Leek Town 1 - 2 Mossley

In the ‘nanny state’ we now live in it’s a wonder that sport doesn’t come labelled warning of its danger to health.

Take bobsledding for instance. It’s a sport that Britain has a long and, at times, successful history in. But how many people who take it up realise that the extreme g-forces experienced during a career spent hurtling down an ice chute in a fibre glass go-kart will actually make you smaller? One minute you’re travelling at 85mph down sheet ice wearing nothing more than lycra body suit that leaves little to the imagination (and less than complimentary in below zero temperatures) and the next you’re failing to meet the minimum height required to have a go on the Magic Teacup ride at Alton Towers.

And there’s Rugby. Never mind the eye gouging, stamping, fighting and other underhand tactics that go on: shouldn’t the fact that you’re only one unfortunate plane ride across the Andes away from cannibalism persuade the country’s leaders to curb the take up of the game? Having said that, after some of the stories you hear about rugby club outings and post match antics, nibbling away on a colleague’s buttock seems rather tame.

All sports carry dangers to their participants but it can be even worse for the spectators? Have a quick flick through some of the satellite channels on most days of the week and you’re almost bound to stumble across footage of a rally car driving into a group of rapidly scattering spectators, a boxer extending his bout to take in the first three rows of the crowd or a close up of somebody staring wide eyed in shock as an F1 cars tyre bounces off their head.

However the threat posed by an animal/sportsman gone berserk or an internal combustion engine propelled projectile has nothing on what a short period of time spent watching Mossley can do to the human condition. Watching the last ten minutes of a game where the Lilywhites are either level or a goal to the good is extremely hazardous for your health.

For 600 seconds you’ll see people age before your very eyes (Indeed, it’s a little known fact that the aftermath of Walter Donovan sipping from the wrong cup of Christ at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade wasn’t a special effect but real time footage of a Mossley supporter taken in the final few minutes of a Northern Premier League game against Morecambe in 1987). Nerves start to fray, nails are chewed down to the cuticles and I’m not exaggerating when I say that the closing stages of most games could turn the most constipated of supporters into a replica of Willy Wonka’s chocolate waterfall.

The final moments of Saturday’s game at Harrison Park were no different either. As Leek continually pressed forward in search of an equaliser they probably deserved, you could hear the travelling supporter’s hearts pounding against their rib cages. A rhythmic beating that was silenced only by the huge sigh of relief that greeted every shot that was blocked, missed or cannoned back off the woodwork. It was that nerve racking.

With time almost up though it seemed that Mossley’s season long curse of conceding a point robbing last minute goal was going to happen again. Centre-half Wayne Johnson had been pushed into the attack in an effort to rescue the game for the hosts and it appeared to have been a tactical master-stroke when it looked like he’d sent the ball on a journey to the back of the net during injury time. The shouts of celebration got caught in the Leek fans throats though as Steve Wilson flung himself across the goal and somehow managed to knock the ball over the crossbar for a corner - a phenomenal save that nothing I write could do justice to.

As I mentioned earlier though, no-one could have denied that Leek weren’t worthy of a point at the very least. Straight from the kick-off (where Mossley surrendered the ball after two touches) Town were the side doing all the pressing but it soon became apparent as to why their goals for total, especially at home, was so low. Put it this way, if you ever find yourself having to face a firing squad and you’re given a last request - ask if Leek Town can do the shooting.

For all the Staffordshire side’s pressure Mossley were looking quite nifty on the break. James Turley and Joe Shaw were making huge inroads down the wings but despite Peter Wright and debutant Alex Taylor providing able support the Lilywhite’s were struggling to create any half decent chances in open play. Set pieces were another matter entirely though.

The visitor’s first real opportunity came when a corner from the right was headed back across an open goal by Steven Shiel but with no Mossley player ‘having a gamble’ the chance was cleared. Just after the midway point of the first half Leek keeper Peter Collinge pushed Joel Pilkington’s deep cross/Nicky Thompson’s goal against Telford homage (delete as applicable) over the cross bar for a corner. James Turley swung the ball into the near post where Peter Wright beat Everett and Collinge to head Mossley into the lead.

The goal stung Town into action and they actually managed to force Wilson into a save before Mossley doubled their advantage three minutes from the break. After trying to play the advantage the referee had no option but to penalise the home side for their third attempt at bringing a Joe Shaw run to a halt in as many seconds. From a position wide on the left David Eyres swung in a fantastic free-kick with pace that Collinge could only parry into the back of his net.

Everyone watches as Paul Collinge fails to stop David Eyres’s free-kick from increasing Mossley’s lead

Having missed the 4-0 win at Frickley last December, this was the first time I’d seen Mossley two goals ahead in a game for four months and, frankly, I’d forgotten what to do. Thankfully though, Mossley being Mossley, slack marking in the box on the stroke of half-time allowed Steve Brannan (who a minute earlier had been subject to a torrent of abuse from his own supporters on the halfway line) to halve the deficit after the ball had bounced back off the post, and I was able to return to the more familiar feeling of fretting over our ability to hang onto a one goal lead with forty five minutes still to play.

