Grantham Are Coming!

The latest installment in Mossley's 18 certificate rated attempts to avoid the drop sees Grantham Town visit Seel Park for the first time in 23 years.

Mossley picked up their first win of the season last August Bank Holiday at the Gingerbreads South Kesteven Sports Stadium; goals from Martin Allison and Andy Thackeray securing a 2-1 win. In fact, a similar result tomorrow will see Mossley complete a hat-trick of doubles over the sides that have kept them company in the bottom four for the majority of the season.

To say that Grantham have a had season would be understating things by some distance. They're currently on their third manager and it's been sixteen games since they last won in the league (against Kendal on the 25th November). They're coming to Seel Park on the back of nine consecutive defeats in all competitions and haven't won away from home all season. Add to that the statistic they've conceded 12 goals in their last three games and they appear to be ripe for the taking.

However it probably hasn't escaped your notice that we've conceded nine goals over the same period and worryingly, all to teams beginning with the letter G. Oh dear...

Prediction: Like the last home game against Radcliffe Borough, this is a must win that we will win. And by a margin that will help our goals against column (it having taken a battering over the past few weeks) too.

Guiseley 5 - 1 Mossley

Or rather: Curzon Ashton 1 - 0 Truro City

With Mossley’s cup runs barely lasting more than ninety minutes these days, supporters are finding themselves having to live vicariously through other clubs if they want to see a bit of effort put into winning some prize money and the occasional cup. And it’s with this in mind that I, and a fair few others of a Mossley persuasion, eschewed the temptations of the Lilywhites match at Guiseley and travelled to the Tameside Stadium on Saturday to see Curzon Ashton take on Truro City in the first leg of the FA Vase semi-final.

To be honest the decision not to travel to West Yorkshire for the second time this season was made a good while ago, so when the opportunity to see such a relatively big game presented itself there was no other choice about which alternative game to see. And after seeing Mossley come close twice in the last ten years to taking part in this stage of the competition, it was going to be nice to eventually see what a Vase semi-final actually looked like.

Arriving three quarters of an hour before kick-off, the road to leading up to the ground was closed to all but a steady trickle of pedestrians as the clubs car park was already full. Well, not quite full. Making my way past the athletics stadium, people who were walking in the road were sent scurrying to the footpath as a car made its way to the ground. And who should be driving it but one Royston Oldham on his way to a reserved parking spot. On top of that there was a reserved seat in the stand and full use of the boardroom facilities awaiting him too. Not bad, eh? It makes you wonder as to what kind of treatment he’d receive if he actually turned up every game and not just the high profile, chance of photo-op ones.

Whilst Chairman Roy was being wined and dined, the rank and file on the terraces were being treated to Rod Stewarts greatest hits over the public address system. I’ll admit here and now that I’m no fan at all of any of the gravely vocal offerings from the toilet brush haired Scotsman. However, as excruciating as it was to listen to the uninterrupted playing of his back catalogue, it might just have been the tiniest bit tolerable if it wasn’t for the fact it was being played at a level that could make the deaf start to hate him.

In an attempt to take my mind off the pounding coming from the speakers, I hung my Mossley flag from one of the crush barriers at the front of the stand; its purpose to not only act as a tiny token of solidarity with Curzon but as a beacon for the ‘dissident’ Lilywhites supporters who’d turned up to watch. I’ll also admit that part of the reason for doing it was to see if Mossley could get a mention in any of the subsequent match reports and to see if it would be picked up by the Channel M cameras; the local TV station having experienced slightly more difficulty in getting into the ground than our glorious council leader.

The Mossley Flag: as seen (albeit fleetingly) on Channel M

Before the game got under way there was an on-pitch presentation to former Curzon player Matty Wearden who, it was announced, is soon to be moving to Australia. Given Wearden's numerous run-ins with opposing players, fans and football authorities, you've got to wonder if the move is voluntary or if the FA's disciplinary committee has finally had enough and took the ultimate step - deporting him to the colonies!

With the pre-match pleasantries out of the way and the ground as full as it was ever going to be, it was time for the teams to take to take to the pitch; Curzon in their traditional all blue strip and Truro in a Persil white strip with some of the largest numbers I've ever seen printed on the back of a football shirt. I'm still unsure though as to whether the applause that accompanied it was done so in appreciation of both sides or the for the fact that Rod Stewart had finally been switched off!

