Mossley 2 - 2 Radcliffe Borough

Do you laugh or do you cry?

On the face of it, Mossley finally managing to arrest a run of four straight defeats with their first point of 2008 doesn't seem too bad. That shine loses a good deal of its lustre though when you realise that but for just one late moment of madness, they were seconds away from claiming all three points on offer.

It may well be a phrase that has been used an awful lot in these reports this season but it applies equally to this game as well: Mossley started the match the brighter of the two teams. Keeping the ball on the floor and attacking with pace down the flanks they continually asked questions of a Radcliffe defence that was not being given any time to settle.

Therefore it was no surprise when Mossley took the lead in the 11th minute with a move started and finished by ex-Boro player, Jamie Miller. Picking a loose ball up on the edge of the centre circle, Miller fed the ball out wide to Daryl Weston and moved into the box where he met the Mossley right back's deep, swinging cross with a header that looped over Radcliffe keeper Phil Priestley and into the net.

From the restart Mossley continued to press for a second goal and but for two good saves by Priestley, they almost certainly would have got it. His first stopped a Michael Fish effort from sneaking in at the near post but his second was better, somehow managing to scramble David Boardman's sweetly struck, 25 yard daisy cutter away to safety.

The Lilywhites however couldn't maintain the pressure. Around the half hour mark their play suddenly started to become ragged and in doing so gave the visiting forwards, with alarming regularity it must be said, more sightings of Ashley Connor's goal than they'd had up to that point.

The Mossley keeper though was more than equal to the tasks being set for him by Boro's strike pairing of Steve Howson and Pat McFadden but he must have breathed a huge sigh of relief, like many others of a Mossley persuasion inside Seel Park, when Howson skied the ball over an open goal in the 36th minute.

Howson's accuracy was significantly better two minutes later when his diving header appeared destined for top corner of the net only for Connor to produce a stunning one handed save to deflect the ball over his crossbar. His sterling effort proved to be in vain though as from the resultant corner kick, Boro centre half Craig Dawson became the latest beneficiary of Mossley's slack marking at crosses as he headed his side level.

Boro's joy was to be short lived though as the home side edged ahead once more on the stroke of half-time. Once again it was another deep cross, this time from the left by Lee Blackshaw, that found the head of Mossley's other forward, Fish, and for the second time in the game Priestley could only watch as the ball sailed over his head and dropped into the goal.

Not for the first time this season Mossley's second half performance was a shadow of their first and but for another long range effort from Boardman, who was also involved in a flowing move with Miller and Fish that had Mike Flynn heading over his own bar under pressure, it unquestionably belonged to the visitors.

On three more occasions corners were to cause problems in the Mossley box. The first was hooked off the line following a scramble, the second bounced slowly along the six yard box needing only the slightest of touches to divert it into the net, whilst the third was headed over an open goal at the far post; Howson once again looking a gift horse in the mouth.

With quarter of an hour left Mossley seemed to have regained their grip on the game as Radcliffe's attacks began to began to dry up, but two substitutions in the last five minutes appeared to disrupt the Lilywhites shape and once more the visitor's began to turn the screw.

When Dawson shot over from close range it looked like Radcliffe's late rally was going to come to nothing but with time rapidly running out, and only needing to hold possession in the attacking half of the pitch to preserve their lead, Mossley bizarrely began to play a series of increasingly risky and desperate passes back towards their own goal.

They had an air an impending inevitability about them and so it proved when Boro were gifted the ball on the edge of the Mossley box and Howson finally managed to beat Ashley Connor with a low drive into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

To be perfectly honest, and this may come as something of a surprise to long time readers of Mossley80, I'm loathe to be too critical after this game. First of all there was no lack of effort from anyone in a white shirt and secondly, the performance was miles ahead of what we saw at Skelmersdale and a long stretch of the Harrogate game.

Of course, the big 'but' in proceedings is that we were playing a side struggling against relegation and not one in mid-table or pushing for promotion as the majority of our future opponents are. Nevertheless there was certainly enough evidence in the opening thirty minutes to suggest that the final third of the season isn't going to be one of doom and gloom. For instance, the midfield appeared to have more solidity than it otherwise has done recently and the greater willingness we showed to shoot will only help us - not hinder us.

The problem that does need addressing is the way that we're tailing off in matches. Maybe it's down to something as simple as a lack of fitness, but the reality is that it's costing us points (12 of the 17 goals we've conceded in the last six games have come in the second half).

All said an done though it would take the most blinkered of Mossley supporters to begrudge Radcliffe their spoils from this game, but it doesn't lessen the cold hard fact that the Lilywhites should have been celebrating putting three points between themselves and their opponents position at the foot of the table.