The second half unsurprisingly began with the home side throwing everything at Mossley in an effort to draw the scores level. Happily though the accuracy of Leek’s forward line hadn’t improved during the interval and coupled with some resolute Lilywhite defending, it meant that Steve Wilson was as much a spectator as the away fans positioned behind Collinge’s goal. Occasionally the pace of Shaw and Turley would allow Mossley to break forward but Town’s goal rarely came under any real threat; at least not until twelve minutes into the second period that is when Mossley were given the opportunity to increase their lead from the penalty spot after Andy Thomas blocked Peter Wright’s shot with his right arm.

A familiar site over the last few seasons – a penalty miss

The debate as to whether the hand ball was intentional or not died a death the moment Wright sent his spot kick wide of the left hand post. As well as ensuring that Mossley are the only side in the world (along with England) whose least dangerous set-piece is a free shot at goal from twelve yards, the penalty miss seemed to be the cue for Leek to find another gear and suddenly the visitor’s defence was starting to look a little ragged.

As Town’s chances grew more frequent, so did the panic attacks amongst away fans that’d been in this situation enough times to realise that a happy ending is rarely forthcoming. With every near miss and goalmouth scramble you could feel another knot tighten in the stomach or a hair go grey. There was the odd long range effort and corner from Mossley to alleviate the tension but as time (very) slowly ticked away the fears that we’d concede yet another soul destroying late goal grew.

For once though, we didn’t. Steve Wilson’s ‘wonder save’ from Wayne Johnson’s close range effort effectively killed off the home side’s doggedness and, as the adrenalin started to pump through the small band of Mossley supporters who’d made the journey to Staffordshire, the referee brought proceedings to a close.

Melford Knight puts a header over the bar in a rare second half attack

It might not have been the greatest game of football ever witnessed but who cares? When you’re second bottom at this stage of the season the result is all that matters – better the three points than another gallant defeat, just ask Leek. It would be nice though if Mossley could occasionally do it without sending its supporters central nervous system into meltdown through a near ninety minute white knuckle ride.

Finally (yes, there is an end to this match report), whilst it’s still too soon to suggest that we’ve turned a corner (one win does not make you safe from relegation) there were plenty of things in evidence on the pitch to suggest that we can at least make a fight of it which, at the end of the day, is all we want.

Woo And Hoo! (Update)

The match report and a fair few pictures will be posted on here tomorrow (Tuesday) night. It would have been on now but it needs quite a bit of editing. Unless, that is, you fancy reading 2000+ words.

Off To Leek

This Saturday sees the Mossley road show roll in to Leek for the first of what will be many six pointers over the final months of the season. It will also be the first meeting of the season between the two sides after the game that was due to take place at Seel Park last November was called off for reasons I can't recall. Isn't the memory... ... thingy... as you get older?

Its been just short of fourteen years since we last made the trip to Staffordshire to face Town. That match back in 1993 was our last in the Northern Premier League Premier Division until this season; Mossley bowing out with a creditable 3-3 draw. In the intervening decade and a bit we certainly haven't been strangers to Harrison Park as our adventures in the NWCL meant we made regular visits to take on Leek C.S.O.B. who still ground share with their more senior hosts.

As I mentioned earlier, both sides 'disappointing' form this season means that this is the archetypal six pointer: Leek currently lie one place and one point above Mossley in 20th spot having played one game less than the Lilywhites.

It wasn't so long ago though that Leek were seemingly adrift at the bottom of the table but their last six games (three wins, a draw and two defeats) has seen them double their points total and rise two places. The majority of those better results however have come away from home as their last six games at Harrison Park have yielded just one win, a draw and two goals for. Mossley's form in their last six away games is also one win and a draw but with 5 goals for, though four of those did come in the same game.

Prediction: It's got to be a win. A defeat will see a second gap open up above us whilst a draw is neither use nor ornament to either side at this stage of the season. As there's no way on earth I can see us not being 'up' for this one I'm confident that we'll be sitting with 22 points next to our name come 4:50pm on Saturday.

The Escape Clause

As you, me, the world, his wife, his second cousin and the imaginary friend he had three ice ages ago know, finishing fourth from bottom in any of the three divisions that make up step three of the non-league pyramid enters you into a relegation lottery. With Mossley lying eleven points off the coveted fifth bottom spot currently occupied by Kendal Town, our best chance of avoiding the drop at this moment appears to be finishing in 19th place and buying a ticket.

So with the end of the season fast approaching what better time to examine the straw we could be clutching at should our manager's target of 25 points from the final 45 available be missed by a long margin?

In the Unibond Premier Division Radcliffe Borough currently hold on to 19th position with 24 points; four points ahead of Leek Town and five ahead of our beloved Lilywhites. Boro's points total is also greater than that of the teams in similar positions in the Rymans and British Gas Premier leagues - the other two divisions which face the prospect of having four teams relegated.

However Radcliffe's position is not as rosy at it first appears. Because some teams have played more games than others, in order to get a truer picture of how things currently stand you need to work on an average points per game (PPG) basis:

UNI Radcliffe Borough -  P 29  Pts 24  PPG 0.83
RYM Hendon -  P 23  Pts 21  PPG 0.91
BGP Cheshunt -  P 23  Pts 22  PPG 0.97

As well as not being good news for the north Manchester side it isn't good news for Mossley either who have a PPG average of just 0.70, less than half of the average PPG required to meet the managers target of 25 points. This means that even if fourth bottom is our best chance of survival we're going to have to start racking up the points and quickly; picking up the odd one here or there might see us pip Radcliffe or whoever to 19th place but it almost certainly isn't going to be enough to save us if things continue to play out the way they are.

Fortunately a third of Mossley's remaining fifteen games are against the four other teams that make up the bottom five of the Unibond Premier so all is not lost yet, particularly with sides like North Ferriby who we've still to play in free fall as well. It just means that we can't settle for a point in games any more - it's now a question of win or bust if don't want to face the prospect of clutching a losing ticket come the end of April.

Gateshead Are Coming! Possibly...

If by some miracle the weather should hold off long enough for the pitch to recover (and the winds drop to a level that won't require supporters being lashed to stanchions to avoid being blown away) this Saturday will see the resurrection of a tie that was a common sight in the seventies and eighties. No, not the kipper tie (that famous Brummie beverage) but Mossley versus Gateshead.

It's been the best part of seventeen years since the Tynesiders last made the trek south to Seel Park. In that 89/90 season Gateshead claimed the league title and won promotion to the Conference. At the opposite end of the 'pleasure' spectrum Mossley were experiencing the shenanigans of Lawlor and Fisher that would eventually send the club on a downward spiral.

And if that wasn't bad enough, Mark Hilton became manager after the departure of Bryan Griffiths and treated everyone to his novel approach team selections (e.g. top scoring forward at centre half and himself, a centre half, playing as a forward.) before going the way of many Mossley managers at that time. The last anyone seems to have heard of him was when he appeared on the front page of the short lived Northern Echo paper in the early 90's under the headline: Bernard Manning Stole My Wife!

So here we are in the 21st Century and Gateshead arrive with Mossley in a familiar position to the one they were in the last time they visited - struggling against relegation, only this time around we're deeper in the doo-doo. The North Easterners headed back home with a point from that meeting following a 2-2 result, Jim McCluskie scoring both of Mossley's goals in one of his final games before his controversial departure to Hyde United. And what wouldn't we give for someone of his quality now!

Gateshead currently sit mid-table in 12th position, recovering well from a poor September/October that saw them flirt with the relegation spots. Mossley on the other hand fell madly in love with them and reside in 20th spot at the moment on the same number of points as Leek Town.

The Heed's push up the table is reflected in the form tables where they have the sixth best record in the league over the course of the last six games, averaging 1.83 points and 2.5 goals for per game in that time. Away from the International Athletics Stadium they've only lost three times and arrive at the foot of the Pennines unbeaten on their travels for four games.

Mossley's grip on the wooden spoon given to the side with the worst home record in the league remains as tight as ever though; the record of two wins and one draw from twelve games being the poorest in the league by a long shot. A blistering twenty minute spell in the first half of their last home game against league leaders Telford did provide some hope that the Lilywhites woeful form will soon be turned around, but the performance against Flixton in midweek nixed that wishful thinking in the bud before it had a chance to blossom.

Prediction: Call me mad but this has 'win' written all over it. For Mossley too.

As I've mentioned in the past there's always a positive reaction from Mossley following a heavy or embarrassing defeat - and they don't get any more embarrassing than losing to the reserve side of a team two leagues lower.

Mossley 1 - 2 Flixton

Oh. My. Goodness.

Actually, I can think of another three words that would make a suitable opening to this report but as I don't swear I could only tell you the first one: Absolutely. You'll have to fill in the '______ ____!' that follows it yourself.

In a season that has been high on low points Mossley deserve a bit of credit for somehow managing to scrape a bit more off the bottom of a barrel that was already looking exceedingly thin. No matter how you choose to look at it (injuries, unimportant cup, weather, etc.) - losing at home to a reserve side from two leagues below is an extraordinary nadir. If it carries on at this pace we'll be having to send James Cameron down in the diving bell he used to film the Titanic to see the depths we can sink to.

Although Mossley started the game by winning a series of free-kicks in the final third of the field, it was Flixton who were first to go about seriously troubling the scoreline. Making use of the space graciously afforded to him, Andy Lundy hit a powerful shot that sparked a goalmouth scramble when Danny Trueman spilt the ball.

The close call appeared to jolt a bit of life into the home side. Steve Burke saw a shot well saved by Bennet in the Flixton goal before Joe Shaw almost broke the deadlock with an effort from the edge of the box that bounced off the upright. It was all too brief though.

In a perfect example of counter attacking football, Flixton won possession following a Mossley corner and had the ball in the back of their hosts net a mere three passes later. Gilligan's excellent turn on the halfway line after receiving the first pass took two defenders out of the game and left the Flixton players oceans of space to pour forward into. The ball switched to the left wing and then into the middle where Lundy had time to pick his spot before placing his shot high into the right hand corner of the School End goal.

