Mossley 0 - 4 Lancaster City

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Not only the main protagonists at this time of the year but if preceded with 'Sweet' and followed with an exclamation point rather than a full stop, could very easily be the succinct match report for this game.

Yes, it was as bad as the scoreline suggests.

'Tis the season of giving and Mossley certainly entered into the festive spirit by gifting Lancaster City three first half goals and, ultimately, all the points on offer as well.

There was a Marley-esque forewarning of what was to come in the opening quarter of an hour when Ryan Zico-Black and Guy Heffeman wasted two good opportunities to put the visitors ahead, but Mossley's 'Nightmare after Christmas' was to begin in the 18th minute.

Gareth Hamlet's second stab at attempting to intercept a through ball ended with him sending Mark Jackson crashing to floor, leaving the referee with no other option than to award the visitors a penalty.

Being a time of goodwill to all men, the referee chose to show the Mossley defender a yellow card rather than the red I suspect everyone in Seel Park was expecting - much to the very visible displeasure of the occupants of the Lancaster dug-out. The hold-up in play whilst the referee restored order had no undue effect on Zico-Black and the diminutive winger hammered the ball past Ashley Connor from 12 yards.

That anger shown by the visitor's bench cooled rapidly moments later when the referee's leniency stopped themselves from being reduced to 10 men after Heffeman's horrendous challenge from behind on Paul Quinn was deemed only worthy of a yellow card.

And seven minutes later their mood turned more jubilant when a cheaply conceded free-kick was played deep to the far post, and with Mossley caught playing a footballing variation on that traditional Christmas parlour game 'Musical Statues' (i.e. standing still when the ball's in play), the ball was cut back to Jackson who slotted his shot past Ashley Connor from close range.

Immediately following the restart Heffeman almost added to the lead when he cannoned a free-kick off Mossley's crossbar, but the bow was to be tied around Lancaster's neatly wrapped three points with little over a third of the game gone.

For a reason that I doubt even Lee Connor will be able to fully explain, the Mossley captain handled the ball after it had been lobbed, somewhat hopefully, into the box. It was a rush of blood to the head that gave the Dolly Blues their second spot kick of the game and just like the first, Zico-Black calmly dispatched it into the back of the net.

Any hope that the third goal would be like the third ghost that visited Scrooge and bring about a change were quashed six minutes into the second period. A cross from the right found numerous City players alone in the box and whether intentional or not, Dave Foster's flicked header looped over Ashley Connor and into the goal.

With any hopes of a comeback now officially deemed forlorn and play almost exclusively concentrated in Mossley's half, discussions amongst a small group of supporters on the terraces turned to (I jest you not) how many sprouts it takes to make them flatulent. Respect prevents me from declaring who won but suffice to say, the winner of this competition only needed two to have passed their lips before they're passing wind like the brass section of the London Philharmonic. Back to the match though...

Ashley Connor then prevented Lancaster from notching their fifth with a full length save to keep out a thunderbolt from Heffeman following the best move of the match, before Mossley finally posed their first real threat on their opponents goal. Hamlet had a shot turned behind by City keeper Mark Thornley, who then did well to stop substitute Michael Fish from scoring what would have been nothing more than a consolation goal.

Alas, like Christmas itself, Mossley's brief resurgence was seemingly over with in the blink of an eye and the final twenty or so minutes of the game passed without incident before, in the dying embers of the match, Connor produced another high class save to deny Neil Marshall and give the scoreline slightly more respectability than it would otherwise have had.

Goodness knows why Mossley were so off the pace in this game but the unarguable fact is that whilst Lancaster go back west deserved winners, the Lilywhites head into the final two games of the busy Christmas schedule hoping that their poor run of form is, to borrow a phrase from another seasonal fixture, "behind them" or else midwinter could begin to look increasingly bleak.

Fingers crossed that we're slightly more (pre-revelation) Scrooge like in our attitude against Bridlington and FCUB.

And after a match report that's been stuffed with Christmas references, what better way to wrap it up than: