Off to: Ashton

Should the weather hold (and it's touch and go at the moment as to whether it will) it's time to make the short trip down Mossley Road and up Gorsey Lane to commence battle with Ashton United once again in the second leg of the Christmas double header.

Both sides enter the game on the back of morale boosting wins, though Ashton will feel they have the upper hand through their victory coming courtesy of the Boxing Day vanquishing of Mossley.

That may not sound like much of a preview but it's 6:00pm on New Years Eve - what do you expect?

Prediction: Feeling incredibly smug after correctly predicting what seemed to many like an impossible win at Frickley, I'm confident that the gap between us and safety we'll be reduced by another three points come 4:50pm on Monday afternoon.

"But look how much better Ashton were than us on Boxing Day!" is possibly one of the many things you're screaming at PC monitor at the moment but trust me - we were just lulling them into a false sense of security in preparation for the New Year game. Besides, we haven't lost a league fixture at Hurst Cross for over thirty years... yes, we've only played their twice in that time but history is on our side.

Frickley Athletic 0 - 4 Mossley

Finally! After three months of L's interspersed with the occasional D's, Mossley end 2006 with a W. And what a W it was: a comprehensive 4-0 hammering of Frickley Athletic in their own back yard.

Well the score line suggests it was comprehensive, the report in the Non-League Paper on the other hand seems to give the impression that scoring four goals is all we did; Frickley bombarding us for the rest of the game. For a Mossley-centric view on the game I recommend looking here.

I've got to say that it was a pleasant surprise to be told that Mossley were 3-0 up when I rang Frickley at half-time, though I'll admit that there was a small part of me that believed the person on the other end of the line in South Yorkshire was partaking in a cruel hoax. Thankfully a phone call from Simon minutes later confirmed that indeed it was Mossley that were three goals to the good.

The news at 4.45pm that Frickley hadn't embarked on a breathtaking comeback, and that Mossley had in fact increased their lead to four goals, certainly added a spring to my step as I left the Tameside Stadium following Curzon's 6-1 defeat of Glossop.

I don't really like going into detail on matches not involving the Lilywhite's but this NWCL derby had to be seen to be believed:

  • After an opening eight minutes which saw both sides come close on numerous occasions to taking the lead, Curzon score from the penalty spot.

  • A couple of minutes later the Glossop bench get on a high horse that they refuse to climb down off for the rest of the game. One of their players comes off worst in a genuine 50/50 challenge (both players kicking the ball at the same time) and because the referee doesn't show a red card they begin their match long abuse of the officials.

  • Glossop keeper Stuart Williams rushes out of his area and brings down Steve Moore. Despite the red card Williams receives being one of the most inarguable decisions of the season, Glossop manager Chris Nicholson starts ranting and raving about injustice, etc. before sticking an injured outfield player in goal.

  • With fifteen minutes on the clock the stand-in keeper is called into action for the first time and gives away a penalty as Mike Norton attempts to take the ball round him. The fact that it was a cast iron penalty can't dissuade Nicholson from his belief that the officials have got in for Glossop.

  • As the half wears on, Nicholson (who by now is bouncing around his technical area like an angry testicle) alternates his abuse of the officials with an attempt to start a slanging match with a Curzon bench who just stare bemusedly at him.

  • The officials, no doubt fed up with the earache coming from the away dugout, deliver their piece-de-resistance as the teams line up for the start of the second half. The linesman running the near side attempts to send Glossop's assistant manager to the stands believing that he's the red carded Stuart Williams. Despite the fact the assistant manager is a good thirty years older and Williams is sat in the stand shouting "I'm here!" the linesman refuses to back down and calls over the referee who promptly sends the assistant manager to the stands for swearing. Nicholson is now a peculiar purple colour and incredibly close to popping whilst everyone else of a non-Glossop persuasion is killing themselves laughing.

  • During a quiet moment a Glossop fan informs the assistant referee that he's going to make him a laughing stock on High Peak Radio.

  • The fun and games then spread off the pitch as Nicholson starts a slanging match with a Curzon supporter sat at the back of the stand before both sets of fans start to exchange some unseasonal pleasantries; the two Mossley supporters and three match sponsors in attendance find this hysterical.

  • Curzon proceed to score another four (that Glossop claim were all offside) though they should have in fact reached double figures were it not for some spectacularly inept finishing. As the goals fly and roll in you can't help but ponder the irony of James Brown singing 'I Feel Good' as it blares out over the tannoy.

  • Glossop pull back a consolation goal and having run out people to moan at, the Glossop bench and supporters turn their attention to the hapless PA announcer for a) the lack of goal celebration music and b) his inability to get anything right; one player having apparently been substituted twice during a fifteen minute spell.

  • The game ends with the Glossop players receiving a standing ovation from their own supporters whilst Curzon's let their players leave the pitch to the sound of silence.

The above list doesn't do justice to what went on yesterday and you probably don't care either - the main thing is that Mossley returned to winning ways and whilst one swallow does not a summer make, it's nice that we don't go into the new year looking like we could break the 16 game losing streak record we set during our last season in the Unibond Premier.

To better times...

Off to: Frickley

As it's only a matter of weeks since I last did a preview of a Mossley-Frickley game, I hope you don't mind that this isn't as in-depth as usual with it being the holiday season and all.

This Saturday Mossley travel to South Yorkshire to face a Frickley side that have undergone a renaissance of late... blah-blah-blah... Mossley currently lie in 20th position... tum-ti-tum-ti-tum... eight defeats out of the last nine... yadda-yadda-yadda... for a combined end of year and season party.

I hope that made sense.

Prediction: A win for the White's. Yes, I know I say this for every game but when I get it right (and I will) I'm going to look really smug. Plus I've always been certain that we'll get at least four points out of the three Christmas fixtures and as we've lost the first, it means the two games over the long weekend are as close to a certain points banker as you can get! If there is indeed such a thing as a 'certain points banker'.

Mossley 1 - 2 Ashton United

For a time of year that's supposed to be jolly Mossley don't half have the knack of deflating festive spirits. If non-league football was the best programme on TV at Christmas, Mossley would be the Careline advert that pops up during every break to remind you that misery doesn't take a holiday.

Whilst it may be too early to suggest that the results of the three games over Christmas week will have condemned any side to spending next season in the Unibond First, Mossley's failure to claim even so much as a point in their first game against fellow struggler's Ashton United brought the reality of renewing old acquaintances with Clitheroe ever nearer.

It had all started so well too. From the first whistle Mossley went at their opponents with more desire and purpose than they've shown for quite a few games. In fact the difference to what we've seen recently was extraordinary.

With David Eyres playing in a central midfield role, Mossley finally had the creativity in the centre of the park that they'd missed since the puzzling departure of Martin Allison and it was paying dividends; not only was the ball being played along the floor but the players were dropping off their markers and creating space for others.

In the fourth minute an industrious run down the right by Steve Burke was brought to a halt illegally by Collins and Eyres stepped up to swing the fee-kick into the box. James Turley managed to get to the front of the queue that had lined up along the six yard box to meet it but failed to connect. The lack of a touch on the ball to change direction appeared to catch out Lee Bracey and he could only watch as it continued on it's arcing trajectory towards the back of the net. One-nil to the Lilywhite's and hopes were up.

David Eyres gets the congratulations of his team mates

A few minutes later the lead was almost doubled when an effort saw Bracey scrambling low to his right turn a shot around the post. From the resultant corner Smith and Shiel combined to almost power the ball into the net but as the Seel Park faithful became enthused and excited by Mossley's rediscovery of the football that got them back into the Unibond Premier it was over.

It was like somebody had thrown a switch as within seconds Mossley went from a side that was hungry for more goals to one that was happy to defend a one goal lead; a tough task for any half decent team but asking a side that has had defensive problems all season to do it for over eighty minutes is positively suicidal and so it eventually proved.

Before the big switch-off; SAS and Smith send a corner just wide

Mossley effectively gave up the middle of the pitch by dropping astonishingly deep leaving the gap between the forwards and the rest of the team bigger than the one between now and next Christmas. The free flowing football was replaced by the long ball resulting in Ashton not even having to work to win back possession, the ball being returned to them almost immediately after they'd lost it.

Most worrying of all though was that Gary Kharas, Ashton's one man attack, was continually being left on his own. Never before have I seen a four man back line fail to cope so spectacularly badly with one player. Even though we effectively had eight men sitting in and within a ten yard radius of our own box the number of gaps and spaces the United players found was unbelievable.

As Ashton began to find their rhythm the chances started to flow and it was something of a miracle that Mossley's lead was still intact when the time came for the referee to bring a close to the half. Steven Shiel had cleared Bennett's effort off the line, Phil Cooney hit the side netting when he seemed odds on to score, Shillito's last ditch tackle stopped Garvey from firing off a shot following a fantastic break down the left and Kharas forced Trueman into making one of a few great saves; the Mossley keeper redeeming himself for a number of first half handling errors that almost gifted the Robins an equaliser.

Melford Knight replaced James Turley during the interval forcing Mossley into a reshuffle that saw them restart the match with Shillito on the left and three men in the centre of the park; a baffling decision given that Ashton's tactics of pace down the wings now gave Christian Cooke the unenviable task of having to cope with two men bearing down on him at full speed.