Mossley huffed and puffed for the remainder of the half but never troubled Bennet (his frequent good humoured conversations with the home support appearing to be the only thing stopping him from nodding off). At least that was the case until a minute from the interval when Joe Shaw's curling shot from Lee Shillito's set-up meant that Mossley went in at the break with scores level.

That parity (and hopes of a mouth watering semi-final clash against Glossop or Oldham Town) lasted all of a minute of the second period. Ex-Mossley midfielder Steve Tobin produced an inch perfect ball that found Howard in the kind of space normally afforded to the terminally smelly, leaving the Flixton left winger with the task of taking the ball round Trueman and rolling it into the empty net.

It begs the question as to what goes on in the dressing room at half-time. In this and many other games over the last twelve months we've gone in at the break looking like winners only to come out looking like extras from a George Romero movie. Is there a carbon monoxide leak? Do they give blood? Is Brahms Lullaby the music of choice to suck oranges to? There must be some reason as to why we always seem off the pace and switched off when the referee restarts the match.

Steve Burke saw an effort drift wide just after the hour mark and then Melford Knight had an 'Escape to Victory' moment when he attempted a Pele-esque overhead kick that went wide but was impressive nonetheless. To be honest, taking our cue from Pele may not be a bad way for us to get out of current predicament; those pills he advertises on the television are apparently guaranteed to keep you up and add a bit of stiffness.

In the final forty-five minutes Bennet was only called into making a save once and a particularly fine one it was too. A cross into the box appeared to fizzling out in the manner that most of Mossley's attacks had done when the ball suddenly bounced off the shins of one his own players in the six yard box, forcing the Flixton keeper into making a reaction stop to tip it over the bar. He almost had to make another save later on in the game but Fraser Robinson's head got in the way of Melford Knight's stinging 18 yard drive, knocking the unfortunate young Australian completely off his feet.

Flixton constantly looked dangerous on the counter attack, especially Howard who had more than one opportunity to add to his and sides total for the game. The last chance of the game fell to Mossley but substitute Peter Wright (on for a visibly unhappy Lee Shillito) could only curl his free-kick into the wall and the chance of a cup final date in May had gone. On the bright side though, so had the threat of extra-time and another thirty minutes of drudgery.

And so the vast majority of the 82 people who'd turned up to watch went home bitterly disappointed, upset and angry at what they'd witnessed. Yes, that's right - 82; the lowest crowds I can ever remember for a competitive fixture at Seel Park. Who knows why the other 140+ regulars didn't turn up and most importantly, why didn't they tell us to stop away too!

As you've probably surmised yourself from this and other reports on the internet, it was a shocking performance from a side that's currently classed as a Northern Premier League team. It was a total embarrassment right through being out fought and out thought to having a bench consisting of only two injured players whilst our lower league opponents were able to muster a full compliment of five. And that doesn't include a whole host of first teamers who were rested ahead of their FA Vase game this weekend.

After being well beaten by a NWCL reserve side things can surely only get better. At least I hope that's the case as the prospect of witnessing a worse result than this one is frightening. With the prospect of players coming in who can lift us out of this mess looking bleak, maybe we should consider putting what funds we have into an offer in for Manchester City's club motto: Pride in Battle - a principle which should be the very least we expect as we stand precariously on the edge of the abyss.

Mossley 3 - 4 AFC Telford United

As loathe as I am to open a match report by delving into the world of cliché, I can't help but start by describing this encounter as another case of so near yet so incredibly far.

Over the course of the next few days and weeks we'll no doubt hear tales of how terribly unlucky we were against the league leaders, that the winning goal shouldn't have stood, we deserved a point, etc. which to a certain extent is true. However, you would have to be the proud owner of the most rose tinted pair of spectacles ever created to believe that our current woes come courtesy of the fickle hand of fate or poor officials.

Not only did we have our fair share of the copious amounts of luck being dished out by Bishamon during the course of the game, the real and awkward truth is that the blame for Mossley's failure to take anything from the match falls at the feet of Mossley themselves; their inability or rather unwillingness to build on a lead once again coming back to haunt them.

Before you start to think that this is going to be a Mossley bashing exercise, I’ll first of all say that the home side deserve tremendous amounts of credit and praise for not only managing to claw their way back into a game that looked beyond them at 3:10pm but taking the lead as well. Through supreme effort, good play and a fair old dollop of the aforementioned luck they managed to overcome one of the worst openings Mossley have had to a match for some time…

By the time Steve Foster had put Telford into the lead in the third minute the ball had been out of Mossley’s half for little more than a couple of seconds following the kick-off. There’s no denying that it was a well executed goal, (and proof that good football doesn’t necessarily require a good pitch) but the fact that Mossley’s defence remained static as the ball was worked around them meant the difficulty factor wasn’t as high as it should have been.

History repeated itself seven minutes later when Justin Marsden applied the finishing touch to a move that went virtually unchecked by anyone in a white shirt. Ten minutes on the clock, two goals on the score sheet and things were looking very bad indeed. Even the most ardent and optimistic of Mossley supporters would have to admit that at this point there was a very real prospect of an annihilation being on the cards.

