Guisborough enjoy home win as top five pursuit continues!
Guisborough returned to winning ways as they kept up the pressure on the Northern League top five.
By Bill Perfitt
Guisborough Town extended their current impressive unbeaten run to eight games when they completed a richly-merited league double over West Auckland at the KGV.
After a goalless first half which Guisborough dominated but without being quite able to apply that telling final finishing touch, the Priorymen made their superiority count after the break with another two goals from in-form young striker Connor Smith.
The three points weren’t enough to improve on Guisborough’s league position of sixth but it brought them to within a point and two points of Seaham Red Star and Bishop Auckland respectively who are just above Town but having played considerably more games.
A highly-satisfied Guisborough Manager Steve Dowling said after last night’s match: “Throughout the game I thought we went about our business in a very professional manner. We dominated possession in the first half but despite creating a few good openings we were unable to score.
“At half time we spoke about being patient and the goals would come - which they eventually did with an excellent cross from Danny McWilliams and a well-placed header from young Connor Smith. Connor then increased our lead with his second goal.
“There were a good performances throughout my team, with Danny McWilliams in excellent form through the game, Jonny Helm and Steve Snaith enjoying good games in midfield and Danny Earl and Connor smith were constant threats up front.
“This victory means we’ve now gone eight games undefeated, including the two cup games against Marske and Shildon so hopefully we can keep this run going. However, with the unprecedented fixture congestion it's going to be difficult to continue in this vein, but that’s not beyond this excellent group of players we have,” added a delighted Dowling.
Guisborough started the game as Auckland brightly with a rasping Jonny Helm shot in the eighth minute being tipped over the bar by the West keeper Dave Knight.
Ste Snaith should have scored on the half hour mark but in trying to keep his header down he directed it too firmly into the ground and the ball bounced over the bar.
Then a Connor Smith header from a great cross from Robbie Bettson was well saved by Knight, who was by far the busier of the two keepers with Nick Liversedge largely a spectator.
After the interval the almost one-way traffic into the Auckland half continued with the visitors often massing 10 men behind the ball in a bid to frustrate the Guisborough attacks.
On 48 minutes Smith was fouled just outside the penalty area and up stepped Helm to send one of his ‘free kick specials’ just wide of the post.
On the hour mark Guisborough’s almost relentless pressure finally told as a brilliant cross from left back Dan McWilliams found Smith perfectly and he headed home firmly from close in.
The goal prompted Auckland to press forward at last and that opened up play in entertaining end-to-end fashion and in the 77th minute Guisborough doubled their lead when great approach play by Ste Snaith found Smith who scored with a low hard shot for his 18th goal of the season.
That’s a tremendous tally so far for such a young player who is not yet 20 and who has played many games this season from the sub’s bench - and if you add the many goals he has scored for the U-23 Development side he is developing into a very special scoring talent.
So Guisborough finally ran out worthy winners to clinch a league double over West Auckland, having trounced the Durham side 7-2 away on the second game of the season.
But special mention deserves to be made of the excellent progress West have made since then under their management team of former Boro favourite Andy Campbell and popular ex-Guisborough player Richie Storr. They have clearly instilled a fine set of values at the club and assembled a promising blend of youth and experience. The match was played in a good spirit and the friendly and relaxed after-match atmosphere between players and management who clearly know one another well was very noticeable. West also left their changing room in immaculate condition which is not always the case from some visiting teams.
Meanwhile, Guisborough’s-highly congested end-of-season league fixture list has been finalised and looks like this (a date for the North Riding Senior Cup Final against Middlesbrough has not yet been set due to Boro’s possible involvement in the Championship play-offs and an announcement will be made as soon as possible).