Another Seasonal Message

As promised here last week:

A Happy New Year to all!

The Life Of Colin The Anagram

I don’t know about you but I’ve never really been a fan of Neil Warnock.

Despite his portrayal in large sections of the media as a straight talking, no-nonsense manager (a sort of Primark Brian Clough), his recent persona has been akin to Bart Simpson’s in the episode where he becomes the “I didn’t do it” boy, blaming everyone else for Sheffield United’s relegation last season.

From the EatFootball website.

However, knowing that his time spent in non league football as manager of Burton Albion coincided with Mossley’s ‘glory days’, and with time to kill before catching a train, I found myself flicking through his recently release autobiography to see if the Lilywhites garnered a mention of any sort and, lo and behold, in the index: Mossley AFC 97, 98.

And in another pleasant surprise, he's incredibly complimentary about us too! For the most part anyway...

Not only does he describe us during those heady times as “the kings of non-league football”, but it's the only place that you’re ever likely to see Mossley mentioned in the same sentence as Chelsea, unless we we strike the mother lode in a future FA Cup run or Bill Clinton’s daughter joins the club in some capacity.

There are a few anecdotes as well about “hard and relentless” Mossley including the time we sent him the bill for a new dressing room door (after he put his foot through one at Seel Park), and his badgering of David Vaughan in to getting him to sign for Burton, purely because he wanted to build a side in Mossley’s image.

His kindest words however are reserved for Bob Murphy who he “holds in the same regard as Sir Alex Ferguson”. Though the sections only brief, you're left with the impression that Warnock was genuinely in awe, and still is, of Mossley's greatest manager.

That all said, there are a couple of things that don't stand up to close scrutiny. The first being that whilst it's almost a true statement, there are a few clubs (Dagenham notably) that would contest the claim that Mossley “won everything”.

He also states that Bob Murphy was shown the door in 1983 because of our poor league form. As far as I'm aware this wasn't the case (he resigned) and it was other factors away from the pitch, mostly monetary, that saw a huge upheaval in both personnel and the clubs fortunes.

Still, it leads Colin (you can work the rest of football's greatest anagram out for yourselves) to making a rather sweeping statement about us: “Now look at them. Last season they were relegated from the Unibond Premier... They're in free-fall”

All of which bizarrely makes it sound like a managerial departure almost quarter of a century ago was directly responsible for our relegation in the summer - a conclusion not to dissimilar to two plus two equalling an elephant riding a bicycle. And how a demotion after two, almost successive, promotions can be classed as “free-fall” leads me to wonder if he knows the difference between parachuting and what we actually have been doing: bungee jumping between the leagues and divisions.

Still, it makes you wonder that if the authors can get tiny instances like this wrong, just how many other inaccuracies must there be between the covers that you don't know about. But then that's the problem with autobiographies; the views contained therein are always just one (very biased) side of a story with the conclusion usually being the Alan Partridge-esque “needless to say, I had the last laugh.”

If you’re a fan of Warnock then I’ve no doubt that the inclusion of Mossley will be the icing on the cake. If like me though, you don’t particularly want to read about how Rafael Benitez, Alex Ferguson, the FA, West Ham, an Israeli, an Argentinian and (yes!) Sean Bean conspired to get Sheffield United relegated and, ultimately, make him resign from his job, then I suggest popping into Waterstones, settling into one of their comfy chairs for five minutes and reading pages 97-98.

If you’re reading this though after receiving the aforementioned tome as a Christmas present and I’ve spoilt it before you’ve even opened the front cover, I apologise.

On the bright side though, your relatives have probably still got the receipt...

Mossley 2 - 1 Bridlington Town

Two moments of quality, in a game where terrible conditions ensured that such instances would be rare, were enough to see Mossley put the misery of their Boxing Day mauling behind them and give them the perfect to start to the second half of their league campaign.

The driving rain and strong winds were hampering any attempts to evolve the game from being anything other than a war of attrition in the mire the middle of the pitch was fast becoming, but during a brief respite from the blustery conditions seven minutes from the interval, Mossley produced a goal worthy of a much better game.

Lee Connor found Lee Blackshaw's run down the left with a superb cross field pass that the winger took in his stride. After cutting into the box, Blackshaw supplied a low, raking cross to the far post where Danny Toronczak had lost his marker and with one touch, the former Belper forward effortlessly slipped the ball under Mick Clarke to give the Lilywhites the lead.

Whilst the weather improved marginally for the start of the second period, the football didn't and despite the onus now being on the visitors to attack Mossley, Town were struggling to find a man in the same coloured shirt stood five yards away let alone get the ball anywhere near Mossley's goal.

As such Ashley Connor was a virtual spectator and to be honest, but for a Quinn header that flashed past his post ten minutes after the restart, so was his counterpart at the other end of the pitch; Mossley choosing to sit back which, with recent experiences still fresh in the memory, didn't give much cause for comfort on the terraces.

Such pessimism was unnecessary though and as the visitors began to throw more men forward in search of an equaliser, Mossley started to exploit the gaps that were being left and with little under twenty minutes remaining they effectively sealed the win.

Controlling a long ball played out to the right wing, Danny Toronczak beat the full back once before beating him again with a clever nutmeg. Then in a neat reversal of Mossley's opener, Toronczak cut into the box and his low ball across the face of the goal was tapped over the line by Lee Blackshaw.

Mossley continued pick at the holes in their opponents back line and Toronczak went extremely close to doubling his account for the game with a header from a Blackshaw cross. Next to worry the scoreline was substitute Michael Fish but his shot following some nice build-up play only found the clutches of Clarke.

Hopes of a fourth clean sheet of the season however were dashed in the third of five inexplicable minutes of time added on. The home defences one real lapse in concentration over the course of the game saw the ball work its way across the Mossley box to where a small collection of Bridlington players were queueing up and ex-Oldham and Barnsley player Neil Redfearn dinked the ball over Ashley Connor to halve the arrears.

All told it wasn't the greatest game in the world but after the events three days earlier, it was the result that mattered most and Mossley got the one they wanted, meaning they can enter the New Year and tough tie at Bury edging that tiny bit closer to a play-off spot.

That said the performance wasn't too shabby under the extreme conditions the match was played in and the elementary mistakes that proved costly against Lancaster were thankfully few and far between. In fact, over the past few seasons this would have been the archetypal game that we'd have lost through one moment of madness, so it's good to see that the banana skins that have littered our path are slowly being removed.

Mossley 0 - 4 Lancaster City

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Not only the main protagonists at this time of the year but if preceded with 'Sweet' and followed with an exclamation point rather than a full stop, could very easily be the succinct match report for this game.

Yes, it was as bad as the scoreline suggests.

'Tis the season of giving and Mossley certainly entered into the festive spirit by gifting Lancaster City three first half goals and, ultimately, all the points on offer as well.

There was a Marley-esque forewarning of what was to come in the opening quarter of an hour when Ryan Zico-Black and Guy Heffeman wasted two good opportunities to put the visitors ahead, but Mossley's 'Nightmare after Christmas' was to begin in the 18th minute.

Gareth Hamlet's second stab at attempting to intercept a through ball ended with him sending Mark Jackson crashing to floor, leaving the referee with no other option than to award the visitors a penalty.

Being a time of goodwill to all men, the referee chose to show the Mossley defender a yellow card rather than the red I suspect everyone in Seel Park was expecting - much to the very visible displeasure of the occupants of the Lancaster dug-out. The hold-up in play whilst the referee restored order had no undue effect on Zico-Black and the diminutive winger hammered the ball past Ashley Connor from 12 yards.

That anger shown by the visitor's bench cooled rapidly moments later when the referee's leniency stopped themselves from being reduced to 10 men after Heffeman's horrendous challenge from behind on Paul Quinn was deemed only worthy of a yellow card.

And seven minutes later their mood turned more jubilant when a cheaply conceded free-kick was played deep to the far post, and with Mossley caught playing a footballing variation on that traditional Christmas parlour game 'Musical Statues' (i.e. standing still when the ball's in play), the ball was cut back to Jackson who slotted his shot past Ashley Connor from close range.

Immediately following the restart Heffeman almost added to the lead when he cannoned a free-kick off Mossley's crossbar, but the bow was to be tied around Lancaster's neatly wrapped three points with little over a third of the game gone.

For a reason that I doubt even Lee Connor will be able to fully explain, the Mossley captain handled the ball after it had been lobbed, somewhat hopefully, into the box. It was a rush of blood to the head that gave the Dolly Blues their second spot kick of the game and just like the first, Zico-Black calmly dispatched it into the back of the net.

Any hope that the third goal would be like the third ghost that visited Scrooge and bring about a change were quashed six minutes into the second period. A cross from the right found numerous City players alone in the box and whether intentional or not, Dave Foster's flicked header looped over Ashley Connor and into the goal.

With any hopes of a comeback now officially deemed forlorn and play almost exclusively concentrated in Mossley's half, discussions amongst a small group of supporters on the terraces turned to (I jest you not) how many sprouts it takes to make them flatulent. Respect prevents me from declaring who won but suffice to say, the winner of this competition only needed two to have passed their lips before they're passing wind like the brass section of the London Philharmonic. Back to the match though...

Ashley Connor then prevented Lancaster from notching their fifth with a full length save to keep out a thunderbolt from Heffeman following the best move of the match, before Mossley finally posed their first real threat on their opponents goal. Hamlet had a shot turned behind by City keeper Mark Thornley, who then did well to stop substitute Michael Fish from scoring what would have been nothing more than a consolation goal.

