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.