Mossley 1 - 3 Clitheroe

Received wisdom suggests that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, something Mossley unfortunately proved against Clitheroe at a cold and blustery Seel Park.

At the beginning of October in the fixture at Clitheroe's Shawbridge ground, Mossley were a goal to the good and in no real danger when a lengthy stoppage on the hour mark knocked them out of a rhythm they couldn't rediscover, allowing their hosts to capitalise on indecision and some loose passing to score two late goals that won them the game. Flash forward a month and a half and the same thing happened again. Only this time Mossley have no enforced hold-up to blame - just themselves.

In truth the home side should have had the game wrapped by half-time. From the moment Lee Blackshaw hammered a shot against the post in the 3rd minute, the Lilywhites spent the majority of the opening period encamped in their opponents half but as all too often this season, the lack of a real cutting edge in front of goal meant that their domination of possession was not mirrored in the scoreline.

Chances came and went. A poor back pass by John Osbourne allowed Gareth Hamlet to set up his strike partner Danny Toronczak, only for the former Belper forward to arc his shot over the Clitheroe crossbar. His next effort forced a fine save out of Blues keeper Horridge, but the visiting custodian should have had his copybook blotted not long after when a corner that resulted from an extremely basic handling error was headed narrowly over by Lee Connor.

Returning to that Osbourne mistake for a moment, here's a word of advice that may prove useful in the future for the Clitheroe defence: You can't be offside when you intercept a back pass! No matter how much you rant, rave and swear at the officials, they are never going to award you a free-kick for your own stupidity.

Now where was I...

As the half wore on both Blackshaw and Richard Conway put shots high over the bar from good positions and numerous other promising opportunities came to nothing due, more often than not, to the lack of a decent final ball. In response the best Clitheroe could muster were two breakaways from their on-loan signing from Fleetwood, Micky Saunders. Twice his turn of pace took him away from the Mossley defence but it was only his first run on goal caused any real consternation, forcing Lee Connor to hook the ball off the line.

Within a minute of the restart following the interval though, Mossley finally managed what they'd spent the first half struggling to do. Straight from the kick-off Hamlet forced Horridge into turning the ball behind and from the ensuing corner, Steven Shiel found himself unmarked inside the six yard box and he headed Mossley into the lead; his first goal on his return to the club.

But then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.

Just as it had done six weeks previously, Mossley's passing became lax and possession was constantly being handed over to their opponents. And on the hour mark, it was through a sloppy piece of play like this that Clitheroe quickly broke up field and forced a corner from which Clarke brought the scores the level by bundling the ball over the line.

If it refocused Mossley's approach it wasn't noticeable and only a superb point blank save by Ashley Connor stopped Saunders from putting the visitors ahead. The Lilywhites keeper could only watch though, and no doubt breathe a sigh of relief, when substitute Neil Zarac fired high and wide after being left unmarked and gifted the ball on the edge of the Mossley penalty area through a kamikaze pass across the defence.

By this stage Mossley were only providing any real threat from set-pieces and what proved to be their last chance of the game with ten minutes left went the way of most of their others; Martin Allsion spooning Horridge's umpteenth spilled catch of the game, this time from a free-kick, over the cross bar.

The miss was to prove costly as two minutes later Clitheroe scored the goal that won the game. Again they capitalised on yet another poor Mossley pass and their greater turn of pace to break up the pitch where Zarac fired past Ashley Connor.

As the home side threw men forward in search of an equaliser that, in truth, never looked like arriving, huge gaps started to appear in their defence which Clitheroe gratefully began to exploit. The eventual destination of the three points should have been put beyond any doubt in the 89th minute when Clitheroe had players literally queuing up to apply a finishing touch to a move, only for Saunders' replacement Sam Heap to fire hopelessly over.

That third goal did arrive though and courtesy of the same modus operandi as the previous two: the ball sloppily given away and Clitheroe allowed to charge up field virtually unimpeded. It was Zarac again that applied the finish to the move, this time slipping the ball under Ashley Connor.

I'd normally say a match to forget for the Lilywhites but hopefully this one will be remembered and the lessons to be learnt from it heeded for future games.

The scoreline might suggest otherwise but Clitheroe weren't two goals better than us. Both teams fluctuated between looking poor then good (or the other way round in Mossley's case) but the only difference between the two sides was that they took their chances, we didn't.

I really don't want to be too harsh in my criticism (yes, there's a but coming) but (see I told you) the fact remains that it's another three points lost. For the second time this season we've thrown away a win against Clitheroe and whilst it's true that nothing is certain in football, in both games there were long stretches where we never looked in any real danger of losing.

Once again we're looking back on a defeat, ruing the lack of a killer instinct that would have seen us in a more celebratory mood long before the final whistle. It would be easy to put all the blame on the shoulders of the forwards but when the service to them is little to none, it would be harsh to criticise them for not putting away every one of the few opportunities that came their way. That said a few more shots that worked the goalkeeper than the ball boys wouldn't go amiss.

Here's a little factoid: In almost 10 hours of football since we scored our third against Skelmersdale, we've only scored one goal in open play; the other three goals during that time coming from a free-kick, a penalty and a corner.

I mention that as our biggest failing seems to be creating the opportunities for people to score. For example, in this match the Clitheroe left back John Osbourne was having a nightmare of a game; every time the ball came near him he panicked and Mossley swept past him with ease. Sadly, instead of subjecting him to 90 minutes that would have left him unable to sleep at night, we didn't take any advantage of his nervousness and our approach play rapidly started funnelling itself down the centre of the pitch.

Even now, three months into the season, I'm still not too sure as to what kind of side we are: a ball on the deck, passing team or a kick and chase XI. What is noticeable though is that when we're the former we create chances and win; when we're the latter we lose and that's what happened for the majority of the second period in this match.

It also worryingly appears that the self-destruct button we thought we'd got rid of in the summer has been found again and we can't fight the urge to press it. We were in next to no danger when we took the lead yet we suddenly started to squander possession cheaply and lose all sense of shape

The most frustrating thing is that we're not that far off being a side to be reckoned with. We have a solid defence (when failings elsewhere aren't asking them to do an impression of the Royal Engineers at Rorke's Drift and fight off wave after wave of attack) and enough talent elsewhere to make a mark on the league this season. But until the elementary mistakes are cut out and the positives built on, we'll continue to hinder rather than help ourselves.

With four difficult games on the horizon it's imperative that the team discover the form we all know they're capable of or winter could be slightly more gruelling than it would otherwise be. Come rain or shine though we'll be there, willing them to do just that.

The final word is saved for Clitheroe. I don't think I've ever seen a smaller side at Seel Park outside of the half-time penalty shoot-outs the under 10's used to have. It was like watching the diamond mine work's team, half expecting them to break out at any given moment with a chorus of 'Hi-Ho'. It was they who had the last laugh though (albeit a squeaky, chipmunk like one), proving that dominating possession is no substitute for an Oompa Loompas ruthlessness in front of goal.