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.