The opening twenty minutes were what could be described as a ‘midfield battle.’ The Cornishmen were probably just about shading it but with Curzon keeper Cammell effectively acting as sweeper to clear up a succession of long balls, the home sides backline weren't being caused any undue trouble. That all changed when, with a corner
resulting from their first attack, Curzon took the lead. A short corner caught the visitors cold and a ball to the back post was headed intelligently back across the goalmouth by the impressive Adam Jones. With the Truro defence in complete disarray, Mike Norton was the first of three unmarked Curzon players to react and he had the simple task of knocking the ball over the line.

Mike Norton gets ready to pounce on Adam Jones' header...

... and celebrates as the crowd 'goes wild.'

The goal visibly rocked Truro but Curzon couldn’t take advantage. Despite controlling the remainder of the half the Blues could only muster one other decent effort on target, Norton bringing out a superb goal line stop from City keeper Daniel Stevenson. The effort was there but what has been Curzon's greatest strength this season (their attack) was proving to be their weak point - continually letting a team ripe for the taking off the hook. Still, as disappointing as the remainder of the half turned out to be, fans of slapstick humour weren’t short changed as an errant pass caught the fourth official firmly and squarely in the groin.

With the interval now upon us it was time to see how Mossley were going on at Guiseley. Once the monies for the half-time score sweep had been collected and the correct phone number figured out (the Non-League Directory once again proving to be reliably fallible), the call was made. One-nil to the Lilywhites was the somewhat surprising news (at least for those with little faith who’d put money on Guiseley being comfortably ahead) and apart from the continuation of the aural assault by Rod Stewart over the PA system, it was a relatively happy atmosphere that the half-time cuppa was imbibed in.

The small band of Truro fans who made the trip enjoy a brief moment of respite from one of the home side's youth teams screaming "Curzon" at them.

A lot can happen in fifteen minutes but the last thing most supporters expected to see (other than a full blown production of Hamlet performed in the centre circle by dogs and monkeys) was the role reversal that the two teams appeared to have undergone during the break. Instead of continuing from where they’d left off and try to press home their advantage, Curzon simply went to pieces. In fact it was not unlike those numerous times watching Mossley where they go in at the break looking like a half decent side and re-emerge ten minutes later looking like the non-league equivalent of São Tomé e Príncipe. Surely Gary Lowe’s presence at the Mossley-Radcliffe game last Tuesday wasn’t to learn about half-time motivation?

Having said that Truro’s resurgence wasn’t purely down to Curzon switching off. They’d upped their own game quite considerably and were starting to pose the occasional threat to the Curzon goal. Watkins sent a daisy cutter wide of the left hand post before Watson and Cammell got into a ridiculous mix-up that the latter managed to injure himself rectifying before a waiting Truro player could take full advantage.

Watson then appeared to bring a Truro player crashing to the ground with a challenge just inside the Curzon area . City immediately appealed for a penalty and, from where we were stood at least, they appeared to have a cast iron case for one. The referee was having none of it though and it set in motion a series of events that would change the flow of the game. While I’m on the subject, having seen the incident again on Channel M there's no question that the referee made the correct decision - there was absolutely no contact made at all. In fact the distance between the Curzon player and Truro's free fall expert was so big that even Cristiano Ronaldo would have baulked at trying to win a penalty in the same situation.

Still feeling aggrieved at the perceived injustice of not being awarded a penalty the Truro players started flinging themselves in to challenges. The tipping point came when Marcus Martin felt that he should have been awarded a free-kick for what was nothing more than an accidental arm across his face; an occupational hazard when you're two foot shorter than the person you're trying to beat in the air. As the referee waved play on, the red mist descended and Martin clattered into Phil Edgehill in an appallingly late tackle. An outbreak of mass handbags then turned into scuffling as Truro left back Power (think Danny Mills, only less skilful) entered the melee swinging his arms. Once all four officials and both benches had managed to calm things down, the referee issued Martin with his marching orders (but, amazingly, not Power who'd lived a charmed life all match) and flashed the yellow card to a few players from both sides.


Still FIGHT-ing!

When the match restarted Truro unsurprisingly decided to not show the same adventure in going forward that they'd had since the beginning of the second period. Bizarrely though Curzon didn't seem inclined to try and make the most of their one man advantage and game quickly became a non-event; both sides seemingly happy with 1-0 scoreline.

