Report by: Ivor Timmis

GUISELEY fell to a hugely disappointing late defeat against a Stafford side struggling in the bottom four, to put a halt on the Lions' promotion push on Saturday.

Guiseley took the field with an unchanged side for the fourth match running, but it was Stafford who started the stronger, creating three decent chances in the first ten minutes, one of which brought a fine save from Ollie Battersby low down to his left after a corner was half cleared.

The Lions’ midfield were finding it difficult to get on the ball, a bobbly surface not helping either side to string together passes. On 15 minutes a fine Reece Kendall cross was volleyed over the bar by Jameel Ible, the Lions’ first chance of note.

Kallan Murphy received a yellow card on 20 minutes for the mildest of challenges on Stafford keeper, Cameron Belford, the first of a number of refereeing decisions which baffled both benches, ultimately leading to Liam Tongue receiving a yellow late in the 2nd half while still on the bench.

On 25 minutes, a game of head tennis on the edge of the Stafford box resulted in the ball dropping for Kallan Murphy in the six yard box, but it was just out of reach. Murphy was again in the action on 29 minutes when he chased down a long high ball and, with typical tenacity, held off two challenges to fire a decent shot which Belford saved well.

There was little of note in the last 15 minutes of the first half, though on the stroke of half time, Michael Afuye and Kendall both hit inviting low crosses across the six yard box, but, frustratingly, there were no takers.

Jordi Nsaka replaced the injured Ollie Brown at half time, operating in an unaccustomed right back position. The normally immaculate Prince Ekpolo gave the ball away twice in quick succession leaving Willis free on goal, but he shot high and wide.

On 55 minutes, a Stafford break on the right culminated in a fine low cross which Ben Woods, totally unmarked, did well to sweep in at the far post on the stretch against his former club. Stafford were finding space too easily.

Kofi Moore was then replaced by Gabriel Johnson. Tom Denton came on after 75 minutes with the Lions, pressing for an equalizer, deciding to take the tricky surface out of the equation and go more direct.

It was not pretty, but at last Guiseley carried some threat, and the change of tactics was rewarded when Gabriel Johnson sent in a fine, curving left foot cross which Denton headed emphatically home in the 85th minute.

The travelling fans hoped for a grandstand finish, but, to the surprise and disappointment of the Guiseley fans, it was Stafford who took over again, pressing the Lions’ defence and picking up all the second balls.

It was no surprise when another right wing break and low cross brought a second Stafford goal. The cross was sliced towards his own goal by Jameel Ible bringing a superb reflex save from Battersby but he could do nothing to stop Kaiman Anderson firing home the rebound from close range on 90 minutes. The Lions pushed forward desperately for a second equaliser and there was still time for Leigh Whelan to send in a fine shot from a half cleared corner but Belford saved well with his feet.

Conceding a late goal after getting back into the match was deflating for all connected with Guiseley. While other results mean the Lions have not lost much ground, they cannot afford many more performances like this if they are to stay in the play-off race.

Andy Welsh was very clear that we mustn’t read too much into it, and that there is a long way to go, but a bright spot of the day was seeing Lewis Whitham doing a little light running.