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.


Mike Smith said...
10:55 pm

Quick Stephen - "Good form is NO guarantee".

Hurry Hurry :-)

SJNR said...
9:54 am

Thank you.

If only good form was a guarantee...