As the game drew towards an undramatic close it was once again time to make the call to West Yorkshire to see if Mossley had managed to pull off what would be an important yet unexpected victory. After eventually getting through I had to ask them to repeat the score three times just to make sure that my hearing wasn’t playing tricks. Guiselely five, Mossley one. I know we're not the best team in the world but to concede five goals when you were a goal to the good is pushing the boundaries of ridiculousness to breaking point. But perhaps the biggest indication of how big a predicament the Seel Park club are in at the moment came when the news of Mossley's tonking at Nethermoor was passed onto the other Lilywhites supporters at the Tameside Stadium: apart from the odd stifled laugh that incredulity often brings, no-one was really surprised or shocked.

As for the Vase match, it wasn’t the greatest game in the world but compared to some of the fare we’ve witnessed this season watching Mossley it wasn’t the worst either. The overwhelming feeling at the end though was that despite taking a one goal lead into the second leg, Curzon had in fact blown their best chance of making it through to the final at Wembley. When Truro were on the ropes in the final twenty minutes of the first half, and the latter half of the second period, Curzon never looked like landing the punch that would have made the game in Cornwall a mere formality. It has to be said that they weren't helped by some of their star performers this season going missing either. Mike Norton apart, Steve Moores and Wayne Cahill, the other component parts of their prolific forward line, had chosen the worst possible time to have an off day leaving the Blues attack disjointed and without focus. If they can find their shooting boots before this Saturday's return leg and the midfield can find an antidote to whatever made them invisible in the second half the Curzon are in with a chance of making it to Wembley.

Sadly though I think that they and the few supporters who'll make the trip to the south coast will be coming back disappointed and wondering what might have been.

One Up, Five Down

A report on Mossley's game at Guiseley, including the extraordinary second half collapse that took place, will not be appearing on this blog anytime soon. Unless someone wants to write one that is, hint-hint...

Instead, a report on one of the FA Vase semi-final games that took place at the weekend (I'm not telling you which one) will materialise at this very web address either tomorrow or Wednesday. I can't promise a description of events more exciting than what apparently took place at Nethermoor but I can guarantee one half-decent action shot, a picture of a flag seen fleetingly on Channel M and a long distance photograph in which a series of indistinguishable blobs are in fact a local council's hierarchy.

You can't wait, can you! ;)

Off To Guiseley. Again...

"My name is Jack Bauer - this is the longest season in my life."

24. The number of points available for us to save ourselves from the drop.

And I'm sure that like the eponymously titled TV programme there'll be plenty of twists and turns over the remainder of the season, although hopefully with fewer nuclear detonations and without the troubling ultra right wing ideology that pervades the new series. I am sure though tht there will be scenes of torture.

The first 1/8th of those points are up for grabs on Saturday as the Mossley roadshow pitches up in Guiseley for the second time this season; the Lilywhites travelling to West Yorkshire in the hope of it being third time lucky against the club that doesn't appear to have a nick name.

Back in September Mossley exited the FA Cup in ridiculous fashion when after drawing themselves level late on in the game, they proceeded to throw it away in the last minute thanks to what the media would call “a defensive mix-up”. One week later and a few more "defensive mix-ups" gave Guiseley three points in a league fixture at Seel Park;

Since then Guiseley have undergone a managerial change and former Rochdale, Hull, Bradford and York manager Terry Dolan now occupies the hot seat. Charged with improving on his predecessors efforts at getting the team to the edge of the play-offs, Dolan's side currently lie in, erm... sixth. For more on the man's undoubted "managerial skills" I strongly suggest you check out his page on Wikipedia where some supporters of his ex-clubs appear to have paid tribute to him.

Guiseley though are currently one of the form sides in the league having won four of their last six games and only lost three times at home but (here's the good news for Mossley) they haven't kept a clean sheet in the league for twelve matches.

Prediction: I'll admit that it's hardly the most scientific of reasoning but I’ll say ‘win’ purely because I won’t be there to see it. However, I’m sure that my regular phone calls to Guiseley from the Tameside Stadium will confirm my belief that it’s another three points secured in our battle against the drop.

Mossley 2 - 0 Radcliffe Borough

After one postponement it was finally time for Mossley and Radcliffe, two teams who've practically been permanent fixtures in the Unibond League's basement places, to meet. Not so much a Clash of the Titans but something that rhymes with it.

Unsurprisingly the opening stages of the game were a cautious affair but slowly Mossley began to control possession and create chances. The first fell to Clive Moyo-Modise but instead of hitting the ball first time as it dropped on to the penalty spot, he tried to bring it under control allowing Radcliffe to get enough bodies back to block the shot when it eventually came.

