Mossley 2 - 0 Whitby Town


I'm speechless. But in the good way though.

After spending one, long insomnia fueled night and any downtime time at work trying to think of an opening to this report, I gave up. Quite simply there was nothing I could come up with that would be of a suitable standard to do justice to Mossley's performance at Seel Park last night.

You'll be pleased to note that this means there are no lame jokes or puns so tortured that they're like an inmate of a Guantanemo Bay for humour. I also don't want to descend into hyperbole because, as good as we were, the display wasn't entirely without its niggles. But I will say that not only did it surpass any performance I've seen this season, it was also our best display since before Christmas last year.

So, with nothing of any real interest to open with I hope you don't mind if I just get on to

After spending the best part of this year bemoaning our reluctance to stamp our authority on games, especially at home, it was genuinely refreshing to see Mossley go for the metaphorical jugular straight from the off. In fact, such was Mossley's dominance in the first half that it would be quicker just to list the players who didn't have an effort at goal, so here goes:

Danny Trueman.
Gary Furnival.
That is all.

As the chances came and went last night I was increasingly regretting not bringing a notepad and pencil to the game to keep track, so I apologise in advance if some of what follows is not in chronological order.

Peter Wright had the majority of the early chances but none of them really stretched Campbell in the Whitby goal. The first person to do that Anthony Bingham who saw his cross cum shot tipped over for one of many corners that Mossley won over the course of the ninety minutes. Danny White, Terry Bowker, Steven Sheil and Melford Knight all went close to giving the Lilywhites the lead from one of these set-pieces and it was from a corner, midway through the half, that led to a lengthy goal mouth scramble. How the ball never went between the posts as the shots pinged around the six yard box is beyond me though Campbell does deserve credit for producing one excellent point blank save to deny Wright.

One of numerous first half goalmouth scrambles

Next up Andy Thackeray (for the first time this season getting forward regularly from his full back position) rode a series of challenges on the corner of the Whitby area before curling an effort inches wide of the far post; Campbell watching helplessly as the ball arced past him. Joe Shaw saw a long range effort almost catch out the Whitby keeper when it bounced wildly off the wet surface and Peter Wright, not realising the amount of time and space he had, snatched at a shot after being played in by Terry Bowker.

At the other end of the pitch the best the visitors could conjure up was a 25 yard effort that flew straight at Danny Trueman. That was until the half hour mark when for the first time in the game their attack outnumbered our defence. Instead of capitalising on their strength in numbers they proceeded to (for want of a better word) 'faff' around with the ball before wasting the opportunity with a weak effort from the edge of the box that Trueman dealt with comfortable.

Back came the Lilywhite's and the interplay between the midfield and attack carved out another series of openings which had the supporters putting their hands to their heads and exclaiming "Ooooo!" With five minutes of the half remaining Melford Knight saw his header from a Danny White cross drop agonisingly on the wrong side of the post. The referee then brought the action packed half to a close just as Wright hit a shot from 12 yards that Campbell did well to stop.

Peter Wright has one of his efforts stopped by Campbell.

Usually, after a half like that, the following forty five minutes are something of a disappointment and the opening stages of the second period didn't do anything to dissuade that view. Mossley were still pressing forward but they lacked the urgency they had shown before the interval. Happily, within ten minutes of the restart Mossley were back exploiting their visitors weakness: a slow defence playing high up the pitch against a pacy attack. Matty Appleby was saved from a red card by Danny Farthing managing to get back in time to prevent him from being the last man; the Whitby captain and former Oldham Athletic player cynically bringing substitute Steve Burke crashing to the ground after beating him on the edge of the box following a surging run down the right. The free-kick was a wasted opportunity but just before the hour mark Mossley made the breakthrough.

Joe Shaw robbed Claisse of possession just inside the Mossley half and upon picking up the loose ball, Terry Bowker split the visitor's back four with an inch perfect through ball to Steve Burke. Whilst the cry of 'Offside!' rippled across the statuesque Whitby defence (each succesive shout coming from a man playing the Mossley forward even more onside) Burke pressed on and slipped the ball underneath Campbell to give the Lilywhite's a deserved lead.

Steve Burke puts away Mossley's first.

As I mentioned earler on, it wasn't the perfect performance and the big reason as to why it wasn't is because of what happened after that opening goal. Not unexpectedly, but frustratingly none the less, Mossley started to sit deeper and after dominating them for so long, they handed Whitby their first concentrated spell of pressure in the game. Thankfully the two chances they were allowed were wasted by some errant finishing, particularly the second of them when Robinson fired wide at a point where not hitting the target looked like the hardest thing he could have done.

They proved to be the shots across the bow that refocused Mossley's attacking play. The midfield moved forward and suddenly the game changed again. What were once long clearances upfield turned into balls that were being dropped just behind the Whitby defence, giving the forwards the chance to use their speed to move into the acres of space between Campbell and his back four.

With fifteen minutes left Burke beat Farthing in the chase for one of these balls, only for the Whitby defender to prevent a clear run on goal by attempting to swap shirts whilst the match was in progress. After an extraordinarily lengthy amount of time (which included an ill-advised attempt from some of us under the bus shelter to sing 'Go Now'; ill-advised in that nobody knew the words), the referee produced the red card from his pocket and Farthing left the field to a chorus of 'bye-bye'.

What's worth mentioning is the behaviour of Whitby bench. When the card was produced they reacted like they'd just suffered the greatest injustice ever seen on a football pitch; the assistant referee having to stop their management team from storming up the touchline to have a go at the man in the middle. It certainly makes you wonder what their reaction would be like to a contentious decision. They certainly couldn't get more purple in the face and live, that's for sure.

Mossley continued to press and a series of corners almost bore fruit before an act of stupidity from Whitby substitute Neil Wilkinson allowed Mossley to wrap up the three points. The visitors were moving forward after a Mossley attack broke up on the edge of their box when Wilkinson inexplicably put his hands on Christian Cooke's shoulders and shoved him to the ground. The linesman immediately flagged, play was brought back
and Wilkinson was extremely fortunate to only receive a yellow card for his infractions.

The resultant free-kick saw Mossley deliver a more severe punishment. From where we were stood, directly inline with the ball and wall, there was an area of the goal just begging to be hit and it was - Peter Wright curling an accurately weighted ball around the wall and well out of the range of Campbell's grasp.

Peter Wright seals the points with a free kick.

Many Mossley fans came away from Whitby feeling they'd witnessed a thoroughly undeserved defeat. If they'd left this one without seeing a victory for the home side it would have been something of a travesty. There's no denying that Whitby are a very good side but if it wasn't for some off-kilter shooting in the first forty five minutes the game would have been wrapped up before the interval.

The improvement seen over the last week has been marked and welcome. However it's still too early to get carried away; that light at the end of the tunnel might just be a train coming in the opposite direction. The next two games against Ilkeston and Witton will be as big a tests as any but, in the meantime, we can celebrate the victory and performance for what it was and hope that it's the start of better things in the Unibond Premier.