Ashton began the second forty five minutes in the manner they'd finished the first, only this time they were being undone by their own failings; the otherwise excellent Phil Cooney being the main culprit in failing to provide a decent final ball to compliment any of his forays towards the touchline. Despite the lack of clear cut chances the visitors were now creating at no point did the assembled home support believe that "this might just be our lucky day." Well, apart from me and my misplaced optimism.

Twenty minutes into the second period Ashton worked the ball effortlessly into the box only for Bennett's path to goal to be halted with a clumsy challenge that gave the referee no alternative but to award a penalty. Though Trueman went the right way he was unable to stop Baker's inch perfect spot kick from nestling in the corner of the goal.

Baker puts the penalty beyond Trueman to draw Ashton level

Ten minutes and another change in Mossley's shape later (now 4-3-3), the visitors took the lead. It appeared that debutant left back Will Ryder had brought Cooney's move down the right to halt and with Steve Burke tracking back to keep tabs on the overlapping Royle, it looked like there was nowhere for the Robin's attack to go. However Danny Forde dropped five yards out of the Mossley area to receive a square ball and, with no-one from Mossley's midfield bothering to go with him or put in even a half-hearted challenge as he ran with the ball, the former Oldham youngster was able to make his way along the edge of Mossley's box before firing a sweet effort from inside the 'D' past Trueman. A thoroughly avoidable goal.

The onus was now on Mossley to take the game to their opponents but after being voluntarily mothballed for the majority of the match, it was unsurprisingly difficult for the home side to kick-start their attack. The Lilywhite's best chance came when a shot from the edge of the box squirmed its way through to Peter Wright in the six yard box but a vastly under worked Lee Bracey claimed the ball at his feet.

If anything it was Ashton that looked the team most likely to trouble the score sheet again. Two Mossley set pieces just outside the United box ended with the Lilywhite's performing some desperate defending as the visitors broke upfield. In fact the most common sight in the final ten minutes was watching Burke and Eyres tear from one end of the field to the other in order to support the attack and fill in the holes in the defence; the sides oldest and youngest players looking, for the most part, like the only ones who realised the importance of the game and both deserved to be on the end of something better than this embarrassing result. Eyres in particular was playing like someone half his age.

The result leaves the gap between Mossley and guaranteed safety at a staggering ten points; a seemingly insurmountable total considering we've only managed 16 points in 23 games and a measly three points out of the the last available thirty six. Add to that the fact that a defeat at Frickley will see us drop to second bottom and the winter looks bleak - and we're not even at the midway point either!

The first ten or so minutes showed what Mossley were capable of and if they'd played the rest of the game in that style I'm sure we'd be reflecting on a deserved three points. Instead, the mind boggling decision to try and soak up eighty minutes of constant pressure saw Ashton deservedly take the points back to Hurst Cross with them. I'm sure the reason for this course of action will be put down to the players once again 'being scared' but it's an argument that doesn't convince me and I'd dare say you either.

The players showed that there was nothing about Ashton to be frightened of yet as soon as we take the lead we revert to that tactics that we've started recent away games with - games where the sum total of our ambition has seemingly been to get a 0-0 draw. We're playing with wingers so why don't we use them effectively instead of being more concerned about what our opponents are going to do? We have some great players so can we not just let them express themselves instead of regimenting them into a style of play that compliments neither them or the team as a whole? There's a good team struggling to get out at the moment.

So, after finding that Father Christmas didn't leave Scarlett Johansson under the tree, Christmas turns out to be doubly disappointing. And sadly, for the time being, it looks for all the world like the only Great Escape we'll be seeing is on the TV in a couple of days time. Fingers crossed that the New Year brings new fortunes too.

Seasons Greetings

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone associated with Mossley AFC (yes, everyone!) a very Merry Christmas.

Particularly you - the viewer. May the next few days be good ones. Eat, drink, be merry and see you (hopefully) on Tuesday.

All the very best - SJNR

Ashton United Are Coming!

Here it is! The festive football campaign begins with Mossley's first proper derby match for two years as Ashton United make their way to Seel Park for the opening game in a crucial holiday double header - 20th versus 18th. Or to put it another way:

Boxing Day and New Years Day sees the two worst teams (on current form) in the Unibond League duke it out for the prize of, er... not being one of the two worst teams (on current form) in the Unibond League. More importantly though, where the six points on offer over the two games ultimately end up could have one of the biggest bearings on which of the two sides takes a step nearer avoiding the drop come the end of the season.

Two wins for the Lilywhites and the Robins are dragged right back into the relegation mire whereas six points for Ashton would see Mossley all but set adrift of not only memory bliss but the coveted fifth bottom spot. Even an equal share of the spoils would suit the Hurst Cross side more so there's going to be a fair amount of tension in the air for this one. Seriously, if you still don't know what to ask Father Christmas for this year, put tranquillisers on your list. That way you'll avoid the "deer in the headlights" look you'll have in your eyes come three o' clock on Tuesday and Monday week.

The comings and goings at the start of the season suggested that there was going to be some added spice to these Christmas fixtures with both sides containing a combined total of nine players who'd played for either side. However four months is a long time in football (especially when you haven't won a league game for over half of them) and thanks to retirements, injuries, players moving on and 'disruptive influence' led departures that number now stands at three.

And of those three only two are likely to be on show for the Boxing Day extravaganza; Terry Bowker's suspension leaving custodians Trueman and Bracey to battle it out for the prize of 'the player who came back to haunt his old team'.

Despite only 2.77km (as the crow flies) separating the two clubs, meetings outside of pre-season friendlies have been few and far between; in the last thirty five years the clubs have only met on four occasions in the league. Those four games came during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons when Mossley were making there way down the divisions whilst Ashton were moving in the opposite direction. Over the course of those matches each side won one game each and interestingly (well maybe not), the victories for both clubs came on enemy ground.

Prediction: No matter how much I cogitate on the outcome of these two fixtures there's no way I can see Mossley losing both. Even with another back four reshuffle necessitated by the suspension of Gary Furnival, I think we'll be able to cope with the one man attack Ashton have employed both home and away recently and pick up the maximum number of points on offer. Or maybe four.

For those of you thinking that the above paragraph is overly optimistic, remember that Christmas is a time for miracles. And if you want omens, the shepherds are paying particularly close attention to their flocks on the moors, there's no room at the Bridge Inn, the Co-Op's sold out of frankincense and there's a bright star shining in the east too (or it could just be the security light on the water pumping station behind Hollins). A new winning streak will be born on Christmas Day - give or take 24 hours.

C'mon Mossley!

Chip Wrappers: 22/12/2006

As it's the season of goodwill I'm going to be nice to the Reporter in this edition of Chip Wrappers.

Even though the dreaded Stalybridge Celtic team photo has reappeared once again and the main back page story is another one about a team that plays at Bower Fold, I'm not going to say a thing. In any other week the large picture of John Reed they've published on the back of the paper would lead me on to wondering if someone at the paper is carrying a torch for him, judging by the fact they can't seem to print an issue without a picture of his fizzog.

To give the Celtic manager his due though, he does come up with this:

"(Derbies) are not like any other encounter you have during the season. As everyone knows, you can win all three but just as easily lose all three as well."
So they are just like any other game in the season then?

Hyde manager Steve Waywell has his own take on the upcoming derby games though:

"If we play like we did at Halifax, we'll win."
As Hyde lost 3 - 1 at Halifax it might be wise to actually play a bit better. Not letting your opponents score as many goals as you would be a start.

Having said that the Tigers boss, along with Dave Pace, is quick to lay the blame for their FA Trophy exits at *yawn* the feet of the officials, the latter coming particularly close to a Mike Newell moment:

"(The referee) should retire from refereeing immediately. The ironic thing is that I was a bit unsure of the female referee's assistant, but she did nothing wrong!"
Dave Pace - a reconstructed man, though it has to be asked as to why he was unsure. After all this is the man who put two women in charge of his side for MPC games for a couple of seasons?

I'm in such a seasonal mood (more peppery than salty) I'm not even going to criticise the fact that Mossley are the only Tameside club not to have an article on the back page; after all, if no-one sends them a story what can they do?

Over at the other local paper,the back of the Advertiser leads with Stalybridge and Hyde both attempting to turn around their seasons in the forthcoming Christmas derby games.

Yes, that's the Stalybridge and Hyde that currently lie in 13th and 14th place respectively in the league. Thank goodness there aren't two local clubs in an even more precarious situation meeting over the holidays to detract attention away from these struggling Conference North sides.

That's it for this week and next week too as Chip Wrappers is taking a break for a fortnight. Although the following promise (or threat) on the back of the Reporter could bring it back from it's hiatus:

Reporter Sport has been given a tour of Bower Fold by Commercial Manager John Hall... Read all about it in next week's edition.

Stalybridge Celtic's back passages and The Reporter - I can't possibly let that one slip by can I?

Burscough 4 - 0 Mossley

There's no official Mossley80 match report for this game because, to use Arsene Wenger's hilarious catchphrase, "I did not see it." Instead, I was at Lambeth Grove with eight other Mossley supporters to watch Woodley Sports play Witton Albion in the FA Trophy, and what a humdinger of a game it was too; the Stockport side desperately unlucky to go down 3-1 in a game they virtually dominated.

