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 pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance 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.