To Cheadle. Yes... Cheadle.

The FA Cup trail begins once again as we, along with hundreds of other starry eyed teams, start out on the quest to become plucky underdogs at such exotic locales as Kettering and Leigh.

With FA regulations still not allowing Woodley to play FA Cup games on their artificial surface, the Lambeth Grove side have chosen to fore-go the income generated by what was usually one of their biggest attendances of the season by playing the match in a) Cheadle and b) on a Sunday afternoon. Still who needs an intense atmosphere when you’ve got air horns and a bag of broken crockery to rattle.

Both sides have undergone many changes since we last met, the biggest one being that it’s no longer a case of Mossley A vs. Mossley B but Mossley A vs. Winsford United 06/07.

Following last seasons departure of manager Ally Pickering (and that of Tony Hancock before him), Woodley have continued their policy of recruiting ex-Mossley players to manage their team by appointing Chris Willcock to run the playing side of things. A challenge he accepted by recruiting a sizable proportion of the team that played under him last season at Winsford.

Yes, gone are the days when Woodley's recruitment policy appeared to be picking up whichever player Mossley had left beside the bins on a Monday morning. Only Sergio Mario Daniel remains of the people who once pulled on the white shirt.

Our last match against Woodley was the memorable for all the wrong reasons 5-0 thumping we got on the plastic carpet back in January 2006. The build-up to that game, if you recall, involved our previous manager giving a team talk to both sides prior to kick-off (Woodley's via the medium of a piece in the local paper) and it only fired one starting XI up.

The game got off to a bad start for the visitors (conceding a goal in the first minute) before getting progressively worse (three down after 10 minutes). The cherry was then applied to the top of the cake in the last minute with that good old Mossley staple: a penalty miss. Looking back on the events of that afternoon it's hard to believe that we actually won the league title three months later.

However that was then, this is now and with a whole host of new faces at both clubs it will be interesting to see a match between the two sides without the baggage that has come with it over the past few years.

For the winners: £1000 and a trip to either Hallam or Emley in a fortnight. For the losers: the prospect of it happening all over again six days later at Seel Park in a league fixture.

Prediction: After two correct predictions I’m presented with something of a dilemma. I’ve never before done the hat-trick and there’s a good chance that this won’t be any different so what do I do? Should I put down what I think will be the outcome or do I try and trick fate into providing the result I secretly want? Decisions, decisions.

Hmm... what the hey… a win for Woodley.

Lancaster City 0 - 2 Mossley

As you probably know (if you don't, the heading of this post is a big pointer) Mossley claimed their first win of the season/new era at Lancaster City's Giant Axe ground last Monday. And by all accounts it was a mightily impressive performance.

Due to my non-attendance there'll be no interminably long report on the match on here. However those aforementioned accounts can be found here and here, along with photographs that don't give everyone in a white shirt a purple halo (or chromatic aberration as it's known as in photography circles).

Of course a truer picture of our progress can only be ascertained when there's a bigger sample to draw our conclusions from - one snowflake doesn't make a blizzard - but judging by what's been said and written about the match, things look incredibly encouraging. Not least the fact that we apparently didn't settle for what we had once a certain point in the game had been reached; something which haunted us on too many occasions last season.

It's still early days and we may occupy a spot in the lower half of the table but is there anybody who doesn't feel good about being a Mossley supporter again?

Mossley 1 - 1 Bradford (P.A.)

I don't know which was louder at Seel Park at 16:50 on Saturday: the final whistle or the exhalation of relief that greeted it from the Mossley supporters as the Lilywhites first point of the season was finally confirmed.

Whichever it was there's no question that it was anything other than a deserved point as the home side proved to be more than a match for their expensively assembled opponents.

Title favourites Bradford may have been the more dominant of the two sides in the opening exchanges but it was Mossley who were the first to threaten the score line. In the space of two minutes around the quarter of an hour mark Paul Garvey had a goal correctly ruled out for offside and Kitson Gayle forced Jon Worsnop into making his first stop of the afternoon.

Kitson Gayle becomes the first player to test either keepers mettle.

The visitors then responded with a lengthy spell of pressure of their own but it wasn't until thirty minutes into the game that they gave Mossley something to worry about. Some excellent close control down the left by Adam Morning presented Joe Brown with the opportunity to put his side into the lead by knocking the ball into an open goal from a matter of inches. However, in a moment that will give him nightmares for weeks to come (and if it doesn't, it should) the Bradford number 10 missed; a feat so impossible that world class players couldn't do what he did if they tried.

In stark contrast to Mossley's brand new all-white, 'Daz doorstep challenge' kit, Bradford's, with its black, red and yellow hoops, bore more of a resemblance to a shirt you'd find in a game of rugby rather than football. An analogy that can also be applied to Bradford's approach to tackling and all round general play.

'Okay, scrum down chaps! Remember, if it moves and it's not dressed as garishly as us – kick it!'