All that Woodley were lacking was some composure in front of goal as they wasted chance after chance. Their defence and midfield completely nullifed the Albion attack for seventy minutes, proving that there is talent in the lower leagues that aren't chasing personal fortunes. In fact anchoring Woodley's midfield was one Nehru McKenzie, looking ten times the player he was at Mossley last season. Alas all there hard work was undone by a moment of madness from their keeper and the floodgates opened.

However there was plenty of Mossley talk on the terraces, not least because of the number of ex-Seel Park personnel at the game! The half-time score from Burscough was greeted with an air of resignation from the non-travelling faithful, whereas the final score was met with a few splutters of disbelieving laughter. I say final score but as the person on the end of phone line in Burscough put it: "It's four-nil to Buscough... and it's not over yet!"

I could have rang back for the definitive final score a few minutes later but as the chances of a Mossley comeback were slightly less than that of Abraham Lincoln becoming president of the United States again, I decided to save the 15p it would have cost. Of course the Linnet's could have banged in a few more but these days a four goal drubbing is much the same as a five or six goal spanking.

I do have a match report for you though courtesy of the excellent Burscough web site. Be warned though, it does make for some grim reading:

Burscough were down to the bare mininmum in terms of personel due to injury and suspension but they produced a performance of maximum quality as they defeated visitors Mossley 4-0. A first half goal from Mike Tomlinson, his second in a week, and a Matty McGimm second half hat trick sent the Lilywhites home unhappy.

The Linnets began the game strongly and an indication of their superiority throughout the game arrived within the first two minutes. First a Matty Mcginn free kick rebounded down on to the line from the cross bar and scrambled away. Then from the resultant corner Farrell Kilbane saw a header gathered by Danny Trueman.

Mossley did work a good chance shortly after, when a shot was fired across McMillan but went well wide of the Mart Lane goal. With former Linnet, Peter Wright, looking industrious for the visitors Mossley did at least make an occasional chance in the first half.

Then on 12 minutes Burscough took a deserved early lead when Mike Tomlinson got forward and with the Mossley defenders appealing for offside, he looped a header over the stranded Trueman and into the net.

A minute later veteran David Eyres hit a dipping free kick for the visitors that Tony Mcmillan touched behind for a corner, although it did appear to be going wide.

With the impressive Alan Moogan pulling the strings from midfield, Burscough's dominance continued through the half as shot upon shot rained upon the Mossley goal.

On 15 minutes a swerving shot from Dave Roberts was beaten away by Trueman and just 3 minutes later Adam Carden, having the best game to date in a white shirt, had a goal bound shot cleared from the goal line.

37 minutes had elapsed when Dave Roberts once more tried his luck only to see his vicious swerving shot parried by Trueman, the rebound fell to Kilbane whose close range effort was somehow blocked by the over worked Mossley Goalkeeper. The resultant corner was headed wide by an unmarked Tomlinson who failed to double both his and Burscough's goal tally.

Burscough ended the half as they had started but failure to add to their lead would mean the visitors would feel they still had a chance.

Mossley looked to start the half strongly but any comeback was soon extinguished when on 49 minutes a neat interchange of passes between Tomlinson and Carden resulted in a low hard strike at goal which despite Trueman's touch was bundled over the line by Matty McGinn.

The whites began to run riot through the gaps in the Mossley rearguard and the home fans began to think it would be a case of 'how many' and not would the Linnets win. They didn't have to wait much longer for the next addition to the scoreline.

Just after the hour mark a sublime piece of Robbie Booth skill got him to the by line and his hard low cross was turned home by McGinn for his brace.

Burscough continued to torment Mossley, who had all but conceeded defeat, even the visiting supporters could be heard at times cheering every Burscough pass.

Chance after chance came and went as Burscough laid seige on the Mossley goal. Then with 7 minutes left the scoring was completed with Matty McGinn netting his hat trick. More flowing football saw the ball worked down the right and played across the edge of the area. The ball was "dummied" and McGinn hit one of his trademark thunderbolts low past a wrong footed and beleagured Danny Trueman.

The Linnet's didn't let up as both Booth and Kilheeney saw shots blocked and even Tony McMillan tried his luck with a driven free kick from his own half that Trueman just about grabbed. Time ran out and Burscough had run out very worthy winners sending the home support home with an early christmas present.

I don't know about you but when a match report states that the opposition keeper is trying to score from free-kicks in his own half, I get the feeling that we didn't play that well. Having said that, from reading the above report it appears that coming away from Victory Park with only a four goal defeat was something of a result!

It remains to be seen as to whether it will get added to the official "bad game" total (currently standing at 2.5 out of 26) but I have to admit that there is a part of me that's really looking forward to seeing how this one's spun. Seriously though, if that report didn't make your heart sink, this comment from a Linnets fan on the Burscough forum will send it plummeting to your shoes:

Looking at some of the names in the opposition teamsheet I expected a harder game. I must say, that was the worst "team" performance I have seen for a long while from anyone in the same division as Burscough. They were awful; two strapping centrebacks who didn't know what was going on around them, midfielders who didn't track back. As for the full backs, well they were beaten with ease by everyone who attacked them. Poor, very poor Mossley.

Shocking, eh? A sad indictment on Mossley 2006/07.

I've no doubt that it's somehow our fault though.

Oblivion - thy name is a mid-table First Division game at Warrington on wet Tuesday night in December. Or to put it more succinctly: Coming Soon!

Chip Wrappers: 15/12/2006

After a week away, Stalybridge Celtic have once again returned to the back page of the Reporter (along with that photo of John Reed doing his robot dancing), this time with team news and a preview on their upcoming FA Trophy game against Hinckley United. Why the same honour hasn't been bestowed on the two other sides from the area facing ties in the Trophy this weekend is a mystery that will only strengthen the belief of favouritism.

It's not as though Celtic have the hardest game either; if anything they have the easiest with the two other sides facing competition from a higher level. Hyde do get a mention but only in reference to their fans travel to Halifax being subsidised by the clubs sponsors whilst only a glance at the fixture list will tell you that Droylsden are playing too.

Having said that the paper contains an excellent match report from Jamie Holt on Mossley's defeat to Frickley Athletic, and shows how good the writing in the paper can be when the sub-editors neglect to use the cut and paste tools on their word processors (though it does suspiciously look like there's at least one paragraph missing at the end).

Stalybridge make the back page of the Advertiser too with the news that ex-player Lee Morris never told John Reed he was signing for Frickley Athletic. Despite the world and his wife knowing that he'd signed on the dotted line in time to face Mossley last Saturday, it appears the Celtic manager only found out just before his side were due to play and, at the time of going to press, Morris still hadn't contacted him to say he was at Frickley.

If I had any sympathy for Stalybridge Celtic I'd be commiserating with Reed and ranting about the ethics of today's footballers, but as I haven't, I'm just going to have a good old chuckle. And I suggest you do the same because there's precious little to laugh about at the moment for us Mossley supporters.

The Advertiser also contains an interview with Mossley's manager, which you can read here if you want an insight into his thoughts on our 'sticky time'.

And that's it for this week. It's short I know but it's been a tough seven days for finding good stuff in the papers, so either I'm not looking closely enough or they're getting better. Tune in next week to find out which of the two options appears the most likely.

Till then...

Off to: Burscough

This Saturday sees Mossley travel to West Lancashire in the hope of getting their stumbling league campaign firmly back on the rails.

The match also presents Mossley with their first opportunity to complete a 'good double' over a side this season following their 3-2 victory over the Linnets back in August. It was an incident packed game (remember Ryan Bowen's Shao-Linesque treatment of a concrete slab?) which Mossley somehow managed to win despite being completely outplayed for the most part - the technical football term being 'a mugging'.

A win's a win though and I don't think Lilywhite supporters would complain if we returned with another three points gained in the same manner, particularly as Victory Park isn't the happiest of hunting grounds for Mossley. Whilst it's been nine years since we last faced Burscough on their home territory (a 0-0 draw gaining us our first ever point there), we've had better fortunes on a more recent visit: a 3-2 win over Skelmersdale United in November 2003.

Burscough currently lie ninth in the table, four points off a promotion spot and seventeen points above us. They also have the third best home record in the division but there is hope for Mossley in that the Linnet's last visitors, low scoring Lincoln United, became the first side to leave with three points this season after a 2-0 win. Add to that the fact that, Matlock aside, Mossley are playing better away from Seel Park this year and the result doesn't seem to be as cut and dried at it may initially appear.

The match will also see each side having to defend against the possibility of an ex-player coming back to haunt them - Peter Wright lining up for the Lilywhites and Ciaran Kilheeney leading the Burscough attack. And with both sides defence's proving to be somewhat leaky as of late, the game promises to provide to provide them with the opportunity to make their marks.

Prediction: Hmm... a tricky one this but with the old cliche of 'triumph in the face adversity' behind us I think we'll give Burscough their second home defeat on the trot. Honest to goodness - trust me on this one.

Mossley 1 - 2 Frickley Athletic

When the season started the pre-match music played over the PA system consisted of bouncy pop songs, perfectly catching the upbeat feeling of the supporters on the return to the Unibond Premier Division. October and November's patchy (or Apache) performances however were the cue for the Shadow's greatest hits to get an airing. No, I can't fathom out why either.

Come December though and all attempts to remain optimistic are fading fast as, five minutes before the teams come out, 'Welcome to the Black Parade' by My Chemical Romance blares out across the pitch. As good a tune as it may be (really, it is) the last thing you need when watching Mossley at the moment is a song about death that includes the lyrics "the broken, the beaten and the damned" and "misery and hate will kill us all" no matter how in tune with the supporters feelings it may be.

