Mossley 0 - 1 Rushall Olympic

Madams et Monsieur's. Ladies and gentlemen.
Bienvenue! Welcome!
To the match report for the 2007 Mossley-Olympic game.

As well as displaying just how little knowledge of the French language I have (can you guess at which point my powers of translation failed me), the opening paragraph does give Mossley's brief involvement in this season's FA Trophy an unwarranted grandeur.

Still, it'll teach me not to write the introduction to a report before the match has even taken place.

In my defence though the match had all the hallmarks of being a potentially exciting encounter. The Lilywhites were going into the game off the back of their best performance for quite some time against Skelmersdale, whilst their Walsall based opponents had made something of a name for themselves in this season's cup competitions: reaching the 4th Qualifying Round of the F.A. Cup as well as cutting a swathe through opposition at a higher standard than Mossley in that and other contests .

As such there was a good deal of optimism on the terraces that we were about to witness something special but what actually transpired turned out to be duller than an unabridged audio book of logarithms as read by Gordon Brown.

Yes, another cup match, another defeat for Mossley's as their insipid performances in this season's knock-out competitions continued with a one goal defeat at home to British Gas League Midlands Division side Rushall Olympic.

After an opening ten minutes which threatened promising things for the home side (Paul Quinn firing a 30 yard free-kick narrowly over the bar and Richard Conway having a goal bound shot blocked), chances began to grow fewer and farther between as Mossley failed to convert the possession they were dominating into anything that came close to truly testing Olympic keeper Tony Breeden.

It was however considerably more than what Rushall were managing. For a side whose recent form probably made them slight favourites on the day, they were playing some spectacularly unspectacular stuff; mostly involving the tactic of seeing who could kick the ball as high and as far up the pitch as possible without it bouncing. To call them one dimensional would be overstating matters by some margin.

Most of Rushall's better forays up the pitch were coming courtesy of some poorly delivered set pieces by Mossley, allowing Olympic to counter attack, though with little in the way of imagination and success. In fact it wasn't until the 42nd minute that they finally got their first clear sight of the home goal, but the shot produced went closer to having the ball boys rushing into the park to retrieve the ball than troubling Ashley Connor in any way whatsoever.

Unfortunately for the Lilywhites their opponents emerged from the changing rooms at half-time with a bit more purpose to their game and they should have taken the lead soon after the restart; Neil Barnfield pulling away from Butters and Blackshaw at the far post and, when it looked easier to score, firing a shot back across the face of goal.

Mossley's generosity presented them with another opportunity moments later after a poorly taken free-kick just outside the Olympic box gave them the chance to outnumber the defence on a break. Fortunately for Mossley their charity wasn't accepted and Rob Holdcroft ended the counter attack with a feeble effort that was gratefully dropped on by Connor.

With their very next attack, Mossley should have punished Rushall for their wastefulness. Breeden made a complete hash of his attempts to deal with Matthew Butters' cross from the left, spilling the ball from his grasp as he crumpled to the floor like a decommissioned chimney that had undergone the close attentions of Fred Dibnah. Paul Quinn was the quickest to react to the loose ball but he snatched at his shot and the chance sailed well over the goal.

Both sides proceeded to create the occasional half chance but other than a looping shot by Barnfield that bounced on to the top of Mossley's crossbar, none went close troubling either goalkeeper and the game increasingly looked to be heading towards a replay. That changed though with quarter of an hour of the game left. And fittingly for a match short on skill and excitement, the goal, when it did arrive, was borne out of a series of mistakes rather than any moments of sparkling play or great individual technique.

After losing the ball through a piece of sloppy play in Olympic's defensive third of the pitch, Mossley won it back before repeating the error again, this time in midfield. A poor delivery into the Lilywhites penalty area appeared to have averted the possibility of any danger arising but in attempting to control the ball instead of clearing it, James Riordan slipped and possession was turned over to Rushall for the third time in quick succession; Sean Dowdall gratefully accepting the opportunity to hammer the ball into the net on the edge of the six yard box.

Mossley's attempts to salvage something from the game amounted to nothing more than a couple of shots that, as supporters of an older generation would have proclaimed had I bothered to seek their opinion, Breeden could have thrown his hat on to stop. Had he, indeed, been wearing one.

As the match slowly ticked towards its conclusion and Mossley laboured in the final third of the pitch, it was the visitors who should have given themselves a more flattering margin of victory. And if ever the poorness of a match could be summed up by one moment it would be what happened in the final seconds of injury time.

Having forced a corner, Mossley threw everyone into the Rushall box, including keeper Ashley Connor. The opportunity came to nothing but it did allow the visitors to counter attack and with an open goal in front of him, Dowdall proceeded to hit the perimeter fencing with a woeful effort from the edge of the penalty box.

Not that he was too despondent as the final whistle that immediately followed it signalled his sides progress to the next round, leaving Mossley ruing another missed opportunity to not only embark on a cup run, but generate some much needed extra revenue as well.

Why Mossley can't produce anything approaching the kind of form they've shown in league games in any of the cup competitions is something that's probably got Gerry Quinn scratching his head in bafflement as well. It's almost as if we have a phobia about entered into cup draws.

Whatever the reason it is though that causes Mossley to freeze like deer's caught in the glare of oncoming headlights when there aren't points at stake, it's with great hope that it's rectified in time for the next couple of matches: two cup ties that represent Mossley's last chances of extending the season beyond an unending succession of league matches.

In truth the game should be being replayed this coming Tuesday as neither side really did anything to merit being named victors (Rushall especially looked anything but the all conquering cup side that their reputation suggested), but it's yet another mistake, and not the first this season either, that's cost us the game. The progress of time will naturally eliminate some of these errors but not all, and until we start taking a 'safety first' approach to some of our defending they'll continue to hamper us.

All in all a match that's best forgotten, which is why the report ends now: so I can get on with doing just that.