Saturday, 3 November 2012

Guiseley 2 Barrow 2

Attendance: 1,605
FA Cup, first round

On paper this tie wasn’t very exciting:  a Conference North side against a Conference National side. But there wasn’t much else that tickled my fancy, Guiseley (near Bradford) is only 19 miles from home, I hadn’t been there for 10 years and they were seeking to reach the second round for the first time in six attempts.

Moments within stepping inside Nethermoor I was glad I’d come. Fully 20 mins before kick-off and the ground was busy and buzzing with Cup tie atmosphere while low shafts of golden autumn sunshine spread across the pitch.

The ground’s Northern Premier League roots were showing, I’m pleased to say. The sponsors lounge is Portakabins (the closest thing to executive boxes is a step for their exclusive use outside the said cabins), the lone TV camera was perched on scaffolding and, yes, there was even a hound in the ground!
I felt as revved up as Meatloaf and Cher singing “Deadringer for Love” on the PA. The announcer, by the way, blew into the microphone in a “testing, testing” sort of way everytime before he spoke, another nice non-league touch. The tidy set-up reminded me a bit of Alfreton.

The biggest change to the ground since my previous visit on one of my first FA Cup trails is that the historic wooden stand which was arsoned four years ago has been replaced by two steel constructions. Opposite them and with much more character is an ancient-looking shed (below) and, beside it, a tower (with Union Jack) which houses scorers at the adjacent cricket ground. Two plods kept watch on the cricket side of the fence but their only duty was to collect the ball.

Guiseley have had their fare share of big matches in the last decade including an FA Trophy quarter-final against Luton, two FA Cup first round appearances, and a Conference North semi final and final. Barrow, a League club until 1972, have enjoyed the spotlight in FA Cup ties at Middlesbrough and Sunderland and won the FA Trophy two years ago. Still hungry for success, both sides were clearly very keen to make their mark in this season’s Cup.

The home side started strongly opening up a two-goal lead within 35 mins. The visitors aka The Ziggers (the fine nickname derives from a 60s terrace chant of "Zigger-zagger, zigger-zagger. Oi, Oi, Oi!") quickly came into the game, though, and their superior fitness and sharpness gave them a dangerous edge.

Guiseley had a golden one-on-one opportunity to extend a three goal lead but the chance went begging. It was one of those classic “they’re going to rue that” moments and so it proved. Barrow got a goal back with a snappy shot from the edge of the box just before half-time and equalised straight after the re-start. After that it was pretty much level pegging, Guiseley perhaps coming closer to winning with a header against the upright and shot cleared off the line. Cracking, crackling cup-tie.

“At least we’re in the hat,” one Guiseley fan muttered to another as we shuffled out. Indeed – but, like Crook five rounds ago, I fancy that a replay in Barrow will be their undoing.

 Fashion notes: Tintin-quiffed Louis Almond (or Armstrong, as the announcer called him) sported orange boots to go – or not go, as the case may be – with his yellow socks and sky blue shirt and shorts.

Demise of the minnows: One of the results of the introduction of direct promotion between Conference and Football League in 1987 is that there could be only five clubs out of the 40 in the second round that have never played in the Football League. Only one of them is lower than the Conference North/South. Out and out minnows are in increasingly short supply which makes those post-Christmas rounds of the Vase all the more enticing.

The late late show: Harrogate staggered into the first round on Wednesday like those runners who complete the London marathon a week after the finish line’s been taken down. Picking up the story after we left off, the replay against Hyde was twice postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. (The new drainage system installed over the summer has yet to bed down apparently). Anyway, in desperation off they all went to Harrogate Railway the following night, Hallowe’en. Kick-off was delayed 15 mins because Hyde got stuck in traffic. “Dismal game in dismal conditions” reported their Twitter feed as the rain poured down. It was goalless after normal time but, against the odds, Town blasted in the winner with four mins to go of extra-time. So the gallant but predictably paltry attendance of 247 was spared more drip torture. And what happened next? They won at Torquay today, the greatest win in club history. Harrogate would still have been on the way home when the goals were shown on ITV at 11.40pm.

The beauty of hoops: Don’t shirts especially hooped look better without sponsors’ logos? The thought occurred to me viewing this pic of Celtic at Barcelona. Talking of Scottish hoops congratulations to the red and white banded and splendidly named Bonnyrigg Rose who drew against Brechin in the Scottish Cup today. And finally on the subject of hoops how about this superb action pic from Reading v. Huddersfield in 1975? I couldn’t do what the goalie’s doing even if I was lying on the lounge carpet.