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!


Anonymous said...
2:21 pm

Nice review of the game. Thanks.

Any team news or predictions for the weekend's game against Gateshead?


SJNR said...
8:20 pm

Thank you.

There will be preview of the Gateshead game on Thursday or Friday.

However, as a bit of a sneak peak, I will tell you what the prediction will be: a win for the home side. After the debacle of the Flixton game it almost a certainty; football's a weird thing.