The Omen

Just what you need when you’re struggling for points, a team fighting for their lives and in their first bit of form of the season turning up on your doorstep.

That’s what Mossley face with the arrival of Radcliffe Borough on Tuesday evening but the omens are good for this one. Don't believe me?

Last season we went through January with four straight defeats before facing the then bottom of the league side Leek Town in the final game of the month. It was an extremely close game but we managed to beat the Staffordshire side by two goals to one.

Flash forward twelve months and we've just suffered our fourth straight defeat of the new year and we're about to face the side at the foot of the table in the last game before February. If that's not an omen then I don't know what is. Apart from, maybe, the film 'The Omen', its numerous sequels of diminishing returns and one rather ill-advised remake.

Like Tuesday's upcoming match, Borough’s last visit to Seel Park back in March was also a game that neither side could afford to lose if they wanted to have a chance of avoiding relegation, although all Mossley's 1 – 0 win ultimately did was to delay the inevitable by a week.

That result was also repeated at the Inn2Gether Stadium Stainton Park last November in the initial meeting between the two sides this season; Lee Blackshaw scoring the goal in a game notable for little else of incident happening.

Prediction: As the portents are looking good (which is, worryingly, more than what can be said for the weather) – a win for the Lilywhites!

Skelmersdale United 5 - 0 Mossley

The great thing about football is that it never ceases to amaze. Take the the weekends FA Cup match at Anfield for example, who'd have thought that fitness would be deciding factor between a team of part-timers and a side with aspirations of winning the European Cup?

And closer to home, never would I have thought that after watching Mossley concede seven goals in two games that I'd be happy as I am because it could, and should, have been much, much, much worse.

Yes, the disastrous run of form Mossley have experienced since the turn of the year continued unabated at the home of promotion chasing Skelmersdale United. And like the 2-1 defeat they suffered in their previous match at Harrogate, the score line, even at 5 – 0, makes the game seem closer than it actually was.

It's fair to say that things started badly for Mossley and went downhill from there. There was only three minutes gone when Georgie Donnelly put the home side ahead with the easiest goal he's likely to score all season; heading a right wing cross past Ashley Connor whilst completely unmarked in the six yard box.

This was then followed by Anthony Murt bouncing a free-kick off the Lilywhites crossbar and Ashley Connor saving at the feet of Donnelly (after the latter had been put clean through on goal) as United threatened to put the game beyond Mossley's reach with less than a quarter of it gone.

Mossley slowly began to enjoy a greater share of possession but not for the first time this season the failure to convert it into even half chances, let alone goals, was to prove costly. And whilst they toiled around the Skelmersdale box, they were always susceptible to the counter attack and every time United broke forward it looked as though more goals would be forthcoming.

Despite numerous close calls Mossley managed to reach the interval only a goal in arrears and with fifteen minutes to regroup, there was a certain amount of hope amongst the travelling support that having weathered something of a storm, things could turn in Mossley's favour in the second period. Especially with the strong wind that was blowing down the pitch now at their backs.

The visitors emerged from the changing rooms to the sound of 'Living on a Prayer' being played over the public address system and how apt it proved to be as that half-time optimism evaporated three minutes into the restart.

A badly misjudged back pass by Darren Royle put Ashley Connor into a desperate race for the ball with Murt. It was a contest Connor won by the narrowest of margins but his clearance could only find the feet of Adam Birchall and with more time than he should have had, he lofted the ball over the stranded keeper and into the net.

Skelmersdale's pace then became the main factor in the game as they began to tear through Mossley's back line with considerable ease, and with only Leon Henry able to keep pace with them it was no surprise that the Lilywhites began to find themselves all too often outnumbered in defence. As was the case four minutes later when Donnelly ran half the length of the field to score his second and his sides third of the match.

Donnelly then proceeded to fluff his chance of a hat-trick by spooning the ball over the bar with only Connor to beat and Henry managed to break up a 3-on-1 attack as it looked increasingly like the proverbial floodgates were about to open. Thankfully though they didn't, due in no small part to some poor finishing and over elaboration on Skelmersdale's part, but a bit of water did slosh over the top of them.

With just under quarter of an hour left substitute Paul Crompton stroked home United's fourth goal of the game and in the 90th minute the fifth and final goal arrived, Paul Prescott heading a long queue of players waiting to apply the finishing touch to Crompton's cross.

If you've read the above report and are wondering why it makes no mention of Mossley's attempts on goal, that's because there weren't any! Rather disturbingly from a Lilywhites viewpoint, the only thing to fluster Skelmersdale keeper Ryan McMahon all afternoon was a misdirected header from one of his own defenders that had him scrambling across the floor in order to turn the ball behind for a corner.