There's nothing wrong with strong play but when stopping the man appears to take presidency over winning the ball you begin to wonder if a team has got its priorities right. From petty fouls after the ball had long gone to some heavy duty full-on challenges, the most fearsome of which thankfully saw the perpetrator come off worse than the subject of his intended 'tackle', it seemed like the visitors were more interested in winning by battering us into submission rather than by having a greater number of goals.

And, boy, could they whine. Every decision given or not given was questioned at considerable length. You could spend the next six months watching porn non-stop and not hear as much moaning and groaning as there was from Bradford in this ninety minutes of football.

Three minutes before the interval a lapse of concentration in the Mossley team allowed Bradford to take the lead. Picking up the ball deep in his own half Tom Baker (no, not that one) moved forward and the white shirts in front of him broke apart like an Antarctic ice shelf, allowing him to advance on goal unchallenged. Reaching the edge of the box he slipped the ball under Ashley Connor and put his side ahead.

Gareth Hamlet fails to connect with Lee Blackshaw's cross by a matter of atoms.

It was the cue for a frenetic close to the half. Gareth Hamlet narrowly failed to get on the end of a Lee Blackshaw cross which rolled along the face of the goal and Hamlet then turned provider only to see Garvey to come just as agonisingly close to converting his ball across the six yard box. Avenue responded with a couple of efforts from distance before Mossley worked an opening that should have seen them go into the break on a deserved level footing.

A combination of a Martin Allison through ball and Kitson Gayle's pace split the Bradford defence wide open and left the Gayle one-on-one with Worsnop. As the Bradford custodian narrowed the angle the burly Mossley forward unleashed a shot that not only beat the keeper but also the left hand post as well.

Worsnop lies beaten but Kitson Gayle's effort rolls the wrong side of the post

The second half was an altogether duller affair with chances few and very far between. Bradford looked the side most likely to score but that was primarily through Mossley presenting them with opportunities rather than from any industry on their own part. An example being a loose pass a minute before the hour mark that forced Ashley Connor into diving low to his left to keep out a powerful shot from Ross Clegg, the former Mossley midfielder taking a rare moment off from performing niggling fouls to try and increase his sides lead.

By this stage Mossley were making little to no progress in finding a way back into the game. The long ball up the centre of the field was playing straight into the hands (or rather heads) of Avenue's giant central defenders and with no variation in approach the forwards were virtually spectators.

The home sides best, and only, chance of finding a way back into the game appeared to be from corners and free-kicks and it was from the former that Mossley finally caused the visitors to sweat a bit. Lee Connor beat everyone to a cross only for the slightest of deflections to carry the ball off its trajectory towards the net and off for another corner. They couldn't build on it though and with eight minutes left the game would have been put out of Mossley's reach were it not for another great stop by Ashley Connor, stretching low to his left to prevent Kevin Sanasay's dipping shot from crossing the line.

With the game slowly slipping away Bradford's predilection for committing unnecessary fouls was about to give Mossley their first point of the season. A needless free-kick conceded just inside the Avenue half and a few yards from the touchline was launched towards the box by Darryl Weston. Jamie Miller pulled the ball down with his back to goal, wrong footed his marker, turned inside and hit an inch perfect shot that found the gap between the outstretched arm of Worsnop and the right hand post.

Jamie Miller (right) watches his shot beat Worsnop and register his first goal of the season and his sides first point.

The goal unsurprisingly gave Mossley a bit of belief and for the first time in the half they showed a bit more invention than just hoofing the ball up the middle of the pitch; passes were to feet and off-the-ball movement started to give the Bradford defenders something to worry about. A winning goal wasn't to be forthcoming though and the referee's whistle signalled a result that was probably the fairest one to both teams.

It also brought a few cries of derision in his direction from a couple of Bradford fans stood next to us as they blamed him for the fact their team had picked up only a point. But as we've learnt over the last few years, when you've spent a not insubstantial amount of money of a team, it's easier for some people to blame peripheral factors for a sides failings rather than how wisely that money has been spent.

We're finally off and running and if we can just keep the amount of time the ball spends out of contact with the grass to a minimum, there'll be a few more points heading our way over the coming months.

To The Coast!

Is there a better way to spend to spend a Bank Holiday Monday than at a local game that not only makes travelling easier for away supporters but ensures a bumper crowd for clubs that need the money? No, there probably isn't!

But that hasn't stopped the Unibond North's fixture computer spewing out a lengthy list of forehead slapping holiday games and this is the first of them for Mossley – a trip to Lancaster on a day that's marginally better for long distance travelling than the choice of Boxing Day for the return fixture at Seel Park.

I’ve only ever been to the Giant Axe once before and that ended in a 2-0 cup defeat for the Lilywhites many moons ago. My memories of that game though are solely the corner flags being made of what seemed like rotting bits of a wooden window frame and a toilet block that was way too small, necessitating users to stand outside and aim in. However I am prepared to admit that maybe the vestiges of time have clouded my memory but I swear that that is what was there.

