A TRULY magnificent effort by Guisborough Town's glorious ground staff team to get the KGV pitch fit for play against Penrith yesterday earned the club the dubious distinction of being the only Northern League match to take place anywhere this weekend. Despite the Herculean work of the ground staff, the Priorymen got scant reward from the game itself once out on the pitch.

In a pre-kick-off message, Guisborough Town Chairman Don Cowan paid richly-deserved praise to the ground staff trio of Andy Barker, Don Robinson and Andy Willis for their wonderful work - and he also thanked all the club's helpers and fans for their superb support over the year.

And the positive message initially seemed to rub off on to the Guisborough players who started brightly and surged into the lead after just 23 minutes with a subtly sublime goal from big centre forward Nathan Steel. Guisborough moved the ball purposefully down the left and when the ball was fed into the penalty area Steel, facing away from goal, very deftly back-heeled the ball into the net from a few yards out. It was probably one of the most exquisite goals he has ever scored. Guisborough had earlier survived a real scare after just four minutes when a thunderous header from Penrith centre back Kyle May was brilliantly headed clear right on the goal-line by Guisborough midfielder Joe Ferguson. Guisborough's lead, however, was short-lived as Penrith - belying their lowly league position and no doubt buoyed by their 6-1 Boxing Day victory over Bishop Auckland - equalised in the 29th minute. It was an individual effort by Penrith's own giant centre forward, Martyn Coleman. Chasing a hopeful ball towards the by-line Coleman ghosted past the onrushing Guisborough 'keeper Jordan Nixon to score from an oblique angle with a perfectly-placed low shot just inside the far post for 1-1.

In the second half Penrith gradually assumed the upper hand and began to trouble the Guisborough defence with a series of dangerous counter attacks. Guisborough captain and 'keeper Nixon came to his side's rescue on the hour mark when he saved brilliantly from a terrific Coleman free kick. Then five minutes later Coleman fired just over the Guisborough bar. But in the 71st minute Penrith's persistent probing and pressure finally paid off when substitute Connor Shields raced clear and beat Nixon's despairing dive to score with a curling shot inside the left post. It proved to be the game's decisive strike as Guisborough toiled in vain to the end to try and salvage something from the game.

This latest reverse means Guisborough have now slipped to five successive defeats in quick succession in December - following a terrific run of five matches without a defeat in November. The downward trend is worrying but that excellent run in November means the Priorymen still have a 10-point cushion over Jarrow Roofing, the team currently occupying the nearest relegation spot below Guisborough. In the clubhouse after the game Guisborough's highly talented and totally committed senior coaching team remained long after the players had gone, earnestly discussing the situation and ways to remedy it. Despite the recent run of defeats Guisborough have still been playing well at times - but not consistently well enough.

Without a doubt the Priorymen have been massively hampered by injuries to a string of key players like Bradley Mills, Louis Goldsack, Joe Ferguson, Lewis Maloney, Lee Bythway to name but a few and now star winger Steve Roberts is out following his emergency appendix operation two weeks ago.

And yesterday they clearly also missed the suspended influential midfielder/defender Mark Robinson, who got a very rare red card (only the second of his long illustrious career spanning more than 700 games) in the recent 0-4 home defeat against Newcastle Benfield. Guisborough are hopeful that in the New Year both Mills and Roberts will be back playing by the end of January if not before - which would be a massive boost for the unlucky Priorymen.