in putting his shot into the bottom corner. 1-0 to Guiseley and the fans to our right were going mental. Like really scary mental. Some of the faces were terrifying.
Guiseley were buzzing now and the pressure they placed on Wrexham was immense. Striker Adam Boyes was causing chaos in particular and he certainly deserved his goal as Guiseley made it 2-0 three minutes later. A pass inside to Boyes saw him fire low with his shot being touched by goalie Rhys Taylor, but ultimately creeping in off the post. Nethermoor was bouncing.
Boyes carried on with his imperious display up front and the 3rd goal of a crazy opening 26 minutes was easily the best of the bunch. After winning the ball back once again from an utterly shellshocked Wrexham defence, a few passes saw the ball teed up for Boyes, who from 20 yards rifled a side-footed effort into the far corner leaving Taylor with no chance. Me and Craig just looked at each other and realised that we could be in for witnessing an almighty goalfest here if Wrexham didn’t sort themselves out. I continued to mock my Welsh brothers by performing my best impression of a Yorkshire accent to fit in and just in case the locals thought me to be some sort of undercover Wrexham fan (not that I think the North Walian accent sounds anything like the South Walian accent). I did restrain from joining in with the “Sheep! Sheep! Sheep Shaggers!” chant though.
Predictably, things did slow down a bit and our talk in the terrace turned to how much money I was going to give Craig for petrol. I laughed as I had already lent him £30, which he promptly explained he would give me back, but soon a light-hearted argument ensued when he claimed that I would eventually owe him money later. I was insistent that I needn’t given him more money, but he just couldn’t understand the Maths. No joke that this went on for the majority of the first half. What should have been the most basic of Maths was leaving us both confused. I had to put a stop to this.
“Look, what a game of football this is and we’re being distracted from it by how shit we both clearly are at Maths. Let’s leave working all this out until the car,” I declared. Craig agreed before moments later trying to start it up again, before I burst out laughing and told him I wouldn’t discuss the issue further until later. I promised I’d create a diagram in the car to show my workings out. It really shouldn’t have got this complicated – I’ve got a B grade in GCSE Maths after all!
In fairness, our mental arithmetic issues had not led us to missing too much, as the game had slowed down a bit since the crazy opening. Guiseley had dropped back slightly, but Wrexham were truly woeful and didn’t look like troubling the home team at all.
Half-time: Guiseley 3 – 0 Wrexham.
I’d headed to the bar shortly before half-time to try and avoid the long queue, which I failed at doing as many others had had the same idea it seemed with their team already coasting to victory. I eventually got another pint of the Yorkshire Blonde (once again, beautiful) and found Craig in the crowded bar.
We checked the half-time scores and agreed we had made the correct choice choosing this game over Barnsley v Oldham with that game having a measly 1-0 scoreline at half-time. With that in mind and with the first half having such an explosive start, I powered through my beer and we headed back out.
For the second half, we decided we wanted a quieter affair and so we headed over to the otherside of the ground, away from the hustle and bustle of the now very lively Guiseley fans.
As neutrals, we both declared that we wanted Wrexham to score early on to make this more of an interesting game and it did seem that the Dragons had sorted themselves out a bit; saying that, they couldn’t have been any worse than they were in the first half.
Wrexham were now creating chances and testing Drench in the Guiseley goal. However, things were just not going for Wrexham and as we had both predicted, the second half did not have the goal glut of the first.
Craig got excited as the half progressed as one of his former Crawley favourites Lee Fowler took to the pitch for Wrexham. 7 minutes after coming on, in the 67th minute, a low corner from Fowler fell for Sean Newton who scrambled home. 3-1 and there was a roar of encouragement from the away end.
With the crowd behind them now, Wrexham surged at the box and looked to have earned a penalty only for the ref to not give it after a long pause to consider what decision to make. That seemed to knock the wind out of Wrexham’s sail.
Guiseley seemed to regain the momentum with Boyes still working his arse off. It was to be him who played the ball across the box for Tom Craddock to score into an empty net. But he didn’t score. Instead he put his right foot on the ball by accident, fell over, before calmly trying to finish with his second attempt – by then there were defenders on the line to clear. It was rather amusing.
“So,…our Maths problem…” began Craig.
“Look how much more jovial we’ve been this second half without us thinking of that! Save it for in the car,” I retorted making sure to cut him off before we began arguing again.
There was no way I was getting back into our Maths. I’d travelled from Slovakia after all and I wasn’t about to spend my evening fathoming Maths. Plus, I had faith in my diagram making it all clear in the car later.
However, after the missed open goal and then a powerful drive from Boyes soaring over the bar, the action was finished for the night and the Guiseley fans were left to celebrate a well-deserved 3 points, whilst we were left to head back to the car solve our monetary conundrum.
Full-time: Guiseley 3 – 0 Wrexham.
As we walked back to Paddy, I stopped Craig. I stopped to listen to the Guiseley fans and now that we were away from the ground, it really did strike home how loud they were. Fairplay to them, as they still seemed to be singing and chanting 10 minutes after the final whistle. A great bunch of fans.
And so, we arrived back at the car and it was time to finally put to bed who owed who money. After 30 minutes of arguing during the game, as predicted my diagram, complete with verbal explanation to accompany it, made everything clear within seconds. It turned out I owed my friend nothing and, as Craig put it, he had been relying on an ‘imaginary £10’ in his head which didn’t exist yet and was still in his bank account. Of course. The diagram below may look nonsensical to everyone else, but it was like solving the Da Vinci Code for me and Craig.
The journey back involved slightly less shit music, although a lot more sombre stuff. That was until Craig unleashed a particularly dancey song of Kylie and Danni Minogue. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find myself bopping along to it too.
Soon we were back to Craig’s flat at Storthes Hall and the week long travels were beginning to hit me. We had agreed beforehand that I’d stay in Huddersfield and I was happy to just get my head down after a busy, yet fun-filled week.
It was a shame that we were denied a visit to the Aquaforce once again, but I was happy to get Guiseley ticked off. And what an evening to visit too. Guiseley really impressed me and Adam Boyes’ showing has to be up there with one of the best individual player performances I’ve seen on my travels this season. I promise next time I visit though I’ll do the whole ‘proper Lost Boyos‘ and visit the local pubs beforehand. But for now, I was just happy to sleep.
Highlights: decent Conference ground, good bar, Yorkshire Blonde, excellent pies, superb first half, Adam Boyes’ performance.
Low Points: no Shaw Lane Aquaforce (again), failing at doing simple Maths.
See all my photos from Guiseley here.