If being lumbered with one of the worst nicknames in non-league football wasn't bad enough (the Dolly Blues in case you were wondering), City's financial problems over the past twelve months meant that they had to do the double drop from the Conference North last season, bypassing the starry lights of the Unibond Premier to take up a place in the re-jigged First Division..

Though games between us were a regular occurrence in the 1970’s/early 80’s, the last meetings between the two sides came during our first spell in the Unibond First Division. In the four matches played between 1993 and 1995 Lancaster ran out winners on each occasion, scoring 8 goals in total and conceding none. All of which adds up to the fact that we haven't scored a goal against Lancaster for nigh on 28 years. Oh well...

Prediction: My non-attendance will probably guarantee us our first win of the season.

From Over T'Pennines

This Saturday sees one of the favourites for the league title wend their merry way to Seel Park as millionaire backed Bradford Park Avenue pitch up and compete to see which of us can kick-start their season first.

They’ll be bringing a host of familiar faces to Seel Park including former manager Benny Philips, former captain Danny Meadowcroft and perhaps, somewhat surprisingly, former winger Adam Morning – his sideways step from Woodley a peculiar move considering he was being linked with Football League clubs for a fairly lengthy period of last season.

Avenue also contain a fairly large proportion of last season’s Witton Albion side including Mike Moseley who scored Witton’s opener in the game that sealed our relegation fate last April.

Despite having buzzed around similar levels of the pyramid for a good while now, it’s surprising that we haven’t had to face them more often than we actually have. In fact when we got relegated from the Unibond First Division in 1995, it was Bradford who we swapped places with; the Yorkshirere topping the NWCL that year.

History is on our side though as we've never lost a league game against Park Avenue. Admittedly there have only been four meetings between (and three of them ended in draws) and they were all well over 30 years ago but when you see a straw – clutch at it.

Prediction: Already being 0 for 2 when it comes to these things this season, I'm loathe to make it a hat-trick bad predictions whilst we're still in August. But what the hell... a draw.

Mossley 1 - 2 Curzon Ashton

There's an oft used cliché in football that goes "it's a game of two halves". This match however gave it an interesting new twist being "a game of a third and two thirds"; the smaller fraction sadly representing the time Mossley were in the ascendancy before Curzon started to dictate the game.

As much as it pains me to put this (is there a writing equivalent of speaking through gritted teeth?) Curzon were deserved winners but, just like the previous match at Garforth, it was Mossley that started the brighter of the two teams.

In the 16th minute the home side got the goal their early endeavour deserved when a lazy back pass was pounced on by Kitson Gayle. The Mossley forward then showed great composure in taking the ball around the Curzon keeper before wheeling away in celebration of his first goal for the club.

Kitson Gayle celebrates as the ball heads towards the back of the net.

Worsley then fired a warning shot across Mossley's bow (or rather the face of the goal) for the visitors as they struggled to get back into a game that slowly seemed to be slipping away from them. And with 25 minutes on the clock the Lilywhite's could, and possibly should, have inched the points available from the game further away from Curzon's grasp. Kitson Gayle robbed substitute Byrne of the ball on the halfway line and launched a counter attack that saw white shirts vastly outnumber the blue ones. The ball quickly made its way to Paul Quinn on the edge of the box but the winger snatched at his shot, sending it looping wide of a relieved Curzon keeper's goal.

Gayle and Martin Allison both went close to increasing the lead from a series of corners but the game, without warning, suddenly turned on its head as Curzon stepped up a gear and Giggs and Delaney started to play an increasingly more prominent role in the role in the game; the ex-Mossley man in particular was proving to be a thorn in the side by continually cutting inside from the left onto his preferred right foot. It was a tactic that almost paid dividends as the half ticked over into stoppage time. Giggs found space to cross the ball to Norton who was in even more space at the back post but the Ashton forward could only power a shot into the side netting.

The relief on appearing to have reached the interval with our one goal lead intact was to be short lived though. The resultant goal kick immediately made its way back down the pitch at the feet of Mike Norton and his cross from the right was headed in at close range by an unmarked Ryan Moore.

Any thoughts that the 15 minute break would allow Mossley to regroup, rediscover their early form and push Curzon back were dismissed within moments of the restart. If anything the hopes of a win were quickly replaced by hopes of holding out for a draw as the visitors continued in the manner they'd finished the first period.

Ashley Connor produced a superb save from Delaney, Adam Jones got in the way of a goal bound header that would have given the side the lead, David Wallace cleared off the line following a corner for the second game in succession as the pressure really began to ramp up on the home side. Giggs then displayed some the finishing prowess shown by his brother's side in the recent Manchester derby by spurning a glorious chance inside the Mossley box, only for Norton to overshadow him a minute later by wasting an even more golden opportunity.

