Mossley 2 - 1 Newcastle Blue Star

Just over two hours after Manchester City had seen off Newcastle United at Eastlands in the Premiership, Mossley sent the Geordies non-league neighbours Blue Star back home to the north-east equally empty handed.

When you decide to play the offside trap, one of the fundamental components of it is that the defence move as one in a straight line.

The first five minutes were spent almost exclusively in the Mossley half of the pitch and but for two saves from Ashley Connor and a goal line clearance from Gareth Hamlet, the Lilywhites could have been looking at a real uphill battle over the course of the remaining 85 minutes.

Instead it was Mossley themselves that took the lead in the sixth minute with their first attack. Blue Star keeper Dan Lowson made a complete a hash of a simple clearance and screwed the ball out to the touchline where Paul Quinn was stood. Spotting that Lowson was in no hurry to take up a position closer to his goal, the Mossley winger immediately launched a looping shot from 35 yards that seemed to take forever to drop under the crossbar and put the Lilywhites ahead.

Due to my failure to get to grips with a borrowed camera, I don't have any decent action shots of this match. However I did get a decent picture of an empty goal area later on on in the match and taking a cue from a current news story, hey presto! Mossley go in front.

The visitors began the season as one of the favourites for promotion, due in no small part to a weekly wage bill rumoured to be around £7,000 a week. Apparently though that alleged sum of money isn't enough to assemble a defence that can organise itself into a straight line because Mossley's search for further goals was being ably assisted by their opponents ridiculously inept interpretation of how to play the offside trap. Either that or they use boomerangs as rulers on Tyneside.

Instead of moving forward as a unit they were the very definition of 'higgledy-piggledy', allowing the home side to advance without the threat of being halted by an assistant referee's flag and carve out further openings. Daryl Weston was inches away from increasing the lead with a powerful drive from distance before Kitson Gayle went agonisingly close to applying the finishing touch to a move that started from the left back position. Then from almost exactly the same spot from which Quinn had scored earlier, Paul Garvey launched another looping shot over the head of a wandering Lowson, only this time the ball dropped into the side netting.

Before the first period was brought to a close, both sides were on the receiving end of some peculiar offside decisions. Firstly Newcastle were given offside even though their forward was chasing down a Mossley back pass and that was followed by Paul Garvey was flagged despite being in his own half of the pitch at the time.

If you can find anything to be critical of about Mossley in this performance (and it's a small one) it's that the game should have been over as a contest long before the incidents that would transpire midway though the half put the outcome back in the balance.

Immediately after the restart Gayle and Garvey combined to put Lee Blackshaw through, only for the winger to fire wide of the far post. A minute later Blackshaw turned provider with a low cross along the edge of the six yard box that the outstretched leg of Gayle could only direct on to the cross bar.

The latter chance also saw Blue Star's captain, Birks, leave the pitch with an injury picked up during an attempt to stop Gayle. Not only was this met by a sigh of relief from the home support (he had been Newcastle's best player by some margin) but probably from the referee as well, having had him sit almost little devil like on his shoulder for the entire game questioning every decision he made.

The precariousness of Mossley's lead was highlighted not long after when Mossley's defence collectively went to sleep and gave Gordon the chance to run 45 yards towards the Mossley goal with no one in pursuit. Ashley Connor however kept his cool and stayed on his feet long enough to panic the Newcastle forward into shooting straight at him as his options dwindled.

At the midway point of the half Mossley were awarded what even I, as a partisan match reporter, have to describe as a soft penalty when the referee decided that Andrews had deliberately handled the ball. However, whilst the faces may have changed over the summer, the curse of Mossley's inability to score from the penalty remains; Lee Connor becoming the latest in a long line of players in a white shirt to miss from the spot.

The match then descended into controversy when Lowson came flying out of his goal to deal with a cross but in doing so missed the ball and punched his own defender in the head. To make matters worse his momentum also saw him send not only his unfortunate team mate to the floor in a heap but Paul Garvey too. With the players in a pile on the ground the game carried on but Lowson started a scuffle with Garvey that ended with him failing, by a matter of millimetres, to connect a swinging fist to the Mossley players chin.

Play was immediately halted and after discussions with his assistant the official peculiarly awarded the visitors a free-kick, punishing Mossley for a non-existent offence and leaving Lowson still on the pitch without even so much as a ticking off, let alone a card of any colour. A very lucky man considering that he also went unpunished after throwing the ball at the official following the awarding of the penalty.

The injustice Mossley were no doubt feeling was compounded two minutes later, the 70th ,minute of the game, when Newcastle were the recipients of a 'soft' free-kick within shooting distance of the Lilywhites' goal. With the referee now deciding to give the illusion of being in charge he chose to lecture and yellow card a bemused looking Martin Allison and whilst he did, Blue Star took the opportunity to move the ball a good five or six yards closer to goal. Mossley's protests were ignored and the free-kick was flighted over the heads of the Mossley wall by Chris Emms and into the back of the net.

Last season this sequence of events would have seen Mossley crumble faster than an over-dunked digestive but Mossley 07/08 are made of stronger stuff (even if the supporters nerves aren't) and within three minutes they were back in front.

With the Blue Star defences attempts at playing offside continuing to look like an extended Chuckle Brothers sketch, Lee Blackshaw was able to control Daryl Weston's lofted through pass without the fear of being flagged by the linesman. With Lowson having taken up his favoured position of 'stranded in no-man's land', Blackshaw produced a chip that professional sport journalists (i.e. bitter alcoholics with more axes to grind than a Viking blacksmith prior to a pillaging expedition) tend to always describe as delightful and the ball bounced twice before nestling in the back of the net.

Almost from the restart Newcastle were an instinctive Ashley Connor save away from levelling again but the more desperate the visitors grew the greater Mossley's grip on the game tightened, and as time ticked away the home team had the chances to make the scoreline more emphatic. Martin Allison headed over from a Richard Conway corner and Andrews pulled the kind of contortions not seen outside of the Cirque De Soleil on the line to stop Gareth Hamlets close range shot from going in.

The scoreline may say that there was only goal in it but everyone who was there knows that the difference was greater than that. This was an extremely impressive performance from Mossley and the rapturous applause that they left the field to was fully warranted. Creativity, passion, resilience; this performance (and that of the last few preceding league matches) had everything Mossley fans have wanted to see in the side they support for years.

It would be wrong to single one or two players out for a special mention after they'd all performed so well, so I won't. No buts either.

As for big spending Newcastle, well... apart from the goalkeeping, defending, over physical approach (the backs of Mossley's shirts are going to take some washing to get the hand prints of Blue Star's players out of them), badgering of the officials, etc. they looked well worth the money that, and I repeat the word allegedly, is being spent on them. Yes, that should be read sarcastically.

However, may be they are a good team and what became evident to us over the last twelve months also applies to visiting clubs: Seel Park and expensively assembled sides don't mix. At all.

"Under The Sea, Under The Sea..."

As many of you will no doubt be aware, Mossley this week signed a forward from Stalybridge Celtic.

In recognition of this, Mossley80 is pleased to be able to bring you a song about Michael Fish. Not the Michael Fish alluded to in the first paragraph but a Michael Fish.

Fish.mp3 - right click and 'Save as'

If you enjoyed that (and someone may have done) then I suggest scouring the shops for the tape it was taken from - 'Rowan Atkinson: Not Just a Pretty Face', which also contains one of the best football team talks ever written.

And whilst you're trekking around for that, keep an eye open for his live video (not on DVD I'm afraid) filmed at a U.S. university; it's a work of genius. Failing that, just use the search on You Tube and enjoy.

To whet your appetite, the brilliant 'No One Called Jones':

A Feat Worthy Of Houdini Himself...

It's the 'excitement' of seeing a new team this Saturday as we face former FA Vase winners Newcastle Blue Star for the first time. Ever!

Thankfully Mossley didn't draw the short straw when it came to who was going where in order to fulfil the eight extra fixtures in the eastern section of the division, so this will be the first of two long trips to Seel Park this season for Tynesiders.

Newcastle are the first escapees of the new millennium from the Northern League, an achievement that has become not too dissimilar to that of those who risked life and limb climbing over and tunnelling under walls in Berlin during the Cold War; leaving behind the isolationist view beloved by their overseers in the pursuit of blue jeans and Smokie records. Or as they're Geordies, long sleeved shirts.

They were almost joined in the Unibond League North by Durham City but panicking as they reached Checkpoint Charlie, they fled back to the bosom of the regional division and being a big fish in a small pond.

You may have seen Blue Star on the back pages of the daily papers in pre-season as they were the opponents in Michael Owen's comeback game for Newcastle; a match made notable for the fact that he didn't get injured, an event that now appears to be rival passings by Halley's comet in terms of frequency .

After an indifferent opening to the campaign Newcastle have started to pick up the pace recently, putting five goals past the North Lancashire branch of Mossley Reserves (or Chorley as they're more commonly known) last Saturday and coming away from Garforth with a goalless draw in midweek.

Mossley will of course be hoping that they don't carry their cup form over to the league where we currently sit in 8th spot, one point and three places above our opponents to be.

If any Newcastle fans are reading this (you never know) and are coming to the game, I hope you have a good journey down. However, If any of their players are reading this, I hope the journey is a long and arduous one on board the smallest transport the coach company could find! Only joking.

Or am I...

Prediction: A hard fought battle that will end with the spoils shared.

Stocksbridge P.S. 2 - 1 Mossley

In these times of financial prudence we're obviously having to making savings everywhere we can. And after our departure from a second knock out contest in three weeks at the very first hurdle, it's looking like we're not going to have to splash out on some silver polish any time soon.

Another cup competition, another cup exit for the Lilywhites and another result that Mossley can have no cause to complain about.

If anything the outcome was somewhat flattering and makes the match seem closer than it actually was because, if it wasn't for an astonishing display of goalkeeping by Ashley Connor, the scoreline may well have been one more accustomed to the game played on the cricket pitch whose outfield is shared by the Yorkshire club.

The line-up contained three changes from the one that had dispatched both Rossendale and Ossett in recent weeks but the biggest difference was the performance: not as bad as the one against Woodley in the league but not that far off it either.

The home side were the first out of the blocks and but for some sloppy finishing they could have had the game done and dusted before Mossley had managed to mount any attack of note. Ward's shot straight into the arms of Ashley Connor was the prelude for a passage of play that saw the Steels twice hit the left hand post within the space of a minute; the first person to hit the woodwork was Ring after Ashley Connor had done well to palm away a close range effort following a corner and then Ward was denied by the upright as his pace took him clear of the Mossley defence.

The spell of pressure then ended with Telling shooting wide before Mossley finally managed a couple of efforts from distance, none though coming close to troubling Siddall in the Stocksbridge goal. Just after the half hour point of the game however, the Lilywhites' first good spell of play gave them the lead. It was, it has to be said, entirely against the run of play but no-one who'd made the short trip across the Pennines was complaining.

Gareth Hamlet's cross was helped on to Aaron Kirk by the head of Kitson Gayle and the man bizarrely dubbed Kirk Arrow by the match announcer beat one challenge before firing in a low cross to the near post. The ball disappeared into a mass of players and Kitson Gayle (not Richard Conway as the announcer, who was not having a good night, gave out) got a touch that sent it rolling slowly towards the net, eventually crossing the line as defenders desperately attempted to clear.

There was a great deal of hope that having now taken the lead Mossley would settle and rediscover their recent form but it wasn't to be as Stocksbridge piled on even more pressure and got their reward ten minutes into the second period. Picking up a loose ball in midfield they advanced up the pitch and Beggs lost the man who was marking him to volley home Vardy's cross from close range.

What followed can be best summed up as 'The Ashley Connor Show' as the Mossley keeper produced a series of saves that, not having a thesaurus to hand, outnumber the superlatives I can think of to describe them. Time and again he kept Stocksbridge at bay but his pièce de résistance came in the 63rd minute with a phenomenal double save to twice deny Vardy.

It seemed like it was going to take something special to beat Connor and that's what Stocksbridge produced with twenty minutes left. Yet again the home sides movement up the pitch was far easier than it should have been but Ring's shot from the edge of the penalty area was a blistering drive into the top left hand corner of the net that gave the Mossley custodian no chance. Whether he'd actually have been able to have done that if he'd been... I don't know, say marked or closed down is something we'll never know but there's no denying the quality of the strike.

Connor then produced a superb one handed save to once again deny Vardy (who's probably glad he won't have to face the ex-Ashton player again this season) before a couple of substitutions gave the away side a bit more impetus.

Gareth Hamlet beat the Steel's back line and took the ball past the keeper but with the angle now too acute for a shot he played the ball back to Paul Quinn who in turn hit the side netting with a looping effort. Five minutes later he landed the ball on the roof of the net after his cross-cum-shot almost caught out a furiously back peddling Siddall.

Stocksbridge should have put the result beyond doubt with four minutes left when for the second time in the match Ring hit the post, only this around time the cries of “Unlucky!” from the home support were missing as he was stood slap bang in front of an open goal. And it was a miss he was almost made to rue as in injury time Kitson Gayle forced Siddall into making his first save of the game.

And there endeth the match and Mossley's adventures in the League Cup. To say it was disappointing would be something of an understatement as whilst Stocksbridge were a decent side, they were no better than the two teams Mossley had recently vanquished in the league. What they did have though was a bit of pace upfront and a couple of wingers keen to get into the game at every available opportunity and for whatever reason we just couldn't cope with them.

Once again Mossley were allowing their opponents time and space on the ball and whilst challenges for high balls were being evenly contested, Stocksbridge were picking up practically every knock down and flick on resulting in Mossley being put back under pressure; a cycle that the visitors rarely broke and ultimately resulted in them managing just two efforts on target in ninety minutes. That's no slight against the two forwards though as they huffed and puffed all night in the pursuit of what in the main amounted to lost causes.

Some will argue that it was just a cup competition and that in the grand scheme it doesn't really matter but the truth is it does. Even if you take out the possibility of lifting a cup come April/May there's still a match to be won and a momentum to maintain. Hopefully we'll be firing on all cylinders once again come the visit of Newcastle this Saturday and, in doing so, give Ashley Connor a more relaxing time.

Wind. Rain. Moors. Heathcliff?

Due to time constraints this is going to be a quick preview so less waffle, more salient points. Hopefully.

Should the inclement weather hold off long enough this will be Mossley’s first visit to Stocksbridge for just over two years. A sizable amount of Mossley supporters have been there more recently though having made the journey across the Peak District in April 2006 to watch Steels face Kendal Town; a match that had the home team won, would have seen Mossley crowned First Division Champions.

Alas it wasn’t to be as Stocksbridge put in a tired performance (which wasn’t surprising as they were playing something like their fifth game in seven days) and Kendal ran out easy winners. The Cumbrians decision though to sit on an early 1-0 lead and not press for a bigger margin of victory came back to haunt them the following weekend as they missed out on automatic promotion by a solitary goal.

A lovely bit of schadenfreude for the Mossley supporters who'd had their backsides bored off by the negativity shown by a title chasing team. That said, it wasn't exactly 'gung-ho' excitement at Seel Park around that time either!

The Lilywhite’s have won all of their previous four meetings with the Yorkshire side and scored eight goals in the 180 minutes of football played at the now called Look Local Stadium. And 90 minutes of that was spent “under the cosh” as Steels dominated a half in both games.

Our hosts currently lie 12th in the First Division South with nine points from seven games but that’s by the by as knock-out matches are great levellers, it’s the best team on the day and countless other cup clichés all come in to play.

Prediction: With the last paragraph in mind I’ll play it safe and go for a draw at the end of ninety minutes. Who knows what’ll happen after that?

Really, what happens if it’s a draw? Is it a replay? Extra-time? Penalties perhaps? Or have we finally gotten round to giving scissors-paper-stone a go?

Mossley 3 - 1 Ossett Albion

The old saying goes “home is where the heart is” but recently in Mossley's case it has been more like “home is where the heartbreak is.” No more though as six months of disappointment (dashed with a fair old helping of utter misery) came to an end with the banishment of not one, but two hoodoo's that have held Mossley in their thrall?

Not only were Mossley supporters able to leave Seel Park with a winning feeling for the first time since March after beating second placed Ossett Albion, but they did so after watching the Lilywhites come from behind in a match to claim all three points for the first time in over a year.

Despite the nine place and seven points advantage Albion held over their host's there was very little to choose between the two sides in an evenly matched opening half. That said it was probably the Yorkshire side that left the field at the interval the more disappointed of the two sides at being level, having called Mossley keeper Ashley Connor into action on more than one occasion and seen a shot from O9 crash against bar in the 24th minute.

That's not to say that the home side were slacking, in fact it was quite the opposite, but the lack of a precise final ball or touch meant that good approach play often went to waste, leaving Ossett keeper Neal Bennett relatively under occupied.

Despite the lack of shots to “Ooh!” and “Aww!” at there was plenty to entertain the Mossley fans in the Ossett half, not least hair style sported by Albion's left back Kyle Cook. With one half dyed blonde and the other half black it was the perfect representation of the inherent dangers involved in falling asleep with your head in a puddle of bleach. If that had indeed been what happened then I'm sure the home support would have been a bit more sympathetic, but as it was more likely that he'd actually gone into a salon somewhere and paid good money to have it look like it did, the ribbing he endured from the terraces was merciless.

It's at times like this that I really miss having a camera and capturing for prosperity the reason why 'conservative' isn't too bad a stance to take when the hairdresser/barber asks “What would you like?” All said and done though Mr. Cook had a very good game so who knows? Maybe having a head of hair that looks like two lemon and blackcurrant Fruit Pastilles stuck together is the secret to success in association football.

The second period began with both sides going close in quick succession to opening the scoring before Albion actually did in the 54th minute. Under a sustained spell of pressure Mossley broke the defensive commandment that states, “Thou shalt not play the ball across the face of goal” and though Connor did well to deny the visitors with their initial opportunity, he was powerless to prevent Bentley from jabbing home the rebound from close range.

