IT HAS been another year of struggle so far for Guiseley Association Football Club.

The Lions were hovering just above the relegation zone at the time of the 2020/21 season being abandoned, so coming back from that, fans, players and ownership alike were no doubt hopeful that a new campaign would mean new ambition and new expectations for their club.

Unfortunately though, Guiseley have once again lacked the consistency needed for any sort of drive up the table and at the halfway point, they find themselves lingering in the bottom six once again.

Here’s a look at the highs and lows of 2021/22 so far...

Best Performance: A.F.C. Telford United 0 Guiseley 1

One of Guiseley’s final games of 2021 may turn out to be one of their most important wins of the season.

Travelling to rock-bottom Telford, it feels fair to say that this game had the makings of a relegation six-pointer, even this early in the season.

With both teams desperate for a boost in their form, the game was a must-win for the hosts, as well as for their visitors.

The match was tightly-contested, and made more of a challenge for the visiting Lions through their long list of injuries.

They were also hampered by the absences of a further couple of players who were awaiting the results of Covid-19 tests.

With four strikers sidelined, the attacking burden fell onto the shoulders of teenage starlet Josh Stones who, true to the hopeful expectations of his fans, thundered home a header late in the game.

That proved to be the only goal, and ultimately rewarded his side with the three points that their performance merited.

In aggressively winning possession and holding their discipline and shape, Guiseley were able to claim the much-desired spoils in an early-season relegation scrap that saw them further a gap between themselves and Telford, one which will be vital for them to maintain as the season progresses.

Worst Performance: Guiseley 0 Southport 2

On paper, you could probably assume that the 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Darlington was Guiseley’s worst performance of the season.

In truth though, the Lions had 15 players absent from that game, be it through suspension, isolation or injury.

They took a risk in playing their academy players and although that didn’t pay off, not many would have been confident in deploying such a young team, even if Guiseley’s hand was forced.

The home defeat to Southport, however, was far different.

Joint-manager Russ O’Neill even described the match as “a horrendous evening” and “probably our worst performance of the season”.

Despite a promising start, Marcus Carver punished Guiseley fairly early in the first half, capitalising on lacklustre defending to fire the away side in front.

Southport then doubled their lead just before half-time through Josh Hmami.

O’Neill commented about momentum following the full-time whistle, noting that his team had conceded soft goals after promising starts in games prior to this one.

The Southport clash was no different and both goals from the visitors served to dampen any attacking promise from the Lions, who succumbed to a disappointing loss once more.

Signing of the season: Regan Hutchinson

Arriving on a free transfer from Chesterfield at the beginning of the season, young Regan Hutchinson has made an immediate impact for his side.

Playing with an ability beyond his age, Hutchinson is capable of playing anywhere on the right flank and his skills in both attack and defence have been a great benefit to his team.

Having missed only a few games so far, perhaps Hutchinson’s greatest contribution to his side has been his consistency.

The fact he has been a regular presence in the starting lineup of an injury-plagued side is something that deserves masses of credit.

And his tireless efforts for Guiseley this season were rewarded on Tuesday, as he thundered home a crucial injury-time equaliser in their draw at home to Bradford (Park Avenue).

It also seems right to give recognition to some of the youth players that have stepped up to the first team this season from the Lions’ academy.

Though they may have been thrown into senior football quicker than their coaches would have hoped, the likes of Oli Reape, Harrison Leigh, Ellis Farrar and Jakub Hebda have been reliable when called upon.

Josh Stones has arguably been the most impactful youth graduate this season, with his presence up front in the absence of senior attackers giving Guiseley that glimmer of hope that they may well need for the remainder of what seems like being another tough season.