With seven minutes remaining though the possibility of a first point of the season faded. A sloppy pass in the middle of the pitch allowed Curzon to work the ball out to Ryan Moore and following a thirty yard run down the left he cut into the box and slipped the ball under Ashley Connor to double both his sides and his own personal tally for the night.

Mossley's came incredibly close to claiming an equalizer when, with two minutes left (and sixty game minutes after their last attack of note), the ball was scrambled off the line following a corner but the sound of the final whistle soon ended what newly found dreams supporters may have harboured of a late draw being fashioned.

Paul Quinn challenges Stephen Sheil for the ball. It must have been something of a novelty for the former Mossley full back... being on a winning side at Seel Park.

The result might read the same as the one at Garforth but the truth is that no-one could have complained had the scoreline been a more emphatic one in Curzon's favour.

I've tried to fight it but it's no use... I'm going to have to use the G-word because I can't think of a better one - gel: we still need time to do it and this match was further evidence that there's still some way to go before the players become a unit that know each others style of play inside-out. Until then we're always going to be at something of a disadvantage against teams that have played together as a unit for a long time.

And speaking purely as an observer it looks like we're still some way short of being fully match fit as well, which is understandable given the relatively short pre-season campaign, and it's likely that it may be a factor in how matches are played for a while. However football's more tiring when you haven't got the ball and giving possession of it away as cheaply as we did in this game, through some poor passing and an over reliance on the long ball, is only going to hamper us further if we can't cut it out.

There's nothing wrong in clearing your lines but if it comes back as quickly and as often as it did in this game you have to do something different to try and alleviate the pressure. The back line produced some fine work but even the best defence in the world will start to crack when facing an almost unending succession of attacks.

The first half hour showed how good we are when we keep the passes short and make intelligent moves off the ball and those are the seeds of hope for a good season. If we can nurture that then the goals will start to flow more easily and, ultimately, the points will start to rack up.

Till then the search for points continues...

All The Way From Ashton Moss...

What’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster? Is it a monster?

No, it’s Gary Lowe and his merry band (closer to the one-man variety than the full orchestra and massed choir kind) of followers as they make their way to Seel Park for the first time in almost four years. An event that’s sure to guarantee two extra seats being filled on the 350 that departs at Ashton bus station at 18:30.

Making gags at their expense about being poorly supported is unkind though, especially as with Woodley coming up twice over the next three weeks I could have saved them for then. Still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the lack of verbal sparring on the terraces does contribute to this fixture being bottom of the list when it comes to anticipated local derbies.

Its been almost four years since we last faced ‘The Blues’ in league competition, both games in the NWCL 03/04 season ending in draws: 2-2 at our place, 1-1 at theirs.

Last year they finished second in the NWCL, due in no small part to the amount of goals scored and created by their front three of Norton, Moores, and Cahill. Speaking as someone who saw a fair share of those Curzon games I’ve got to say that they were mightily impressive to watch at times.

That Goaly Trinity (see what I did there) however has been split up over the summer with Moores departing for trials at a whole host of clubs before eventually signing for Chorley last week. And after being told he wouldn’t feature in the Magpie's starting line-up he turned out for Flixton in the FA Cup at the weekend. The whereabouts of Wayne Cahill has also been something of a mystery to those not steeped in all things Curzon but they got off to a flyer in the opening game of the campaign by knocking two unanswered goals past Ossett at the White Elephant Memorial Ground Tameside Stadium.

Current connections between the two sides include Rhodri Giggs, Stephen Shiel,Joz Mitten who, it is rumoured to be said, has almost signed for us on more than one occasion and that both teams have white shorts as part of their home kit. And if you think that last one is tenuous, you're right - it is!

Prediction: Despite a sore throat I’m feeling particularly ebullient - a Mossley win.

Garforth Town 2 - 1 Mossley

Whilst the following report may appear similar to the official ones this season they do contain some differences. Well one really: they are the unedited versions so they will contain things such as criticism of officials and anything else that would be frowned upon by the league should it appear elsewhere. Now with that out of the way...

Mossley's new era got off to a disappointing start on the outskirts of rain sodden Leeds but the eventual result was overshadowed by an horrific injury sustained by Lilywhite's right back, Mike Jefferson.

Three minutes before the interval the former Ashton United defender came out of a challenge second best as he attempted to thwart a Garforth attack, leaving him lying on the pitch with a suspected broken leg; the wait for an ambulance necessitating a lengthy stoppage of almost an hour to the game.

There is a question as to whether the match should have been abandoned there and then (if it was the floodlights that had held up the match for a similar period of time it almost certainly would have been) but as the majority of other fixtures up and down the country drew to a close, the game restarted and quickly devolved into something of a farce.