The blow of going behind however had an immediate galvanising effect on the home side and three minutes later they had levelled the score. Richard Conway floated a diagonal ball over the head of Ossett's right back and into the path of Lee Blackshaw. The former Glossop player cut into the box, pulled the ball back to Paul Quinn who'd dropped off his marker and after steadying himself he spun and shot low past Bennett into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

The home side went close to taking the lead when Blackshaw's cross was headed back across goal by Quinn and Paul Garvey instinctively flicked at the ball with the back of his heel. As the ball rolled agonisingly along the goal line it became a race between Gareth Hamlet and Bennett as to who would get the next touch and, unfortunately for the Lilywhite's, it was the latter who managed to get his hands to it nanoseconds before the formers boot. Hamlet wasn't to be denied though and with twenty minutes remaining he won his second chase for the ball with a back peddling Bennett, rising to get on the end of a deep, looping cross by Quinn to head Mossley in front.

Now trailing, Ossett added an urgency to their game that had otherwise been lacking up till that point (goal kicks and other dead balls from as early as the fifth minute were being taken at a pace were even the use of the adjective 'glacial' would be an understatement) but they couldn't prise the game out of Mossley's now vice like grip.

No matter how comfortable you look though, when there's only one goal in it the match is always a slip or a misplaced pass away from taking on a different complexion altogether but any nerves the home contingent may have had were dispelled in the 87th minute when Mossley's two second half substitutes combined to secure the points.

Ashley Connor's long clearance was flicked on by Kitson Gayle to Aaron Kirk and with one touch the young midfielder controlled the ball and beat his marker. With his second he curled the ball low around Bennett from just inside the box for his first goal in a Mossley shirt.

The win now makes it seven points taken from a possible nine for the Lilywhites and whilst it may still be too early to say for definite, recent performances suggest that the jitters evident in earlier games may now be a thing of the past. And if that's the case then the home supporters can look forward to leaving Seel Park with a smile on their faces more frequently than they did last season.

One thing is for certain and that is there's a confidence exuding through the side that we haven't seen in a Mossley team for nigh on two years and if you want to go onto bigger and better things that belief is the fundamental building block. Still it's far too early to get carried away just yet, lest we not forget that that Woodley league match was only a fortnight ago.

It's hardly the fairest of comparisons given the standards of the two divisions (though it's all relative) but we're already we're five points better off than we at this stage last season and having played one game less too.

And unlike this time last season where we'd just been hammered by Guiseley at Seel Park, 3 – 1 in front of the Channel M cameras with an awful performance that didn't even come close to being the worst we saw during that campaign – 52 weeks on we're looking up instead of down.

Once again apologies for the huge tracts of text. I'll get a new camera soon, I promise.

From The Top!

After picking up four from a possible six 'on the road', Mossley will be hoping to keep the points accumulating as they return to familiar surroundings to face Ossett Albion.

Unlike Mossley, Ossett won’t be hoping for a repeat of their last visit to Seel Park. That was on the opening day of the 2005/06 season where the home side edged out their opponents in a seven goal thriller; the Lilywhites getting seven of them to Albion's none.

Two years on and the Yorkshire side have had a better start to the season than they did then. After losing their first match of this campaign to Curzon Ashton, Albion embarked on a run of five straight league wins which took them to the top of the table, only to lose that position to Curzon last week after going down 5 – 3 at Garforth. Mossley on the other hand are in a position that can officially be classed as mid-table and will be looking for their first win at Seel Park since March.

According to the Albion website they not only have Leon Henry in their squad (who will be familiar to the Mossley fans who made it to the pre-season games as he played in some of them) but David Dickinson as well. Whether it's “cheap as chips” himself or someone who just happens to have the same name will be revealed in due course. If indeed though a player takes to the field and his face and arms blend seamlessly into Albion's tangerine shirts, get out your autograph books and any bric-a-brac you've wanted appraising.

Finally, if you're coming by car, remember: the fair's on the market ground again this week end so parking could be tricky. Fortunately we're not facing a team renowned for their away support so it won't be as bad as it could have been.

And look at this way, if the game becomes a repeat of the last home game against Woodley, at least there's a fun alternative for the second half on our doorstep.

Prediction: A win for the side with the letters ‘o’,‘s’ and ‘s’ in their name and in that order.

Just watch though, it'll be a draw and my clever get-out will be ruined.

Rossendale United 1 - 2 Mossley

The sky seems bluer, the grass greener and the sun warmer. In fact life has a soft focus glow about it. Why?


It was finally back to winning ways for Mossley as two first half goals and an industrious display, coupled with a fair old dolloping of guile, was enough to condemn fifth placed Rossendale to their second defeat of the season.

It's been a season and a bit since we last visited Rossendale and the pace has changed quite a bit. Not the ground (though it does now sport a snazzy pair of dugouts) but the town itself.

Despite their being the presence of a fairly large Tesco's in its centre, the local authorities have seen fit to allow Asda to build a whopping great eyesore not 400 yards away from it. And if that wasn't enough there's an adjacent two level car park that appears to have been designed with the brief to make it look as cheap as possible without it blending in to the surrounding area in any shape whatsoever.

A hearty congratulations as well to those responsible for the highways by giving traffic entering and leaving this new shrine to Mammon priority on a busy A road. One can only wonder what the place will be like next season when the business/retail/leisure park being built on the edge of town is open. Still, as long as the powers that be get their pound of flesh who cares about local communities? Anyway, rant over and back to the football.

Mossley's opener in the 12th minute was just reward for an early spell of pressure that had already seen them twice go close to establishing a lead. A flowing move down the left involving Lee Blackshaw and Gareth Hamlet won Mossley a corner that played to the far post by Paul Quinn. Lee Connor looped the ball back across the goalmouth towards a melee of players in front of the Rossendale goal where Martin Allison rose highest to head into the net.

At times Mossley's approach play was a joy to watch but like their hosts who were getting into some good positions themselves at the other end of the field, shots on or near the target were at a premium. The best chance fell to the visitors when Paul Garvey robbed a dallying Turner of the ball, setting in motion a move that ended with Paul Quinn somehow managing to clear the crossbar from a matter of yards.

