Cammell Laird 2 -1 Mossley

Before Park Villa changed to Mossley Juniors and then to Mossley, becoming the club we now know and and love, the town used to have a rugby club - Mossley FC.

Before the split between amateurism and professionalism in rugby football took place in 1895, there was no organised competitive structure in the sport outside of county and international matches. Club matches did take place but only by invitation, much like friendlies today only on a home and away basis.

Details of this period in the sport are pretty scarce but it is known that some Mossley players represented the county and one, Abe Ashworth, played for England after he'd moved to Oldham. In fact Abe Ashworth's move from Mossley to Werneth was one of the contributing factors to the split.

Mossley accused the Oldham side of paying him to play for them (a strict no-no in the amateur game) and an investigation by Lancashire RU revealed that Werneth had offered him a new job as an iron dresser on £1-7s-0d, an increase on the £1 he was earning as a weft carrier in the Mossley mills. Ashworth was banned sine die and Werneth were suspended. After a huge outcry though the suspensions were lifted and the ball towards full professionalism in the sport began rolling.

A regular fixture around this time was Mossley vs. Oldham but in 1893, after the last few meetings had 'degenerated into a roughhouse', Oldham refused to play Mossley again. Other clubs then took Oldham's lead and soon there was next to no opposition for Mossley to play against; a situation that forced them to turn to association football.

It's at this point now, over 100 years later, that I'm thinking we should maybe re-embrace our heritage and make a return to the oval ball game. I'm no fan of rugby union but because games in that sport only last 80 minutes there's a chance that we might start to pick up the odd win or draw; as for the second week running (and the sixth time this season) Mossley conceded a late, late goal that affected the ultimate outcome of a game. Not only that but as kicking the ball out of touch is considered to be something of an art form in union, we should be able to flipping well excel in it.

The FA Trophy tie at Cammel Laird was always going to be a tough one but I don't think any of the large number of travelling supporters (boosting Laird's gate to their highest of the season - 190) realised how difficult Mossley would make it for themselves. Far from trying to keep the ball and dictate the pace of the game possession was constantly being surrendered.

Despite having a forward line that would struggle to pass the height requirements for all the good rides at Alton Towers (even if one stood on the shoulders of the other and wore a long coat) Mossley were continually launching the ball high down the middle of the field; at least that is on the occassions that it wasn't being booted out of play for a throw-in under the pretence that it was a pass designed to bring our two wingers in to the game.

The Wirral side did have a raw approach towards winning the ball but it was backed up by some neat passing and off-the-ball movement and it didn't take them long to figure out how to hurt Mossley (i.e. run at us, as far to the left hand side of the field as possible). For twenty minutes Mossley were looking second best in all areas of the field but thankfully Laird's prolific forward line was being thwarted by a combination of poor crosses and the close attention of the Lilywhite's central defensive duo.

That's not to say that there weren't moments that made the travelling support draw a deep intake of breath. Lairds managed to get the ball in the net once only to see their celebrations cut short by the raised flag of the assistant referee and they appeared to have a strong claim for a penalty when number nine Cooke was upended just inside the area by Melford Knight.

Just past the midway point of the first period the roles were reversed as the good side of Mossley's performance schizophrenia put in an appearance and with their first bit of football in the entire match, they took the lead. The build up to the goal was superb (Peter Wright backheeling the ball to James Turley who in turn set up Melford Knight on the edge of the box) but the finale to it was pure slapstick. The Mossley captain appeared to have scuffed his shot slightly and as the ball bobbled toward the goal the Laird keeper, Peter Crookes ,made a complete hash of a simple save, spilling it into the path of David Eyres who made no mistake in rolling the ball into the open net.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo (trying to focus properly with a digital camera on something moving is pretty difficult) but this David Eyres ready to pounce on the keepers mistake and give Mossley the lead.

Suddenly it looked as if the Premier Division side had turned up and minutes later Eyres was denied a second from a free-kick when Crookes made a great diving save, only to almost ruin it instantly by juggling the ball into his own net in an attempt to get it under control. In fact everytime the ball went near the Lairds keeper you were guaranteed a moment of high comedy as his attempts to catch the ball increasingly resembled that of someone trying to hold onto a hot potato. James Turley and Peter Wright went close to doubling Mossley's advantage just before the break but the visitors just couldn't convert their dominance into what mattered - goals.

Crookes scrambles to stop Eyres's free-kick from sneaking in. A moment also being caught for posterity by Smiffy behind the goal

The second half began with an injured Turley being replaced by Fraser Robinson; a substitution that raised a few eyebrows when, with a forward on the bench, the debutant midfielder lined up alongside Peter Wright in attack. That's not to slight Robinson's contribution to the game though as the young Australian's (imaginatively nicknamed Oz) performance was the one brightspot for Mossley in a half which grew worse with each passing minute.

Instead of starting the second period in the manner they finished the first Mossley sat deep, basically handing Cammell Laird an invitation to attack them and within the space 13 minutes they'd RSVPed with a goal. Taking full advantage of the space available on the left hand side of the Lilywhite's defence and the inability of anyone in a white shirt to go and meet him once he entered the box, Jamie McGuire took his time time lining up a shot before firing it across Danny Trueman and into the corner of the net.

Boosted by the goal, the home side started to really impose themselves on the game once more and but for some fine stops by Danny Trueman and a clearance of the goal line they would have been out of sight by the time Mossley managed their first shot in anger of the half - Chris Ward firing high and wide from the edge of the box.

The reactions of Peter Wright mirror those of the Mossley fans on the terraces as Chris Ward's effort hits the perimeter fence. A situation a Cammel Laird defender attempts to lighten by playing 'I'm a little teapot.'

Even though I've been fairly optimistic at matches this season the longer the game wore on the more obvious it was becoming that the best Mossley could hope for would be a draw and a replay back at Seel Park the following Tuesday. Unfortunately the sides inability to concentrate for ninety minutes meant that we were looking for something else to fill a blank midweek night with.

You've probably read elsewhere about the free-kick awarded to Cammell Laird which led to their winner five minutes from time but whether it was incorrectly given or not is neither here nor there. The fact is that between the kick being awarded and the ball entering our net, more than a minute had elapsed (ample time for other factors having a more immediate impact on events) and a free-kick for your opponents ten yards inside their own half is not a goal scoring opportunity.

The kick was both high and long and from the sidelines we could see that the ball was being played out to the Cammell Laird player wide on the left. Despite the ball being in the air long enough for somebody to close down the intended recipient or at least make a challenge before it hit the ground no one did. The Laird player brought it down and controlled it - under no pressure; he moved towards the byline - under no pressure; he stopped and looked up - under no pressure; he fired in the cross - under no pressure. By this point the attack had had managed to shake off their markers and there were white shirts all over the place as the home side worked the opening which Ronnie Morgan finished.

None of the events contained in the above paragraph is the referee's fault, it's Mossley's. just as it has been in too many other games to mention this season already.

Mossley were given the opportunity to salvage something out of the game in injury time when Robinson was brought down five yards outside the Laird box. However everyone associated with the visitors could only watch open mouthed as Rob Edwards wasted the chance by hitting the ball along the ground and straight into the Laird wall, allowing the home side to keep possession for what little time there was left.

The final whistle was met with a silent anger from the travelling faithful; many visibly biting their lips at seeing the chances of a good cup run disappear thanks to problems that have been evident to anyone who's watched the side since August.

Out of the two major cup competitions and struggling in the league where we've won only four out of seventeen fixtures, where do we go from here other than into a long, hard winter campaign?