Other than that all he had to do, apart from collecting the odd corner, was tip over a long Mossley through ball that the wind had got hold of and collect the Lilywhites solitary attempt of the match on target as it bounced in front of him. In the 84th minute. From the halfway line.

If watching Mossley implode on the pitch wasn't bad enough, the supporters also had to put up with some ludicrously O.T.T. shenanigans (whilst the match was going on) being broadcast over the PA system where it appeared that some kind of audition for a job on local radio was taking place.

Still it was good to see that some things don't change and the self-righteousness exhibited by some Skelmersdale supporters ion back in our NWCL continues undiminished. You've got to admire the unashamed hypocrisy of supporters who vent their spleen at the officials and then decry opposing fans for doing similar as an affront whilst trying to take the moral high ground.

In fact it's worth checking out the Skelmersdale forum to see an unbelievable rant by one of those Skem supporters about some Mossley fans lack of geographical knowledge, before (with no hint of irony) labelling Clitheroe a Manchester club.

None of it should detract though from the fact that Mossley were well beaten. It would be easy to point out the problems we currently have but that doesn't do anyone any good, apart from, perhaps, upcoming opponents.

The best Mossley performance on the day was Leon Henry's by a country mile. If hadn't been for the makeshift left back and Ashley Connor it's almost a certainty that this report would have consisted solely of bullet points detailing just the name of the scorer and the time the goal occurred, purely to cut down on length. As for the other pluses, well... the weather unseasonably nice and, as I've intimated earlier, it was only 5 – 0!

It all adds up to Mossley's next game at home to a steadily improving Radcliffe Borough side carrying more significance than it would have otherwise have done as the hopes of a play-off spot we had, a little over a month ago, disappear over the horizon ahead of us whilst the prospect of a relegation battle inches ever closer behind us.

Then again it wouldn't be Mossley if everything was straightforward, would it?

Back After The Break?

Should the weather allow Mossley to resume their league campaign after a fortnight's enforced absence, it’ll be a case of old rivals, new battleground this weekend as the Lilywhites make their first ever visit to Skelmersdale's Ashley Travel Stadium.

It's hardly the most foreboding sounding of places but it will hopefully offer one advantage over their old White Moss Park premises – that being the lack of a bone chilling wind blowing down pitch, a feature of their old home that never changed no matter what time of the year we played there.

Our last meeting with Skelmersdale away from Seel Park was in November 2003, during the season they lodged at Burscough's Victoria Park ground whilst their new home was built. After going in at the break 2 – 1 down (United's first, you may remember, coming when Phil Melville let a 40 yard daisy cutter in at his near post), Mossley pummelled their opponents in the second half and a goal apiece from Josh Howard and Leon Mike gave the visitors a 3 – 2 win.

The last time we actually played in Skelmersdale we lost 1 – 0. That was the third game of the 02/03 season and a match only notable for the fact that we were so damn awful in it, failing to register a single shot (on or off target) in its entire 90 minutes.

That was then, this is now and Skelmersdale currently look down on us in the league from the lofty heights of 4th spot, which coincidentally is also the position they occupy in the form table having won four and drawn one of their last six games. There's no such similarities for Mossley though as our mid-table position in the league is far higher than the second bottom placing we hold in the form table.

It means that Mossley's task of claiming their first points of 2008 this Saturday isn't going to be an easy one, especially when you also add in the following parameters – Skelmersdale have yet to lose at home this season and they have one of the most prolific strike forces in the league, as well as one of the meanest defences.

That said, Mossley are the sixth highest scorers in the division and over a seventh of the goals Skem have conceded have been at the hands (or rather feet) of Mossley. They came when we took all the points on offer in a memorable 4 – 2 win back in October.

Slightly less memorable (and by less I mean “ in no way at all”) was the President's Cup game between the two sides just over a fortnight later. The tie managed to drag on for an interminable 120 goal less minutes before an extended penalty shoot-out finally saw the supporters put out of their misery and United emerge as winners.

Prediction: With our recent record away to Skelmersdale indicating that this will be a defeat (we alternate between winning and losing and as I mentioned earlier, our last trip ended in a victory), combined with our current form, it would be easy to predict another gloomy afternoon for the Lilywhites.

However, we’re going to start picking up points again sooner rather than later so why not in this game? And I have a sneaky feeling that we'll claim all three. One at the very least which will mean that I don't have to bump the following picture up the blog again...

Rainy Days

As expected Mossley's home match against Garforth became a casualty of the modern January climate; the pitch, rather unsurprisingly following a week of almost non-stop precipitation, being declared waterlogged early on Saturday morning.