Whilst Mossley's wing play was causing the visitors no end of problems Radcliffe were the ones to try and trouble the scoreline next when Matty O'Neill had an effort that comfortably stopped by Danny Trueman. The home side continued to control the majority of the game though and the pressure finally paid off in the 20th minute. After receiving James Turley's pass with his back to goal, Moyo-Modise flicked it over his and his markers head before firing a low shot past a static Dittmer.

Borough came close to an equalizer a few minutes later when an inswinging free-kick from Mossley's left beat everyone but not the crossbar. However the visitors should have been level moments later when good work by Fitzpatrick gave Jamie Miller the chance to put the ball into the back of the net, only for the Radcliffe number nine to somehow scoop the ball over a virtually open goal from three yards. Credit where it's due though, better players than him couldn't have done that.

Happily the rest of the half belonged to Mossley, aided and abetted by the Bury sides peculiar tactic of continually backing off as the Lilywhites came forward. M&M took advantage of this quirk in Radcliffe's defending by cutting in from the right wing and beat three men on his way to the touchline before thundering a shot into the side netting. A succession of chances then came and went before Jonathan Smith had a perfectly good goal ruled out. After meeting the ball powerfully with his head, Smith's downward trajectory took him into a Radcliffe defender who'd reacted to the corner in the manner that West Country folk do when they see a plane (i.e. standing still and looking skywards with their mouths agape); the referee somehow interpreting this inability to combat the laws of physics as a foul.

Captain Smith in the process of "scoring" and "fouling".

There was only one minor stoppage for a player to be treated during the first period, and it certainly didn't take more than ten seconds to throw a replacement ball on to the pitch after Grant had managed to head the match ball over the Bus Shelter Stand, so where the five minutes of time the referee added on at the end of the first half came from is anyone's guess. What it did do though was give Mossley another opportunity to double their lead before the interval. Breaking quickly from a rare Radcliffe corner, James Turley carried the ball from the edge of one box to the other before feeding the ball to M&M; the Rochdale loanee's second goal of the game denied by a good save from Dittmer.

The second was by a comparison a duller affair with decent opportunities for both sides few and far between. Borough substitute Lee Hendley (complimenting Radcliffe's all yellow kit with boots that made it look like he was wearing a pair of slip-on bananas) produced a superb mazy run not long after the restart that took him from the left wing to Mossley's six yard box. As he closed in on goal you could see him constantly looking up for support but with none forthcoming he was forced to go alone and Trueman's save was probably more comfortable than it should have been.

Mossley effectively put the game beyond Radcliffe's reach in the 70th minute with a well worked team goal. Melford Knight's header in the middle of the pitch fell to Steve Burke and after advancing up the pitch and drawing two defenders, the ex-Bury man found his strike partner with an inch perfect diagonal pass. M&M's first touch wasn't the greatest but he managed to recover and beat Dittmer in the chase for the loose ball before lifting it over the Radcliffe keeper and into the back of the net.

Steven Burke shepherds Mossley's second into the net and (below) Clive Double-M receives the congratulations of his team mates.

Joel Pilkington cleared a rare on-target effort from Radcliffe off the line and Whealing did the same for the visitors to keep out a Smith header before the game petered out as a contest. However, despite the cold weather on pitch temperatures began to flair and Radcliffe's Fitzpatrick brothers can consider themselves fortunate to have only picked up a booking apiece for two cynical challenges from behind; Lee Fitzpatrick in particular for a horrible "tackle" that forced Joe Shaw to limp out of the game.

Jonathan Smith about to have a goal bound effort scooped off the line.

It's not a match that will live long in the memory of the small crowd who witnessed it (without looking at the actual figure, the attendance was the worst I've seen for a league game at Seel Park in years) but it's first part of Mossley's 'guaranteed' six points completed with Grantham to come in eleven days time.

Radcliffe weren't strong opponents but you can only beat what's put in front of you and Mossley did it pretty comfortably. Danny Trueman and the four men directly in front of him did a solid and professional job whilst ahead of them Mossley showed more creativity and flair than they've done for quite a while. As good a win as it was though I'm not naive enough to think that the corner has been turned and we're looking at the dawn of a new era that sees us sweep all before us as we march to safety, but at least it's a start.

Radcliffe Are Coming! Snow permitting...

Here we go again! Possibly...

With the weather forecast for Tuesday changing almost by the hour ("Rain! Frost! Sunshine! No... definitely frost. Or maybe sunshine with strong winds, etc.") it's touch and go at the moment as to whether this rearranged clash with actually go ahead.

