BOSTON United are down but not out – after suffering a 1-0 play-off first leg defeat at Guiseley last night.
Warren Peyton’s powerful 35-yard free kick proved the difference at Nethermoor in a thrilling game against two equally-matches rivals.
But the Pilgrims’ dreams of promotion from the Blue Square Bet North is far from over ahead of Sunday’s return tie, as they proved they could rattle their opponents.
United went into the contest without injured strikers Lawrie Dudfield, Marc Newsham and Danny Davidson, while talismanic Shaun Pearson sat out, not risked following a return of his back injury.
But the hosts weren’t with their casualties as well as leading scorer James Walshaw could not add to his 23 goals this campaign, ruling himself out with a stomach illness on the morning of the match.
Defender Danny Boshell was also out through injury.
However, the walking wounded were not missed as the contest began at thunderous pace.
As the Pilgrims took the game to the Lions, Jamie Yates saw a long-distance free kick fire inches over the Guiseley crossbar, before Ryan Semple’s 20-yarder was saved by Steven Drench.
Guiseley’s best chance of the half saw Peyton’s 20-yard ever beat United keeper Paul Bastock, but crash back into play off the crossbar.
Lions keeper Drench again had to show a safe pair of hands to deny Yates’ header before United’s injury troubles got worse, central defender Kevin Austin forced off with an inflamed heel.
Kieran Murphy replaced him in the 24th minute.
As Boston turned the screw, Spencer Weir-Daley was denied and Shane Clarke curled his left-footer off target.
Boston’s best chance fell to Yates who, latching onto Semple’s cross, controlled the ball with his chest before Drench showed his quality by getting down low to smother the left-footed piledriver.
The first half belonged to United – with Anthony Church and Danny Sleath controlling proceedings in the middle of the park – but Guiseley still had their chances, although on two occasions their big tall front man Darryn Stamp could not find the net with some decent headed opportunities.
The first half ended in comical manner with the floodlights failing, casting doubt over whether the teams would be able to return for the second half.
And just when things couldn’t get any weirder, referee Andy Newell pulled up with a hamstring strain and had to be replaced by fourth official Alan Young.
At the interval, Guiseley replaced midfielder Joe O’Neill – making his return from injury – with teenage American Joey Spivack.
And switching to a 4-3-3 formation , following the return of power to the floodlights, suited the hosts as the gained the upper hand for the final 45 minutes.
Stamp went close twice more with free headers, but couldn’t direct the ball on target before Boston felt they should have been awarded a penalty.
In the 55th-minute, Adam Boyes’ header struck the arm of Danny Ellis in the Guiseley box, only for referee Young to indicate he felt it was the defender’s chest that was struck.
Would first-choice official Newell have made the decision? Boston will never know.
Guiseley’s Simon Baldry went on a darting run and, after rounding Church and Lee Canoville, found his hopes of a strike at goal thwarted by the onrushing Bastock.
Bastock was then called into action with a fine save, pushing Luke Sharry’s powerful drive away for a corner.
Maybe Young should have awarded the penalty, but there was no doubt that the decision leading to Guiseley’s goal was the correct one as Church pulled Spivack to the ground 35 yards from goal, receiving a booking for his troubles.
It was the invitation Peyton needed as he thumped a beautiful shot that continued to rise beyond Bastock’s fully-stretched arm into the top corner of the Boston net.
United failed to really trouble Guiseley after conceding, with Weir-Daley failing to get a firm contact on Semple’s cross at the back post in their only real chance.
With four minutes remaining, a goalmouth scramble saw Lions captain Simon Ainge given space to shoot at the back post, but he steered his effort into the side netting.
So, Guiseley may have won the battle, but this war is far from over.
The Lions drew first blood, but the Pilgrims have home advantage in Sunday’s clash.
It should be a thriller.
GUISELEY: Steven Drench, Ryan Toulson, Simon Ainge, Danny Ellis, Dave Merris, Simon Baldry, Luke Sharry (Jez Fitzgerald 90), Warren Peyton, Gavin Rothery, Joe O’Neill (Joey Spivack 46), Darryn Stamp; Subs (not used): Jake McEneaney, Chris Holland, James Coates.
UNITED: Paul Bastock, Shane Clarke, Lee Canoville, Kevin Austin (Kieran Murphy 24), Gareth Jelleyman, Ryan Semple, Anthony Church, Danny Sleath, Jamie Yates, Adam Boyes, Spencer Weir-Daley (Jason Lee 84); Subs (not used): James Cullingworth, Mickey Stones, Stef Frost.
Ref: Andy Newell (Alan Young 43).