When the referee signalled two minutes to be added on to the end of the first half, there were some bemused looks exchanged between the spectators as there had been no stoppages of note. The sizeable contingent of travelling supporters were left with no cause to complain though as Mossley used the 'phantom' time to increase their lead. The ball was worked out to the left where Blackshaw effortlessly beat two defenders with a drop of the shoulder on the corner of the box and a third as he made his towards goal. Stopping to weigh up his options he played the ball across the six yard box and Quinn stabbed it past Lee Bracey after reacting quickest to Gareth Hamlet's blocked effort.

As expected Rossendale took the game to Mossley straight from the restart and like the first half they showed a distinct lack of composure whenever they got within sight of the Lilywhite's penalty area; a flaw in their ambitions to rescue the game that was epitomised in the 54th minute. Mossley fell asleep after a set-piece around their host's penalty area broke down, leaving Ashley Connor and full-back Matthew Butters to face a four man counter attack. Ignoring the time, space and support around him, Stag's centre forward Zarac bizarrely chose to shoot from around thirty five yards out, much to his manager's, team mate's and supporter's (many of whom who were sent ducking for cover by his wayward effort) audible displeasure.

Just to briefly go off on a tangent (yes, again), where were Rossendale's supporters? The official crowd figure was 122 was the poorest I can remember for a game at Dark Lane and if it hadn't been for the Mossley fans in attendance I doubt that the gate would have been even half that. It was quite eerie really and a flashback to our NWCL days when the dog and its owner at places like Atherton Collieries and Great Harwood got enochlophobic. Maybe they've all been press-ganged into packing bags at Asda...

It was only with the introduction of the diminutive Redshaw that Rossendale found a cutting edge to their otherwise blunt attack and with twenty minutes of the second half gone he forced Ashley Connor into his first real save (and a good one it was too) of the afternoon.

Mossley appeared to have weathered the storm when Hamlet and Allison both went close to adding a third for the visitors within the space of a minute, but with little over quarter of an hour left their grip on the three points was loosened as Redshaw popped up on the edge of the box to drive the ball past Ashley Connor and into the top right hand corner of the net.

The goal, naturally, appeared to rock Mossley a little and for a short period their play began to get a little raggedy but the grandstand finish that home supporters were now expecting didn't materialise. Instead Mossley regained their composure and control of the game and began to exploit the huge gaps starting to appear in the Rossendale defence, carving out numerous chances to make the victory a more emphatic one before the referee called time with his whistle.

Mossley's performance was light years ahead of their display seen seven days previously where they'd come a distant second to an ordinary Woodley side. It also showed just how much we quality we have to call upon when we're not launching the ball mortar-like down the centre of the pitch. There was still a few apparent rough edges but to highlight these and take attention away from an otherwise impressive performance would be churlish.

It's true that Rossendale may have grabbed something out of the game if they'd put more effort into doing important things, like getting the odd shot on target for instance, instead of haranguing the referee for non-existent free-kicks everytime they lost the ball or an opponent got within 15 yards of them but Mossley were well worth the win.

The question now is to whether Mossley can reproduce this kind of form over the coming weeks and months, especially at home where it's been almost six months since the non-travelling supporters last saw a Mossley side claim a point, let alone three. Hopefully by 16:50 next Saturday that will have changed.

Look! A Ski Slope...

Mossley's reward for coming second in last week's FA Cup encounter is a short trip up the M66 to Dark Lane , where we'll face Rossendale United in a rearranged league match.

After a period last season where it appeared that the Stags were about to go the way of the Dodo and decent television programming at weekends, they've managed to turn it around and currently reside in fifth spot in the Unibond North league table.

Dark Lane is also where Mossley picked up their biggest win in recent times - an 8 - 1 walkover during our 'wilderness years' in the NWCL. In fact we've scored more goals against Rossendale at their place than we have at Seel Park in all our previous league meetings. That said, the last meeting between the two sides at Dark Lane was towards the tail end of the 05/06 season; a 0 - 0 draw that could have been prosecuted under the trades description act for being advertised as a football match.

The only thing of note that happened during that afternoon (other than another example of Mossley's legendary prowess from the penalty spot) was the appearance of England Women's keeper Rachel Brown at half-time to promote Crossbar Awareness - a now defunct initiative from the football authorities to highlight the dangers of the goal frame collapsing on the goalies bonce.

Last time round: Mossley, Chris Downey, a penalty and the inevitable result.

On the 'ex-players who could come back to haunt you' front is Lee Bracey. And I'm sure that I'm not the only one who hopes that he'll be kept considerably busier than he was when he played for Ashton United against us last season. Fingers crossed...

Prediction: For some reason I can't see us losing this one so I'll say a win. A draw at worst.

Harrogate R.A. 1 - Mossley

If you've clicked here in the hope of finding a report on Mossley's game at Harrogate I'm afraid you're going to be a trifle disappointed.

Due to my, and judging by the attendance many others, non-appearance I've no idea what actually happened other than: a) it finished one apiece, b) Gareth Hamlet scored in the last minute to give Mossley a point and c) it may have been fortunate. On the other hand tonight's Oldham Chronicle says that a point was the least we deserved after dominating the game. For a more in depth analysis may I suggest visiting Smiffy's blog at some point over the next few hours as he was one of the 102 people who actually did attend the match.

I had thought of filling the remaining space with an overview of the Woodley - Curzon game that took place on Tuesday but life's too short to relive another match where the ball spent a minimal amount of time in contact with the grass Field Turf™ and bore you to death with the specifics. Or rather the lack of them such was banality of it all.

However, as not to make this an entirely wasted trip to Mossley80, here's a video of the moment a Mexican bull, tired of being humiliated and made a laughing stock of by a matador of restricted height, decides to get his own back.

A word of advice: this clip is probably not safe for work, impressionable minds and people of pure thought. So don't say I didn't warn you...

Along The M62 And Up A Bit

Tea rooms and Agatha Christie.

A rather simplistic overview of what Harrogate is noted for I'll admit, but with having to travel to Yorkshire's 'posh bit' again in January, I've got to save something for that preview.