Alas, like Christmas itself, Mossley's brief resurgence was seemingly over with in the blink of an eye and the final twenty or so minutes of the game passed without incident before, in the dying embers of the match, Connor produced another high class save to deny Neil Marshall and give the scoreline slightly more respectability than it would otherwise have had.

Goodness knows why Mossley were so off the pace in this game but the unarguable fact is that whilst Lancaster go back west deserved winners, the Lilywhites head into the final two games of the busy Christmas schedule hoping that their poor run of form is, to borrow a phrase from another seasonal fixture, "behind them" or else midwinter could begin to look increasingly bleak.

Fingers crossed that we're slightly more (pre-revelation) Scrooge like in our attitude against Bridlington and FCUB.

And after a match report that's been stuffed with Christmas references, what better way to wrap it up than:


A Seasonal Message

As is customary at this time year, all at Mossley80 (i.e. me) would like to wish you a very

Merry Christmas!

And don't forget to come back next week when I'll be hoping all have a Happy New Year.

Seriously though, I'd also like to say thank you for visiting this blog over the last twelve months. It is very much appreciated.

Have a good time.


“We Three Games Of Christmas Are...”

"Bridlington, FCUB and Lancast... ... ar”

Yes, its that time of the year again when the fixtures arrive with the regularity of someone who exists solely on prunes. This season we face just the three games in seven days, so for the sake of time (and my own fracturing sanity) I’m going to lump the previews for all three games together.

There are some that say that in the near future when computers rule our lives, they’ll be extremely hard task masters and if the machine that picks the Unibond’s fixtures for the season is anything to go by, those fears may well be justified.

Only a cold, heartless machine would force people into making a significantly long trip to Seel Park on that notoriously easy day for getting around the country – the 26th December. So good luck and Godspeed to those from Lancaster City who are travelling to Mossley on Boxing Day!

On their last visit for a league game (13 years ago) Lancaster won 3 - 0 and you have to go back another 14 years before that since we last scored against them at home.

Mossley's first points of the season came at City's Giant Axe Stadium back in August, when unanswered goals from Kitson Gayle and Gareth Hamlet proved to be enough to seal a 2 - 0 win for the Lilywhites.

Like us the Dolly Blues have had a campaign that can be best described so far as 'up and down' and currently lie two places below us in 11th. However they currently find themselves in a poor run of form having picked up only two points out of a possible last eighteen.

Next up for Mossley at Seel Park are Bridlington Town, mere weeks after their first scheduled visit of the season was called off after some Niagara-like rain fall.

I know that in the build-up for that game I said I'd save the in-depth preview for this game but whaddya know? It turns out that I can't be bothered doing one for this encounter either. Never mind though, third time lucky in February...

New Years Day sees us travel the relatively short journey to Gigg Lane to face FCUB and the Manchester United Karaoke Choir. That is unless they’ve found a reason for boycotting this game.

There's no doubt that they'll be looking to exact some early revenge for their thoroughly deserved 2 - 0 defeat at Mossley's hands last month but what else can we expect?

Well there'll almost certainly be more ridiculous posturing by Rory Patterson, lots of those nothing-to-do with FCUB songs, Karl Mardyson (see what I did there) continuing to look like a slapped backside on the touchline and a M.E.N. match report that will either a) detail a list of non-existent contentious decisions and injured players if they lose or b) lay it on like they're the The World's Greatest Team™ if they win.

Not that it's that predictable or anything. Speaking of which...

Predictions: Three games so a win, a draw and a defeat. What I'm not telling you though is which prediction is for which game...

Frosty, There's No Game

Once again this season the weather took its toll on Mossley's league campaign as a frosty evening in Chorley put paid to any chance of the Lilywhites pre-Christmas fixture taking place.

In fact the cold snaps last hurrah had the same effect on many other games due to place, which curtailed the options available to those of us who wanted to see a game - any game. Desperately!

The only option that presented itself was a hastily arranged friendly between Woodley Sports and FCUB on the former's artificial surface, after the league meeting between the two sides at Gigg Lane had also fallen foul of the sub-zero temperatures.

So after paying the princely sum of £2, around 50 FCUB fans, four Mossley supporters and the Woodley spectators (?) prepared themselves for one of the few semi-pro games taking place in Greater Manchester...

Truth be told the game, despite the 2 - 2 scoreline, was decidedly dull (well it was that score when we left but apparently Woodley got a late winner). FCUB dominated proceedings for long stretches but lacked the nous to get past Woodley's defence, whereas the visitors defence couldn't cope with the speed and directness of the home side's attack.

Woodley had already wasted one golden opportunity before they finally went in front midway through the first half and that's how it stayed until early in the second half when a cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by a Woodley defender.

The scoreline remained level for, oh, seconds as the home side promptly went up to the other pitch and regained their lead. And that's how it stayed until the closing stages of the game when an unseemly scramble in the Woodley box ended with a boot, belonging to someone in a red shirt, diverting the ball into the net.

Whilst the game may be have been nothing to really write home about, at least the conversation was good. I've made no secret of my feelings about the FCUB circus in the past but the supporters we found ourselves talking to, during a first half spent sheltering under Woodley's only covered bit of terracing, were a perfectly level headed bunch.

Unlike some FCUB fans who seem to think that they're some sort of martyrs and that what happens on the pitch is irrelevant (my main complaint), the ones we met had a genuine interest in non-league football. Which given that it was a meaningless friendly played in the pouring rain, three days before Christmas, should have been obvious.

Stories were swapped, not least last Saturday's incident at Curzon as it turns out that Rhodri Giggs shares the same place in their hearts as he does in ours, and it was heartening to hear that some of our prejudices about non-league football are shared by others.

Despite the football, it wasn't too bad a day but all said and done, it's no substitute for watching the team you support.

Jingling All The Way

What better way to spend the last Saturday before Christmas than by negotiating Britain's transport system on the busiest shopping day of the year, all in the effort to see Mossley take on Chorley.

Well that is if there's a thaw between now and 10:00am on Saturday morning, otherwise the prospects of the match going ahead aren't good judging by comments from the Chorley end. It's best to be prepared though so on with the preview.

Away from the winter festivities, though this fixture is going to feel like one of those pre-season charity/testimonial games where a team consisting of ex-players from one club line up against the current starting XI, such is the current number of Mossley connections in Chorley’s side.

To start, managing the side is Gary Luckza who, prior to this position, was a scout at Mossley under our last manager. And the team he’s assembled contains no fewer than six people who played for the Lilywhite’s in the same period: Gavin-Lee Ellison, Joel Pilkington, Jordan Goodeve, Lee Shillito, Steve Burke and Kenny Mayers (who also runs Chorley’s social club).

They also contain a few other familiar names such as David German (ex-Hyde) and former Clitheroe keeper Peter Collinge.

Our last visit in the league to Victory Park was two years ago when Goodeve and Chris Downey scored to earn Mossley a 2 - 1 win. Realistically we should have had more than two but some errant finishing (particularly in the first half) meant that the Magpie's late goal caused more panic than it otherwise should have done

We also journeyed there twice for a league cup tie that season. The first trip fell foul to the weather moments before kick-off whilst the return was an equally miserable experience, Mossley lost.

Since having their now annual ‘crisis’ in November which saw a whole host of players move onto pastures new, Chorley have hit a purple patch form wise. After picking up a point at home to Curzon in a game they were reportedly very unlucky not to win, they went on to demolish Woodley 5-0 on home soil.

Prediction: All things considered, a draw wouldn’t be too bad a result.

Curzon Ashton 4 - 2 Mossley

The Lilywhites returned to the Tameside Stadium looking for an improvement on their last visit in November when they went behind with barely a minute on the clock, and they got it - this time it took Curzon three times as long to open their account for the afternoon.

Mossley's failure to deal with Douglas Pringle's run in the 3rd minute allowed the former Woodley forward to play the ball across the edge of the visitor's box. Following one fluffed attempt at a clearance it arrived at the feet of a surprisingly unmarked Michael Norton who made no mistake in finishing the opportunity that was presented to him.

It could, and possibly should, have been a whole lot worse for Mossley before the match clock had even ticked into double figures. Norton, once again without anyone in an orange shirt near him, opting for sheer spectacle rather than pragmatism in choosing to finish Rhodri Giggs' right wing cross with a scissor kick and instead of doubling his sides lead, he sent the ball both high and wide of Ashley Connor's goal.

After weathering the initial storm the visitor's finally began to get a bearing on proceedings and they could have been celebrating the equaliser with their first shot of the game had Paul Garvey not fired Leon Henry's clever flick-on/through ball high over the goal frame.

The frantic opening to the match quickly dissipated though as both sides became locked in a dour battle in the middle of the park with neither looking like making any kind of headway. Although it has to be said at this point that Mossley's cause wasn't being helped by some peculiar interpretations of both the offside rule and what exactly constitutes a foul when an opponent focuses purely on playing the man rather than the ball.

The game returned to life in the 27th minute when a lapse in concentration allowed Giggs to scamper down the wing towards the byline, from where he fired in an inch perfect cross onto the head of James Agoo. Fortunately for Mossley Agoo's accuracy wasn't quite as sharp and from a matter of feet he inexplicably headed the ball wide of the goal.

