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.