It means that Mossley's 2008 points drought will go on for another week but, on a positive note, the postponement means that I've got my first correction prediction of the year! (See the match preview below if you don't believe me.)

Normally a blank weekend would provide the opportunity to take in another local game but having little enthusiasm for seeing Woodley play for umpteenth time this season, I decided to do a few other things.

Including wondering why over 50 people from Tameside Council's head office googled Mossley80 over the past six days.

It would be nice to think they're doing so because they've heard good things about it (can't imagine what though) but there's more chance that given their recent (some would say 'Stalin-esque') approach to the Tameside Eye web site, they're scouring net on the lookout for other blogs and sites to shut down – no doubt for also pointing out that some of our elected representatives shouldn't be allowed to cut their own food up let alone make decisions that affect 1000's of people.

Then again I suppose that when the local media offers no dissenting voice to your actions, it's only a short step to believing that no one else should either.

It's always good to finish on a lighter note though, so in lieu of a match report here (for no reason whatsoever) are three football/stretcher related mishaps:

#3: Despite being near neighbours, China and Japan don't really get along too well and it appears that there's no chance of the political frostiness that exists between the two being thawed through sport either. Not only is the Chinese under-21 player the recipient of a nasty looking challenge, he also has to contend with the Japanese medical team trying to finish him off. They put those straps on stretchers for a reason...

#2: Closer to home now with the Bundesliga and the perfect response to people who say that the German's don't have a sense of humour. How many British medical teams would attempt to cheer up an injured player by inviting him to nibble on their testicles whilst he's carried off? Either that or they've run out of smelling salts...

#1: “To me,” “ To you”: Not only the catch phrase of the Chuckle Brothers but the motto of this first aid team in one small corner of Europe. And just like any adventure involving the mustachioed Yorkshire men, hilarious consequences ensue. Unless, of course, you’re the person being stretchered off.

Things worth looking out for include the exact moment that the man in the sunglasses realises that things are about to go pear shaped, along with his head scratching “Utter morons” reaction to the events that follow...

Next week: Some football, possibly.

Coming Attractions

Satire aside, on the off chance that it actually stops raining, Simon Clifford's version of Brazil should be making their way back along the M62 towards Mossley for the second time this season.

Last November the Lilywhites were 20 minutes away from there fourth successive defeat following two first half goals from Jason St Juste, a real thorn in Mossley's side on the day. With the game seemingly in the bag, Garforth substituted St Juste and promptly fell apart as the home side suddenly upped the ante: Jamie Miller pulling a goal back before Danny Toronczak equalised with a last minute penalty.

Just like back then, we head into this meeting with them on the back of three straight defeats whilst Town have lost their previous two matches. So as both teams attempt to put their faltering campaigns for a play-off spot back on track, it should add up to being a potentially exciting encounter. Then again...

Like I said earlier though, it all depends on the weather and at the moment (as the view outside my window looks like the one you'd get if you were stood in that cave behind Niagara Falls) the odds of it actually taking place look slimmer than an anorexic stick insect.

Prediction: Match postponed and the attendance at Woodley being slightly larger than it would otherwise have been.

Harrogate R.A. 2 - 1 Mossley

Mossley's search for their first points of 2008 will continue for at least another week after their visit to Harrogate Railway Athletic's sloping Station View ground ended in a third successive defeat.

And whilst the loss by the odd goal in three doesn't seem too bad on paper, the score line does somewhat flatter the Lilywhites.

As has often been the case in recent games, Mossley dominated the early stages of the match. But no matter how good their approach play was (and at times it was very good), the failure to convert that possession into chances and, ultimately, goals would once again prove to be their undoing.

The game flipped on its head just after the midway point of the half when Harrogate's attack, which up till then had been well marshalled by Mossley's defence, suddenly started to pose no end of problems. Combining pace with movement off the ball they began to stretch the visitors back line and as gaps started to appear, the North Yorkshire side set about exploiting them.

In the final twenty minutes of the opening period alone, Harrogate created and squandered enough chances to have won the game three times over: Morgan, Marshall, Haigh, Conway and Ryan (the latter two on more than one occasion) all saw efforts either saved or wastefully fired high and wide of Ashley Connor's goal. Just as it looked though like Mossley were going to make it to the interval having survived their opponents onslaught, a rare error from the Lilywhite's keeper gave Athletic the lead.

There was a minute left on the clock when Ashley Connor appeared to slip on his way to claim Marshall's right wing cross and in doing so, fumbled the ball onto the inrushing Scott Ryan. The Harrogate forward seemed as surprised as anyone as the ball bounced off him but momentum was sufficient enough to propel it into the vacant goal.