It appeared to be the wake-up call Mossley needed and they finally began to take the game to their host's and in doing so showed the Curzon defence to be something with a consistency more akin to jelly than concrete. Using pace and a wide range of passing, the home defence began to wobble spectacularly under their first sustained spell of pressure.

Paul Quinn and Henry began to torment the Curzon full-backs and it was from a cross by Quinn that Gareth Hamlet forced David Carnell into making his first save at the foot of his near post. Mossley's momentum continued to build and 10 minutes before the interval they got their reward when Lee Connor met Paul Quinn's out swinging corner to powerfully head past Carnell.

Things got even better for the visitor's four minutes later when Hamlet and Paul Garvey combined down the right for the latter to swing in a deep cross to Jamie Miller. Getting in front of his marker, Miller planted a firm header that left Carnell once again clutching at thin air as the ball flew into the net.

Carnell finally managed to prevent a Mossley header from reaching the back of the net when he made he made a point blank stop to deny Paul Quinn four minutes after the restart. Sadly though, along with another effort by Quinn 20 minutes later, it proved to be the only real act of intent from Mossley in the second period as they abandoned their assault on the Curzon goal and instead chose to sit back, inviting the Ashton side to attack them and they paid the price.

In the 56th minute Mossley's defence was opened up like a seven year olds present on Christmas morning, allowing Douglas Pringle the time and space to charge down the right wing before cutting in and rolled the ball beyond Ashley Connor for the equaliser.

From that point on the pressure on Mossley's goal began to grow and the Lilywhite's defending became more desperate as half-chances came and went with increasing regularity for the Blues.

Just after the midway point of the second period Ashley Connor produced a fine fingertip save to keep out Pringle's shot from the edge of the area and then followed it up a couple of minutes later with an outstanding double save.

Mossley's defence had gone AWOL leaving Giggs with what appeared to be the simple task of slotting a cross home from close range but not only did Connor somehow manage to keep it out, he also recovered to stop Pringle's attempt from the rebound hitting the back of the net. Giggs did eventually manage to beat him from the second rebound but did so from an offside position, much to his visible (and enjoyable) chagrin and leaving egg on the face of the announcer who'd started playing Curzon's substitute crowd noise over the P.A. system

The home side were then reduced to ten men as Rhodri Giggs' mouth finally talked him into trouble. With a Curzon player down injured Giggs took the time and the trouble to walk from one side of the pitch to the other to start spouting off at a group of supporters, an action in itself that was pretty stupid. However, compared to what he did next it was nothing and after a few hand gestures in the same supporters direction he asked them all to step onto the pitch for a bout of fisticuffs.

Leaving the supporters wetting themselves (through laughter I may add,) Giggs skulked back to the other side of the pitch, only for the assistant referee to inform his superior of what went on and Giggs was told to continue his walk to the dressing room.

It gave Mossley a small glimmer of hope in salvaging the game but that light was rapidly extinguished with seven minutes left. Throwing caution to the wind earlier than anyone expected, every Mossley player bar Ashley Connor took up a position in and around the Curzon box for a set-piece. It left the visitors extremely susceptible to a counter attack should the home side clear the ball and thanks to a poor delivery that's what happened; Norton embarking on a 75 yard run up the pitch on his own before taking it around Ashley Connor and celebrating his second goal of the game.

So Mossley's mini-revival comes to a sudden halt and whilst the match wasn't close to being the walkover the previous game three weeks earlier had been, it's hard to argue that Curzon weren't once again deserved winners in the end. It's also hard not to wonder though what might have been had Mossley, to use a boxing analogy, not allowed their opponents to climb off the ropes they had them on at the end of the first half.

In fact the loudest noise the home side made all afternoon was the sigh of relief their defence emitted in the second half when they realised that Mossley weren't going to be attacking them in the manner they'd done at the end of the first period.

There's certainly no disgrace in losing to the league leaders but a defeat is always harder to accept when a possible three points had been dangling tantalisingly in front of your eyes at the halfway point.

Best on the day? Leon Henry and Paul Quinn looked dangerous on the few occasions they were given the ball and allowed to run at the Curzon defence, Jamie Miller did well following his early introduction after Martin Allison's unfortunate injury and Ashley Connor was his usual self.

The highlight of the day though was the moment prior to kick-off when, with the ground containing nothing but Mossley fans and Ashton United supporters, the announcer had an acute moment of self-awareness and played Eric Carmen's 'All By Myself'. The less said about the choice of the 'Mahna Mahna Song' by The Muppets at half-time, the better though...

It's to Chorley we head next though and a face off against an improving Mossley Old Boys XI. And hopefully we'll pick up from where we left off at the end of first half in this game than the final whistle.

It's Not Long Since We Left

Back we go again.

A mere three weeks after our last visit, it's to the Tameside Stadium we head once more as Mossley return to the scene of their recent 4- 1 murder at the hands (or rather head and feet) of Curzon Ashton.

Let's not skirt around it - we were appalling that day, allowing Curzon to rack up a three goal lead without them appearing to move out of neutral. We did make a spirited attempt at a comeback for a short while in the second half but the damage had already been done.

This difference this time round though is that the Lilywhites go into the game after two relatively impressive victories, rather than two demoralising defeats.

And frankly there's not much more else I can add to this preview that wasn't said in the last one at the back end of last month, other than the fact that Rhodri Giggs, who missed the last meeting between the two sides through suspension, will probably be back in Curzon's line-up. But then you knew that already didn't you?

Fingers crossed that it isn't raining this time as well, as two wet hours or so in Curzon's multi million pound 'can't keep you dry' stadium isn't a pleasant experience.

Prediction: As I said in the preview for the postponed game last, predicting draws has worked wonders for Mossley's recent form so I'll do it again - a draw!

It's Getting Earlier Every Year

And so it begins.

The 'postponement season' is upon us once again and with some style too: gale force winds, torrential rain, snow and sleet all combining to put paid to any chance of Mossley's game against Bridlington Town going ahead.

Whilst the lack of football is seriously disappointing (especially with no other local games to fall back on other than the latest instalment of Droylsden's Blue Square Premier death march), I've got to admit that there's a small part of me delighted with the fact that I won't be spending half a weekend writing out a match report.

Speaking of which, a big thank you to the Reporter for their careful editing of my Woodley - Mossley match report in this weeks edition. Obviously, when I say 'careful editing' what I actually mean is 'brutal hack and slash job'.

I mean, why go to all the trouble of setting a scene when you can just lob off the opening paragraphs and start with 'Leon Henry was unceremoniously upended in the 20th minute'? And best of all, why bother letting people know that Mossley were awarded and scored a last minute penalty when a closing paragraph consisting solely of 'Danny Toronczak sent Higginbotham the wrong way' will suffice.

It may sound like sour grapes but I'm not being a precious writer. I'm fully aware that editing is a necessary part of the print media but it does usually tend to be done a with bit more care at other news outlets; in terms of subtlety it was like keyhole surgery as performed by a chainsaw wielding David Blunkett.

Still, better writers than me have had their reports noticeably 'trimmed' in a similar manner and at least I haven't had a paragraph or two added in by them slating the team, unlike the Ashton United match reporter last season (as mentioned briefly on the blog both here and here.

It still means that there's a hole to fill on the blog though so here are a couple of things that may help you pass a bit of time...

First of all, I can recommend spending an hour (or two) reading the Tameside Eye, a blog that does what the local papers should be doing if they weren't so dependent on suckling at the advertising teat of Tameside Council.

Filled to the brim with articles on the hypocrisy and shenanigans of the people that claim to represent us, it's an entertaining and highly enlightening read.

It's also given me an idea as to why not much effort goes into properly sub-editing match reports in the Reporter. Having followed the links on the site to Cllr John Taylor's web site and read what's on there, I'm convinced that an inordinate of man hours are spent at the Reporter's Acres Lane offices making his weekly missives to them legible. Both that and sorting through the half an Amazonian rain forest Irene Woodcock must send them every week.

After that tiny bit of seriousness it's time for a bit of fun and what better than Human Tetris, courtesy of the Japanese who have a knack of making game shows that look fun and interesting to watch, as opposed to the 'faux serious' drivel that gets commissioned over here in the name of entertainment.

Next week: A match report*.

* Weather permitting of course.

Whether The Weather

Mossley's return to Seel Park after their injury time win against Woodley last Saturday to face the divisions most eastern team, Bridlington Town.

Having been soaked to the skin on my way to work and then to the bone on my way home for the best part of the last week, I've an inkling that this game may be subject to some sort of a pitch inspection due to the amount of rain we've had.

On the positive side its fine outside at the moment (not that it isnt inside) with a relatively clear sky above us and even though the MET office are predicting constant rain from 9:00am onwards, with possibly snow around kick-off, Mossley's very own 'special' micro-climate means that absolutely anything could happen in the next 18 hours or so; including baking sunshine.

Still, with the small chance that the game might not go ahead (added to the fact that Bridlington are due to be back at Seel Park again at the end of the month and I've got to keep something in reserve till then), I'll distill the usual preview down to the absolute basics:

Town are currently 15th in the league, a position they've been hovering around since the second game of the season. Of the four wins they've registered in the league so far this season, three have been away from their home at the Queensgate Stadium. However, as good as their away form is, they are, on average, conceding almost two goals a game on their travels. Their last visit to Seel Park ended in a 6-1 whupping during the 05/06 season; a game played in conditions as dank as the one we're currently experiencing.

Prediction: Predicting a draw for the last two games appears to have worked wonders so I'll do it again - a draw.