Telford created chance after chance but spurned them all. The worst offender was Marsden who should have had a hat-trick within the first fifteen minutes. He was incredibly unlucky to see a delicately chipped shot drop just over the bar after working his way through the Mossley backline, but his headed miss from six yards with no defender near him was laughable.

It was a miss that could have ultimately proved costly as Mossley immediately found some belief and started to play their way back into the game. David Eyres had a shot from distance comfortably saved by Brock in the Telford goal before James Turley hit an effort high into the side netting following a run into the box from the right.

Eyres and Joe Shaw almost opened up an increasingly shaky looking visitors defence with some neat passing before Christian Cooke managed to do just that on the half hour mark. Though he appeared to have lost control as he bore across Brock, James Turley was on hand to turn the loose ball into the net and put Mossley back into the game.

As I’ve said earlier, Mossley had their fair share of luck against Telford and it was no more evident than in the goal that brought the scores level for the first time. Nicky Thompson’s punt towards the front two from just inside the United half initially appeared to be a waste of possession, at least that was how it appeared until the strong southerly winds blowing high above Seel Park caught hold of it. After charging to the edge of his box to claim the ball, Stuart Brock suddenly found himself back-peddling as it changed direction and flew over his head before bouncing once and nestling in the back of the net.

Nicky Thompson receives the congratulations of his team mates after his long range strike...

The excitement of getting back on level terms was nothing compared to the euphoria that greeted Mossley’s third just before the break. A corner from the left was met on the volley by David Eyres and as the ball ricocheted off Brock, Melford Knight managed to stretch enough to be able apply the touch that put Mossley in the lead; the 100th goal scored in Mossley’s fixtures this season.

When the half-time whistle arrived Mossley were on fire; the leagues most miserly defence having been reduced to a ramshackle looking unit that left the field squabbling amongst themselves. The only question being asked amongst the home support was would the side that had gone in at the break in the ascendancy come out in the second half looking to build on it? Unfortunately the answer was no.

The hard fought for advantage was surrendered from straight the restart as with so many other occasions recently, taking the lead was the cue for Mossley to sit back and hope they could repel whatever their opponents threw at them. It’s a risky tactic at the best of times but to employ it against a side that ripped you apart at will earlier in the game because they were allowed to attack is suicidal.

Melford Knight pounces to cap a remarkable, if short-lived, comeback

And so it proved as Mossley’s lead lasted for just four minutes of the second period. Having failed to heed the warnings posted a minute earlier (and from Ashton’s winner in the game at Hurst Cross), James Turley was left to deal with two Telford players bearing down the Mossley left on his own. With no one helping to cover the full back making an overlapping run, Lee Vaughan was able to fire off an effort from a narrow angle that went through a forest of Mossley legs in the six yard box.

The only alteration in Mossley’s tactics that the goal brought about appeared to be that the target had now been changed from hanging on for three points to hoping for one. Telford continued to press forward and, like the first half, proceeded to waste chance after chance as the ball flew either high, wide or into the arms of Steve Wilson.

Following Mossley’s first effort on goal in the half, a header from Fraser Robinson straight into the arms of Brock, Telford won a free-kick just outside the Lilywhite’s box. Steve Wilson did extraordinarily well to get across his line to stop the resultant shot ending up in the back of the net only to see the loose ball knocked over him by the arm of Buck’s substitute Gary Birch. The look on the faces of the home fans on the terraces spoke volumes. There was no anger, just resignation to the fact the predictions they’d made when the second half started had come true.

It would be easy at this point to rail at the referee and linesman but if it wasn’t for their peculiar interpretation of the laws we’d never have won the corner that lead to our third goal; Joe Shaw having advanced up the pitch by pinching the ball as Telford prepared to take a free-kick.

In the few minutes remaining Mossley threw everything into attack and whilst not creating anything that could be described as clear cut, they caused enough problems in the Telford defence to make you wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t chosen to sit back and try to soak up pressure.

Will we do it again? Probably, as it appears we learn nothing with each passing game. If the two games against Ashton didn’t ring any alarm bells as to why we’re ending up on the losing side so often I doubt the evidence visible to all in this game will either.

We simply can't defend so why are we constantly emphasising the weakest the part of the team by letting the opposition run at them? This isn’t a slight on the personnel in the back four – the faces change but the problems remain ever the same. Why don't we just concentrate on attacking instead, something we're good at? I mean what’s the point of having creative players in your side like Eyres, Shaw, Wright, Turley and Shillito if they’re going to be shackled into defensive roles?

Whilst you have to acknowledge that some of our path back into the game came through Telford getting cocky and thinking it was all too easy (which it was at that early stage) the spirit Mossley showed to pull the deficit back was breathtaking; and with the rest of the side pushed further up the pitch the defence looked steadier too. There’s no way you can fault the effort on display whatsoever but as that 25 minute fight back showed, for long periods in matches it appears that it’s being funnelled into things the team isn’t benefiting from.

There are now fifteen games remaining in the season and we need at least half of the forty-five points on offer to have a realistic chance of staying up. We’re not going to get them sitting back and hoping we can hang on to the odd point or three, the last month has shown that we can't. We’ve got enough skill, guile and gumption in our team to avoid the drop – let’s just let them show it!