Fortune briefly smiled on Mossley at the start of the second half when Harrogate had two good claims for a penalty waived away by the referee, but it did little to dampen their hosts enthusiasm for a second goal.

Ashley Connor denied Ryan with a smart save and Fox then somehow failed to double his sides lead despite being practically stood on the goal line when he connected with a cross. His embarrassment will have alleviated a little though when Marshall shot wide of an open goal after taking the ball around Ashley Connor following a one-on-one break.

Little more than a minute later however Athletic effectively put the game beyond their opponents reach. The goal kick that resulted from the previous chance fell straight to the feet of Scott Ryan who was then upended by the Mossley keeper. This time round the official had no other option than to point to the spot, and it was only the speed of James Riordan in getting back to cover that probably stopped Connor from being shown the red card rather than the yellow he was given. It was Ryan himself who took the penalty and despite Connor's best efforts, the ball found the back of the net.

Mossley eventually forced Harrogate's keeper into making his first save of the game with just over quarter of an hour left - Giles twisting in mid air to keep out Michael Fish's header, before Gareth Hamlet found the side netting with a long range shot. This mini spell of pressure however failed to turn into anything more significant and the majority of the remainder of the game was spent stopping the home side from increasing their winning margin .

And that's how it was until the last minute when Hamlet slotted a long throw past Giles from the edge of the box to give Mossley a surprise consolation goal.

This was, first twenty minute aside, a very poor performance from Mossley and a contender for the 'worst of the season'. An accolade it would have undoubtedly secured, even at this midway point of the campaign, had Harrogate's shooting been just that tiny bit more accurate.

The weird thing is though that in those opening twenty minutes Mossley should have racked up enough goals to have made Railway spend the remaining seventy minutes attempting to salvage the game. Sadly though the need for an unnecessary extra touch when in a good position or the appearance of wanting to walk the ball into the net proved costly.

Best on what turned out to be a bad day? Gareth Hamlet did well and his strike partner in the first half, Dave Boardman, did very well in an unfamiliar attacking role. Lee Blackshaw also looked a real threat in the early stages of the match but when Harrogate clicked into life, the service dried up and like the forwards he became a peripheral figure for long periods as Mossley' shape became stretched beyond recognition.

So yet another day to forget for the Lilywhites as Harrogate become the latest side to end their own poor run against them. Hopefully Garforth Town can provide a similar service for Mossley next week at Seel Park.

Gauging The Opposition

Yes, the title is a weak pun tenuously related to trains but I'm allowed to make one, aren't I?

It's our second visit of the season to Station View as Mossley look to put their season back on track (okay, two feeble puns about trains) against Harrogate Railway Athletic.

That initial meeting between the two sides was back in September and the spoils were shared in a 1 - 1 draw; Gareth hamlet scoring a late equaliser to earn Mossley a point.

As is so often the case with railways, the weather is going to play an important factor as to whether we go there or not. The forecast seems reasonable for tomorrow but it all depends on how much wet stuff has fallen on it in the preceding few days.

That said their recently televised FA Cup game against Mansfield was played in horrendous conditions with the pitch resembling a bar of chocolate in a bain marie, so who knows? Then again there isn't thousands of pounds worth of television money at stake this time is there?

If there are to be adverse conditions, keep your fingers crossed for snow as they it seems like they could combat that, judging by the grit mountain behind one side of the ground.

On the pitch Railway have had a worse time of it than us recently, having failed to pick up a win in their last seven games, though the draws do outnumber the defeats.

The Lilywhites (eight points and three places above Railway) will be hoping for their first win in 2008 but will have to do it without the services of Martin Allison; the midfielder set to miss his first game of the season through suspension

Prediction: Given recent results I’d be more than happy with a draw, which is what I think we'll get.

Mossley 1 - 2 Bamber Bridge

The search for the first points of 2008 continues as a late goal was enough to see Mossley fall to their fourth defeat in five games.

And it was a facet of the Lilywhites play, prevalent in the the latter stages over from the old year, that once again undid any hopes claiming something from a match.

With eight minutes to go Neil Spencer became the latest beneficiary of Mossley's ability to leave players unmarked in dangerous areas, and the time and space afforded to the Bridge substitute on the edge of the penalty box allowed him to pick his spot past Ashley Connor; practically guaranteeing that the three points would be heading to back to Preston with him and his team mates.

It had all started so well for Mossley too. Eight minutes had gone when Lee Connor's hanging ball from the back was brought under control by Lee Blackshaw just outside the Bamber Bridge penalty area. Keeping the ball close he bided his time before turning and stroking the ball beyond the reach of Terry McCormick to give the Lilywhites the lead.

That lead should have been doubled five minutes later when Paul Quinn and James Riordan combined down the right to put Danny Toronczak clean through on goal but his shot was straight at the Bridge keeper who gratefully hung on to the ball. It turned out to be a costly miss as less than a minute, Ashley Connor was picking the ball out of the back of his net.

After making the save from Toronczak, McCormick had played the ball out to the left and one cross and one knock down later, Mark Edmeads arced a shot from the edge of the box beyond the reach of the Connor and drew the scores level.

Within the space of another sixty seconds Mossley should have retaken the lead when Blackshaw's left wing cross found Quinn arriving unmarked in the box but the resultant shot was scuffed wide. Which is also what happened to a Bridge chance moments later after Ryan Salmon broken clear of the home defence.

The remainder of the half played out with both sides swapping chances; Mossley's coming through some patient build-up play whilst the visitors were content to soak up the pressure and hit their hosts on the break with pace, a tactic that almost paid dividends in the 20th minute but Ashley Connor proved equal to Alex Porter's stinging shot from 25 yards.

Riordan almost caught everyone out when his cross slowly turned into a shot, forcing the Bridge keeper into some furious back pedalling, before Blackshaw almost nudged his side ahead with a carbon copy of his opener, but this time round McCormick managed to get a foot to the shot and divert the ball wide.

Not long after the interval, Martin Allison fired wide following a free-kick but from that point on, in terms of chances if not possession, it was all Bamber Bridge. Or to be more specific, Ryan Salmon. Fortunately for Mossley though the opposing number 9 had left his scoring boots at home.

Hesitation had already seen him fluff one opportunity and after winning a corner with a shot that was deflected into the side netting, he proceeded to spurn an even more glorious chance. Mossley failed to sufficiently clear the subsequent corner and when the ball was played back into the area, Salmon inexplicably headed over the net from a matter of yards. A miss made all the worse by the fact that he had a virtual open goal to aim at and had no-one challenging him for the ball.

He went a lot closer five minutes later with an effort from the edge of the area that bounced off the post and Glenn Steel's shot from even further out went narrowly wide of the opposite upright. At this point it looked that the combined total of 25 games since either side had last drawn a match would be extended, but following a rare Mossley attempt on goal (Lee Connor sending the ball wide from a free kick), a swift counter attack by Alex Porter (a constant thorn in Mossley's right hand side) set up Neil Spencer for the previously mentioned winner.

The closest the Lilywhites came to rescuing the match was a shot from Jamie Miller that McCormick did well to get a fingertip to as the closing stages of the game played out around (but unfortunately not in) the Bridge box. For all of Mossley's huffing and puffing though it wasn't to be and whilst Bridge end their losing streak, Mossley extend theirs.

Just as in the FCUB match the score line can be said to have harsh look about it but sadly, points aren't awarded on what's perceived to be fair but on who scores the most goals. Bamber Bridge did just that and, despite Mossley's lions share of possession, looked the only side capable of doing it, particularly in the second half so it's hard to begrudge them their win.

The frustrating thing is that this was game there for the taking. During the first half Mossley's passing was cutting open the Bridge back line, primarily through good work down both wings, and chances arrived at regular intervals. In the second period though the ball was all too often launched down the middle of the pitch, at which point Bridge would regain control and set-up a counter attack, which with Mossley's inability to cope with pace caused no end of problems; especially when fresh legs were put up against rapidly tiring ones.

Positives on the day might be few and far between but David Boardman made a promising debut and we looked good going forward down both wings, particularly the left where Leon Henry and Lee Blackshaw looked like they'd spent most of the season playing there together.

But it's to Harrogate we journey next in the hope of finally turning possession into goals and finding those elusive points.

Insert Pun Involving Bridges

After the Christmas exertions it's back to the the "normal" Saturday games (not that that makes them any less interesting or exciting) as Bamber Bridge make the journey from Preston to what is likely to be a sodden Seel Park.

On their last visit to Mossley two years ago, Brig claimed a point in a 1-1 draw (Phil Denney scoring for us) and that point is the only one the home team have ever picked up on home soil in three games against them.

Mossley will hoping for a better time of it than they had at Irongate back in October when they lost 4 - 2 to their then high flying opponents. Since then though Bridge have hit something of a slump and recent form has been decidedly average, in the last six games they've won 3 and lost 3 with 10 goals for and 10 against.

It's a series of statistics which, coinidentally, are almost exactly the same as Mossley's current figures; the difference being that we've conceded 15 over the same period. There's another difference as well in that Brig's three defeats have come in their last three games, meaning that they had a worse Christmas than us.

Not that we had a particularly Joyeux Noel with two defeats out of three games, along with conceding enough goals to make us the first team to the half century mark in the against column. That said we still remain mid-table and within sight of Bridge's spot just outside the play-offs.