Woodley Sports 1 - 2 Mossley

After Mossley's blistering performance in their thoroughly deserved victory over FC United (contrary to what you may have read elsewhere), there was always going to be the risk that this match a Woodley would be a case of "after the Lord Mayor's show".

And initially it was. But for the constant shrill of the referee's whistle you'd have been hard pressed to notice that the match had started, such was the lack of incident in the early stages of the game.

That all changed in the 20th minute when Mossley's latest signing Leon Henry was unceremoniously upended by Paul Derrick. The challenge was more clumsy than malicious but in the brief round of 'handbags at five paces' that invariably follows this kind of incident, Derrick's upset at the decision spilt over into an off-the-ball clash with Nicky Thompson and the referee showed no hesitation in producing a red card from his pocket to send the Woodley forward off.

The dismissal should have provided Mossley with a springboard to take control of the game but despite having the man advantage, they were struggling to reproduce the form they'd shown midweek. All too often the basis of their attacks was a long ball up the middle of the pitch - food and drink to Woodley's two huge centre halves. Even on the occasions when some flowing did get them behind their opponents defence, the only action Woodley keeper Liam Higginbotham was called in to was to pluck crosses out of the air.

Woodley had already beaten Mossley twice within the space of five days back in September and it looked as though they could make it a hat-trick of victories over the Lilywhites for this season when, five minutes before half-time, they took a shock lead. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, Danny Stubberfield's first touch took him clear of Lee Connor and his second sent the ball across Mossley's other Connor, goalkeeper Ashley, and in at the far post to put the home side ahead.

That advantage could, and probably should, have been doubled three minutes later when Buckley ran through a gap where Mossley's defence should have been, but his lobbed finish not only cleared Ashley Connor but the goal as well.

It meant that the home fans went into the interval the happier of the two sets of supporters, though you'd have been hard pushed to have spotted one. Woodley's lack of support has been a stick to poke them with down the years, particularly on the various incarnations of Mossley80, but the meagre spattering of locals at this game was much worse than usual.

Judging by the clubs message board there's a significant amount of unhappiness at the style of football they're playing this season and it looks like it's being reflected through the number of people willing to pass through the turnstiles to watch it. Hopefully things will improve for them soon because the last thing we need is for a relatively local side to have its future hanging in the balance. Even if it is only so that some of the Mossley supporters can get their fix of the cappuccino's they sell in the refreshment Portakabin.

Mossley took to the pitch for the second half in a visibly more determined mood and five minutes after the restart, only a fine save from Higginbotham stopped Paul Garvey from registering his first goal of the season. What Woodley's custodian didn't know then though was that all he'd done was delay it for ten minutes.

An opening brought about by a quick break down the left involving Matthew Butters, Leon Henry and Gareth Hamlet came to a halt when Lee Rick (living up to his name by making a huge one) tripped Martin Allison four yards outside the penalty area. Its central position, combined with its closeness to goal and the number of players the hosts had in their defensive wall, made an effort on target (let a lone a goal) look a difficult proposition. Garvey was up to the challenge though and expertly curled an inch perfect shot that not only beat the massed line of Woodley players but the desperate dive of Higginbotham as well to draw Mossley level.

As Mossley pushed forward in search of a winner they became susceptible to counter attacks and but for some safe handling by Ashley Connor and a brilliantly timed tackle by Matthew Butters, they could have very well retaken the lead. The threat they posed was eventually quashed and as the game entered its final phase, Mossley finally began to make their man advantage count as they laid siege on the Stockport sides goal.

Leon Henry almost capped an impressive début with a goal when, with the assistance of the strong wind, his left wing cross turned into a shot that the Woodley keeper did well to tip over. The raised flag of the assistant referee then curtailed Gareth Hamlet's celebrations as his close range effort was ruled out for offside and a minute later Lee Connor was agonisingly close to grabbing what would have surely been a winner when his low drive narrowly beat the upright.

When Higginbotham held onto Martin Allison's sweetly struck volley in the final minute of normal time, most supporters were resigned to leaving Lambeth Grove with a point. Happily though the team wasn't and their 'it isn't over till the final whistle' mentality was rewarded in the 93rd minute when Richard Conway was sent crashing to the floor as he burst into Woodley's penalty area with the ball.

For the second time in his short career as a Mossley player, Danny Toronczak now faced the prospect of having to take a last gasp penalty that, if scored, would change the whole complexion of the game. If he felt under any pressure it didn't show as he calmly sent Higginbotham the wrong way to nestle the ball in the back of the net and guarantee that the three points would be heading back to Seel Park.

It wasn't the best of performances from Mossley, credit for which goes to Woodley because if you'd arrived late, unless you were to count the number of players on the field, you wouldn't have noticed that they'd been reduced to ten men.

More impressive though was the Lilywhites' determination in their search for that winning goal. If the last ten minutes had been a boxing match the referee would have undoubtedly stopped the contest, such was the pummelling Woodley were receiving. And however harsh Mossley's last minute penalty goal was on the home side, it was as equally deserved by the visitors for their refusal to admit defeat in the quest for all of the points that were on offer.

Not a bad way from Mossley to round off what has been a perfect week and put the lows of the previous seven days behind them. Now for Bridlington...

GQ In Mp3

Did you miss Mossley manager Gerry Quinn's brief interview on Radio Manchester's Non-League section?

Well fear not because you can listen to it by clicking on the link below:

Gerry Quinn talks to Mike Pavasovic

Chip Wrappers: Mini Edition

A brief return to a topic from earlier in the week as Karl 'It's not fair!' Marginson has come out with another pearler in today's edition of FCUB's mouthpiece, the Manchester Evening News:

"Rivals criticise our club, which is a disgrace because what we stand for is everything a football club should be."

Yes, this is the same man who ordered his players not to return the ball to Mossley after they put it out of play so that one of his own players could receive treatment.

One can only hope that, should results continue in the manner in which they've done recently, Karl will put the sudden increase in his spare time to good use by looking up the word 'irony' in the dictionary.

Rubber And Plastic

I hope you don't mind if this preview is shorter than usual because, after doing three of these already for a game against Woodley this season, the well is running somewhat dry for this, the fourth encounter.

Since that week at the beginning of September when Woodley overturned us twice, the fortunes of both clubs have undergone a change and in Sports' case, a rather drastic one that. After hitting a dodgy patch in terms of results, Chris Willcock made a series of personnel changes that failed to arrest the slide, the low point of which being 6 - 1 hammering by Curzon at the Tameside Stadium.

Now I'm fully aware that we were on the receiving end of a thumping at the same place last weekend but believe me (and this may be hard to imagine), it was nowhere near as bad at the complete shoeing Woodley got. Honestly, the away side could have had no complaints if the total Curzon scored was preceded by a one.

The demeanour of the manager on the Woodley bench as the goals flew in was one of somebody contemplating what to do with the spare time he'd have on Saturday's after the game had finished but he's still there and results have begun to pick up over the last two weeks; winning their last home match against Lancaster City and coming away from Skelmersdale and Clitheroe within the past seven days with draws.

Mossley's bane in those games earlier this season, Sergio Mario-Daniel, has thankfully departed to pastures new, leaving only Liam Higginbotham and Russell Headley as the familiar faces in their side from our battles in recent years.

Our last visit to Woodley in January 2006 was the infamous 5-0 hammering we got after our previous manager gave Woodley their teamtalk via the local press. Happily this time round it's all quiet on the 'their cup-final' front.

Prediction: Sitting squarely on the fence... a draw.

Mossley 2 - 0 F.C. United of Bury

Following a series of less than average performances, Mossley rediscovered their early season form claim a valuable win against an FC United side also equally in search of a much needed positive result.

The Lilywhites made obvious their intentions to take the game to their opponents in the very first minute when, after forcing an early corner, Nicky Thompson's shot from the edge of the United box just cleared the cross bar. Visiting keeper Phil Priestley then did well to turn to James Riordan's long range free-kick away as it made its way through a crowd of players in front of him, and Steven Sheil headed narrowly wide from another corner. And all before the ten minute mark had been reached.

The home side continued to press forward but their opponents were soon resorting to fouler means than fairer to stop them from making their pressure count. In the 12th minute Paul Quinn broke clear of the United defence but his clear run on goal was stopped by centre-half Adam Turner simply falling on him as he began to pull away. To the astonishment of the home support no whistle was forthcoming and the ball was cleared to safety.

It failed to disrupt Mossley's momentum though and Quinn drew a save out of Priestley after connecting with Gareth Hamlet's intelligent flick on and Riordan again caused panic in the visitor's defence with a storming, length of the pitch run from his full-back position. Quinn went close once more, this time after good work by Lee Blackshaw, before Adam Turner had fortune smiling on him for the second time in the match.

This time it was Paul Garvey who was denied the chance to break clear of the United defence as Turner tugged at his shirt. Again play was waved on and though Garvey struggled free to resume his chase for the ball, the chance was ultimately brought to a halt by another offence that went unpunished; Priestley picking the ball up outside his area as the Mossley forward closed in.

It wasn't until the 18th minute that United had their first real effort on goal and it was to be another twelve after that that they subjected the home side to their first serious spell of pressure. A series of corners concluded with Ashley Connor making a superb point blank stop to deny Simon Carden before the one golden opportunity FC United created in the half was wasted by their captain Rory Patterson. After getting behind Mossley's defence for the first time in the game, the visitors had players queueing up unmarked in the area waiting for the ball. Patterson chose to ignore them though and shot from a ridiculously narrow angle, planting the ball into the side netting.