Despite their being three minutes of the half left before the unfortunate stoppage (as well as a considerable amount of time to be added on for treatment Paul Garvey had received earlier in the match following an awful tackle deemed only worthy of a yellow), the referee announced that they'd play only two minutes before starting the second period. The majority of these two minutes were then unbelievably taken up with Town making a substitution, for which no extra time was added, before the half was brought to a close.

By this point though Mossley were already a goal in arrears.

Things had started brightly for the visitors but apart from a few efforts from distance the Miner's nervous looking keeper Karl Spratt remained sadly under worked. On the quarter of an hour mark the home side suddenly clicked and Mossley were put on the back-foot. Ashley Connor diverted a shot destined for the bottom corner of the goal off for a corner and David Wallace cleared off the line as the pressure increased on Mossley's back line.

That pressure eventually paid off in the 35th minute when a soft penalty was conceded and Duncan Williams put the home side ahead from the spot.

The second half was a pretty even affair in terms of possession but like the early spell in the previous half, Mossley's inability to convert it into chances was to prove to be their undoing. A few shots brushed wide of the post and Mossley's height at corners caused a few problems but in truth there was nothing that really tested Spratt.

It was the home side that continued to look the most likely to score and Ashley Connor produced a fine full length save to stop Garforth from doubling their lead. Double it they did though in the 82nd minute when a long ball from the back coupled with Garforth's speedy forward line allowed Muddell to head home from close range and virtually seal the game.

To Mossley's enormous credit though that their heads didn't drop and as the clock ticked over into the 90th minute they were rewarded with a deserved consolation. A cross from the left found its way to the yellow booted feet of substitute Joel Bryce and he curled a perfectly executed shot around a motionless Spratt to halve the deficit.

Last season began with a one goal defeat in similar conditions (i.e. new league, the kind of weather that would have had Noah rounding up the animals) to Ilkeston but this time around the signs are more encouraging. Whilst the positives may have been balanced out by the negatives, which is to be expected from a team playing their first competitive match together, there was enough evidence on display to suggest that this season won't follow the last into the annals of Mossley's 'Campaign's Best Forgotten'.

As for Garforth, for a club whose mantra is Brazilian football, their style of play bore little resemblance to any I've ever seen from the South American side.

When they make their two visits to Seel Park later in the season it might be wise to warn residents in Micklehurst of the dangers of being hit by a Garforth clearance. Watching players trying to kick the ball as far as they could out of the ground at every possible opportunity was one of the most ridiculous things I've seen at a football game in quite some time. Along with their constant appealing for fouls and offsides and their 'hands-on' approach to challenging anyone for the ball they're not going to win many friends. In fact you can't help but feel they're getting Brazil mixed up with Wimbledon circa the late 80's. Somebody really should tell them that Dennis Wise was not the embodiment of samba football.

They should also tell them to print more programmes, open the refreshment a lot earlier, erect some kind of construction that is able to keep spectators dry. And given the struggle one ambulance had getting near the ground, heaven help everyone should their ever be a fire at the place. Oh yes, whilst I've got the bit between my teeth, banging one snare drum slowly only adds to the atmosphere if you're watching a French aristo being led to the guillotine and not when your forwards are chasing a hoof down the pitch.

And finally, after a couple of years in which the standard of officiating has improved quite considerably, hopefully the performances seen in this by the men in black aren't indicative of what's to come this season. From the awarding of corners and goal kicks that had no relation to on-field events to the refusal to clamp down on the home side's rough house tactics and the events surrounding Jefferson's injury,it wasn't a good day for the man in the middle and his two helpers.

Spratt does well to stop a deep ball from creeping under the crossbar. The linesman's decision was, of course, a goal kick.

The nadir of which (and it had some competition) was reached when Town substitute Simpkins, moments after receiving a yellow card for a tackle so late its obituary had already been printed in the local paper, kicked the ball out of the ground in a ridiculous act of time-wasting after being flagged offside. Instead of the expected red card all he received was the briefest of tut-tuttings. The officials weren't to blame for the result but they certainly didn't help either.

Anyhow, one down - forty one (plus cup matches) to go and as I would have said had we won – one result does not a season make. Besides, they all won't be played in what has turned out to be an extremely unlucky kit.

Eastwards To Garforth

A new season, a new-ish league and a new team to face as Mossley make the first of what will be many trips across the Backbone of Britain™ to take on Simon Clifford.

Sorry that should read 'to take on Garforth Town' but in my defence, if you've ever visited their website you'll realise what an easy mistake it is to make.

Besides employing the kind of self-promotion that makes Dave Pace look like a publicity shy introvert, Simon Clifford, Garforth's chief executive, has gained something of a reputation amongst supporters of some non-league clubs; a few examples of which can be found here on the NonLeagueZone forums.

