Mossley 3 - 2 Thackley

Following the 'baptism of fire' at Bower Fold last Tuesday, the new look Mossley side took to Seel Park for the first time against Bradford based NECL opponents Thackley.

It was the visitors who were the first to threaten the scoreline when Ashley Connor was called upon to palm away a free-kick that was heading for the top corner of the net but it wasn't long before Mossley started to pose a threat of their own. A scramble in the Thackley box ended with the ball being cleared off the line and it started a sustained spell of pressure that ended with Gareth Hamlet giving Mossley the lead from the edge of the six yard box.

Paul Garvey completes the scoring for Mossley

The lead didn't last long. With their first attack after going behind Thackley outnumbered the home side at the back post and Smith headed home unmarked following a cross from the right. Mossley's response was almost immediate and Hamlet grabbed his second of the game by finishing off an impressive move up the field by the Lilywhite's. Early in the second half Paul Garvey added a third following some good work down the right and effectively ended the game as a contest.

Further changes to personnel didn't seem to disrupt Mossley's rhythm but despite continuing to press forward they couldn't increase their winning margin. With practically the last kick of the game that margin was halved when Ettene slipped the ball under Connor but the final whistle saw Mossley confirmed as winners and deserved ones too.

Ashley Connor helps preserve Mossley's lead in the closing stages of the game

Unlike last Tuesday's match, this game was always going to be a better indicator as to how Mossley are shaping up for the coming campaign. And if you were to dilute the conclusion that could be drawn from it down to one word, that word would be 'promising'. If it was two I'd stick 'very' in front.

Stalybridge Celtic 3 - 1 Mossley

I've got to say that prior to the game my fears (which I'm sure other people held as well) were that we'd be on the receiving end of a rather heavy defeat. The facts that a group of players who'd never played together before (many of whom were more accustomed to playing sides five levels below their opponents) were up against a Conference North side, bolstered by ex-League players and midway through a pre-season programme, suggested that such a thing was an inevitability.

And to be honest it should have been. However it wasn't and that was due in no small part to some good goalkeeping, some good defending and from Stalybridge the kind of shooting that, if employed by armed forces around the world, would render warfare pointless.

The biggest offender for Celtic was Chris 'I want to be an ac-tor' Hall who missed an almost unending succession of opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. To be blunt, if you're watching a film or television programme in which someone, for some reason, is hitting a cows backside with a banjo, don't expect his name to appear next to the role in the credits. Still, should a casting call for 'The Ade Akinbiyi Biopic' ever go out...

From the outset Mossley were struggling to get any momentum going forward (what few attacks there were tending to breakdown outside the box) but there was the odd moment or two of neat interchanges, touches or breaks that looked promising for the future when the team has bedded down more. I would like to mention some of the players involved but as their names are nothing more than hastily scribbled and frighteningly illegible notes in my makeshift notebook I'll pass just this once if you'll allow me. I will say though that as well as the names I have remembered in the following paragraphs, the two first half wingers (Brighton and Noble?) looked impressive as did Lee Connor and Darren Royle under an almost constant stream of pressure.

Despite their profligacy the hosts eventually managed to find the back of the net twice. The first came courtesy of an errant pass across the Mossley back four whilst the second followed a goal mouth scramble - both goals conceded due to the inexperience of the side more than anything else.

The goal of the game though came out of the blue and, for the Mossley fans present, at the right end. After receiving the ball just inside the Bridge half, a blistering turn pace from Kingston Gayle (too fast for the auto focusing on my camera anyway) took him past the Celtic defence and to edge of the box where he fired a thunderous effort past Paddy Gambles into the corner of the net.

Minutes later the home side were given the opportunity to restore their two goal lead from the twelve yard spot. Experts at this kind of situation say that penalty kicks should be hit high and to one side for the greatest chance of scoring and that's what the taker did. What I don't think he (or anyone else) was expecting though was for Ashley Connor in the Mossley goal to palm it away to safety with a not particularly shabby penalty save. It makes you wonder what kind of stops we'll see in games that really matter.