Having visited Harrogate once before I've got to say that it is a very nice place but the fact that it's a popular destination for Britain's blue rinse brigade does put you off making repeat visits. Being forced to walk around slowly due to the sheer number of o.a.p.'s cramming the footpaths, whilst having to listen to political views that Neo-Conservatives would baulk at for being too right wing does not a happy holiday make.

Back to the football however and our opponents, Harrogate Railway Athletic, are the smaller of town's two teams though they did briefly surpass their more senior neighbours, Harrogate Town, a few years ago with a run to the big money rounds in the FA Cup.

Athletic go in to the game on the back of a 2 - 0 defeat against FCUB XI; a result which meant that half of the M.E.N.'s non-league section on Monday was taken up with describing the game in detail. Of course if Harrogate had won it would have just been a couple of sentences hidden away, bemoaning the travesty that had taken place. Not that the M.E.N. is predictable or anything...

This will be the first ever meeting between the two sides though I did see Railway play at Woodley last season. To give you some idea of just how bad that game was, despite the fact there was still extra-time to be played when the match finished at full-time all square, people left; the thought of another thirty minutes of similar fare proving to be too much for some, including me! Hopefully things will be better for those making the journey to Station View.

Prediction: My head says draw but I'll go with my gut instinct - a win for Mossley

Mossley 0 - 3 Woodley Sports

Trilogies rarely end well. No matter how lauded the first and/or second in a series is, the third is more often than not regarded as something of a disappointment.

For instance, if you're a regular cinema goer you can't have helped but notice that, barring one exception, the third parts of various franchises released for the publics pleasure this summer have been, at best, mediocre. The question as Mossley and Woodley embarked on their third meeting in three days was, with little excellence from the the previous two outings, could they buck the trend and provide a barnstorming finale?

The eventual answer was yes and no. Whereas Woodley had all the dynamism, invention and sleekness of The Bourne Ultimatum, Mossley displayed the tiredness and predictability that made Rush Hour 3 a chore. Although it has to be said, thankfully without the irritatingly squeaky voice of Chris Tucker.

To paraphrase a saying from another walk of life, a week is a long time in football. Especially so when you're facing the same team for the third time in that period after two less than sparkling encounters.

As one Mossley fan pointed out to me during the second half as the game ambled towards its then inevitable conclusion, the review for this game could just read “Ditto!” Or, if you wanted to expand on that, “See last report.” It wouldn't be too far from the truth either as both this and the defeat to Woodley days earlier had both a similar rhythm and, sadly for the Lilywhite's, a similar outcome.

Not for the first time this season this season Mossley were having trouble converting a bright opening spell into anything productive. At times the approach play was very good and they got in and around the box on numerous occasions but the lack of a killer final ball to create chances and, ultimately, goals was to prove be home sides undoing yet again. Other than a Martin Allison shot from around the penalty spot, following some good hold-up play by Kitson Gayle, that was blocked on its path to goal by Marsh, Mossley were confined to shooting high, wide and tamely from distance.

Apart from a very early scare when Leon Grandison shot wide after getting on the end of a hefty clearance, the extra heading power added to Mossley's reshuffled defence through the introduction of Darren Royle meant that Woodley's long ball approach, a dominant feature of their play in the previous two games, wasn't proving quite as productive as it had been. Unfortunately it provided them with the opportunity to show they had more than one string to their bow.

On 27 minutes the visitors were allowed the time and space in midfield to present Mario Daniel with the opportunity to run at Mossley's back-pedalling defence and following the odd twist and turn later he was celebrating his second goal of the week against his former club. The remainder of the half from that point on was practically one way traffic with Woodley twice going close to doubling their lead through Paul Derrick and Daniel again.

There was a sigh of relief as Mossley reached the interval without conceding again but in the space of five minutes early in the second half the game was done and dusted as a contest. Mario Daniel used his low centre of gravity to outmanoeuvre Lee Connor in a tussle for the ball and embarked on a twenty yard run which ended with him slotting the ball past Ashley Connor for the second time in the match. Then, on the hour mark, a neat one-two on the right blew Mossley's defence wide open and Leon Grandison's long, raking cross was turned in at the back post by Robinson.

The visitors had chances to make the scoreline even more emphatic as Mossley virtually crumbled. Gaps appeared with increasing regularity and at times all Woodley were doing was walking towards the goal. The eventual substitutions of Mossley's tormentors-in-chief, Robinson and Daniel (an act of mercy if ever there was one), went some way to damming the flow of attacks heading Ashley Connor's way but the damage had already been done.

It wasn't until the 67th minute that Mossley actually forced visiting keeper Liam Higginbotham (wearing a quite horrific day-glo, skin tight shirt) into earning his match fee and it came through their best passage of play for quite some time. Leevan Brown provided one of the home sides few telling crosses of the afternoon which Paul Garvey intelligently headed back into the path of Gareth Hamlet on the edge of the box. The former Halifax player then produced a thunderous effort that the Woodley keeper did well to deflect wide. From the resultant corner Martin Allison had Higginbotham flying to his right to keep out another goal bound shot but that was it as Mossley's response to being three goals down.

The final score line could have been worse for Mossley as Derrick, Wild and Hanlon went close to adding to it; the latter denied via a combination of an instinctive Connor save and the crossbar when Mossley appeared to switch-off as a collective after conceding a corner.

It would be nice to be able to argue that the 3 – 0 result gives an unfair reflection of the game but the truth is that flatters Mossley's slightly – the defeat certainly could (and should?) have been a heavier one.

Taking the results out of the equation and speaking purely and simply as a Mossley fan, by far the most disappointing thing about the past week has been that whilst Woodley have noticeably improved, Mossley have, if anything, gone backwards. There's a long road ahead of us and the last thing we need is to be at this early stage of the journey is stuck in reverse.

It's very easy to get despondent after a match like this one, particularly as there was little of note to be positive about, but as everyone is aware, we're an ongoing project and not the finished article. And I'm more confident that this past week is likely to be the nadir rather than a stopping of point on the way to it as similar performances at this stage of last season proved to be.