If it does, then along with the Grantham game in less than a fortnight's time, it's probably the closest we'll get to a guaranteed three points for the remainder of the season. That's not meant in an arrogant way. Radcliffe won't come to roll over and die (though it would be awfully nice of them to do so in the metaphorical sense) but league positions don't lie. I know we're exactly level with them but with the likes of Guiseley, Fleetwood and Witton on the horizon, this fixture presents Mossley with one of their best opportunities to close the eight point gap on Kendal and Leek.

This season Radcliffe have managed just one win on 'foreign soil' in the league and have the second worst away record in the Unibond Premier. Rapidly skipping over the fact that we have the worst home record, Radcliffe also have no wins in eleven games and come to Seel Park on the back of three succesive defeats. If this isn't reason enough for thinking that we should have a better than 50/50 chance of winning then I don't know what is.

Prediction: A must win that we will win. Having watched Radcliffe's game at the weekend against Ossett I can honestly say that Mossley have nothing to worry about.

In fact I'd go as far as saying that if we lose to Borough then we might as well pack up for this season, wave goodbye to the Unibond Premier Division and start planning for whatever the 2007/08 campaign will bring.

Mossley 0 - 4 Gateshead

The saying goes that there's a first time for everything and that was certainly true on Saturday. You don't often get introduced to new experiences in the world of non-league football (other than for a club's toilet facilities to find another way to offend various senses) so the feeling of happiness that washed over me as I left Seel Park following Mossley's defeat to Gateshead was a peculiar sensation.

Before the cries of "You're not a fan if you want us to lose" start though, let me explain. I wasn't happy because we lost and moved yet another step closer to the Unibond First Division, I was happy because we only lost by four goals in a game where our opponents could (and should) have racked up double figures. However, thanks to Gateshead's 'cow, bum and banjo flailing' shooting we were only on the end of an embarrassing result, rather than the absolutely frickin' ridiculous one that was constantly being threatened.

I'd like to go into detail about all the chances Gateshead spurned but as it would mean me sitting here from now until twenty minutes past the apocalypse (the Grim Reapers scythe is pointing at the four) I won't bother. So keeping things concise...

Gateshead too the lead in the 4th minute when a sloppy pass from David Eyres found Nelthorpe in oceans of space on the right wing. After moving from the halfway line to an area level with the Mossley six yard box without anyone in a white shirt getting within 15 yards of him, the number 11 fired a low cross to the back post where Slavin had no trouble in putting the ball into an empty net. That advantage was doubled in almost similar circumstances twenty minutes later. More sloppy play, another run up the left wing from Nelthorpe, another cross and another virtually open goal, this time for Southern to put the ball into.

An everyday scene at non-league football: two teams, a shot flying wide, expectant fans and an eight foot goat.

That's not say that Gateshead had it all their own way during the first half. On no less than two occasions Mossley had the ball in the back of the Geordies net. The first, with less than a minute of the game on the clock, was correctly ruled out for a handball earlier in the move. The second one should have stood but was thanks to a linesman who appeared to have no concept of the basics of the offside law the score remained 2-0 to the visitors as the sides went in at the break.

The'Heed' went three up 26 minutes into the second period when Moffat fired in from close range after more good play from Nelthorpe. The fourth and, thankfully, final goal came four minutes later when Southern tapped the ball over the line from the edge of the six yard box. Other than the events described in this and the two paragraphs above, the rest of the game consisted of Gateshead spurning chance, after chance, after chance, after chance, ad nauseum.

Moffat steadies himself for Gateshead's third.

I've no doubt that the mantra of injuries, bad luck and poor decisions from the officials will be trotted out once again (particularly in the absence of any other stories that will handily take attention away from a poor defeat this week) but the horrible and unpalatable truth was that we were a distant third in a two horse race. Yes, we have injuries but so does every other club in the world; those that win never mention them, those that never win always do. How many times has it been used in mitigation following our defeats this season? And last? And the season before that?

Having a good goal ruled out is unfortunate but there was nothing to suggest that the score line would have been different or any less emphatic had it stood. The problems that allowed Gateshead to take a two goal lead would still have been there. Plus it would be remiss of us not to remember that poor decisions do happen to go our way from time to time as well. In the last game against Leek were we fortunate not to have had two penalties awarded against us in the final few minutes. The whole thing is swings and roundabouts; only no manager ever complains when they have a go on the swing.