Half-time brought about a string of personnel changes for both sides but there was no change to the overall pattern of the game. Apart from a very brief spell of Lilywhite pressure midway through the second period it was pretty much one way traffic. Like the first forty-five minutes though Celtic's attempts to add their total were being foiled by two different Mossley keepers and an hysterical lack of shooting accuracy. Eventually Paul Sykes grabbed a scrappy third and that's how it remained until the final whistle.

As first games go for a completely brand new side, a match against a team two divisions higher was always going to be a baptism of fire but Mossley didn't disgrace themselves at all. If anything I'd be more worried if I was a Stalybridge fan after watching their faltering attack fail time and again. With five more friendlies to go though before the start of the season there's enough time for players tune into each others wavelengths and as things are more likely to get better than worse, the future looks promising indeed.

You Don't See City Live For Years Then...

One week after bemoaning the quality of performance in Manchester City's reserve team win over Stalybridge Celtic, I'm happy to say that things were a lot better at a rain swept Tameside Stadium at the weekend. Admittedly Curzon Ashton are two divisions lower but with the City side mostly made up of youth team players the gap between the teams could hardly be classed as cavernous

The Premiership kids got off to a flying start when the impressive Adam Clayton pinged an effort through a crowd of players from the edge of the box. It should have been two moments later when they were denied as clear a penalty as you'll see over the next nine or so months; the referee and linesman apparently being the only people in the ground who didn't spot a Curzon hand rise above everyone at a City corner and palm the ball away from danger. The home side pulled level not long afterwards when Mike Norton hit a daisy cutter of a free-kick from twenty yards that flew under the jumping wall, zipped past the outstretched arm of keeper Filip Mentel (yes, that is his name) and nestled in the bottom left hand corner of the net.

To be honest set-pieces around the box were the only way that Curzon looked like scoring even though, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, they actually dominated possession throughout the game. However they simply couldn't do anything creative with it. Whenever they got the ball close to the City penalty area they'd invariably end up passing the ball back up the field till it reached the centre halves, whereupon a sloppy pass would hand the initiative back to the visitors.

Maybe the loss of last seasons wunderkind Steven Moores to Altrincham could hit them harder than expected as Mike Norton ploughed what was almost a lone furrow upfront, winning header after header but with no one to pick up the ball. They do have their flying winger Wayne Cahill to come back in to the team but there is more than just a suspicion that the strike force which rampaged through the NWCL and the Vase last season has been blunted.

Not particularly good news for Curzon but incredibly good news for us in our second game of the season. The again I could just have jinxed everything!

City retook the lead when David Ball pulled down an inch perfect through ball with the outside of his right foot before deftly flicking it over the keeper in one movement (a goal worthy of a much more important game) and that's how it stayed till the interval.

The second half was virtually one way traffic with the only real surprise being that City managed to increase their goal tally by just one, a Ched Evans penalty, though it wasn't for the want of trying. Credit goes to the home defence for stopping a cricket score being racked up, particularly during a goalmouth scramble in the closing minutes which saw the ball cleared off Curzon's line twice and their keeper make a fantastic one handed save that didn't look possible.

But what of the ex-Mossley men on display? Nicky Thompson played the first half at right back and had as good a game as you can expect anyone to have when they're asked to mark somebody who's not only lightning fast but appears to have had the ball glued to their feet. SAS came on as a second half substitute at centre back and with his first touch he almost put a forward in for a run on goal - unfortunately for him it was City's Ched Evans and the goal was his own. After some almost equally hair raising moments he eventually settled in but, unlike Thommo, I can't see him becoming a regular fixture in the starting XI.

Overall it was worth the Krypton Factor-like fun and games involved in getting the Northern Rail train/replacement bus service down to Ashton, and I hope that Mossley's pre-season campaign throw up a few games that impress just as much.

Is There A 'Football Fans Anonymous'?

I have a confession. I couldn’t wait for the Lilywhites’ pre-season programme to start. After two months without any live football and with Mossley’s fixture list for July looking somewhat threadbare, the craving to watch a game of football not being broadcast from some exotic clime had grown surprisingly unbearable - the football junkie that resides deep within me was in desperate need of a fix.