Stats Entertainment

With a lot of talk on the terraces and the forum lately centring round Mossley's unending ability to concede crucial goals in the closing stages of matches, I've broken down the periods in matches where we've scored and conceded this season and placed the results into an easy to read table:

As you can see, we're not exactly slouches when it comes to troubling the scoreline ourselves at the end of games. If anything that's where our problems may lie: 65% of the goals we've scored this season have come in the final third of matches; only managing to find the net during the first half fourteen times in 31 games

I'm sure you'll be able to draw some of your own conclusions too and if you do, please share them by clicking on the 'comments' button.

Telford Are Coming!

Or at least they will be if the bad weather we're currently having holds off. If it does, this Saturday will see the Shropshire side make their first trip to Seel Park for almost two years.

That last visit saw them head back to Telford with three points courtesy of an eighth minute goal by Alexander (and a generous assist by Barry Hart) during our 'can't win at home for toffee' run in the February and March of 2005. And, call it coincidence if you want, their visit this season comes a mere three and a bit months into a revival of that run; something that will no doubt get the champagne corks a-popping in the homes of those who've had their theory that history is doomed to repeat itself proved.

If you're a masochist and enjoy reliving defeats there's a report on that game here. However, if you're a Telford fan and want to wallow reminisce about a previous victory over upcoming opponents, you might want to click on that link too.

At least Telford won't become the fifth team to do the league double over us this season (should they somehow manage to win) thanks to Mossley's battling 0-0 draw at the New Bucks Head Stadium last September. Listening to the match commentary over the internet on what sounded like a football version of the Alamo certainly didn't do the nerves any good at all, especially as the commentators constantly made it seem like every Telford shot was heading towards the back of the net.

It was a novel, if at times slightly patronising experience, and if you can't get to Saturday's game but are situated in front of a PC, you'll be able to enjoy the high and lows of having someone describe the match for you with a Telford bias by logging on to Radio Shropshire's full match commentary. A slightly more detailed account of the highs and lows of listening to that match earlier this season can be found here or, if you're a member of the Mossley forum, here too.

The Bucks currently sit comfortably atop the Unibond Premier Division, four points clear of second place Hednesford having lost only one of the 25 league games they've played this season; that defeat coming last month at home to Whitby Town. Unfortunately for Mossley though Telford's away form has been almost impeccable since August. Not only have they not lost any of their twelve games on the road (nine wins and three draws), they've only conceded two goals in 1080 minutes of football away from home territory - an astonishing record. They're no slouches in front of goal on their travels either - scoring in all of their last eight away ties.

In a stark contrast to that, Mossley currently have the worst home record in the Division having managed to claim only seven of the thirty three points that have been on offer so far. Add to that the facts that Mossley haven't yet managed to score against AFC Telford United since the latters reformation and the Lilywhites' current lack of options upfront, it looks like the result is something of a foregone conclusion...

Prediction: However, the longer you think about it, the more the odds start to tip in Mossley's favour.

First of all whilst it's possible that Telford may not lose another match between now and the end of the season, the fact is that if they do it's most likely to happen when it's least expected - say, against a team struggling at the wrong end of the table. All it needs is for the fourteen players in the away team dressing room on Saturday to think that the game is going to be an easy win and it's advantage us. Recent evidence suggests that this may already be the case following the Buck's failure to beat both Radcliffe and Kendal.

Secondly, matches like this one have always been something of a forte for the Lilywhites. Whenever we've been struggling in the past and faced a team sitting proudly at the top of the division, haven't we more often than not left the ground at full-time feeling pretty good? This is the sort of game in which Mossley frequently upset the apple-cart. Just look at the Burscough game last August Bank Holiday, the visitors were the better team by miles yet we still came out if it with three points (to this day I'm still not sure how we managed it) and there are plenty of other games in recent history where the same thing has happened.

Occasionally 1+1=3 and who's to say that a struggling side lacking in both personnel and morale playing against a much better team won't provide that unexpected result? I for one think it'll happen and we'll win.

I have been known to be wrong though. A lot.

Lincoln United 2 - 0 Mossley

“Why? Who are you?”

That was the response to the question, “Could you tell me the half-time score please?” I asked when I rang up Lincoln United at 3:50pm last Saturday. It wasn’t quite the answer I was expecting but I wasn’t surprised either. After all is the league where answers to the same question have ranged from, “Where are you from?” to a terse, “It hasn’t finished yet!”

There was never this problem enquiring after half-time and full-time scores over the phone in the NWCL and Unibond First Division which leads to me believe that along with a ground that meets minimum grading requirements, a surly phone answerer is pre-requisite for established Premier Division clubs.

Having said that, the person who answered my call at full-time was much more pleasant but one thing worse than being told the team you support has lost is someone cheerily telling you that the team you support has lost .

Yes, it was another defeat for Mossley; 2-0 this time at the hands, or rather feet, of Lincoln United who became the fourth team this season to do the league double over us.