Bring back Abba and Super Trouper I say.

Hopes of a turnaround in recent fortunes were lifted when the home side started well. The returning James Turley and Chris Ward were having plenty of joy down the right hand side but, other than few half chances, the Lilywhite's were struggling to break through a very well organised Frickley defence. Occasionally visiting keeper Jon Hood would be forced to push away a cross or shot but for most of the time Mossley's attack was like watching the wolf trying to blow down the house belonging to the third little pig.

Pressure means nothing unless you can do something with it though and Mossley's ineffectiveness in their opponents penalty area was punished midway through the first half. A rare break up the pitch by Frickley saw them take advantage of the wide open spaces our defence frequently affords the opposition; a move that culminated in Lilywhite's debutant centre half Jonathon Smith making an ill-advised challenge on Tracey just inside the box.

From the vantage point of the Bus Shelter Stand it appeared that no contact had been made, opinion from elsewhere in the ground said there was but that's football - things often look different depending on where you're stood. For example, if you're watching things from the dugout we've only played two and a half bad matches this season.

Paul Palmer stepped up to take the resultant penalty and calmly dispatched the ball past Danny Trueman to give The Blues the lead. Five minutes later it was two and Mossley's molehill had become a mountain.

Another atypical Mossley defensive howler brought about by our teams inability to communicate with one another allowed Frickley's number nine Mark Ward to break down the right. Cutting in to the corner of the box he unleashed an astonishing curling shot that bent round Trueman, and two other defenders that had managed to get back, to nestle in the bottom left corner of the goal. It may have been a strike that would put the game beyond Mossley but even the home fans had to applaud the effort.

With a two goal lead comfortably under their belts Frickley were more than content to sit back and soak up whatever Mossley's attack could throw at them. And for fifteen minutes either side of the interval they were able to do so without even working up so much as a sweat.

Thankfully that changed when the introductions of Steve Burke and Lee Shillitoe (the latter at the expense of an unfortunate Christian Cooke who'd picked up an injury in a battling midfield role), and the positional reshuffle it necessitated, put some life back into the corpse that was Mossley as an attacking unit. Suddenly Frickley were being made to work for their three points.

James Turley dropped a free-kick onto the crossbar, Peter Wright brought a flying save out of Hood and Steve Burke saw an effort headed off the line after Hood had finally been beaten. The sustained spell of pressure paid off with quarter of an hour to go when Peter Wright finally managed to lose his marker and slip the ball under Hood to halve the deficit.

Even with the dismissal of Gary Furnival on 80 minutes (his two yellow cards both shown for pulling back an opponent who'd beaten him for speed) Mossley continued to press in search of an equalizer. And with seven minutes remaining on the clock, a defenders attempt to use Peter Wright as a step ladder gave them the chance to draw level from the spot. Up stepped Chris Ward and down went Jon Hood to his left to push the ball away and preserve Frickley's lead.

Through the murk you just make out the hopes of Mossley's supporters about to be dashed for another week.

The referee may as well have whistled for full time there and then as the miss (the Lilywhite's third from the spot this season) not only blew the wind out of Mossley's sails but chopped the mast into firewood too. As what little time there was left slowly ebbed away, the visitors once again reasserted their stranglehold in defence, leaving Mossley with not even scraps to feed on in an an effort to salvage a point.

It goes without saying that we deserved something out of this game. Unfortunately you aren't rewarded in football for pressure and possession, only goals, so Frickley head back to South Yorkshire with all three points having done nothing more than take their chances when they arose and defended stoutly. No doubt there'll be the usual claims about a lack of luck but the reality is that it's skill, resilience and nous that we need to win matches. No team three places and three points off the bottom of the league by the midway point of a season have been there because they've been 'unlucky.'

It's not all bad news though, the points we should have got helps us to strengthen our position in the imaginary league our manager has us in fourth place in.

Let's hope that the improvement seen yesterday isn't another false dawn because if it is another line in Black Parade will start to become increasingly more pertinent: "the underworld is waiting."

Chip Wrappers: 08/12/2006

Maybe it's a penance for the embarrassment of last weeks 'big story' (see here if you don't know what it was) but for the first time this season there's nothing Stalybridge Celtic related on the back page of The Reporter.

Have they finally realised that no news from Bower Fold isn't necessarily a bad thing and that the world will keep on turning, or will we be treated next week to the exclusive - 'Celtic Get Phone Bill!' with a quote from the postman who delivered it and a potted history of British Telecom to beef it up a bit? I can't wait to find out!

Actually, on second thoughts, I can.

Quite rightly, given their recent form, the biggest football story on the back of the paper is devoted to Curzon Ashton. Following Mike Norton and Steve Moore winning the league's Player of the Month awards for September and October respectively, Gary Lowe has been awarded with the Manager of the Month for November. Or as their chairman Harry Galloway puts it:

"Last season we awarded the inaugral Groundtastic Award... Now this!"

On the back of the Advertiser, one local manager is having a go at his team for the manner of their defeat last weekend.

"(the) players let me down and themselves down, but most of all, they let the supporters down who all paid good money to go and watch them."

Hyde manager Steve Waywell (you didn't think it was our manager did you?) goes on to say:

"Ninety per cent of the players do prepare themselves properly, it’s the other 10 per cent who aren’t and it’s not good enough. I need to sort those players out."

Assuming he's including the substitutes, that 10% amounts to 1.4 players which raises a few interesting questions. 1) Where do you get two fifths of a player from and 2) how long do you think it will before Mr 0.4 is spearheading Mossley's long ball attack?

Both local papers carry reports on Mossley's game at Matlock but some reason, they've both been cut short. Orph's piece in the Reporter is missing the closing paragraphs, as is Graham Mather's in the Advertiser along with the final third of the game which included two goals. Do editors think we don't notice these things? The Advertiser doesn't seem to have a problem editing Graham Shuttleworth's Curzon Ashton reports without cutting out goals (his unedited piece appears in The Reporter) so why Mossley? Do the sub-editors hold a grudge?

On to the FC United of Manchester Evening News where Stuart Brennan's latest bum licking in-depth story centres on an interview with FC Hypocrites' defender Rob Nugent:

"I have been a United fan since I was a little lad, but have become disillusioned with the way the club, and Premiership football in general, is going. It all came to a head with Glazer and his debt, but there are a lot of different issues such as unaffordable prices, not being able to take kids, and the atmosphere."

However, the article began with:

Rob Nugent is aiming for a big Red double on Saturday - by cheering Manchester United to derby victory and then putting on his boots to keep FC United on course for FA Vase glory. The 23-year-old defender... will be forced to miss most of the second half of the lunchtime Old Trafford clash with the Blues in order to prepare for the visit of Quorn to Gigg Lane.

"I will be getting to Gigg Lane earlier than usual to watch the derby in the social club," said the FC central defender, who signed up to join the rebel club on the day of its inception. "But I will have to tear myself away for the manager's pre-match team talk, so will miss most of the second half. I just hope United can beat City and then we can make our fans doubly happy by seeing off Quorn."

Obviously not that disillusioned then, eh? Like nearly everybody else associated with the club it appears he wants to have his cake and eat it.

On the subject of which, I'm going to try and get permission to run an article that appeared elsewhere regarding the FCUB bandwagon which sums their attitude up better than I ever could. So, fingers crossed, that may appear here soon.

Till next week...

Frickley Are Coming! Possibly...

If the weather forecast for the next few days is correct there's a very good chance that Saturday's game will be added to the 'to be arranged' list that sits beneath the fixtures in the programme. So, with this in mind, the normal preview of upcoming games is going to be somewhat shorter:

Frickley - playing well.
Mossley - playing badly.

Well perhaps not that short.

After a dodgy start to the season, during which time they lost their manager to Grantham Town, Frickley have started to look like the side that finished second in the league last season and are slowly climbing the table.

A midweek win over Witton Albion saw them hit ninth spot in the league, a whole eleven places above where we currently reside. A position that isn't bad for a team that already has losses into double figures in the league this season (them, not us). The Yorkshire side have managed to claim 14 of the last 24 points on offer to them (four wins and two draws) whilst Mossley have reaped just three, all coming from draws.

History-wise, it's been fourteen years since we last played Athletic in the league and eighteen years since we last beat them at Seel Park. More recently though we played them in the 2000/01 FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round when we were unlucky to draw 0 - 0 at home (Mike Garside missing a completely open goal in the closing stages of the match) but well beaten in extra-time in the replay at Westfield Lane.

Prediction: I'm confident that Mossley will be unbeaten this weekend, even if it is only through the game being called off! Seriously though, I think that last Saturday may have finally hammered home the fact that we're in serious danger of the drop and players playing out of position and form may not be the best way to address the slide. Then again, there's no accounting for stubbornness.

Matlock Town 4 - 1 Mossley

Like a fair few other Mossley supporters we were late arriving at the game due to the horrendous amount of traffic on the roads between Mossley and Matlock (and the complete lack of parking anywhere near our eventual destination) and it’s fair to say we all left Derbyshire wondering why on earth we make the effort.