If by Christmas we're still having trouble passing accurately to someone within whispering distance then we're fully entitled to start thinking that things may not be going to plan but until then it's a question of faith and trust. And at least we know that when we hit on that winning formula it won't be sacrificed on the altar of ego's and self-aggrandisement. At which point my legal team insist I add the following word – allegedly.

Go On... Have A Guess Who's Next

Here it is - the game you've all been waiting for! Sorry... my mistake, it's Mossley vs. Woodley. Again.

This has be a good one as a hat-trick of, lets say, 'less than interesting' games is surely an impossibility. But just in case things don't get any better, you may want to jot down a few numbers from here. I believe they're taking on extra people in readiness.

Prior to last Tuesday, our previous home fixture against Woodley took place on Boxing Day 2005. The Lilywhites got off to a fantastic start, scoring in the opening ten minutes, but Woodley quickly replied with two goals of their own and should have been out of site by the interval: they were that dominant. Happily for us they did some laurel resting in the second half and allowed us to claim a valuable point in our quest for the league title.

In terms of league games we actually have a good record against Woodley at Seel Park so fingers crossed for third time lucky.

Prediciton: If we repreat the drive we showed in the second half at Cheadle and couple it with kind of passing we only saw in brief installments on Tuesday, we'll win.

And we will.

A Death in the Family

It's with the deepest regret that I have to announce the passing of an integral member of Mossley80.

After four and a bit years of covering Mossley through wind, rain, hail, sleet and snow, my trusty digital camera has died.

It developed complications during the Woodley game at Cheadle last Sunday and, though it rallied briefly on Monday, it made its way to the Pearly AND, OR and NOT Gates of Digital Heaven just before kick-off on Tuesday.

It will be greatly missed and leaves behind four batteries, a mini USB lead and an owner who now has a bit of a problem.

It's last ever photo...(sniff)

R.I.P Nikon Coolpix 2100

Mossley 1 - 2 Woodley Sports

In football journalism there's a stock phrase that's used when teams taste defeat in a cup competition: they 'crash' out. Unfortunately I can't use it in this instance as Mossley exited this season's FA Cup at the hands of Woodley with all the bang of a wet firework.

I think the two big hopes harboured for this replay by those who witnessed the initial meeting between the two sides in Cheadle were for i) better weather and ii) a better game.

Well, one out of two wasn't bad.

After 27 minutes with nothing more than the occasional half chance for either side, the first bit of real football on the night gave Mossley the lead. Some quick thinking by Paul Garvey allowed the Lilywhites' number seven to beat Woodley's offside trap and after powering down the right hand side of the pitch his cross was turned in from close range by Kitson Gayle.

Eight minutes later the scores were once again at a deadlock when the visitors capitalised on a series of Mossley errors. Sloppy passing, some ineffectual tackling and the failure to pick up players making attacking runs all combined to give a Woodley player as much time as he wanted to deliver a ball from the right wing, level with the edge of the Mossley penalty area.

Despite being afforded all the time in the world in which to produce a killer final ball, the eventual cross appeared to carry no threat at all. But as it bounced across the face of the Mossley goal James Riordan fluffed a clearance and Hanlon was given the opportunity to tap the ball into the net from a matter of yards at the back post.

Following a couple of early scares immediately after half-time (Watson in particular should have done better than screw his shot wide after being given time to turn on the corner of the six yard box), Mossley produced what was, in footballing terms, their best spell of the game. For the first time in the match there appeared to be a concerted effort to keep the ball on the grass and the passing and movement off the ball started to cause some noticeable fluster in the Woodley defence.

The highlight was a flowing move involving Farrand, Butters and Hamlet which gave Gayle an opening that saw Higginbotham tested for the first time since the opening goal. Sadly it was to be the last time as well; the mini-period of good football disappearing almost as quickly as it had arrived to allow the 'long ball' to reign supreme once again. The problem for Mossley though was that the visitors were much more adept at it.

The final third of the match was spent almost exclusively in the Mossley half as the Lambeth Grove side started to exploit the gaps appearing in Mossley's back line and their hosts match long inability to close down the man on the ball. It wasn't until the introduction of Mario Daniel and his pace though that the visitors really began to threaten.

With eight minutes left the former Mossley player should have given his side the lead but like Watson at the start of the half his shot resulted in a goal kick despite being unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. Three minutes later the visitors were given an even better chance to bring Mossley's FA Cup adventure to a disappointingly early finish.

Once again Mossley's inability to clear the ball gave Hanlon a run on goal that was only halted by an 'illegal' challenge in the box. Matthew Butters did appear to get a touch on the ball as he slid in but what you couldn't tell from the distance I saw the incident at was how much of the man he got as well. Besides, coming in from behind, especially in the penalty area, is always risky option and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.

Hanlon struck his penalty well but the save Ashley Connor produced to prevent it from hitting the back of the net was surpassed a second later by his stop from the shot that resulted from rebound; two outstanding saves that kept the next round and the much needed prize money within reach. They should have also shaken Mossley out of their torpor but Connor's heroics were ultimately to have been in vain.

There's a saying that those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them and so it proved as the match entered stoppage time. Another failure to deal properly with a ball in defence and another poor challenge allowed Mario Daniel to cut into the box from the left and power a shot that flew past Connor and in off the post. Even if Mossley had got lucky and the ball had rebounded out off the upright, Hanlon was unmarked in the middle of the area, anticipating such an occurrence.

The final whistle that soon followed dashed what little hope there was of Mossley forcing an extra thirty minutes, though to be fair I don't think there was any stomach on the terraces to sit through another half hour of similar fare – prize money at stake or not.

As Jonathan Ross once infamously announced on his film programme, "You can't polish a t*rd" so to describe this match as anything other than the poor game that it was would be an insult to those who paid good money to watch it. Honestly I'd love to be able to find a positive spin to put on this performance but apart from another highly impressive display of goalkeeping by Mossley's custodian there was very little to be enthused about.

I know that it's still relatively early days and that people will be quick to bounce the 'gel' word around but Mossley's problems stemmed from more fundamental problems than a lack of familiarity with one another. Let's not forget that in terms of building a new team Woodley are in exactly the same boat as us; the difference was that they weren't making some really basic errors but they were punishing us for ours.