By all accounts we had the better of the first half, even Lincoln’s manager going as far as saying so in the report that appeared in the Non-League Paper, but again our inability to stretch performances out appears to have cost us once more. The report on the game in the Oldham Chronicle continues in the same vein as it has done all season by saying that we were just darn unlucky. However only those that managed to get to Lincoln will be able to tell you whether that's just spin or not.

It now means that the points we’ve amassed during our ‘blip’ is a grand total of six out of a possible 42, with the defeat also having the effect of last week’s new found optimism brought about by the win at Frickley being knocked out of some of the supporters.

However there’s 48 points left to play for (ten of which are needed to catch up with the team currently occupying the coveted fifth bottom spot) so it isn’t quite Samaritan’s time yet. And if the hope in that last sentence seems forced, its because it was.

Whilst Mossley were in Lincolnshire playing league match number twenty six, I was in Derbyshire watching Glossop North End beat Colne by four goals to one in a thoroughly entertaining game; great goals, moments of high comedy, players cloaked with a seemingly permanent red mist - it had all, including a penalty miss that topped even Gavin Salmon’s ‘fondly’ remembered effort at Rocester in 2005. To be fair to the Glossop player who missed his spot kick though, it takes an enormous amount of skill to almost put the ball straight through the drive-in window of a KFC restaurant from 35 yards.

Hopefully the will break long enough for us to try and register a morale boosting win against Flixton in the Manchester Premier Cup on Tuesday ahead of the visit of table toppers Telford on Saturday.

Off to: Lincoln

Mossley's tour of the country continues this Saturday as they make their way to Ashley Avenue, home of Lincoln United for their third successive away game.

Yes, it's a trip to the 'big-ish' city for the Lilywhite's, some of whom are taking the opportunity to spend two days soaking up the sights, sounds and alcohol of the cathedral city. The cathedral itself is probably the biggest tourist attraction Lincoln has to offer, probably even more so now since part of the Da Vinci Code was filmed there. Fingers crossed that the match is a lot less mind numbingly boring than that waste of celluloid and two hours of my life. Or indeed, this preview.

Lincoln also has the first Oxfam charity store to offer customers a personal shopper. So if you can't quite find that jigsaw which has eight missing pieces or an item of clothing with its own peculiar aromatic bouquet, you can now call on the services of someone who's trained to help.

This game will be the second league meeting of the season between the two sides and the third overall. At the beginning of September a reasonably comfortable 2 - 1 win saw United head back to Lincolnshire with three points. Their return to Seel Park seven weeks later for an FA Trophy tie wasn't as happy an occasion for them as Mossley proceeded to hammer five goals past their, at the time, miserly defence; the visitors managing a very late consolation goal in a superb 5 - 1 victory for Mossley.

Lincoln United have been something of an enigma this season. They've picked up some good wins (they recently came away from Burscough with three points) but that's been balanced out by some heavy defeats and an ongoing inability to stick the ball in the back of the net with any regularity - they're currently averaging just 0.8 goals per game in the league.

There form over the last six games has been the very definition of average having won, lost and drawn two games whilst scoring and conceding eight. Mossley on the other hand have managed three points out of the last six games, though those points came against a team in a not to dissimilar position to Lincoln.

Prediction: I know that some of you think it's a load of piffle but as I keep on saying: Mossley, this season, are playing better away from home. And with this in mind I think that Lincoln is a place where Mossley can get back to winning ways.

Chip Wrappers: 05/01/2007

Unfortunately, due to other more important concerns, Chip Wrappers Christmas sabbatical has been extended for another week.

In the meantime I'll leave you with the following piece of information, courtesy of last week's Reporter:

"Henry Winkle who played 'Fonze' on Happy Days..."

Till next Friday. Hopefully

Ashton United 1 - 0 Mossley

So after leaving 2006 with an unexpected bang at Frickley, Mossley begin 2007 with something of a damp squib (the emphasis being firmly on damp) as for the second time in a week the Lilywhite’s attempts to try and nullify Ashton end in a one goal defeat.

There’s no doubt the game has firmly divided the supporters into two camps: those who feel that we were unlucky and those who felt that on the day the best team won. If you want to read the former I suggest you look elsewhere because whilst the New Year’s Day performance was better than the one witnessed on Boxing Day, the mistakes made in that game once again led to our downfall.

Like the previous meeting between the two sides Mossley began the game brightly. An early cross into the Robin’s penalty area caused all sorts of confusion for the home side and the sigh of relief they breathed as they eventually hooked the ball off for a corner could be heard all around the ground.

James Turley then capitalised on some indecision amongst the Ashton backline to fire the ball across an open goal. Unfortunately Lee Shillito, at full stretch, was unable to make any significant contact and the chance went.

With Joel Pilkington and Christian Cooke working doggedly to win the ball in midfield, Mossley were seeing plenty of possession in and around the box but struggling to find any kind of end product with what few chances there were flying high or wide.