Apparently the ten minutes of the match that we’d missed were “uneventful” but it soon transpired that Matlock were simply waiting for the majority of the visiting supporters to turn up before setting about winning the game, which you have to say was very considerate of them

Even though Mossley were employing a defensive 4-5-1 formation, one they’ve used to varying degrees of success this season (i.e. not much), the ease with which Matlock were finding and exploiting gaps was frightening. With little attempt being made to stop their advances up the pitch, particularly from a visiting midfield that appeared to be operating on a different plane of existence such was their anonymity, the home side were able to knock the ball around on a difficult surface with impunity. And with Mossley opening up and letting them in more often than a workaholic prostitute, it was quickly becoming a question of when and not if Matlock would score.

That they didn’t take the lead earlier than they did was down to a combination of poor finishing, luck and Danny Trueman; the Mossley keeper producing a superb flying save to keep out a thunderous volley after the ball had rebounded off a post. It only delayed the inevitable for sixty seconds though as the Mossley defence found itself outnumbered once again and Ian Holmes fired a low shot into the back of the net from just outside the box. Twenty minutes gone and our 'nil-nil' gameplan was screwed.

Any galvanising effect the goal may have had on Mossley’s attacking play certainly wasn’t visible to the naked eye. As with so many other games this season, Mossley's Plan A was to bombard their lone striker with long balls not just from the back but, incredibly this time, the halfway line too. All you could hear as players whacked the ball into the air towards him (sometimes stood no more than ten yards away) was the collective sound of Mossley supporter’s jaws hitting the ground.

The departure of Gary Furnival through injury forced Mossley into a defensive reshuffle with Christian Cooke slotting in at right back - the novelty of a right back actually playing in that position not lost on the Lilywhite supporters in attendance. On the half hour mark the much needed change of formation occured and Lee Shillito's introduction at the expense of Joel Pilkington saw Mossley move to a 4-4-2. Pilkington can consider himself unlucky to be sacraficed, particularly as he was no worse than the four other people playing in midfield along side him, giving some weight to the terrace murmurs that the 'name' players are not only guaranteed a starting berth (no matter what form they or the players they're replacing are in) but are undroppable too.

What Mossley needed to show was some fight and all credit to them - they did. Unfortunately it was amongst themselves.

Peter Wright was on the receiving end of a verbal volley from a team mate who felt that, despite being the sides solitary attacking player, not only should he be wining the ball in the air but bringing it down, controlling it, keeping it and looking to play in others; all whilst holding off the attentions of an opposition defence considerably bigger than him and with no-one busting a gut to support him.

Can you figure out why the long ball to a lone striker didn't work at Matlock? If so, send your answers to the "Well, duhhh!" competition, c/o the managers office, Seel Park, etc.

With eight minutes of the half remaining, Lee Shillito cut in from the right, beat two men and forced Matlock's keeper into a save with Mossley's first shot of the game. With the suopporters applauding his efforts it was the former Leigh RMI man's turn to receive the irate attentions of some players in white shirts - telling him in no uncertain terms what he should have done instead. Despite the best efforts of the fans and Melford Knight to calm things down, a delay in the game caused things to bubble away for longer than it should have done. You expect disagreements from time to time on the football field but some of the things witnessed in this game were indicative that something's not well in the camp.

There was further evidence of this after the interval. Even though Mossley had actually gone in at the break having improved slightly, their body language as they left the changing rooms for the second half instilled no hope amongst the fans now gathered at the Town End of the ground; walking out slowly with their gazes fixed firmly on their feet they already looked a beaten side.

Within five minutes of the restart the home side to doubled their lead. Once again slack marking and a failure to close opponents down allowed Gary Webster to cross from the right and Kris Bowler hit the ball perfectly on the volley, sending the shot across Danny Trueman and into the bottom right hand corner.

Mossley were making a little headway down the right through the attacking runs of Cooke and Shillito but it was still something of a surprise when the visitors got themselves back into the game on the hour mark. Knight won the ball five yards outside the Matlock box, played in Danny Meadowcroft (the centre half making the kind of run that other players should have been doing) and with a series of headed one-twos Mossley broke open the Town defence. The ball eventually found its way to Peter Wright whereupon Mossley’s top scorer hammered the ball past Richmond with a spectacular scissors kick from eight yards. A goal worthy of a better game.

The dreams of an unlikely point were to be short lived though. Some will point to another enforced change in the defence as the reason why Matlock were allowed to cement the three points with two more unanswered goals, but the truth is that we'd lost what little momentum and shape we had almost immediately after we'd scored. That third goal came with twenty minutes to og when a sloppy Mossley pass on the edge of Matlock’s box was cleared downfield. With the Lilywhite’s defence nowhere to be seen, Trueman had no option but to race out of his box and try and win the ball. He tried and he didn't; Mossley's number one coming off second best in the aerial challenge giving Tom Cahill the easiest chance he’ll ever have – a thirty yard run to an open goal with no-one in pursuit.

Two minutes (and numerous good chances) later a corner from the right was stabbed into Mossley’s goal by Barraclough at the back post and it was game over. Trueman was called into action to deny what looked like a certain fifth (and third in four minutes) for the home side when he was faced with two forwards bearing down him, but Mossley can be thankful to their hosts for wasting countless opportunities in the final quarter of an hour for not returning home having been on the end of a real hammering.

As the game entered the closing stages Mossley made one final contribution to the day's events when a truly awful lunge by Neil Brisco on his opposite instigated a mass bout of handbags in the centre of the pitch. Astonishingly the initial challenge was deemed only worthy of a yellow card by the referee, thereby crossing off "we don’t get any luck" from the list of excuses for our current predicament.

In case the above report gives any impression otherwise - this was bad, extraordinarily so. Getting something out of the game was always going to be a tall order but the lack of fight and desire in some quarters was horrific for a side that's facing the very real threat of relegation.

That's not to say that we don't have players who've got the stomach for a fight, we do. the problem is that they're either being played out of position or not played at all. Take the subs bench in this game for example. Cooke, Shillito and Burke were all playing well in the first team until being dropped, so what kind of message does that send out to the other players if good form is no guarantee that you're going to keep your place in the team?

Personally speaking I'm convinced that players are being picked to fit a system rather than building the other way round and if we are it's no wonder we're in the position we're in.

We're in December, just short of having played half our league games, the team has undergone two major restructurings since the summer (along with a countless number of tinkerings), we've used 37 different players and we're in worse shape than we were in August. Add to that the fact we've become frighteningly reliant on short term loan signings and that even with an ultra defensive formation we look like conceding goals for fun I remain, presumably like many others, to be convinced that there's some kind of plan or knowhow to get us out of this position.

It's all very well saying "give it time" or " there's still time" but there comes a point where a decision has to be made one way or the other. Does the water really have to be lapping our ears before we realise we're in danger of drowning.

Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh! etc.

A report on the latest instalment in Mossley's headlong, "the brakes have gone" drive towards the Unibond First Division will be posted on the blog over the course of the next day or two.

Chip Wrappers: 01/12/2006

Every week I read the papers and worry that there'll not be enough material to make the next edition of Chip Wrappers worthwhile. However, come Thursday morning and all of those thoughts are banished as the The Reporter arrives and this week has been no different.

It was seriously looking like the review of the papers would be taking a week off, especially as the postponement of last Saturday's game meant there'd be next to no coverage of Mossley, but lo and behold, The Reporter rides to the rescue like a paper based 7th Cavalry.

I'd previously thought that the nadir of local newspaper reporting had been reached a couple of years ago when the paper felt that Stalybridge Celtic deciding not to buy a turnstile from Blackpool FC was a back page story. No more though because, as unbelievable as it may seem, it has somehow managed to make that story look like the scoop of the century.

The main story on the back page of this week's Reporter is, in brief:

Stalybridge Celtic's next opponents in the league, Worcester City, sent their assistant manager to Bower Fold last Tuesday to watch their FA Trophy game.

Yep, that's it! That's what the paper feels is the major sports story in the area this week.

Now you're probably thinking that you can't possibly make a lengthy article with a story as flimsy as that and you're right - you can't, which is why the paper has padded it out with a rundown of the assistant manager's playing history in the Football League. As always there's a quote:

A Celtic supporter said: "He was at Bower Fold on Tuesday and was seen taking copious notes on Celtic's performance."

Is it just me or does the above quote make it seem like the entire story is based on a brief conversation had in the Reporter offices on Wednesday morning? Or would it make more sense if instead of 'A Celtic supporter said' it went, 'The Reporter's sports editor who was sat at Stalybridge's game on Tuesday desperately thinking of something for his papers weekly Celtic puff piece said'?

Whatever it was it's done nothing to dissuade those who feel the paper has such a pro-Stalybridge agenda that it's bordering on being an extension of the programme. In fact it only goes to reinforce those beliefs.

At least the paper appear to have listened to some supporters who've been in contact with them because the Unibond Premier Division league table printed in this weeks paper actually resembles the real one. In fact that's more of a story than the one they've actually led with.

This week we've gone a bit 'Have I Got News For You' because we have a guest publication - The Matlock Mercury, the local paper of this coming Saturday's opponents, in which Matlock's joint manager Phil Brown is giving his views on the game at the weekend:

"They may have only won something like four out of nineteen games but they've had a couple of decent results of late and are battling for points."
Ignoring that the addition of 'something like' actually makes our record of four league wins this season sound even worse, a couple of decent results of late? Perhaps, if what you mean by couple is one - a draw against Hednesford.

"We know from past experience that there are no easy games in this league."
Was he not at the game at Seel Park in September when Matlock won 3 - 0 then?