I'm not going to have a go at the players either. Dropped when they've been playing well, played in different positions from one week to the next - they're as much victims of the current situation as we are. Take this game for instance. We had a central midfielder at left-back, a left-back playing as a left sided midfielder and a left sided midfielder/winger in central midfield. Along side a right winger.

Undue pressure is also being put on the forward line. Because of the lack of opportunities being created for them we've got to the stage where even Thierry Henry doesn't have a goal to chances ratio that could win games for us. As for the defence, considering the amount of shuffling and reshuffling that's been done over the last few weeks, it's amazing that they're still performing as well as they are.

We have nine games left to save ourselves from the drop, a target that's eminently achievable when you look at some of the teams we've still to play and the talent that's in the squad. The big question is as to whether they can be moulded into the force that can do it over the next week or so. The evidence over the past seven months suggests not but I wouldn't bet on 'luck' swinging by Seel Park at the end of April for the second year running.

A familiar face makes a second half appearance over t'fence.

At Least It Was Only Four...

As I try and figure out how to write about the Gateshead match without resorting to putting CRAP! in six inch high letters, here's something to take your mind off what happened between 3:00pm and 4:45pm on Saturday, 10th March 2007.

Things could be worse...

Gateshead Are Coming! Fingers Crossed...

As it's only a month and a bit since I did a preview for this fixture, I'm jiggered if I'm going to spend an hour or two covering what is mostly similar ground. especially after the week I've had.

Therefore as an update to this I'll just add that since it was written Gateshead have sacked their manager and appointed a new one, Britain announced that it was withdrawing troops from Iraq, Life on Mars returned to TV screens and commentators practically wept as Arsenal crashed and burned in every competition they were in.

Oh! I almost forgot. Mossley actually won a home game too.

What a crazy world we live in, eh?

Prediction: An absolute, cast-iron, bang on win for Mossley. Honest!

Mossley 1 - 0 Leek Town

When the stakes are high, as they were in this game, you don't expect to see a game that will immediately enter a list of the best five matches you've ever seen; a football truth that didn't come remotely close to being disproved in this game. However, when you're in the position that both Mossley and Leek find themselves in it's the result and not the performance that matters. And happily it's this that the Lilywhite's will be taking more comfort in than the visitors.

The first half actually bore an uncanny resemblence to the one at Harrison Park in January only this time it was Leek instead of us who were on the back foot. The subtle difference was that whereas in that game the home side were getting off plenty of shots, albeit without coming close to hitting the target, Mossley were struggling to force the Town keeper into even having to take a goal kick. To give Leek their due though they did look dangerous on the break but, like us, they struggled to create anything meaningful when it came to the crunch.

As such the first period was notable only for two incidents. The first was an horrendous tackle on Joe Shaw by Dave Tickle which was worthy of a much stronger card than the yellow he received. The second came when Jonathan Smith's powerful header from a corner was cleared off the line by Rob Hawthorne, the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.

I suspect that both sets of supporters were hoping for better fare in the second half but what no-one could have predicted was the role reversal that was to take place. After controlling the majority of the previous forty-five minutes Mossley were suddenly being forced onto the back foot, the Staffordshire side reciprocating the pressure they'd been under. Worryingly, they were starting to ramp up the shot count too.

In my report for the game at Leek I made the comment that if you were ever to be given a last request before facing a firing squad, ask if the Leek Town forwards can do the shooting. Thankfully it's something that's still applicable today. Despite the number of shots that were starting to rain in not one looked like troubling Steve Wilson in the Mossley goal.

It was therefore somewhat against the run of play when Mossley took the lead just after the hour mark. After struggling to cope with an inswinging corner from David Eyres, Leek keeper Peter Collinge made a complete hash of a second successive corner by fumbling the ball at the near post. Steve Burke was the first player to react and he flicked the ball with his heel back across the goal line. Agonisingly the ball bounced off the far post but as it retraced its path across the face of goal Melford Knight hammered the ball into the roof of the net.

Leek upped the pressure and were denied an almost certain equaliser by Joel Pilkington who threw himself in front of the ball in the six yard box. Collinge then became the first keeper to be forced into making a save when he pushed out Clive Moyo-Modise's shot from the edge of the area. It was M&M again who came to closest to putting the game beyond Leek but after racing from the halfway line with the ball his shot beat the keeper but not the post.