It's an addiction and they are terrible things; they make you do stuff that if in a rational state of mind you wouldn’t normally contemplate. And that’s why at ten minutes to three last Saturday afternoon I found myself handing £5 over to a man on the turnstiles at Bower Fold.

Yes, for shame, I paid to watch Stalybridge Celtic.

In my defence though I will say that as a Manchester City fan, as well as a supporter of the once mighty Whites, I was primarily interested in watching them and whoever the home side were was purely irrelevant. Well that’s how I’m justifying giving five of my hard earned pounds to the Tameside Reporter’s pet club.

Any road, after positioning myself in the least dirty seat I could find at the back of the Tom Pendry Stand, I sat back and prepared for what I hoped would be a thoroughly convincing display from a young City side of whom great things are expected by those “in the know”. Having watched football for so long though I should have realised, especially as a Mossley and Manchester City supporter, that hope and reality are immiscible.

Frankly, if it wasn’t for Kasper Schmeichel producing a string of saves that were above and beyond the call of duty for a pre-season run out then City would have been, it pains me to say, on the end of a thoroughly deserved thumping. Maybe it was the lack of games under their belts (or a sulk at not being picked to travel with the first team to Doncaster) but a surprisingly large number of the City players didn’t seem to be particularly interested at all.

However, despite being the better side by some distance over the course of the first half, Celtic were incredibly fortunate not to concede a spot kick before the interval; the referee waving away City’s strong appeals after Marc Laird’s run on goal was brought to a crashing halt by Simon Garner.

Shaleum Logan, Simon Garner and the mid-section of a potentially view obstructing floodlight stanchion

Now if you’re thinking that that name sounds familiar, you’re right. Garner was signed during the summer from Clitheroe where in recent seasons he’s kept us Mossley fans amused with both his ridiculous hairstyles and defensive qualities. And I’m happy to say that with Mossley once again on the horizon he’s somewhere near his “best” form judging by his display against City

City, resplendent in their new purple away kit, managed their first effort of the match on target not long after the restart and with it, took the lead. Albeit not in that straightforward a fashion. Ched Evans’ header from a right wing corner was weak and directly at Celtic’s substitute keeper. Instead of dealing with it comfortably though he dropped to the floor and somehow spilled it between his legs, giving the impression that he’d somehow managed to shoot the ball out of his backside.

The audible gasp that was emitted by the supporters that really care about the outcome of friendly games as the ball trickled slowly towards the goal was replaced by a sigh of relief when it stopped on the line, only for that gasp to echo around the ground once again as Celtic player bounded in and hit the static ball into the back of the net. Surprisingly some of the supporters sat nearby didn’t find this quite as funny as I seemed to.

Marc Laird tries to get the better of Paddy Gambles in a rare piece of first half action in the Celtic area. I'm positive that there was a ball in this picture when I took the photo so goodness where its got to ....

Parity was restored not long after when ex-Latics player Matty Barlow (afforded the kind of space normally associated to someone with an aversion to soap, water and toothpaste) received the ball eight yards out and hammered the ball past Schmeichel - providing the City keeper with the opportunity to show everyone just what tips he’s picked up from his dad by vociferously laying into his wayward defence.

As the game slowly ground its way towards a conclusion it was becoming increasingly apparent that both sides were content with a share of the spoils. That was until with two minutes to go Irish youngster Karl Moore capped a fine display as a second half substitute for City by cutting in from the right after flummoxing his marker and scoring from a very narrow angle. A brief round of applause and then it was time to go.

As people are fond of saying at this time of the year, “its performances that matter, not results” – something that will comfort the Stalybridge management team more than the City’s, despite the visitors win. From a Mossley perspective though the appearance that Stalybridge have ‘clicked’ this early into the pre-season campaign is slightly worrying ahead of next Tuesday’s game. The result may not matter but the last thing the Lilywhite’s new look and never before played together side (outside of Hurst Cross) needs is a comprehensive and demoralising spanking. Then again I expected City to do the same to Stalybridge…

Until then I’ll be satisfying my craving for football of any kind at Curzon this coming Saturday. That is unless a patch is developed or someone performs an intervention and puts me on a twelve steps programme.