In the cut and thrust of non-league football some stories tend to fall along the wayside and go unnoticed by a lot of people and one of those stories is the departure of Ernie Moss and his assistant from Belper Town. In an effort to clear up the confusion as to whether he was pushed or jumped, the Non-League Paper went straight to Moss to hear about what happened straight from the horses mouth:

"We weren't sacked and we didn't quit."
Well, that clears that up then.

But we finish on a quote from Mossley's manager, taken from the Oldham Chronicle's preview of tomorrow's game in Derbyshire. Talking about the game at Seel Park in September against the same opponents:

“We didn’t perform that night and it was the only time this season we have been outplayed"
And on that 'completely ignoring all those other games' bombshell we end this edition of Chip Wrappers.

Off to: Matlock

It has been 13 years since Mossley last visited Matlock's Causeway Lane ground and it's fair to say that with relegations and promotions for both sides, a lot has happened since then. Not least the fact that Matlock no longer play at Causeway Lane but at the Geoquip Stadium; The Gladiators becoming one of the latest clubs to have succumbed to the lure of renaming their ground in exchange for a thirty pieces of silver from a sponsor.

Still, the Geoquip Stadium is not too bad considering some of the new names grounds have been christened with in the past but I've always wondered why, when they're nicknamed The Gladiators, they never called their home The Colosseum. Whilst we're on the subject of Roman names, I believe there's no truth in the rumours currently flying about that Mossley are changing Seel Park to Circus Maximus to reflect on our home form this season.

No matter what the name of the ground is though, Mossley have a pretty decent record when it comes to playing Matlock in Derbyshire. Out of the 21 previous league games played there both teams have won eight times with Mossley returning home victorious after their last two visits.

Unfortunately the recent history between the two sides is slightly more concerning for the Lilywhite's with Town having already picked up an easy three points off Mossley back in September with a comfortable 3 - 0 win.

At the moment Matlock currently lie fourteen places above us in sixth position, having amassed more than twice as many points from the same number of games too. But there are two reasons why there's hope for Mossley this weekend; the first is that they're performing better (albeit ever so slightly) away from home this season and, secondly, so are Matlock (again, albeit ever so slightly).

Since beating Ossett on the first Tuesday in October The Gladiators have only picked up one win at home in all competitions. However they do enter this game on the back of two impressive away performances at Kendal and North Ferriby where they won 5 - 1 and 2 - 0 respectively.

That first Tuesday in October is also significant for Mossley as it was the date of their last victory in the league. In the two months that have passed since that win against Whitby, Mossley have managed to accrue three points out of a possible eighteen, although two-thirds of those points were picked up 'on the road'.

Prediction: There's no question that the last seven days haven't been good for Mossley. With no game over the past week not only did Mossley lose ground on the teams directly above them, victories for Radcliffe and Grantham saw the Lilywhites pulled further into the relegation quicksand. All of which increases the pressure on Mossley to finally start stringing a series of positive results together.

And (call me crazy) but I think they'll extend their unbeaten streak in the league to two, adding to the point picked up at Hednesford with another at the Geoquip Stadium. In fact I have a funny feeling in my stomach that we'll pick up the full three points on offer. On the other hand, it could just be wind.

Mossley P - P Leek Town

With Mossley’s game at home to Leek surprisingly falling foul of the weather in a remarkably early pitch inspection, it was off to the Tameside (spit) Stadium for those of us desperate to fill up a blank Saturday afternoon with a game of football, in order to watch Curzon Ashton take on Atherton LR. And it appeared that quite a few other people without a game to go to had had the same idea too judging by the crowd figure of 162 (which included ten Mossley supporters), an increase of over 50% on the attendance for Curzon’s last game.

Once the teams had made their way onto the pitch to the sound of Gary Glitter (!?), there was a presentation of a silver salver to Curzon defender David Birch to commemorate his 250th game for the club; an event which led to the visiting Lilywhites commenting on whether Mossley’s squad would get the same if they manage 25 games for the club. Sarcasm or satire? You decide.

As for the game, once Mike Norton had opened the scoring for the home side in the fourteenth minute the result was never in question, the match becoming the one way affair that 7-0 drubbings tend to be.

It was also the second time in successive weeks that Curzon had hit seven goals at home which takes some doing. However because the opposition has been so poor in both matches it's very hard to judge how good Curzon actually are. They do have some good movement off the ball and they like to keep it on the deck but that's more than balanced out by a defence who have the charming habit of running into one another and then falling over. Really, it was like a vaudeville routine.

Fortunately for Curzon on Saturday L.R.'s attack had all the cutting edge of an inflatable banana. In fact it was somewhat comforting to note watching L.R. that (even with my bad back, a complete lack of fitness and no discernible football skills whatsoever) there's still a chance I could make a go of it as a footballer in the NWCL.

Chip Wrappers: 24/11/2006

Football takes something of a back seat in the local papers this week as the back pages of both the Reporter and Advertiser are dominated by the announcement that Ricky Hatton will be fighting in Las Vegas in January.

It hasn't stopped the Reporter from finding enough space to print the ubiquitous Stalybridge Celtic story though, but the paper does deserve some credit for getting Forrest Gump to do the match report on the Hinckley - Stalybridge game:

"Watching Stalybridge Celtic is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get"

Surely a better analogy would be: "Watching Stalybridge Celtic is like a box of chocolates; nicely packaged but ridiculously poor value for money and may contain nuts."

Whilst I'm on the subject of the Reporter, after printing an accurate Unibond Premier league table last week for the first time in ages, they've inexplicably gone back to publishing the woefully inaccurate one again. I honestly don't think that the worlds greatest minds could explain the logic behind some of the decisions made in the offices on Acres Lane.

You may have noticed a lack of Mossley related stories today and that's because there hasn't been any - until today (Friday).

This afternoon an interview with new Chorley manager Gerry Luzcka on the Hawksbee and Jacobs show on TalkSPORT revealed this little bon mot: before being made manager at Victory Park he was our scout! You see, you learn something new everyday.

And finally, they say a week's a long time in politics but it appears that football's the same:

"It's too early to be worried about league positions, whatever Saturday's result was, it wasn't going to determine our position in the league come the end of the season."
Jason Beckford - Tameside Reporter, 16/11/2006

"It is a big game - a proverbial six-pointer."
Jason Beckford - Oldham Chronicle, 24/11/2006

Till next week...

Leek Town Are Coming!

Where would we be without Leek Town? Well, one place nearer the bottom for a start, but this Saturday we welcome the Staffordshire side to Seel Park for the first time in almost 14 years for the game everyone's been waiting for. Yes, it's the BIG one:

The team with the worst home record in the league versus the team with the worst away record in the league.

It's hardly a unique selling point that will lead to long queues forming at the turnstiles but you've got to admit that, for a neutral supporter at least, there's a certain morbid curiosity about two of the worst teams facing off against one another.

Even though we haven't yet reached December there's no denying the importance that this fixture already holds. A victory for Leek will suck Mossley further into the quicksand at to the foot of the table, whilst a win for the home side will leave the visitors nine points adrift of not only safety but the 'test your luck' position of fourth bottom as well. And if it’s a draw neither side will really be happy...

To say that both sides enter the match on a run of poor form would be something of a gross understatement: Mossley and Leek haven't won in the league for seven and six games respectively; Saturday's visitors have only managed one point and four goals in their ten games 'on the road' so far this season; Mossley on the other hand have conceded more goals at home than anyone else and haven't scored a goal in open play for 338 minutes.

Town however do have history on their side as in the previous six league meetings between the two teams they've won three and lost only once. In fact their last visit to Seel Park in the 92/93 season saw them head back to Harrison Park with three points following a remakably comfortable 4-0 win.

Prediction: It's a must-win for the Lilywhite's and I'm certain that it's a target they'll have achieved come 5:50 on Saturday afternoon.

Hednesford Town 0 - 0 Mossley

With Mossley having travelled to the bright lights of South Staffordshire to take on Hednesford, it was decided that Curzon Ashton would be the lucky recipients of the spare change that a couple Lilywhite supporters, desperate for a game, now had.

"Why Curzon though?" is a question that none of you are probably thinking of but I'm going to answer it anyway. First of all, having never been to their new ground it was a chance to see what all the fuss is about. Secondly, it was an opportunity to see a team I'd never seen before in NECL side Parkgate. Thirdly, it was a cup match (the Vase to be exact). And finally, with not wanting to spend a small fortune to watch either Hyde or Droylsden, the only other option was Woodley and having seen them twice already over the past three weeks we were in grave danger of becoming "regular" supporters, so Curzon it was.

There's no denying the fact that the Tameside Stadium is nice (which is the least it should be for £3m) but it's a soulless place. Even though they've played at the ground since it opened last year there's little to suggest that Curzon Ashton actually do reside there; the only branding being the TMBC lettering emblazoning the seats in the main stand.

Another notable feature of the ground is the complete lack shelter afforded to spectators. There may be two huge stands but with no sides, and being north/south facing, they actually act as a funnel for the winds that whip across what’s left of Ashton Moss; the effect being that low winter temperatures become even colder, making the supporters envious of the hot water bottles all the Curzon substitutes were carrying around with them.

The Vase campaign captures the attention of the Ashton public.