Having said that I think everyone expected a few matches like this in the early stages of the season. The disappointment comes from not only it being in the FA Cup but coming so soon after a couple of games where real progress had appeared to have been made.

Oh well, at least the weather was nice.

High And Hopefully Dry

What could be better than playing Woodley twice in a week? Yes, you’re right: almost anything! But thanks to last Sunday’s draw we now get the opportunity to face them three times in seven days. If only you could see the lack of enthusiasm I typed that last sentence with.

All being well the weather will be less Niagara like at Seel Park, allowing a better game to take place. Well that’s the theory anyway. As we know in Mossley, the weather isn't the most predictable of things.

What we can look forward too though I’m sure are more amateur dramatics from Woodley’s semi-professional repertory company. Do look out though for some scarily accurate portrayals of extras in the opening twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan though when they lose the ball.

Prediction: As I wrote in the last preview, I never get three in a row right hence the decision to tip Woodley for the win, thereby ensuring that they wouldn’t. This time around I’m really not so sure what the eventual result will be - Sunday’s game was hardly the most helpful of pointers.

I’m going to chicken out and say that the match will go to extra-time having made up a new rule that I only predict what the score will be at the end of ninety minutes.

Woodley Sports 1 - 1 Mossley

Leaving Garforth after the first match of the season I wondered if it was possible to get any wetter whilst watching a football match. It may have been nothing more than an idle thought but I was hoping for a slightly longer gap than two weeks before Mother Nature answered, “Yes!”

The word torrential doesn’t come close to describing the non-stop barrage of rain that turned what should have been an exciting FA Cup encounter between two local-ish rivals into a soggy slog. Not so much Cheadle as Cheadle Flume.

I don’t wish to over exaggerate (okay, maybe a little) but if a player had gone down needing treatment they’d have sent on a lifeboat rather than a physio. Although to be fair, if they had sent on someone with a sponge it’s highly likely that, before they’d got even halfway towards their destination, the sponge would have expanded to a size that could have caused problems for the planes coming in to land at Ringway

Ideally the following report would contain a more accurate account of events but even if I’d have bothered to take note of the few moments of incident I’d now be sat trying to decipher a lump of papier mache.

Unsurprisingly both sides struggled to come to terms with the conditions and chances were a lot like adequate shelter from the elements at the Park Road Stadium: sadly lacking.

The ‘home’ side were certainly the busier of the two teams, be it attacking or keeping the officials ears warm. If whinging was an Olympic sport Woodley would undoubtedly be challenging Bradford Park Avenue to represent Britain next summer in Beijing. Every tackle they lost, every time Mossley beat their shoddily aligned offside trap… in fact I don’t think that there was a point in the game that they didn’t find something, spurious or not, to moan at the referee and his assistants about.

No, I tell a lie, there was one point: when they scored.

Midway through the opening half Matthew Butters misjudged a tackle and the ball zipped beneath him allowing Mario Bryan the opportunity a free run down the right. The former Rochdale player though chose to whip in an impressive first time cross that not only caught the Mossley defence cold but landed inch perfectly on the head of an unmarked Robinson who powered the ball past Ashley Connor. And to be fair to Woodley, on the balance of play it was probably a deserved lead.

They continued to press forward and on more than one occasion Ashley Connor had to come to his side’s assistance as Mossley’s back line became increasingly stretched by Sports’ pace an movement off the ball. As the half drew towards a close though Mossley finally started to ask a few questions of the 'home' defence by giving their front two something to work with.

Kitson Gayle went incredibly close to levelling the game with a shot from the corner of the box that had Liam Higginbotham in the Woodley goal pulling all sorts of shapes in order to cope with the swerve that was on it. Level it they did though as the interval approached.

Paul Garvey fired a free-kick from the left across the face of the Woodley goal and from amongst a mêlée of players at the back post, Richard Conway managed to apply a touch that sent the ball into the back of the net.

If the first half belonged to Woodley, the second belonged to Mossley. Like their hosts in the previous period though they were struggling to convert possession into chances. Gareth Hamlet went close with a header that looped over the bar and David Wallace shot wide after a bursting run into the box but with the weather somehow managing to get even worse, it rapidly became a test of endurance for players and supporters rather than a football match.

In the last five minutes the match burst into a modicum of life. A Woodley break caught Mossley's defence at sixes and sevens and the ball made its way to the feet of Watson unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. However, instead of applying a finish that probably would have won his side the match he stood stock still and watched as the ball hit his leg and rolled off harmlessly for a goal kick.

Mossley responded by almost forcing a Woodley defender into putting a cross into his own net and with the referee putting the whistle to his mouth to signal full-time, Wallace brought a game saving stop out of Higginbotham.

Not the best of games (and some would argue that it didn't meet the standards needed to be described as below average) but a draw was probably the fairest result and both sides survive to do it all again in what will likely be better conditions at Seel Park. I bet you thought you'd never see that - people expecting the weather to be better at Mossley! Credit to Mossley though for clawing their way back into a game that at one stage looked to be going one way.

I'd like to finish by congratulating the person who decided that this fixture should be staged at Cheadle. Sorry, did I say I’d like to congratulate? What I meant was I’d like to grab them by the lapels and shake them whilst screaming “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

In a fixture that regularly attracts a good 200+ crowd, the one thing the ground wasn’t awash with was spectators. But that’s the price you pay though when you not only choose to play the game on a Sunday but at an out of the way place too. Cheadle Town may not be in the back of beyond but you can certainly see it from there.

That’s being a tad unfair on Woodley though. The real problem lies with the people who run football in this country. Why, when you can play every other game on it, can’t you play an FA Cup on an artificial surface? Apparently the FA believe it’s better to have their prestige cup competition played at a ground with no turnstiles, a minimal amount of cover and a perimeter fence around its grass cutting strewn pitch that was having its paint washed off by the rain.

With this and things like the Wembley fiasco and the Tevez affair, you begin to realise that the national game is being run by people who couldn't make the door fall off a clown's car.