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!