As the half wore on though Mossley began to drop deeper and deeper allowing Ashton to gain a foothold in the game they were previously struggling to play a part in. Suddenly it was the Mossley supporters turn to ‘enjoy’ the experience of having their hearts in their mouths as new keeper Steve Wilson was called upon numerous times to keep the scores level; his best save being a point blank stop after the ball had deflected of Jonathan Smith, though Mossley did ride their luck when the loose ball rolled out to Kharas who fired wide of a gaping goal. Mossley’s luck held again a few minutes later when Kharas was deemed to have committed a foul as he planted a header into the back of the net.

The visiting defence wasn’t being helped by the decision to play Mossley’s wide men narrow leaving Nicky Thompson and Will Ryder to face two men bearing down on them on too many occasions. This had the knock on effect of Smith and Gary Furnival being pulled out of position to help plug the gaps, which in turn, etc., etc. and so forth. If anything, Mossley were beating themselves when they should have been comfortable at the very least.

There was some comfort in that Mossley weren’t resorting to ‘hoofing it’ up field as they’ve done so many other times this season, instead they were looking to play their way back into the game but that was being hampered in no small part by the gap between the front two and the rest of the team. Both Chris Ward and Steve Burke were having to come back into their own half in search of the ball which ultimately meant that there was a lack of numbers in the box when Mossley did break forward, often through the pace of the industrious James Turley.

It was through the former Stalybridge mans work down the left that Lee Bracey finally called into action; the ex-Mossley keeper having to drop low to his left to stop Chris Ward’s effort sailing into the bottom corner of the net.

At the beginning of the second half Turley almost twice conjured up a lead for the Lilywhites out of nothing. Receiving the ball in the left hand side of the box he fired two shots that curled just past the wrong side of the far post, his second effort being the best after bringing the ball down on his chest and turning and hitting it on the volley.

Ashton were still making inroads round Mossley’s over exposed full-backs though and as the game wore on and the rain began to beat down, it looked increasingly like there was one team that wanted to win and one that was happy with a point.

Admittedly Mossley tried to inject some attacking impetus with the introduction of Joe Shaw to the centre of the park but with his team mates sitting so deep he had no option to sit back with them, immediately nullifying the option he provided as a link to the increasingly isolated attack.

With the heavy deluge that began twenty minutes into the second period turning a difficult surface into one that looked like a swimming pool with a few grass cuttings chucked into it, it’s a testament to both sides that the game didn’t turn into a slog (though it may have suited Mossley’s hope for a point if it had done).

Whilst both sides are to be commended for their style of play under difficult circumstances, you’d have to be wearing the rosiest tinted spectacles ever made not to admit that Ashton weren’t playing the better football and the longer the game went on, the greater the pressure they exerted on the Mossley goal grew.

Steve Wilson was certainly earning the Mossley Man of the Match award the hosts were to bestow on him at the close of the game, and Smith and Furnival were providing him with some solid support; the latter doing well to turn a vicious volley safely over the bar with his head.

Sitting back and attempting to hang on to what you’ve got is always a risky game plan, especially when it can all be undone by just one slip in concentration and sadly that’s what happened with nine minutes remaining on the clock.

James Turley was doing his utmost to prevent Phil Cooney from putting over a cross in the left hand side of the Mossley penalty area. Unfortunately the back up he needed to completely eradicate the threat was not forthcoming meaning that his slip gave the Ashton winger time to stop, look up and pick his target for the cross. That target turned out to be Gary Kharas at the back post who rose up above a cluster of Mossley players to head the ball home.

With no choice now but to push men forward, the restart saw Mossley push Jonathan Smith into the attack but the lack of any real variance in their method of attack other than to go straight down the middle meant that the line of Ashton players stood across the edge of their own penalty area weren’t given any real problems to worry about.

The closest Mossley came to claiming a point was a Peter Wright shot that flew into the side netting and the game ended with Ashton playing keep ball at the end of the pitch furthest away from their own goal.

If we’d gone for a win but drawn or lost I’d feel gutted about the goal nine minutes from time but that we lost after seemingly setting our stall out for a point, in all honestly leaves me feeling more annoyed than anything else.

How many matches have we played this season where we’ve failed to get the point our game plan was based around obtaining? I understand going to Telford and Hednesford and playing for a 0-0 but Ashton? A side with a defence that we’d already shown as being flaky when under pressure during the first 15 minutes of this game and the match in December.?

Maybe I am being harsh but the way I see it, after 180 minutes of football against a similarly struggling, unspectacular side sitting two places above us, we should be expecting a bit more than just being happy to have almost hung on for a point no matter what the amount of effort was put in or not.

Speaking of which, I can’t fault the effort and commitment the players put in or indeed anyone else stood within the confines of the Hurst Cross ground. For such an appalling day the atmosphere was fantastic and for want of a more adventurous spirit we’d have surely been regaling the assembled masses with a rendition of ‘Winning in the Rain’ instead of ‘Singing in the Rain.’

Finally a special mention to Ashton’s number 10 who provided a moment worthy of the Premiership. Losing out to a tackle in the first half which saw Mossley move forward he immediately fell to the floor and rolled around like a big girls blouse until the exact moment the ball came back within five yards of him, whereupon he immediately sprang to his feet as if nothing had happened and started charging about. Well done! Really, what a clever clogs you are!

On to what will hopefully be better things at Lincoln…