Besides the current form stats, one thing both clubs share in common is that no other team in the league has drawn fewer games than them this season. It's 10 games since Mossley last finished a league match on a level goals tally with their opponents, and 15 since Bamber Bridge did the same...

Prediction: So a draw it's bound to be then.

FCUB 5 - 2 Mossley

With Auld Lang Syne still ringing in the ears, I get a feeling that this New Year match will be one of those never forgotten sooner than old acquaintances and never brought to mind. Again.

Mossley's Christmas campaign ended at Gigg Lane just as it had begun six days earlier at Seel Park, with the Lilywhites on the receiving end of another heavy defeat.

Although to be truthful the game wasn't quite as one sided as the final score makes it appear. In fact it was something of a paradox. On the one hand, the three goal margin could have been a lot, lot worse. On the other though, the eventual score line is incredibly harsh on a Mossley side that had an equal share of possession and, like their hosts, dominated lengthy sections of the game

And it was Mossley who saw the lion's share of the ball in the opening 12 or so minutes of the game but their failure to make United keeper Sam Ashton work up a sweat was punished when the home side took the lead against the run of play, and in a somewhat dubious fashion.

The ball was launched up the middle of the pitch and though FC's two forwards were clearly offside, play was allowed to continue and Ashley Connor was given no chance as the two men bore down on him; Jerome Wright eventually putting the ball into the net. Mossley almost made the perfect response less than a minute later but Danny Toronczak, albeit under pressure, prodded Hamlet's rebounded shot wide of the goal.

United then embarked on a lengthy spell of pressure of their own and whilst Mossley's use of the offside trap was continually catching United out, it has to be said that they were living dangerously at times - no more so than when Dean Johnson cleared off the line after the home side had fashioned an attack out of next to nothing.

Which, coincidentally, is how Mossley got back into the game in the 25th minute. Lee Blackshaw was brought into the game for the first time by Richard Conway and after skinning the right back, the former Glossop player produced an inviting near post cross that Gareth Hamlet skilfully turned into the net;

You could have heard a pin drop at the United end of the ground as their umpteenth rendition of the Eric Cantona song stopped in mid-flow and the left hand side of the Main Stand erupted in joy. And that silence from the home end continued as Mossley retook control and started to open up their opponents back line. Unfortunately though, just like that opening period, they couldn't press home their advantage.

Slowly the home side dragged themselves back into the game (on the pitch at least the stands remaining Old Trafford quiet) and Mossley's weaknesses at corners was suddenly exposed as a long series of them saw United go close on far too many occasions to retaking the lead.

With half-time approaching the referee, in a decision which would have had the Manchester Evening News producing a pull out supplement to describe the injustice of it had it happened at the other end of the pitch, awarded United a penalty after Aaron Burns threw himself theatrically to the ground when he realised he was third favourite in a chase for the ball with Ashley Connor and the byline.

To give you some idea as to how awful the decision was, Burns was already on the ground appealing for the penalty before Ashley Connor had got within two feet of him.

With half-time fast approaching the danger looked to have past but an unseemly aspect to FC United's game came to the fore when, in a chase with Ashley Connor for a loose ball, Aaron Burns threw himself theatrically to the ground the moment it became apparent that catching the ball was beyond him. Justice was served however, and Burns' laughter at the decision got caught in his throat, when Connor kept out the spot kick with a low save to his left.

For all of FC United's posturing about being the guardians of footballing principles and fair play, they exhibit very little evidence of it on the pitch (and off it judging by Marginson's bitter tinged programme notes) and following Burns' tumbling homage to one of the trappings of Premiership football they proclaim to detest, Jamie Baguley was the next player to try and turn the game into a farce.

With no Mossley player near him Baguley spun himself to the ground in the penalty area, immediately appealing to the official for a penalty. This time round though the referee wasn't being fooled and waved play on (although he should have stopped play and shown a yellow card) leaving Baguley sitting on the ground in the throes a childish tantrum.

Six minutes into the second period, fortune and the referee's leniency smiled on the home side once again when unable to get the ball off Gareth Hamlet, centre half Bleau (who I don't think won the ball with his feet all match) gave the Mossley forward a forearm smash which somehow went unseen by the man in the middle. Instead of the home side being force to play out the remainder of the game with ten men, it was the visitors who were left with a temporary numerical disadvantage as Hamlet sought lengthy treatment on the touchline.