Despite the eventual 7-1 score line in the home teams favour, the game itself was nothing special. The opening few minutes promised a humdinger of a cup tie when everyone on the pitch, barring the two keepers, became embroiled in a mass hand bag melee. The catalyst for the incident was an obvious stamp by Curzon’s right back on a prone Parkgate player, but the expected red card amazingly never came and from that point on Curzon never looked back; outclassing their opponents in midfield and attack (though more than matching them for a dodgy defence), limiting the visitor’s to a solitary goal that was sandwiched between Ashton’s sixth and seventh.

Unfortunately it did mean that we had to endure “I Feel Good” blaring out of the PA system seven times, proving that not even the lower levels of the football pyramid are immune from the encroachment of totally unnecessary gimmicks to the game. Worse was to follow once the Yorkshire scored when a, good thirty seconds after the game had restarted, a filling rattling cry of “Oh no!” screamed out of the speakers. It might have been a novel idea when Piccadilly Radio played it in the 80’s every time a local side conceded a goal, but what on earth does it (and James Brown for that matter) bring to the non-league game?

The arrival of half-time (it was 3-0 at this point) meant that not only could we take some warmth out of a cup of tea from a flask but also catch up on Mossley’s exploits in Cannock via the medium of the mobile phone. What follows is the actual conversation that took place:

[brrrr-brrrr, brrrr-brrrr] (That's not actually the sound of the phone ringing but the noise my lips were making due the cold.)


"Kyzpk!" So terse was the reply I thought I'd phoned someone in Eastern Europe by mistake until I realised that what the man on the other end of the line was saying was Keys Park.

"Err, Hello. Could you tell me what the current score is please?" I asked.

"The score?" came the reply, intoned in much the same manner as the initial answer to Oliver Twist’s request for more gruel was.

"Yes, the half-time score please."

"It's nil... ... ... niiiiiiiiiiiiil."

"Okay. Thank you."

"Where are you from?"

"Pardon?" Not only had the question took me by surprise (it’s something not normally asked when you ring up for a score) but the aggressive way in which it was delivered had too.

"Where ARE you from?"

"Mossley." I mistakenly answered, when what I should have actually said was “It’s none of you’re fricking business!”

"Wha... wh... eh?" he stammered, no doubt listening to the voice in his head going ‘does not compute!’


"What do you mean you..."


I’m almost certain that when I put the phone down his head exploded, because he definitely seemed to be struggling with the concept that somebody from Mossley might not actually be at the game. So if it you were at Hednesford on Saturday and heard a loud pop at around 3:55pm, you now know what it was.

The second half continued from where the first had left off (only much, much colder) with the only question that now needed answering being not who’d win but how many the home side would score. And if truth be told Curzon should have got a lot more than seven they ended up with.

The trouble with one sided games though is that they, for the neutral at least anyway, tend to become a bit dull and this match was no exception. Even as the goals flew, bobbled and ricocheted in our attention was drawn to more pressing concerns such as the weather, shoes and the actual names of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (not War, Famine, etc. but their actual birth certificate names, and if anyone knows them please don’t hesitate to get in touch).

Once the referee had brought a halt to proceedings, the only thing remaining was to phone up Hednesford and undergo another interrogation from Cannock’s very own Torquemada. Or at least I would have done if he (or anyone else for that matter) had bothered to answer the phone. After ten minutes, my gloveless fingers couldn’t take the cold anymore so I resigned myself to the belief that no news is good news; which it was (sort of) when I eventually found out at 9:00pm that Mossley had drawn.

News as to when the open top bus ride to show off the point takes place will be on here as soon as I get it. Only joshing everyone… onwards and upwards, etc.

Breaking News: 20/11/2006

Off To: Fleetwood

Our campaign in the third most important cup competition begins on the Fylde coast as we make the first of our two trips this season to Fleetwood.

It was 1989 when the two sides last met in the League Cup and, despite it being the final of the competition at Manchester City's Maine Road ground, the football almost became secondary to events that were happening off the pitch. That night the back of the Main Stand became a war zone as people masquerading as supporters of both clubs engaged in running battles with one another throughout the entirity of the game.

The real fans sat at the front of the stand, desperately trying to concentrate on the game as the police moved in to attempt quell the chaos behind them, weren't given much to cheer about in a match enlivened only by the three goals scored - Mossley getting two to Fleetwood's one.

The trouble meant that the fans who'd followed Mossley's peculiar path to the final (having been knocked out in the first round, the Lilywhite's were reinstated after Barrow were found to have fielded an ineligible player) were denied the opportunity to see the trophy being presented to captain Dave Martin after the decision was made to do it in private. All that was left was for the subdued supporters to make their way home (with a less than necessary police escort) and read the "How could they?" editorial on the front of the next day's Manchester Evening News which attempted to draw some ridiculous parallels between what happened at Maine Road and the Hillsborough disaster which had occured three days previously.

Since then though ties between the two clubs have grown stronger and games between the two sides have become friendlier affairs, if only on the terraces! Fleetwood currently have ex-Mossley forward Phil Denney leading their line and Stuart Barlow in their squad so it's probably odds on that one or both will score; Barlow in particular seems to find the net every time he plays against us. However both teams enter this Second Round tie on the back of a less than sparkling run of form though both did pick up a good point apiece away from home at the weekend so all's not lost for the Lilywhites.

Prediction: A win? Why not? The law of averages and all that.

Chip Wrappers: 17/11/2006


That was the sound I made as I keeled over backwards in a state of shock after glimpsing the back page of this week's Reporter:

For the first time this season (not including the couple of sentences mentioning us in the preview of the new campaign) not only have we made the the back of the paper but we're the main story too. And it makes for some interesting reading.

Below are some of the quotes directly attributed to Mossley's manager that have been taken from the article:

"There's a lot of football to (be) played and I'm confident our luck will change."

"Saturday was a game of missed chances, on another day we could have had four or five, but the longer the game went on, the more you realised it wasn't going to be our day."

"To be honest we looked a little lightweight in central midfield. The new signings need time to settle in."

"I'm confident we've got the quality, it's whether we've got the strength of character now, and I think we have."

"We are looking to the experienced players like Eyresy (David Eyres) to help one or two young signings that, over time, will make us better."

""There is one area of the squad we might be looking at strengthening... ... but I'm happy with the group of players I have got."

"It's too early to be worried about league positions, whatever Saturday's result was, it wasn't going to determine our position in the league come the end of the season."

"We've made the necessary changes and we're in a situation now where we need people to be strong, and if that happens, I'm sure we'll be fine."

I'm not sure our current predicament is solely down to a lack of luck (and a few of the other comments raise the odd eyebrow too) but I'm sure you'll all have your own thoughts about what is (or isn't) there.

And that's not the end of the good news in The Reporter because they've finally got round to printing a Unibond Premier League table that looks like the actual Unibond Premier League table! Wonders, cease, etc.

Over at the Advertiser they've given the majority of the back page over (quite correctly too) to Curzon's weekend game in the Vase against Parkgate. Next to it is a small article about Stalybridge Celtic's upcoming centenary. What it doesn't say though is whether it's to do with the club being 100 years old or what they expect their average gate to have dropped to within a couple of months (judging by recent trends).

Till next week...

Off To: Hednesford

This Saturday the enigma that is Mossley AFC travel to Cannock, South Staffordshire for their first, and some may say last, league match at Hednesford Town.

Those of you who've been following Mossley's season closely (well done for persevering with it so far if you have) will know that both sides have already met one another this year at Seel Park. A little over a month ago Mossley were desperately unlucky to take only a point out of the fixture after not only dominating the game but missing a last minute penalty too. I'd go into further detail but why bother when you can read about it here instead?

Cannock's most famous resident is Stan Collymore and if you want to meet the former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker, pull your car into a lay-by and within a couple of minutes 'Stan the Man's' face will be pressed up against a window whilst he vigourously looks for loose change in his trouser pocket.

Hednesford currently sit a whopping seventeen places above us in the table in second spot, having amassed
153% more points than our current total of 15. Things don't make for better reading form wise either. Over the course of the last six games Town have dropped only two out of a possible eighteen points and conceded only three goals. Mossley, on the other hand, have only managed to pick up two points out of the eighteen available, conceding an average of two goals per game in the process. However the two points Hednesford lost and half of the points Mossley won were courtesy of that October meeting at Seel Park.

It's not all bad news on the form front though. Radcliffe's defeat at Ashton last Monday meant that they became the 'second worst team at the moment' in the league, pushing Mossley up to third worst without the Lilywhite's having to kick a ball. Plus Hednesford's home form this season is inferior to their record on the road; their two league defeats having come at Keys Park.

Prediction: Call me crazy but I actually think the game is going to yield a very valuable three points for the Lilywhite's. Yes, I did see our last three games but I'm feeling incredibly optimistic about this one as Mossley have a habit of pulling off shock results. Look at last week if you want proof...

Finally, if anybody would be willing to a match report on this game for the blog I'd be very grateful. If you would, leave a message in the comments section below this entry or e-mail me at the usual address. Thank you.

Mossley 0 - 2 Kendal Town

I really don't want to start using the 'R' word, especially this early in the season, but with each passing game it's looking increasingly like our hopes for Premier Division survival are resting on the belief that there are four teams worse than us in the league. And if those four teams do exist the mind can only boggle at the thought of what the supporters at those clubs are having to watch.

