Mossley 1 - 1 Hednesford Town

The saying goes that there are two things definite in life - death and taxes. What nobody mentions is that there's actually a third: when things are bleak and high ranking opponents are next up - Mossley will rise to the occasion and won't lose. And what better way to confirm that theory than to play the joint league leaders after a thoroughly demoralising sequence of results?

A quick look at the scoreline will tell you that the hypothesis is still to be disproved but what it doesn't say is how close Mossley came to claiming all three points on offer. With a minute of normal time left and the scores level at one apiece, a reckless challenge on Peter Wright in the Hednesford box earned the home side a penalty. The jubilation on the terraces was quickly tempered as everyone began to remember Mossley's record at set pieces from twelve yards (one which makes England's look like Germany's), so when the Hednesford keeper dropped on Wright's weak spot kick there was a collective sigh of resignation from the home fans.

The penalty curse continues...

The miss was a launchpad for a frantic five minutes of injury time which saw the ball ping from one end to the other as the game suddenly became more open than it had been at any other time. That's not to say that the previous ninety minutes.were devoid of incident but moments of real excitement were few and far between.

In the fourth minute the Midlanders took the lead, which even at that early stage of the game was against the run of play. A sequence of corners for Mossley (one of which saw a Melford Knight header blocked on the line) ended with the ball being launched upfield, at which point the home defence proceeded to make a total cock-up of things. Like moths to a light bulb all of the defenders headed to where the clearance had landed and promptly gave the ball to Adams, the one opponent who was chasing them to it. Spotting that Dyer was now completely unmarked in the middle of Mossley's half, Adams played him in and the Hednesford number ten took the ball past Trueman before rolling the ball into an empty goal.

Thankfully that defensive mistake proved to be the last of the afternoon as Hednesford barely got within sight of goal again, though truthfully they didn't really put much effort into attempting to. They arrived at Seel Park with a reputation for being a physical team with a penchant for 'direct play' and it's safe to say that they left with that label still firmly attached. Whereas most teams in the position that Hednesford now found themselves in would have pushed on in order to wrap up the points as soon as possible, the Pitmen seemed perfectly content to just spend the remaining 86 minutes applying the 'big boot' to both the ball and their opponents.

When they managed to evade the flailing arms and legs Mossley got themselves into some promising positions, particularly through the work of debutant Lee Shillitoe down the right wing. Unfortunately everything fell apart when the play got near the box, either through a disappointing final ball or a lack of bodies in front of goal; cross after cross was fired in but nobody in a white shirt could get on the end of them.

It therefore came as something of a surprise that when the equaliser did arrive, it was fashioned out of nothing. Picking up a loose ball just inside the Hednesford half, loanee James Turley advanced forward before unleashing an effort from 25 yards that walloped against the cross bar, bounced on the line and into the roof of the net. Or as the commentary from the home crowd went: Yeeee-ohhhhh-aarrgghh-yesssssss!

James Turley draws the game level for Mossley

The second period saw Mossley dominate possession to such an extent that Hednesford barely got out of their own half. Like the first forty five minutes though they couldn't convert it into chances and, barring a corner which saw the ball bounce off the line and woodwork once again, Pitmen keeper Young had a relatively easy afternoon.

A gap in the visitors backline should have opened up on the hour mark when an incident which the rules of match reporting insist that I call handbags, took a turn for the worse. Wright and Henshaw were coming to the end of a game of push and shove when Town's giant centre half Jellicoe waded in and came within millimetres of connecting a swinging fist with the Mossley forwards chin. Instead of receiving an instant red card the referee unbelievably chose to continue the leniency he'd shown Hednesford all afternoon by only giving him a talking to.

However as the game neared its conclusion the referee had no option but to start flashing his cards about as Hednesford's attempts to break down Mossley's attacks were becoming increasingly more desperate and illegal; Pilkington and Shillitoe both on the receiving end of some particularly dangerous challenges from behind.

Hednesford's sole contribution to attempting to break the deadlock in the second period were a couple of weak attempts from distance, but after the drama of the penalty they actually made a concerted effort to win the game. There were a couple of heart in the mouth moments as Mossley survived a scramble in the box and a ludicrous offside decision that wasn't given (how can a player attempting to head the ball into the net in front of the keeper not be interfering with play?) before they had the last chance of the game. Substitute Joe Shaw picked up Steven Sheil's clearance from a corner, ran half the length of the pitch, worked an opening on the edge of the box but with only the keeper to beat he fired his effort into Saint Joseph's grounds.

This performance was a world away from last Tuesday's non-showing against Witton, something made all the more remarkable by the number of newbies in the team. If Mossley can continue to dominate games like they did this one then the fears of relegation will quickly subside but we have to start turning the possession into chances and goals. The real test comes in the next three games when we'll be facing opponents with a lot more fight (not in the fisticuffs sense of the word) in them than Hednesford showed.