A double substitution by United, combined with fifteen minutes of defensive madness from Mossley then changed the game. Within the space of two minutes Rory Patterson (whose previous claim to fame was that he'd probably get into a list top 5 worst players at his last three clubs) had found the net twice as Mossley's marking became non-existent. It could have gotten a lot worse too as the home side charged through gaps wide enough for Hannibal to have marched his elephants through - side by side; Patterson had a goal ruled out for offside (which the Evening News will no doubt label controversial) and was then denied by a smart save from Connor as the home side threatened to run up a cricket score.

Of course, now back in the lead the home crowd became the very definition of “sing when your winning.” The Old Trafford hymn book was opened up and once more we were treated to countless more airings of that Busby Babe's song.

Mossley slowly began to regain their composure and with 20 minutes to go they staged a late rally and, amazingly considering the pummelling they'd had in the previous quarter of an hour, they suddenly looked as though they could rescue the game. That hope coming when Matthew Butters' quick thinking at a free-kick saw him play in Martin Allison and his low cross was turned into the net by Lee Connor.

It was now Mossley who held the upper hand but for all their possession and tormenting of United's shaky looking back line, that killer final touch was once again sadly lacking and chances came and went (notably from Allison and Toronczak) before the home side were allowed to climb back off the rails and put paid to Mossley's hopes of salvaging the game.

More slack defending allowed Nicky Platt to put the game beyond Mossley's reach with five minutes left and salt was rubbed into the wound in injury time when a reckless challenge from Butters gave United their first genuine penalty of the match; Patterson completing his hat-trick despite Connor almost making his second successful spot kick save of the afternoon.

So, for the second year running, it's a 1st January to forget for Mossley. But despite the heavier defeat, there are certainly more causes for optimism in the loss to FC United than there was in the one goal to defeat to Ashton United at the beginning of 2007.

That said, Bridlington match aside, it all adds up to a Christmas to forget for the Lilywhites and whilst the need to tighten up defensively was a concern before the festive period, it's certainly an urgent priority now. We've conceded three or more goals in more than a third of the games played this season and in over half we have (or would have had to have) scored two goals just to claim a draw.

But as I said two paragraphs ago, we're stronger than we were this stage last season so whilst it may not feel like it after this result, it is still a Happy New Year!

Non-League Football?

Having had the FCUB experience, both the home and away version), I still believe it's one I can live without ever experiencing again. I've made my feelings known about the karaoke atmosphere, etc. in the past but having now witnessed things first hand on their “home” soil, they give me no other impression than that of a club trying to be a Premiership set-up whilst desperately trying to claim otherwise.

From the glossy programme insert detailing a Megastore range of merchandise to the choreographed goal celebrations in the stands and the “we're better than you” stance of some of their supporters, they are everything they profess to be rebelling against, only on a smaller scale. It's like a football version of Animal Farm.

And the less said about their surprisingly callous (particularly at this time of the year) 'Help the Homeless' appeal the better.

For all their whining about not having their home ground, what really sticks in the craw is the moaning about the sum of money they have to pay Bury every time they use Gigg Lane. No-one held a gun to their heads in order to agree to the deal. In fact a club spokesmen appeared on local radio not long after the agreement was made for the use of the League Two side facilities, bragging at the terms negotiated.

What's different now is that crowds have fallen to a level where it's having a significant impact on income and it's not just the 'happy -clappies' who're staying away. Stories of supporters who bought into their ideals initially but who have since become disillusioned as its slowly turned into what they hated about Premiership football in the first place and stopped going are becoming common place. And I doubt they're all as apocryphal as some would have you believe.

As for the stewarding, if a dozen or so Mossley supporters stood at a barrier behind a row of seats constitutes a health and safety concern, why on earth were the home fans allowed to stand not only in exactly the same places in their part of the ground, but in the stairways as well? I'm sure that FC's response would be that the stewarding is out of their hands but are they not worried about their own supporters not being warned of the dangers by the people entrusted with their safety? Or is it a case of double standards?

Finally, I'll go back to something said by an FCUB supporter at the game at Seel Park, and it's something I've seen mentioned by another fan on another forum - “It's not about the football.”

Well for the rest of us it is, so if you want to be some kind of revolutionary socio-political movement, could you do it elsewhere and leave those of us who want to follow the football to it.

I feel sorry for genuine supporters at the club (yes, there are some) who want it to live and breathe on its own, with its own identity. But whilst there others who can't go through a conversation without mentioning Manchester United, Old Trafford, the Glazers or crowd size (or all four) within the first sixty seconds in an attempt to sound like some sort of martyr and the Cantona/Busby/anti-City and Liverpool, etc. songs continue, then they'll continue to be neither one thing nor the other.

I do sincerely wish those genuine fans the best of luck in becoming the majority voice, but until then I'm afraid it's: meet the new club, same as the old one.