That said, Mossley's performance against Kendal was certainly better than the one in the previous game against Cammell Laird, if only slightly. Unfortunately, this time around we weren't playing a side from a lower division but one in the same league as us. And one that hadn't won in the league since the beginning of September (whole eleven games ago) to boot.

The only other remotely positive point that can extracted from this game was that we didn't concede a last minute goal for the fifth game running - instead we conceded it on the stroke of half-time, an unmarked Foster hitting a superb strike past Danny Trueman from just outside the area. It's not as though the warning signs weren't there either because as early as the thirtieth second of the game Mossley's lax marking allowed Dodgson to shoot wide from a similar position, something which was to happen twice more in virtually identical circumstances before the visitors took the lead.

S-S-S-S-SCRAMBLE! James Turley tries to open up space for a shot.

At the other end of the field the home side were at least showing some promise with numerous goalmouth scrambles raising the excitement levels amongst the crowd. Sadly though Kendal's resolute defending meant that the Lilywhite's efforts to fire off the occassional clean shot were constantly being foiled by a body (or four) in a yellow shirt suddenly appearing between them and the goal in a desperate attempt to block the shots.

Mossley's best opening came when a mix-up between the Kendal keeper and his left back gave Lee Shillito the opportunity to curl the ball into an open goal from the corner of the box. Everyone in the ground watched the shot slowly made it's way towards goal only for the unnatural silence to be broken by the audible relief of the travelling supporters as the ball arced its way past the goal kick side of the post.

A case of counting chickens before they've hatched? Lee Shillito and James Turley prepare to celebrate as the formers shot curves towards the goal, only for the gods of football to intervene and flick it wide

The second half opened brightly for Mossley when Peter Wright fired a Shillito cross narrowly wide of the upright but the promise of a greater response to Kendal's goal on the stroke of the interval was not forthcoming. Instead, Mossley's continuing desire to pump the ball as high and as far up the pitch as they could to their diminutive front men meant that not only were they constantly turning over possession, but the visitors complete dominance in the centre of the pitch meant that they couldn't win it back. Thereby allowing Town to not only control the game but adding an air of inevitability to their second goal too.

That it came as late as the 75th minute was something of a shock, which is more than can be said for the method in which it was scored. In time honoured tradition (well, for this season anyway) Mossley's inability to defend the left hand side allowed Dodgson to run three quarters of the length of the pitch unimpeded before picking out Warren Beattie who applied the finishing touch. Yep, things are so bad at Mossley now that I can't even be bothered to do a laboured gag about being scored on by Warren Beattie.

Maybe it was the prospect of losing by more than one goal that did it but the last ten minutes saw Mossley click into life once more. A shot from outside the box by David Eyres sent Thompson scrambling across his goal line to make his first save of the half and James Turley crashed a free kick against the angle of post and crossbar from a free-kick.

Thompson goes full stretch to keep out Eyres's second half daisy cutter

The Cumbrians were still a threat at the other end though and for every effort that Mossley created, Kendal went close to increasing their lead. Both sides traded disallowed goals as the match drew to a close but the sound of the final whistle was greeted with the same enthusiasm by both sets of supporters: Kendal's for the win and Mossley's because the game was finally over.

Much is bound to be made of the suspensions to Melford Knight and Chris Ward, but it's not as though the news they wouldn't be playing was sprung on us prior to kick-off. It's been two weeks since they were both shown the red card at Ossett, a period of time in which we've managed to sign two centre halves (with the fate of a third still pending) but not significantly strengthened an area of the team that's been weak all season.

Speaking of centre halves, Gary Furnival has been a great signing for the club, as shown by some outstanding displays in the centre of our defence. So the question has to be asked as to why the management decided to put him at left back where he was horribly exposed? Okay, we've signed two central defenders on loan but does that mean we have to destroy the confidence of our in-form players by shuffling them around to accommodate short term loan deals? Never mind, eh? Who cares about team morale when putting square pegs in round holes has worked so well this season?

The 'long ball' was once again back with a vengeance but as its been mentioned elsewhere on the information super highway, this is apparently down to scared players lumping it forward rather than any pre-ordained plan. Something which begs the question, What are they frightened of? The players certainly haven't been on the end of any wrath from the terraces and it doesn't explain why experienced players are doing the same.

I honestly thought we'd win on Saturday. Even when were one down midway through the second period I was confident that the team would 'click' and that we'd at least get a point but, as with so many other games earlier in the seasion, the 'click' didn't happen till it was too late.

A visual metaphor if ever there was one. Kendal score their second and the drizzle turns into a torrential downpour. At least it stopped people from leaving early and missing out on the 'full' Mossley experience.

Kendal deserve plenty of credit for their performance: they kept their shape and got stuck in whilst we barely won balls that were 60/40 in our favour; we looked fairly timid even - a worry when we're about to face two of the leagues toughest sides. Still, it's often when you're at the lowest point that things take a turn for the better. Fingers crossed that this is the low point.

The Latest Odds

A match report for the Mossley- Kendal relegation six pointer will appear here on either Monday or Tuesday.

Chip Wrappers: 10/11/2006

The Reporter's obsession with sucking at the teat of Stalybridge Celtic means that once again their back page leads with a story about nothing. According to manager John Reed the upcoming Alfreton Town and Farsley Celtic matches "are two games that could determine our season."

Why those two? Why not the next four? In fact haven't the previous seventeen matches already determined already that the season is going to be a battle against relegation? And as if to rub it in that they'll print anything Celtic related, almost half the article is taken up with the playing history of the clubs latest jouneyman signing who appears to have nine clubs in six years. Something which I doubt would pique the interest of even the most committed Bower Fold fan.

Not that there's that many of them about nowadays judging by the crowd of just over 170 they got for their midweek Cheshire Senior Cup game against Witton Albion, and that's including the sizeable contingent brought by the visitors. Surely that's more newsworthy? In fact if you want a huge back page story for next week why not write an article explaining why The Reporter gives so much coverage to a side that isn't even the best supported team in the borough. There are 100's of people who'd love to read that one.

Still, at least they managed to dig up a rarely seen picture of the Celtic manager to accompany the story so this will be added to the Fantasy Photo League.

As will the image of Garry Kharas that sits atop the Ashton United - Gateshead report (something that wouldn't have been there had he not had his mug shot taken whilst at... that's right, Stalybridge).

Whilst we're on the subject, here's a run down of the totals so far since 26-10-2006:

As for the Advertiser, we've made the back page once again. This time it's about the signing of Fraser Robinson though it does take second place to a story regarding Steve Waywell's attempts to sign an, as of yet, unnamed midfielder; someone who the paper have dubbed in the headline as the 'Missing Link'. And there's me thinking Greg Challender had gone to Buxton.

Till next week.

Kendal Are Coming!

I know we have a reputation for being relatively magnanimous winners at Mossley but as it's the first opportunity we've had to do it, wouldn't it be good to have a 'Bullseye' moment on Saturday? As our opponents line-up before kick-off Jim Bowen could walk on to the pitch and say, "Let's have a look at what you could have won!" At which point out come the Mossley team carrying the Unibond First Division trophy. Yes, Kendal are the visitors to Seel Park for the first meeting between the two sides since Mossley pipped them to the league title in the final game of last season.

With Mossley on the receiving end of a spanking at Gresley all Kendal had to do to claim the title was beat Shepshed at home. However their failure to do so not only meant missing out on the Championship but automatic promotion too as Fleetwood's goal blitz saw the Fylde coast club leapfrog them into second spot. How we laughed at when that news came through at Gresley whilst we were celebrating. All's well that ends well though as one week later victories over Stocksbridge and Gresley saw Kendal win the play-offs and gain promotion, which is the least they deserved for being there are thereabouts at the top of the league for most of the season.

Kendal got off to a fantastic start in the Unibond Premier but their last eight games or so has seen them sink like a stone with a series of awful results and performances, whereas Mossley on the other hand have managed to maintain a steady flow of mediocre results in the higher division; we're sort of like the tortoise to Kendal's hare in the race to avoid relegation.

The Cumbrian side currently lie one place and two points above Mossley in 18th place having played one game less. Away from Parkside Road they've managed to win just five out of a possible twenty one points, whilst Mossley's seven points from twenty four is the second worst home record in the league. Both sides were knocked out of the FA Trophy last Saturday by teams who'd just been promoted from the NWCL and Kendal also lost midweek in the league to Marine, though their forum is filled with posts praising their performance in the 2-0 defeat as the best in quite a while.

This match will be the first meeting between the two sides that hasn't taken place on a Tuesday night!

You'll sleep a lot better knowing that now, won't you?

At least this is a tie in which the Lilywhite's have recent history on their side with Kendal having failed to win any of the previous four meetings between the two sides; Mossley managing two wins and two draws over the past two seasons. In fact Mossley's record from when Kendal used to be Netherfield isn't too shabby either but unfortunately football isn't played in the pages of a history book. Unless the pages are really, really big that is...

Prediction: It may only be the beginning of November but this is surely Mossley's first 'must-win' game of the season. The fallout from a defeat, or even a draw, against the team with the worst form in the league would be unimaginable which is why I'm confident that it's going to be a win for Mossley, even accounting for the suspensions and the inevitable injury list.

Whether the match is going to be anything to write home about is another matter; with two of the worst performing teams in the league going head to head this is either going to be the best match we've seen this season or the absolute worst - with no inbetween. Lucky us, eh?