You can't fault his desire for wanting what's best for his club though. According to this months 4-4-2 magazine, with Garforth needing a win in the final game of last season to claim a spot in the Unibond, Clifford placed a picture of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in the dressing room as some form of motivation or inspiration. They lost and their conquerors on the day Carlton leapfrogged them in the league to clinch a guaranteed promotion place.

However his 25 year plan to reach the Premier League got an unexpected boost when Durham's decision to remain in football's very own Royston Vasey (the Northern League) allowed Town the opportunity to enter the Unibond via the tradesman's door.

During this time they also lost central midfielder Craig Farrand to a great club, whose name currently escapes me, on the other side of t' Pennines and at the time of typing they're currently scrambling around for a goalkeeper following their #1's decision to join Farsley Celtic last week. The Miners though do contain one player who's recently made the national media.

Duncan Williams announcement that he'll play Premiership football for nothing, and instead earn his corn suckling at the corporate teat, made the Times at the beginning of the week. And yes, Simon Clifford does get a mention or two. It's a generous stance to take and Mr.Williams seems more level headed than most players at the top tier will ever be but, is it really any different to one of us suddenly announcing to the world that they'd selflessly accept no payment whatsoever to sleep with Scarlett Johanssen but would be prepared to slap a Pepsi sticker on their bum for the event should Pepsico pay them to do so? That's to say how noble is a gesture when there's a slim to nought chance of it ever happening? Good luck to him but it does seem a tiny bit naiive.

Finally, whether you're going by car or the 11:48 train, don't forget to wrap up warm for this one. Despite the onset of global warming it's very cold in the Leeds area, around -12 at the moment. Lousy topical football humour - Mossley80 must be back for the new season.

Prediction: Having confidently predicted wins for most of Mossley's games last season and seen us ultimately get relegated, I think it may be a wise to start backing the opposition this time around. A win for Garforth.

It All Comes Round Again

Doesn't time fly, eh? It hardly seems two minutes since we were stood in open mouthed horror watching Matlock, Gateshead, Kendal, Guiseley, Flixton reserves et al, tear us apart with the kind of ease not seen since the Romans decided religious pacifists and ravenous lions would be a fair fight.

And contrary to the Cassandra like proclamations you may have heard on the eve of that final game at the International Athletics Stadium by a recently departed employee of the club, we're back!

In the 112 days that have passed since we meekly surrendered our place in the Unibond Premier Division, numerous changes have left the club looking at a future that’s considerably brighter than the 'tolling death bell' that was broadcast on GMR’s Non-League spot at the end of April would have had you believe.

Manchester City, Newcastle United, Stalybridge Celtic, even that small concern known as 'Great Britain and Northern Ireland' have all undergone reorganisations at the top level during the summer and Mossley has been no exception.

For the first time in a decade there are new hands holding the reigns at Seel Park with the running of the club having been charged to a small group of supporters. And whilst it may be true that the financial security the club enjoyed over the last ten years has now gone, it's perhaps no bad thing that the club now stands on its own two feet.

Even at this relatively stage of their tenure at the club progress appears to be being made. The re-appointment of a commercial manger, the aim to forge closer links with the local community and, more importantly, exist within our means is all evidence of a solid foundation being laid for whatever may be built in the future.

One decision that has certainly moved the club forward is the appointment of Gerry Quinn. Not only do we now have a manager with a proven track record and a knowledge of the game at this level, but one who's seemingly happy to communicate with supporters without using the local media. And though you can't read a lot into an upcoming season based on the results of a few meaningless friendlies, you can't help but be impressed by the attitude and spirit already shown by the team he's assembled. It certainly makes a refreshing change from what we saw in some matches last season.

Having said all that, or rather written it, I don't think anyone is under the illusion that the road ahead won't be a rocky one, with the occasional precarious bend running alongside a precipitous drop to negotiate. It's going to take time to rebuild bridges as well as explore the new avenues that have opened up but where that road now leads is up to us. Once again it's our club and it's important that we go forward as one.

So with that out of the way all that remains is for me to say is enjoy the season. Hopefully as experiences go it will be more like the most exhilarating white knuckle ride you've ever been on rather than the ordeal of last seasons bungee jump sans bungee rope.

Mossley 7 - 0 Marsden

There's nothing like a fact filled account of a game and sadly this is nothing like one.

You'll have to forgive me for the lack of stated truths in this match report because I completely lost track of who scored and who did what. Still, best to get it out of the system before the season starts or else some upcoming reviews are going to resemble jigsaw puzzles with important pieces missing.

Lee Connor opens the scoring for the evening.

I know for definite that the first was a penalty from the boot of Lee Connor with the game barely minutes old but this is where it starts to get a bit murky. The second was netted by David Wallace (apologies if it wasn't) but I'm absolutely certain that Lee Blackshaw got the third by knocking in a rebound off the bar with the side of his head. It's possible that he got the fourth as well but I wouldn't swear on it in court!

This might be the second goal...

...But this is definitely the third from Lee Blackshaw.