With five minutes left Mossley conspired on no less than three occasions to give Town a potential way back into the game. The first was when an attempt to clear a corner entered the realms of the farcical. M&M failed to control the clearance and the ball bounced off his shin and back towards the penalty area. As it rolled back towards the penalty area two Mossley players completely missed the ball as they went to kick it, leaving three Leek players who'd slowly been making their way back now in possession, unmarked and on the edge of the penalty area. Some quick thinking by Steve Wilson forced them into taking the ball slightly wide but for reasons best known to themselves Leek dallied on the ball instead of taking a shot. This allowed Mossley to get some bodies behind the ball and when the shot did come Smith was able to produce a superb block that protected his sides lead.

Leek were then denied what appeared to be a ceratin penalty when Hawthorne was sent crashing to the floor by a tackle from behind - a challenge that not only left the Town player receiving treatment for the remainder of the game but also gave him a late night ride in an ambulance to the A&E department on Fountain Street. One minute later Mossley rode their luck again. A corner dropped into the penalty area and as a Leek player attempted to turn with the ball he was pulled to the floor by an arm in a white shirt and once again strong appeals for a penalty were ignored by the man in the middle.

So after over five months of defeats, draws, dross and possibly something else beginning with d, Mossley finally manage to win at home in the league. Who'd have thought that when we beat Whitby at the beginning of last October that Christmas would come, go and be a distant memory before we claimed three points at Seel Park again?

Well done to the two people who spotted the deliberate mistake of getting the score in the headline wrong. Prizes are in the post. Not necessarily adressed to you but they are in the post.

Mossley 1 - 3 Marine

When I left Seel Park yesterday I had planned on basing this review of the game around a very laboured 'sub-Marine' pun. Three hours later though the intention to try and remain jocular and upbeat about things had evaporated as reports of incidents after the match started to filter in via the forum.

As I write this, if I turn my head to the left and look out of the window I can see the earth's shadow starting to edge slowly across the surface of the moon as we head towards a total lunar eclipse. And watching this "cosmic ballet" (© Leonard Nimoy in The Simpsons) I can't help but feel that it's a better analogy for Mossley at the moment than the laboured 'torpedo/divng leagues' pun I was aiming to run into the ground.

As supporters we've seen some grim times both on and off the pitch over the best part of the last quarter of a century: we've flirted with extinction, suffered relegation and been on the end of some humiliating results and embarrasing losing sequences. Even at those low points though the sizeable group of supporters who'd turn up no matter what were always a beacon in the murk. Therefore when the points been reached where some of that 'hardcore' feel they're unwelcome then you know that the dark shadows are encroaching once again only this time with less light to repel it.

However that's not talking about the match is it?

It was always going to be difficult task for Mossley to take anything off a Marine side currently flying high in the league but, having said that, a point or even three wasn't an impossibility. As Ashton were to show against Witton, taking the game to an opposition who even remotely believe that their current league standing is enough to see them win can have surprisingly pleasurable results.

Sadly, and not for the first time this season, Mossley appeared more than happy to start the game on the back foot by conceding advantage to the Liverpudlian visitors virtually from the off. Why can't the "up and at them" (© Ranier Wolfcastle as Radioactive Man in The Simpsons) spirit we need to drag ourselves towards safety not manifest itself with the first kick of the game instead of the last ten minutes of a match where we're one goal down? Having said that there was a marked improvement at the start of the second half but by that time we were already one goal down and fortunate not to be midway through the process of receiving a right hammering.

Two Blackpool supporters watch Steve Wilson's first save of what was to be a busy afternoon.

That we weren't was due in no small part to six things: 1) Steve Wilson producing a string of outstanding saves, 2) the defence (Smith and SAS in particular), 3) the woodwork, 4) poor finishing 5) an offside decision that would have made Arsene Wenger's head explode had it happened to Arsenal and 6) an opposition who appeared to switch off believing it to be too easy which, fair enough, it was.

David Eyres's free-kick is turned over by Banks and so endeths Mossley's solitary first half shot on target.

That meant that when the second period began Mossley only had Dave Eaton's 18th minute effort from a corner to cancel out and surpass. One minute into the restart and the first of those two aims came agonisingly close to being achieved when Jonathan Smith fired Gary Furnival's flick on from a corner over the bar from six yards. At least it was a signal of intent from the home side following three quarters of an hour spent acting as shooting practice for the visitors.

Two Marine players (no, it's not one with three arms) lurk unmarked at the back post ready to put their side into the lead.