The remainder of the half once again belonged to Mossley as they continued to cause their opponents defence all sorts of problems with their passing and movement and the intelligent through balls that continually cut them open.

Paul Garvey put the ball in the net for the home side only to see it ruled out for reasons unknown and was then denied by Priestley after Paul Quinn's reverse pass had presented him with the opportunity. Lee Connor headed narrowly over from a free-kick awarded for two late lunges by Adam Turner in a matter of seconds on Garvey and Gareth Hamlet then drew a fantastic save out of Priestley that surprisingly went unappreciated by the away fans in attendance.

In the closing moments of the half, Garvey was given another opportunity to advance on goal courtesy of a yet another defence splitting pass. His run was brought to a crashing halt though by a rather cynical challenge from behind by, once again, Turner and this the time the United's player luck deserted him as the referee immediately produced a fully warranted red card.

Following a blip at the start of the second period when they gave Jerome Wright the opportunity to run on goal, Mossley carried on from where they'd left off at the end of the first half and they got their due reward in the 51st minute. Paul Quinn controlled Priestley's 's fumbled attempt at dealing with a cross and fed Gareth Hamlet who had his initial shot blocked. Picking up the rebound he composed himself and after what seemed like an eternity (shades of Josh Howard's winner at Lymington in 2003), he picked his moment to fire the ball into the net .

It was no more than Mossley deserved and they continued to push forward in attempt to double their lead: Steven Sheil headed wide from a corner; Martin Allison saw a long range effort fly just over the cross bar; Hamlet went close to converting Matthew Butters left wing cross and Lee Blackshaw's cross from a similar position was hammered into the side netting by Paul Quinn.

FC United's only respite came when Jamie Baguley curled a shot wide of Ashley Connor's right hand post just short of the hour point and it proved to be his final contribution to the game, his substitution coming not long after. It was a decision that may have made Mossley breathe a bit easier (I know a few supporters did) as Baguley, along with Carden who himself was also replaced later in the game, had been one of the few opposition players that didn't deserve to be on a losing side.

A succession of corners around the 70 minute mark saw lots of frantic defending take place in the United box before a particularly unsavoury aspect to the visitor's game reared it's head. After another United attack had come to nothing, Ashley Connor played the ball into touch so that two injured players (one from either side) could receive treatment. The visitors however, apparently at their managers insistence, ignored the unwritten rule in football about throwing the ball back and chose to launch an attack instead. An incredible display of poor sportsmanship from a side that's supposed to be founded on footballing principles.

All it succeeded in doing was firing up Mossley even more and with nine minutes left Mossley put the game beyond their opponents reach and, again, it was another ball through the heart of the United defence that did the damage. Gareth Hamlet picked up the ball and took the ball into the box and as he did, his feet where whipped from under him by Priestley, giving Martin Allison the opportunity to cap a fine personal performance by dispatching the resultant penalty into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

Now enjoying a two goal cushion, Mossley reigned their attacking instincts in a bit, allowing United to enjoy a bit more possession than they'd previously been permitted. Not that it made any difference to threat that the Bury based side were carrying; Rory Patterson again ignoring the better options available to him by hammering a shot from the edge of the box that only troubled the linesman. Ashley Connor then denied substitute Hanley with two solid saves in the space of 30 seconds and in doing so killed off any hopes United may have had of rescuing the game; the Lilywhites seeing out the closing moments with little more discomfort.

After a sequence of matches where the number of plus points could be counted on the fingers of Abu Hamza's right hand, it can't be argued that a player in a white shirt gave anything less than their very best in this game to get Mossley's faltering campaign back on track. From the front to the back they were almost faultless.

The style of play was a world away from what we've seen in recent games as well. Keeping the ball on the ground and not sitting quite as deep, they certainly looked far more comfortable than they did in the previous game at Curzon.

It was a very welcome three points but the most important thing now is to take the momentum we've got from this victory game into the next game on Woodley's artificial surface.

As for the FC United 'experience'... well I can't say that it's one that I look forward to 'experiencing' again.

When an FC United fan, who'd stopped to talk as he was leaving with ten minutes left, was asked whether this was how his side had played over the last few games, he replied that he wasn't bothered as it wasn't about the football. And from what I witnessed in this game I'd say that a good number of his fellow 'supporters' share a similar opinion.

There seemed to be very little interest in to what was happening on the pitch; the game seemingly incidental to their run through of anti-Liverpool and anti-City chants, as well as the endless repetitions of Busby Babe and Cantona songs. In fact you wonder why so many went to the trouble of setting up a club when, for a sizeable number at least, it would have been cheaper just to hire out a hall every week for a Manchester United karaoke night.

And that is the fundamental problem with the club: they have no identity and never will until they can lose the fans who desperately hang on to Manchester United as a kind of crutch.

I'm absolutely certain that there are people who follow them who want the club to exist as entity on its own (and I really do wish them well), but until the 'fans' who see it as nothing more than a kind of self-flagellation that makes them martyrs to the spirit of 'the old' Manchester United, they'll continue to be neither one thing nor the other - the pre-op transsexual of football.

A special word for their manager Karl Marginson though, and that word is 'classless'. Along with the songs it appears that the bitterness exhibited by the manager after a defeat has also been appropriated from Manchester United. His reasoning in his post match interview for the gamesmanship seen in the second half (apparently down to Gerry Quinn quite rightly appealing for a red card after his players had been brought down while through on goal) smack not only of a pot/kettle situation given his performance on the touchline, but sound increasingly like the desperate cries of a man who's starting realise he's expendable. In case you haven't heard this interview, click here.

Either that or he believes the lazy reports printed in the Manchester Evening News that every defeat is down to controversial decisions (this was their third defeat in a row that the M.E.N have insinuated was due in part to poor officiating) and not because the opposition was better organised, better managed and... well, just better.

So what are we left with now the circus has left town? Well: a great team performance, a much needed win (our first in a night match this season), a couple of goals (including another converted penalty) and a clean sheet.

You really can't ask for more can you?

In The Meantime...

Unfortunately it could be a while before I get this match report finished as, unlike the M.E.N., I want to give a fairly accurate account of what went on.

In the meantime though, if you were amazed by FC United's wonderful ball control, passing play and comletely fair (in no way illegal) challenges and wonder how they do it, check out this exclusive footage of The Biggest Non-League Club In The World™ in training:

In case you're wondering, they're wearing binoculars.

Is It That Time Already?

Yes, that team from Bury are coming.

The side once modestly described by a club spokesman on GMR (as it was then) as the alternative to professional football make their first trip to Seel Park.

In their brief existence FCUB XI have had countless players on their books who used to play for Mossley such as (deep breath) Billy McCartney, Phil Melville, Leon Mike, Rhodri Giggs and countless others including the Lilywhites most successful goalkeeper - Tony Coyne, who will forever live in Mossley AFC folklore for his traffic cone assisted jig in a Service Station, just outside Oxford, on our way back from an FA Vase game in Lymington.

Only one player has come in the opposite direction: Adie Orr, who managed just 4appearances before disappearing into the unknown. Only to re-emerge once again this season at Chadderton which, truth be told, is almost the same thing.

FCUB's squad currently contains a few players who were crowd favourites at Seel Park in Matty Taylor and Josh Howard (still sadly sidelined by a long term injury). Oh yes, and on a completely unrelated matter, Dave Brown and Rory Patterson also play for them as well.

Both sides are currently in something of a slump and both come into this match having conceded four goals to a team occupying one of the top two positions in the league. FCUB are also, as the Evening News likes to remind us almost every night, in the midst of an injury crisis and as well as Josh Howard they have keeper Sam Ashton out, centre half Rob Nugent a doubt and Stuart Rudd has been a long term absentee through injury.

Prediction: I'll go with my head and say a draw. I'd dearly love my heart to be right though so fingers crossed that come Wednesday, there'll be little to no mention of the match in the Evening News, meaning that we won.

Curzon Ashton 4 - 1 Mossley

A spirited second half performance wasn't enough to stop Mossley slipping to their third successive defeat, this time at a wind and rain swept Tameside Stadium.

The match got off to the worst possible start for the Lilywhites when with, fifty seconds on the clock, Michael Norton put his name on the score sheet for the first time in the game; Curzon's prolific forward reacting the quickest to Ashley Connor's smart save to steer the loose ball low into the net.

Ashton continued to press forward but other than a few shots from distance that failed to trouble Connor, they were failing to make their dominance count. That was until the 27th minute when a short corner caught Mossley napping and left back Mortimer was given the time and space to pick out Norton, who in turn grabbed both his and his sides second goal of the game.

Mossley's best, and only, chance of the opening period came three minutes later. Paul Quinn's deep free-kick was met firmly by the head of Martin Allison only for the ball to whistle narrowly wide of the upright.

It looked increasingly as though it would be a 2-0 lead that Curzon would be taking in at the interval as the half fizzled out into a series of niggly challenges that constantly interrupted the flow of the game. Norton however had other ideas and the Mossley's inability to handle him proved costly again when, five minutes before the break, he stole through a static defence to connect with another cross to claim his hat-trick and send James Brown blaring out of the speaker system again.

The visitors emerged from the changing rooms looking a different side as they finally took the game to Curzon. Within a minute of the restart Jamie Miller looped one shot over the cross bar and with Mossley playing further up the pitch, Curzon were for the first time in the match being made to sweat a bit.