The fourth hits the back of the net but whodunit?

Thankfully my memory is slightly better when it comes to recalling the following forty five minutes. Gareth Hamlet rolled the ball into an empty net for the fifth after beating the keeper in a chase for a loose pass and scored the seventh a moment before the referee brought the game to a conclusion. I've no idea who got the sixth goal and the filling in the Hamlet sandwich (other than that he was wearing the number four shirt and had a good game) but it was a pretty fearsome shot from close range after good work down the left.

David Wallace is denied his second of the game. Or possibly his first. This is getting confusing isn't it?

Gareth Hamlet rolls in the fifth of the night...

...And the seventh.

It's easy to dismiss Marsden as a creditable opposition (and I'm sure that given more time to arrange these games a sterner test would have been the preferred option to take us into the new season) but they have picked up some impressive results over the last few weeks.

But you can learn just as many important things in games like this one as you can in matches against teams from the Conference North or a Second Division youth side; the main one being how the players apply themselves and on that count Mossley passed with flying colours. The game was over as a contest very early on but the home side never took their foot off the pedal and continued to put the Yorkshire side to the sword. No showboating, just a desire to score as many goals as possible which, personally speaking, is how it should be.

To Garforth now and the serious stuff. And I must remember to take a pen and paper.

Mossley 5 - 1 Elland Athletic

Another day, another friendly and the latest installment of the Lilywhites rebuilding programme saw Halifax amateur side Elland Athletic provide the opposition on a rare sun kissed summer evening (at least when there's a football match on) in north-east Manchester/south-east Lancashire - take your pick as to which you prefer.

Expectations of an ensuing comfortable victory were heightened when with the game only minutes old the Lilywhites took the lead. A calamitous mix-up between the Elland keeper and one of his defenders gave David Wallace the opportunity to roll the ball into an unguarded net from thirty yards. No mean feat on Seel Park's bobbly surface.

Elland's keeper Chris Moroney sits and contemplates the merits of rushing out of his box as David Wallace's (out of picture) long range effort makes it's way towards the goal

The flood gates didn't open though as the visitors showed more flair and imagination than Ashton United had done in the previous friendly last Friday. Aided by a well marshalled back line playing the offside trap six inches from the halfway line they certainly made Mossley work for their win. In fact they came incredibly close to levelling the scores when a shot from the edge of the box pinged back off an upright and into the arms of a grateful Ashley Connor.

The home side eventually started to work a way around the Elland defence and two goals in quick succession saw them take a three goal lead into the break. The first of this brace came via the head of Arron Kirk from a corner (although he had to wait a moment for the ball to bounce off the bar and goal line a couple of times before it registered as a goal) whilst the second was another result of the quick thinking and burst of pace we've seen from Kitson Gayle over the past fortnight.

Arron Kirk (left) wheels away as the ball bounces between the cross bar and the goal for a while before eventually going in.

Hopes of a first clean sheet of the pre-season campaign ended within the first five minutes of the second period when an Elland players mazy dribble into the box came to an end; sent he crashing to the floor by a Mossley foot. Actually 'crashing' is not the right word... slowly lowering himself is perhaps more descriptive. That's not to say it wasn't a penalty (it clearly was) but the kick had been awarded, taken, scored and the match restarted before the foulee actually hit the ground.

As the game wore on Mossley's higher level of fitness quickly became increasingly apparent and it was no surprise that the number of chances at the Halifax sides end of the field started to grow. Most of the players in a white shirt had a pop at increasing the goal tally but only Lee Blackshaw and Jamie Miller could add to the scoreline before time ran out.

The scoring is wrapped up for the night by Jamie Miller.

Following on from the Ashton and Thackley games it was once again another encouraging display from Mossley. Like I said in my last report there are still wrinkles that need ironing out. However I've yet to speak to anyone who isn't quietly impressed by the way things seem to be progressing. Undoubtedly there are some players whose names have already been entered onto the teamsheet for the Garforth game in ink, let alone pencil, but choosing the rest of that starting eleven is not a job I envy.

So many impressive players, so few places.

Mossley 2 - 1 Ashton United

What better way to ease yourself back into a nine month long wave of peaks and troughs than a pre-season friendly against a local rival?

Unfortunately this was nothing like a friendly. Bookings, swinging arms, two footed lunges, wild rants at the officials (and that was just the visitors) - the game had pretty much everything other than a constant stream of goalmouth incidents. For the first half hour in particular, any momentum the game was managing to build was continually being interrupted by the shrill of the referee's whistle as some players sought to make their mark on the game or anything else that happened to be in their way.

The first chance of any note fell to the home side two thirds of the way through the opening half. Kitson Gayle used his considerable turn of place to break free of the Ashton back four but his early shot from distance, as Ashton keeper Damien Rooney bore down on him, passed narrowly wide of the wrong side of the post.