Unfortunately were having trouble converting the greater amounts of possession they were now experiencing into chances leaving Steve Burke and Clive Moyo-Modise starved of the ball. But just before the hour mark, out of next to nothing, Joe Shaw executed a sublime volley from a left wing cross that sailed past Steve banks in the Marine goal bringing the scores level.

Sadly my four year old 2mp camera isn't too good at focusing on the fly but trust me, the blur above is Joe Shaw's shot heading into the net for the equaliser.

Suddenly the mood changed. Mossley had a spring in their step and the crowd's thoughts had changed from hoping we'd keep the goals against total respectable to believing that an unlikely win was within our grasps. And when M&M almost made that belief a reality minutes after Shaw's goal, forcing Banks into a good save after being presented with his first opportunity of the afternoon to run at the Marine goal, confidence appeared to be surging both off and on the terraces.

Frustratingly Mossley couldn't sustain the momentum they'd managed to build up and Marine once again slowly started to take control of the game. Though the pressure being exerted by the visitors wasn't as great as it was in the first half there was no real surprise, just sighs, when the Mariners retook the lead. A left wing cross appeared to have been dealt with when it hit Will Ryder on the arm. The referee immediately signalled for a penalty and full-back McDermott calmly put his side back in front.

Marine go back into the lead from the spot.

Mossley came close to salvaging a point came when Melford Knight's header from a corner was cleared off the line but their fate was finally sealed when Marine broke upfield from a Mossley set-piece, capitalized on a sloppy pass by the returning Andy Thackeray and substitute Noon was at the head of a queue of visiting players lining up to put the ball past Wilson - game over.

On the balance of play there's no question that Marine ran out deserved winners. In truth, particularly after that opening half, we were fortunate not to have been on the end of a thorough spanking but, on the other hand, we may have also got something unexpected out of the game had our brief revival lasted longer than fifteen minutes. Hell, what would have happened if we'd started the match at the same time Marine did?

It would be very easy to sit here and slag off the players for this and that but at times it appears that they're as stumped as we are as what system we're supposed to be playing. We had our two creative players on the wing and for the most part on the peripheries of the action. Joe Shaw seems to be playing through the pain barrier and after pulling the strings in the centre of the field for the past few games David Eyres was moved out to the left hand side and barely received a pass all game.

With the central midfield dropping further and further back to counteract Marines surges up the pitch we gave our two isolated rookie young forwards nothing to work with in order to score the goals we need - not even scraps. Despite another reshuffle through injury the back line once again did a stirling job but if you can't give them a breather for a couple of minutes then the pressure will finally tell on them.

The funny thing is that survival still isn't an impossibility. I believe we have the players that can put a run together which will enable us to start clawing the points back off Radcliffe, Leek and Kendal. The only question is whether they'll be allowed to play for the three points we need in each of these upcoming games or whether they're simpy given instructions not to lose. I know which Mossley I'd like to see.

Five minutes left and only the masochists remain.

Another look out of the window and I can see that as this report comes to an end, so is the eclipse (yes, it takes me that long to wrote these things). I can only hope that the time spent in the umbra passes just as quickly for us or else we'll be hunting around for candles for a good time to come to help us through .

Unclear Fallout

A report on the Marine game will hopefully appear here sometime tomorrow (Monday) night. Well at least I'm hoping that the report will be on the game...

Marine Are Coming!

Second bottom of the league, staring down the barrel of relegation, no league win at home for five months and a starting eleven constantly in a state of flux... what better time then to welcome one of our bogey teams to Seel Park?

It's fourteen years since we last met Marine on home soil and whilst it may seem like a long enough gap for any jinxes and hoodoo's they hold over us to have worn off, Mossley's 1-0 defeat in Crosby last August was the Mariners thirteenth in the last seventeen meetings between the two sides.

Marine's lofty position in the league doesn't appear to bode well for a change in Mossley's fortunes against the Liverpool side or the season as a whole for that matter. However, as is often the case, appearances can be deceptive. Whilst Hednesford and Telford have been dropping plenty of points lately in the race for the title, Marine have failed to take advantage by embarking on a slump of their own which has seen them win only eight out of a possible eighteen points. Sadly it still gives them a record Mossley can only dream of at the moment.

Prediction: Yes, I'm going to be Mr Positive once again and go for the win. The reasoning? Well this one of those games where the ridiculous can happen. How may times in the past has a high flying side come unstuck against a team struggling in the lower depths of a division? Mossley for one have experienced both sides of that particular predicament and I think we'll be enjoying the positives aspects of it once again.

I have however been known to get things wrong in the past. Occasionally.