The pressure slowly began to increase and a minute before the hour mark, Mossley finally made the breakthrough. Despite being pulled to the floor by the Ashton player tracking his run into the box, the referee played the advantage as Quinn dug the ball out to find Danny Toronczak. Having lost his marker the former Belper forward composed himself before firing the ball low past Carnell to give Mossley a glimmer of hope.

In the following minutes both Miller and Toronczak had half chances that could have reduced the deficit even further but slowly, Curzon began to regain a foothold in a game and Mossley's resurgence should have been killed off in the 65th minute but the on loan Redshaw shot well wide of an open goal.

With quarter of an hour to go Allison's vicious shot was blocked on the line and from the resultant break up the pitch James Agoo headed a great opportunity just wide. Any hopes of a famous Mossley comeback were finally extinguished eleven minutes from time when Chris Curley capitalised on a miss-hit clearance in the Lilywhites back line to slip the ball under Ashley Connor.

Allison's hat-trick of near misses was completed in the 87th minute when his swerving shot from outside the box crashed off the crossbar but Mossley have Ashley Connor to thank for the score remaining at four goals to one with two superb stops in the dying moments to deny both Douglas Pringle and Josh Mitten on breaks.

With the game effectively over as a contest by the halfway point Mossley deserve plenty of credit for making a fist of it in the second period. After a first half where the home side went three up without appearing to get out of first gear, simply by setting their stall out further up the pitch, and thereby reducing the gap between the forwards and the rest of the team, they denied Curzon the room to move the ball around leading to a much closer contest.

All in all another afternoon of could have beens but the approach and performance in the second half will hopefully give Mossley pointers and confidence for their return visit to Ashton Moss in three weeks time.

A final word for the stadium though: a superb pitch and nice facilities but what's the point in having covered terracing that doesn't provide any cover? As design flaws go it's right up their with crash helmets made of bubble wrap.

First Right After Sainsbury's

Or left before Sainsbury's if your're coming the other way!

Yes, it's the second match in this seasons 'Curzon trilogy' which means that Mossley make their first ever trip to the imaginatively titled Tameside Stadium.

For those who've not yet visited this relatively new edifice on Ashton Moss, here's what you can expect:
  • It's a nice ground (which for the reputed £4m spent on it, it should be) but it suffers like most modern stadia from being a cold and soul less place. Other than the seats, which the grumpies have taken up residence in, there's no obvious focal point for fans to congregate together.

  • The terracing opposite the main stand offers great views of the pitch but the high roof offers little protection from the strong winds, and the inclement weather it can bring, that gusts across the Moss. It's peculiar height (which seems to do more with aesthetics than practicality) also allows any noise generated under it to disipate quickly, apart from that which comes from above via the ridiculously loud P.A system.

  • Speaking of which, keep an ear out for when the substitutions start happening as they always seem to confuse the hell out of the match announcer.

  • The pitch on the otherhand is superb, especialy when you consider that only last May it looked like games were being played on a scale replica of Southport beach.. It's a perfect surface for knocking the ball around on and, frankly, I doubt we'll play on one better than it this season.
Back in August Curzon came from behind to run out deserved 2 - 1 winners at Seel Park; Michael Norton and the recently departed Ryan Moore cancelling out Kitson Gayle's early opener.

Recently though the seemingly invincible Curzon have stumbled slightly, winning only two of their last six matches in all competitions and enter the match having claimed only a point at a Chorley side on the brink of their annual "Iceberg! Right ahead!" moment. It's a run of form however that Mossley enviously eye having managed just a win and a draw in their last seven outings.

The loss of Rhodri Giggs through suspension will hit Curzon's attacking options hard. However they still have enough pace and, in Michael Norton and Douglas Pringle, enough players with an eye for goal in their side to cause us problems, particularly if we sit deep and try to play a counter attacking game

The one real weak link Curzon have is their defence who do look a bit suspect when teams actually take the game to them rather than sit back. Add in a goalkeeper with a tendency to flap on occasions at high balls and there are enough chinks in the Blues armour for Mossley to try and exploit. Fingers crossed.

Prediction: It's going to be tough, it's going to be cold, it's going to be a win for Mossley.

Anthropormorphise That

Designers have been asked to anthropormorphise a wide variety of things in the quest to create a quirky mascot for almost every club, company, organisation and charity in the land.

Some are fun, some are weird, some are disturbing and some are... well, judge for yourself:

A worthwhile cause but...

Still, I'm sure the Everton fans will be happy to see Wayne Rooney back at Goodison Park.

Ossett Albion 4 - 2 Mossley

It wasn't a night for teams in white.

Whilst England were living up to expectations at the £750m parks pitch in North London, Mossley were having an equally miserable time in Yorkshire.

For the second match in a row (and the sixth time this season) the Lilywhites lost after taking the lead; Ossett Albion ending their own run of seven games without a win by scoring four unanswered second half goals, cancelling out and surpassing Gareth Hamlet's brace in the first period.

Reports from the few who went suggest that our inability to deal with pace was once again our downfall, so it's a good job we're not coming up against any speedy teams in the near future.

(reads the fixture list)


It's The One Next To The Cricket Pitch

This will be our second meeting with Ossett Albion this season, having previously registered a mightily impressive 3 - 1 victory over them in September at Seel Park when they were more highly placed than the fifth spot they currently find themselves in.

Unlike their near neighbours Town, we have a reasonably good record against Albion having won all but one of the six previous meetings between the two sides. Our last visit to the Queen's Terrace ground in February 2006 saw us register a rather comfortable 2 - 0 win over our hosts. Opening the scoring in that game after Chris Downey had missed an earlier penalty was one Paul Garvey (in case you can't remember, Paul Challinor got the second).

Paul Garvey heads Mossley into the lead back in February 2006

Ossett are in a bit of a slump having picked up just 4 points from the last 21 on offer, all four coming from draws. Mossley on the otherhand are on something of a results rollercoaster and after Saturday's roll around the trough, all fingers will be crossed for a night on the peak.

Prediction: Oh why not... a win for Mossley!

Mossley 1 - 3 Clitheroe

Received wisdom suggests that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, something Mossley unfortunately proved against Clitheroe at a cold and blustery Seel Park.

At the beginning of October in the fixture at Clitheroe's Shawbridge ground, Mossley were a goal to the good and in no real danger when a lengthy stoppage on the hour mark knocked them out of a rhythm they couldn't rediscover, allowing their hosts to capitalise on indecision and some loose passing to score two late goals that won them the game. Flash forward a month and a half and the same thing happened again. Only this time Mossley have no enforced hold-up to blame - just themselves.

In truth the home side should have had the game wrapped by half-time. From the moment Lee Blackshaw hammered a shot against the post in the 3rd minute, the Lilywhites spent the majority of the opening period encamped in their opponents half but as all too often this season, the lack of a real cutting edge in front of goal meant that their domination of possession was not mirrored in the scoreline.

Chances came and went. A poor back pass by John Osbourne allowed Gareth Hamlet to set up his strike partner Danny Toronczak, only for the former Belper forward to arc his shot over the Clitheroe crossbar. His next effort forced a fine save out of Blues keeper Horridge, but the visiting custodian should have had his copybook blotted not long after when a corner that resulted from an extremely basic handling error was headed narrowly over by Lee Connor.

Returning to that Osbourne mistake for a moment, here's a word of advice that may prove useful in the future for the Clitheroe defence: You can't be offside when you intercept a back pass! No matter how much you rant, rave and swear at the officials, they are never going to award you a free-kick for your own stupidity.

Now where was I...

As the half wore on both Blackshaw and Richard Conway put shots high over the bar from good positions and numerous other promising opportunities came to nothing due, more often than not, to the lack of a decent final ball. In response the best Clitheroe could muster were two breakaways from their on-loan signing from Fleetwood, Micky Saunders. Twice his turn of pace took him away from the Mossley defence but it was only his first run on goal caused any real consternation, forcing Lee Connor to hook the ball off the line.

Within a minute of the restart following the interval though, Mossley finally managed what they'd spent the first half struggling to do. Straight from the kick-off Hamlet forced Horridge into turning the ball behind and from the ensuing corner, Steven Shiel found himself unmarked inside the six yard box and he headed Mossley into the lead; his first goal on his return to the club.

But then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.

Just as it had done six weeks previously, Mossley's passing became lax and possession was constantly being handed over to their opponents. And on the hour mark, it was through a sloppy piece of play like this that Clitheroe quickly broke up field and forced a corner from which Clarke brought the scores the level by bundling the ball over the line.

If it refocused Mossley's approach it wasn't noticeable and only a superb point blank save by Ashley Connor stopped Saunders from putting the visitors ahead. The Lilywhites keeper could only watch though, and no doubt breathe a sigh of relief, when substitute Neil Zarac fired high and wide after being left unmarked and gifted the ball on the edge of the Mossley penalty area through a kamikaze pass across the defence.

By this stage Mossley were only providing any real threat from set-pieces and what proved to be their last chance of the game with ten minutes left went the way of most of their others; Martin Allsion spooning Horridge's umpteenth spilled catch of the game, this time from a free-kick, over the cross bar.

The miss was to prove costly as two minutes later Clitheroe scored the goal that won the game. Again they capitalised on yet another poor Mossley pass and their greater turn of pace to break up the pitch where Zarac fired past Ashley Connor.