Ten minutes before the break Mossley were given the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot after Jamie Miller's attempts to get on the end of a corner were impeded by ex-Lilywhite Billy McCartney barging into his midriff head first. Responsibility was handed to Lee Connor and he calmly placed the ball into the bottom right hand corner of his old sides goal. That lead was almost doubled when Jamie Miller powered a header from Paul Garvey's cross against the underside of the bar that, much to the Robins relief, bounced to safety off the goal line.

Jamie Miller's header on it's way to the bar and goal line.

Five minutes into the second period Mossley did increase their lead and once again Billy McCartney can claim an unwanted assist in it's build-up. Kitson Gayle had turned and beaten his marker only for McCartney to, somewhat cynically, send him crashing to the floor despite their being at least another three Ashton players between the Mossley man and the goal. Gayle took the resultant free-kick himself and punished the visitors by looping it high over their wall and beyond the outstretched arm of Damien Rooney. Mossley continued to press forward but couldn't turn possession into chances though Joel Bryce did go extremely close with a header.

With the game nearing its end Ashton's first real opportunity of the game presented itself when a momentary switch off in the Mossley back line left Bennet with only Ashley Connor to beat but he snatched at his shot and sent the ball wide which was probably the most difficult option available to him. Time was almost up when Ashton eventually got something out of the game and halved the deficit - Glynn Barker reacting quickest during a scramble to stab the ball home from close range.

Kitson Gayle arcs the ball into the net for Mossley's second of the evening.

Three games in to the build-up and things seem to be progressing at a nice and steady pace. Many players continue to impress though with memories of James Tyrell-Nestor still fresh from last pre-season, I'll refrain from going overboard with praise just in case. Plus after nearly eighteen months of a staid, 'not losing is more important than winning' approach it's good to see attacking football back at Seel Park and players not frightened to have a pop at goal.

If there's any criticism (hey, it wouldn't be Mossley80 if there wasn't) it's that there was perhaps just a touch too much long ball at times but that was probably down to the players still getting to know one another more than anything else. Full credit to them though for keeping their heads (Paul Garvey just about managing too after Phil Edgehill almost dislodged it with a flailing arm in the first half) whilst some around them in blue shirts were losing theirs.

To be fair to Ashton it was probably a no-win game for them. Win and it was expected, lose and it's a poor result. Out of the Tameside teams that don't count Seel Park as a home ground, Ashton United are the only team I have a soft spot for but I have to say that was incredibly disappointed with what I saw of them. One can hope that they calm down before the season starts because if they're going to be as indisciplined as they were in this game in a league match then they're heading for trouble. Referee's won't be as forgiving when it comes to handing out yellow cards for late tackles and, particularly, giving officials a mouthful at every available opportunity when there's something meaningful at stake.

With the season only a fortnight away its fingers crossed that the remaining two friendly games will see the steady improvement continue and we can get down to the nitty gritty of life back in the Unibond First with an optimism that has been missing around these parts for some time.

Mossley 2 - 4 Mossley

Bear with me, this could get confusing.

On a very pleasant summers evening, Mossley welcomed Mossley to Seel Park for the first meeting between the two teams in quite some time. With each starting XI containing fair smattering of trialists, the sides entered the game in a confident mood, both coming into the game on the back of a 3-2 victory against NECL side Thackley.

Mossley went behind just after the midway point of the first half when, in a worrying echo of the last few seasons, Darren Royle rose unmarked to loop a header over Ashley Connor at a free-kick. But as Stuart Dyde pointed out, we haven't exactly been prolific at scoring from set-pieces so - swings and roundabouts. Mossley's lead didn't last too long as moments before the interval the Lilywhites scored two goals in quick succession; the second in particular being something rather special.

The advantage Mossley had was soon pegged back not long after the restart when substitute Kitson Gayle hit a ferocious shot past Connor, and I do mean ferocious. All I can say is thank goodness nets are there or else the supporters stood behind the goals this season could resemble a gathering of well beaten boxers come April.

The game was then held up for a considerable length of time when a coming to of players in the box for a cross accidentally turned into a giant version of a Newton's Cradle; heads bouncing off one another like agitated atoms. As an ice hockey fan I've seen games held up as blood is removed from the playing surface but never before at a football match. Once the injured parties had been bandaged up and had exited the pitch (fortunately there didn't appear to be anything too serious), some of the remaining players stood round with drinks bottles to try and dilute the puddle of red liquid that had been exuded.

The game quickly found its rhythm once again and despite the home side creating numerous good opportunities it was Mossley that doubled their total, finding the back of net again twice before the final whistle. Kitson Gayle once more hitting the target with an effort you could hammer nails into concrete with.

It's still way too early to start getting carried with score lines and individual performances but, nevertheless, it's a result will surely give the Mossley manager encouragement for the new season and food for thought for his opposite number, Gerry Quinn.