West Allotment Celtic 0, Guisborough Town 1 (Northern League Division One)
Guisborough’s ‘Great Escape’ bid to avoid relegation gained fresh momentum on Saturday when they dug very deep to beat one of their main rivals for the drop, West Allotment Celtic, by a solitary goal to stretch their superb unbeaten run to four wins on the trot.
The battling men (and boys!) of Guisborough Town mustered every last ounce of energy, courage and character to overcome a physical Allotment side in an epic struggle, capped by a fine individual winning goal from the mercurial Steve Roberts.
It is incredible to think that well over half the squad for Saturday’s game are in their teens or very early 20’s including Louis Goldsack who is only 17 – but along with the experienced players in the team there seems to be a really good blend and balance to the side.
The only blot on the day was the news which filtered through that Washington – the team in the ‘safe’ spot immediately above the Priorymen – had unexpectedly won 4-2 at Ashington to stay one point ahead of Guisborough in the thrilling relegation battle that is developing.
But Guisborough Manager Gary Forster, who has worked absolutely wonders with his team in the last few weeks, remained unmoved in his determination to steer the Priorymen to their own destiny regardless of other teams’ results.
After his side had literally dug in hard for victory against the Allotment, Gary commented: “This was a great result for us. We played some good stuff at times and the character that we have developed in the team shone through.
“West Allotment certainly gave us a hard game and we didn’t start as well as we have done in recent games but we had a good chat at half-time and we showed much more togetherness in the second half.
“I think we deservedly won in the end and the three points are so important to us, but regardless of other results it is down to ourselves to carry on the excellent form we have been showing and keep on winning.
“We have three extremely tough games coming up to round off the season, with a tough trip to Penrith next Saturday and then of course the big derby match at home to Marske on Easter Monday morning, which should be a great game.
“Then we finish with a mouth-watering match at the KGV against title favourites South Shields- but I am convinced that if we can keep playing the way we have been recently then I firmly believe we can do enough to stay up,” added Gary.
The goal-hero of the game against Allotment was once again wing wizard Steve Roberts, who scored a superb solo goal on 68 minutes when he typically cut in from the wing, skipped past several defenders and picked his spot before lashing home from just inside the penalty area.
Roberts thought he had a second to clinch it in the 81st minute when great work on the left by Louis Goldsack resulted in an inch-perfect pass to the far post where Roberts was on hand to tap home – but the linesman’s flag ruined any celebrations.
After an even stalemate of a first half when chances were at a premium, Guisborough had upped their game noticeably in the second half and Goldsack went close just after the break when he and Connor Smith linked up superbly before Goldsack forced a great save out of Allotment keeper Chris Bannon.
Guisborough’s back four and goalkeeper James Dawson had coped magnificently to nullify any forward threat from Allotment and the closest the home side came to scoring was in the 62nd minute when centre half Paul Stoneman thundered a header following a corner against the bar.
West were reduced to 10 men when winger Mason Stephenson was shown a second yellow card in the 85th minute for a stupid show of petulance.
The result means West Allotment are relegated due to their defeat and other results elsewhere – but for Guisborough the dream of the ‘Great Escape’ from relegation lives on. What a dramatic finale to the season is in store for the brave Priorymen and their fans and officials alike.
It was difficult for Guisborough boss Gary Forster to pick out a man of the match against Allotment because, in truth, there were vital contributions from every single player throughout the team, but he opted in the end for young right back Anthony Snook, who continued his recent brilliant form with another exciting performance, the maturity of which belies his youth. “Snooky was excellent, closely followed at the back by Matty Lovatt and Lee Bythway,” added Gary, who reflected that with the equivalent of an entire team of players under the age of 23 that he would have “some team” if he was still Development Side Manager!
Photo: Guisborough midfielder Tom Bligh in determined mood as he bursts past two Allotment defenders. Pic courtesy of Yvonne Barker.