As the home side threw men forward in search of an equaliser that, in truth, never looked like arriving, huge gaps started to appear in their defence which Clitheroe gratefully began to exploit. The eventual destination of the three points should have been put beyond any doubt in the 89th minute when Clitheroe had players literally queuing up to apply a finishing touch to a move, only for Saunders' replacement Sam Heap to fire hopelessly over.

That third goal did arrive though and courtesy of the same modus operandi as the previous two: the ball sloppily given away and Clitheroe allowed to charge up field virtually unimpeded. It was Zarac again that applied the finish to the move, this time slipping the ball under Ashley Connor.

I'd normally say a match to forget for the Lilywhites but hopefully this one will be remembered and the lessons to be learnt from it heeded for future games.

The scoreline might suggest otherwise but Clitheroe weren't two goals better than us. Both teams fluctuated between looking poor then good (or the other way round in Mossley's case) but the only difference between the two sides was that they took their chances, we didn't.

I really don't want to be too harsh in my criticism (yes, there's a but coming) but (see I told you) the fact remains that it's another three points lost. For the second time this season we've thrown away a win against Clitheroe and whilst it's true that nothing is certain in football, in both games there were long stretches where we never looked in any real danger of losing.

Once again we're looking back on a defeat, ruing the lack of a killer instinct that would have seen us in a more celebratory mood long before the final whistle. It would be easy to put all the blame on the shoulders of the forwards but when the service to them is little to none, it would be harsh to criticise them for not putting away every one of the few opportunities that came their way. That said a few more shots that worked the goalkeeper than the ball boys wouldn't go amiss.

Here's a little factoid: In almost 10 hours of football since we scored our third against Skelmersdale, we've only scored one goal in open play; the other three goals during that time coming from a free-kick, a penalty and a corner.

I mention that as our biggest failing seems to be creating the opportunities for people to score. For example, in this match the Clitheroe left back John Osbourne was having a nightmare of a game; every time the ball came near him he panicked and Mossley swept past him with ease. Sadly, instead of subjecting him to 90 minutes that would have left him unable to sleep at night, we didn't take any advantage of his nervousness and our approach play rapidly started funnelling itself down the centre of the pitch.

Even now, three months into the season, I'm still not too sure as to what kind of side we are: a ball on the deck, passing team or a kick and chase XI. What is noticeable though is that when we're the former we create chances and win; when we're the latter we lose and that's what happened for the majority of the second period in this match.

It also worryingly appears that the self-destruct button we thought we'd got rid of in the summer has been found again and we can't fight the urge to press it. We were in next to no danger when we took the lead yet we suddenly started to squander possession cheaply and lose all sense of shape

The most frustrating thing is that we're not that far off being a side to be reckoned with. We have a solid defence (when failings elsewhere aren't asking them to do an impression of the Royal Engineers at Rorke's Drift and fight off wave after wave of attack) and enough talent elsewhere to make a mark on the league this season. But until the elementary mistakes are cut out and the positives built on, we'll continue to hinder rather than help ourselves.

With four difficult games on the horizon it's imperative that the team discover the form we all know they're capable of or winter could be slightly more gruelling than it would otherwise be. Come rain or shine though we'll be there, willing them to do just that.

The final word is saved for Clitheroe. I don't think I've ever seen a smaller side at Seel Park outside of the half-time penalty shoot-outs the under 10's used to have. It was like watching the diamond mine work's team, half expecting them to break out at any given moment with a chorus of 'Hi-Ho'. It was they who had the last laugh though (albeit a squeaky, chipmunk like one), proving that dominating possession is no substitute for an Oompa Loompas ruthlessness in front of goal.

They're Back Again

It's the return of some familiar faces as our old enemies/friends Clitheroe make the journey to Seel Park for the first time since April 2006; a game which saw Mossley claim a valuable three points to wards their title challenge with a 1 - 0 win.

The match will give Mossley an early opportunity to seek revenge for the defeat they suffered at Shawbridge back at the beginning of October. Despite being a goal to the good and looking completely in control of their own destiny, Mossley came unstuck after the game was held up due to an injury suffered by the referee and conceded two late goals to hand Clitheroe their first league win of the season.

Something to look out for in this match is whether Mossley will kick the ball out should a Clitheroe player go down injured, or return a dead ball to them should they knock it off so their own player can get treated. Why you may be asking? Well...

In the closing moments of that game in October, with the score at 2-2, James Riordan picked up an injury due to a very late 'tackle' by one of the home sides players. At the first chance they got, Mossley put the ball out so he could receive some treatment. Clitheroe took the throw-in that resulted from this action and put the ball out for a throw-in for Mossley - 4 to 5 yards from left hand corner flag in the half the Lilywhites were defending. The Blues then pushed up to pin Mossley in and from the resultant pressure they scored the winner.

It wasn't the reason why we lost but it was certainly a bit of poor sportsmanship that may be reciprocated on Saturday. Still, if it does happen, it'll give their manager something to rant and rave about again. Especially as in the last match he thought a two footed, knee high challenge was perfectly acceptable.

It's been something of a mixed week for Clitheroe. After pulling off an impressive 2 - 1 victory over FCUB, a result that was skillfully camouflaged by the Bury based sides propaganda arm: the Manchester Evening News, they were kicked out of the FA Trophy for fielding an ineligible player against Rushall Olympic and went out of the Lancashire County Cup to Leigh R.M.I.. Mossley on the other hand return to home soil on the back of the win at Radcliffe Borough that saw them climb to seventh in the league and a week off.

Prediction: Like derby matches, games between these two sides rarely go to form so weighing up the pros and cons, ups and downs, swings and roundabouts, red pill and blue pill... I don't know... a draw?

Radcliffe Borough 0 - 1 Mossley

The best thing that can be said about a game which perfectly complimented the dull skies it was played beneath, is that Mossley left for home with the three points that were on offer thanks to a solitary second half goal.

With 13 minutes left, substitute Jamie Miller and Danny Toronczak combined down the right and the latter provided a superb low cross to the far post where it was met my Lee Blackshaw. Whilst his initial shot was well saved by Lake, the Radcliffe keeper could only deflect the ball upwards, allowing Blackshaw a second bite of the cherry and the former Glossop winger headed it into the net for his third goal of the season.

Mossley had started the match reasonably brightly but their attempts at opening the scoring were more often than not let down by a weak shot that followed some good build-up play. As the first period wore on those chances began to dry up and it was only a sublime move on the half hour mark involving Martin Allison and Gareth Hamlet, which Toronczak narrowly failed to apply the perfect finish to, that provided any real respite from the dour midfield battle the match was quickly becoming.

The early stages of the second half promised better things, especially when Lee Connor's firm header from a corner was blocked on the line by a Borough player. Radcliffe immediately responded by winning a series of corners themselves but that proved to be it for the game as a spectacle until Blackshaw popped up with his match winning goal.

Whilst Mossley were hardly the force they've shown that they can be at times this season, they were never in any real danger of losing. Borough entered the match still waiting to register their first win in the league and they provided little to suggest that this would be the game in which they broke their duck. Apart from those three successive corners not long after the interval, visiting keeper Ashley Connor had so little to do I wouldn't be surprised if he was charged the £7 other spectators had to pay to watch the game.

It might not have been pretty but Mossley will be pleased to have successfully negotiated what was a potential banana skin without any slip-ups. And when all is said and done, league positions are based on points and not the entertainment factor of matches, which is why the Lilywhites will return to Seel Park more than delighted with the three they gained from this game.

A delight that was only surpassed by the one the final whistle brought to the supporters. I love watching Mossley – always have and, touch wood, always will, but there are times at matches when I half wish that basket weaving had caught my eye more at a formative age and this was one of them. Oh boy was it boring.

The pleasing thing about matches like this though is that it makes you appreciate the good ones all the more. Not only that but it puts the recent 120 minute snore-athon against Skelmersdale in a whole new better light too.

That said there can be no arguments that the result wasn't the correct one. We were by far the better team, controlling the majority of the possession and the only side to create any real chances. Another thing to add under the positive column is that this was the kind of game we've never managed to win in the last couple of years, so it's as good a proof as any that progress is being made.

On the negative side we didn't look altogether comfortable with the switch to a 3-5-2 formation from the 4-4-2 line-up we've used all season, and I dare say that a half decent side would have exploited the numerous gaps that opened up in the corners of our defence. Thankfully though we were playing Radcliffe.

Maybe I'm being harsh and it wasn't quite as bad as my memory remembers it but in my defence, on our way to the game we pulled into a garage and ended up next to a car where a woman was sat naked in the driving seat. And frankly, it's going to have to be one hell of a Unibond First Division North match to beat that.

However, if you're some kind of masochist and couldn't get enough of this game, a Radcliffe supporter has posted the 'highlights' of his sides performance in this match on YouTube.

Caution: Viewing may cause drowsiness. Do not watch if you are about to drive or operate heavy machinery.

Marvel as a free-kick comes to nothing.
Gasp as another free-kick is taken too quickly and the referee calls it back.
Amaze your friends by telling them that you saw that long throw-in actually take place.

Sarcasm – it may be the lowest form of wit but it's still the best.

90 Degrees Anti-Clockwise

It's a visit to our fellow members of the Unibond Premier 06/07 escape comittee this Saturday as we make the small trek around the M60 to Radcliffe.

Like Mossley, Radcliffe have undergone changes at the top since relegation from the Unibond Premier, albeit slightly more recently. Long time chairman Bernard Manning Jr has stepped down to the less hands on role of director and along with many other clubs they are facing a relatively uncertain future.

Last season we picked up a 3 - 1 win at Stainton Park (no, I'm not referring to it by its current sponsored title) thanks to two goals from Peter Wright and one from Melford Knight. It was a tighter game than the scoreline suggested too but we held out for a win that gave quite a few supporters the idea that there was light at the end of the tunnel. There was but it belonged to an oncoming train.

Radcliffe currently lie bottom of the table having picked up only two points from their opening nine games; none of which have come from matches played at home. They have had some reasonable success in the cups but it's a win in the league that they'll want more than anything which is worrying dark omen. In a similar situation Clitheroe picked up their first three points of the campaign against us. As did Garforth, though admittedly that was the first game of the season when nobody had picked up any points.

The video for "Meat Pie, Sausage Roll" novelty football song by Smug Roberts was filmed at Radcliffe's ground.
It was terrible.

Likely to be in their starting line-up is Mike Flynn, the former Stockport County captain who had a month on loan at Mossley last season from Hyde whilst we should have ex-Boro forward Jamie Miller playing some part in proceedings.

Prediction: It all depends on which Mossley team turns up so I'll sit on the fence and say a draw. For both sides.

Mossley 2 - 2 Garforth Town

Better late than never?

A turn of phrase that can not only be applied to this report but can equally be used to describe both Garforth's arrival at Seel Park and Mossley's belated entry into the game.

Due to an incident on the motorway half of Garforth's side were unavoidably delayed, necessitating the kick off being put back for over a quarter of an hour. When eleven of their players did take to the pitch, they did so in Mossley’s away kit from last season; theirs presumably being in the back of a car stuck somewhere around Hartshead Services.

Following a drab opening which saw the ball ping-pong between the two penalty areas, the ennui that was beginning to envelop the supporters on the terraces suddenly appeared to spread to the Mossley defence. A hit and hope ball from one of the Garforth centre halves caught full back Nicky Thompson napping, allowing the man he should have been marking, Jason St Juste, to cut in from the wing and shoot across Ashley Connor to give them the lead after twenty minutes.

Seven minutes from the break the same player was once again the beneficiary of Mossley's gift giving. For a reason that will probably remain unknown, right back Thompson and central James Riordan found themselves taking a throw-in ten yards from the Garforth corner flag, which the latter miss-controlled and in doing so, handed possession to St Juste. Taking advantage of the huge hole that was now left in Mossley's back line, the whippet like number 11 ran three quarters of the length of the pitch with no one in pursuit. His good fortune didn't end there either as his sliced attempt at a cross turned into a shot that arced over a stranded Ashley Connor and dropped into the net at the far post.

With Garforth more than happy to sit back and defend the lead, gained through what would be their only two shots on goal in the entire match, by fair means and foul, Mossley struggled to make any headway at all, and with a little under a quarter of it left to play, all they’d managed in response was an effort apiece from Michael Fish and Lee Blackshaw.

The good thing about football though is that the complexion of games can change in an instant and that’s what happened in the 72nd minute. Fish's cross from a corner was met eight yards out by the head of substitute Jamie Miller and the former Radcliffe striker powered the ball past a host of bodies and into the net. Not only did it end Mossley’s six hour plus goal drought but, more importantly, it gave them a belief that the game wasn’t beyond rescuing.

Coupled with some much needed variety to their attacking play, Mossley started to push Town further and further back towards their own goal line and the chances started to arrive with increasing regularity. In fact it was only a trebuchet and a few cauldrons of hot oil away from being a fully blown siege.

Despite the constant pressure being exerted though, and the bombardment of shots keeper Karl Spratt was having deal with, it all appeared to be a matter of too little too late. That was until, in injury time, Mossley got the stroke of luck that had been otherwise noticeable by its absence throughout the game. As the ball pinballed around the area during one of the many scrambles that occurred in the latter stages of the game, it bounced off the surface and struck Town full back Milton Turner on the hand. Instinctively appeals went up for a penalty and the referee duly obliged by pointing to the spot.

It was, from my viewpoint, something of a harsh decision but it more than made up the penalty Mossley should have been awarded in the first half when Gareth Hamlet's attempted cross was blocked by the outstretched arm of Nathan Kamara. The obviousness of the illegality that had taken place was so great that even some of the visiting players stopped in expectation of the referee’s whistle, but on a day when the rub of the green tended to favour the away side when it came to decisions, the appeals were waved away by the man in the middle.

Wait a minute! Rub of the green… this isn’t the ‘official report’ is it? It’s the ‘unofficial’ one so I can say what I mean: the referee and his two assistants were appalling. They weren’t responsible for the goals we conceded, only Mossley were to blame for them, but: the missed penalty decisions, allowing Spratt to pick up back passes, the failure to punish Town for the niggling fouls they strung together with the intent on breaking up the flow of the game and, the cherry on top of a pile of cherries, a two footed, knee high lunge on Martin Allison that didn’t even get its perpetrator a talking too let alone the red card it so richly deserved, was all down to them and them alone.

It was with some trepidation that the home supporters awaited the spot kick, not having seen their side score from one in twelve months; a year that has also encompassed five successive failed attempts. It all proved to be unnecessary worry though as Mossley's new centre forward Danny Toronczak calmly sent Spratt the wrong way and rolled the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

The drama was by no means over as twice in a matter of seconds on Mossley's very next attack, Garforth were guilty of two considerably more blatant handballs as they literally juggled the ball out of danger. This time however, neither was given; the balance of luck having tipped favourably back towards the visitors. Or in other words, the referee had recovered from his previous momentary lapse of concentration.

In the final minute of time added on Lee Connor had a shot blocked on the line and Toronczak came close to making the perfect debut but his header, with seconds to spare, was clung onto by a grateful Spratt.

Mossley’s fight back may not quite have had the fairy tale ending of three points but the one they did win was well earned, particularly as for a long period the match looked something of a lost cause. Nevertheless, it does leave you wondering what would have happened if that spirit and desire shown in the latter stages had been burning just as brightly from the start.

Or it could just be that our poor form towards the end of matches last season has become so ingrained in the away strip that it affects anyone who wears it. In all seriousness though whilst Mossley deserve ample credit for their comeback, there’s a part of me that’s idly wondering if it would have happened had Garforth not substituted their goal scorer just before Miller’s goal.

Not only was St Juste their best player by far, he was the only outlet for the long punts up field. Taking him off meant that the ball just came straight back at them, allowing the pressure to build to point where goals looked an inevitability. Perhaps they thought that the game was won (which to be fair, it looked as though it was), but it goes to show that nothing is for certain in football. Apart from not winning in that maroon kit.

And if at some point during the week you’re walking along Manchester Road, the canal or, perhaps, across the moors and you see a ball lying around, do please pick it up and hand it in at the club - it’s probably one of Garforth’s clearances. Yes, I am being serious.

Their manager/chairman might like to boast about how he's based his footballing ideals on the Brazilian approach to the game, but unless the yellow shirted behemoths of international football spend a considerable proportion of match time attempting to kick the ball out of the Maracana, there's little evidence of it in the way his team plays. As I’ve mentioned before, barring the previously mentioned St Juste, the Garforth side bear more of a resemblance to the Wimbledon side of the 80's than… well, anyone really.

All things considered, a point wasn’t too bad an outcome and hopefully we can go two better at Radcliffe this Saturday and really get our season back on track.

Apologies All Round But...

Unfortunately, due to circumstances I really wish I could control, a report on the Garforth game may not appear on here until the end of the week - if at all.

Apologies if you've clicked on here hoping to read it but sometimes other things come first.

It's A Long Way From South America

This Saturday the Simon Clifford road show rolls into Seel Park as Mossley look to seek revenge on Garforth for the defeat suffered in Yorkshire on the opening day of the season.

It also means that those who couldn’t make that game will finally get to witness non-league’s answer to Brazil; a side whose playing ethos is built around that of the South American football giants. Well that’s what the hype would have you believe.

The reality is that by the end of September they’d amassed 30 yellow cards and 1 red card in just nine league games. Perhaps they’re getting the Brazilian approach to football mixed up with the Brazilian police's approach to the kids who live on the streets of Rio Di Janeiro.

They were incredibly fortunate not to have been reduced to ten men after just 15 minutes of that first game league game, way back in August. After being on the receiving end of an awful challenge, Paul Garvey appeared to be stamped on by another player which the referee saw but bizarrely only deemed worthy of a yellow; a decision that may or may not have been influenced by the proximity of both the home bench and a small yet vociferous bunch of Town supporters.

Mossley went two goals down before Joel Bryce grabbed a very late consolation for the then ‘new look’ Lilywhites, but the whole thing was overshadowed by the horrific injury suffered by Mike Jefferson which necessitated an hour long stoppage. That said, I don’t think anyone from this side of the Pennines had any complaints about the eventual result, even though what we saw bore little resemblance to the report that appeared in the following day’s Non-League Paper.

On current league form Garforth are looking decidedly average: winning two, drawing two and losing two of their last six games. However, their record away from home this season is the second best in the league which could be a cause for concern. Thankfully the Lilywhites’ current league form isn’t too shabby, and a world away from their cup form having claimed 12 out of the last possible 18 points.

Prediction: With there being no prize money on offer or the chance of our name being drawn out of a bag– a win for Mossley!