Portugal 4 - 1 France

With Mossley away re-enacting the opening scenes of Chariots of Fire on the Merseyside coastline, the blank weekend in the pre-season schedule gave me a chance to see one of the group games in the European Learning Disabilities Football Championship that has been taking place in Manchester over the past week.

Both sides line up for the national anthems. Portugal on the right behind their red and green flag, France on the left behind the... flag of the Netherlands. Oops!

Despite the fixture being the proverbial dead rubber(having both lost to England and Hungary, neither side could make it to make the semi-finals) there was national pride at stake and that was more than enough to make it a potentially entertaining encounter. And entertaining it was.

I'll admit that I went into the Tameside Stadium not expecting a particularly high standard of football (France, for example, had lost 10 - 0 to England in their opening game of the competition 10-0) but what I saw was better than many of the matches I've been over the past few seasons.

I've no idea at what level many of the players perform at away from the Championships (I know a few England players ply their trade in non-league) but the skill level on both sides was very high. The standouts though were the Portugese midfield pairing of Nelson Paulo and Luis Teixeira who were, frankly, fantastic to watch and wouldn't look out of place in many a side.

The obligatory pre-international match team shots. Does the number six n the bottom picture remind you of a slightly chubbier version of another Portugese national?

Sadly the attendance was incredibly disappointing which is what happens when a) England are playing at the same time three miles away and b) there's been little in the way of advertising. In relation to the latter it's unforunatley a sign of the times when the only way you can get a mention in the local media is if it paints the local council/councillors in a good light or it's related to either of the two b's: boxing and Bower Fold.

It's not just the media though. One of the competitions biggest backers, the FA, can't find room to publicise it on the front two pages of its web site. The competitions governing body INAS-FID hasn't updated its site since February, and their parent organisation MENCAP can only find room for the smallest of mentions on their home page.

All of which adds up to something of a shame as the teams efforts deserve to be seen by more people.

I could wax lyrical about the game for a while but as action speaks louder than words you're far better off just watching some of the highlights. 'Some' being the operative word as what follows was originally three times longer due to the number of chances and other notable incidents that occurred; so many in fact that the battery on my camera ran out seconds after the final whistle, something which didn't even happen during the three hour play-off marathon between Stalybridge and Southport back in May.

Things to watch out for include France being led out by the flag of the Netherlands, more examples of why "I Feel Good" being played over the P.A. system is sometimes inappropriate after a goal and Portugal's second from Luis Teixeira which is a doozy:

Mossley 5 - 3 Hyde United

The final part of most trilogies these days tends to be the weakest of the three.

Take the movies for instance. Spiderman 3 is a bloated facsimile of the previous two entries in the franchise. After the darkness of the Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi climaxes with a Galactic Empire being overthrown by teddy bears. Happily this game. Mossley's third in a week against local Blue Square North opposition, bucked the trend. Not that it didn't come very close to being a Mission:Impossible III.

Following two good, incident packed games against Stalybridge and Droylsden, this match with Hyde looked to have run out of steam midway through the second half; the visitors lead neither looked like being pegged back or added to. With so little in the way of goalmouth action from either side there was more than one supporter looking at their watch, willing the minute hand to move round a little faster.

This meant that what happened in the final quarter of the game came as something of a shock: a 2 - 1 pre-season run out suddenly became an eight goal thriller with five goals in the final fifteen minutes, and four of them coming from the boot of Danny Egan.

The game kicked into life with Leon Henry heading narrowly wide before a cock-up between Dootson and one of his centre halves gave substitute Egan the easiest of tap-ins to pull Mossley level. Minutes later the same player put Mossley ahead with a sweetly struck volley back across the face of the goal from a flicked-on Lee Blackshaw cross, before he completed his hat-trick by applying the finish to another Blackshaw cross.

All Hyde had to show in response to Mossley as they moved up through the gears and threatened to run riot was a close range shot that substitute keeper Mottershead did very well to save, but with three minutes left they pulled the deficit back to one with a well struck shot from the edge of the box.

Any thoughts of the Tigers snatching an equaliser were quickly banished though when Egan, saving his best till last, struck a looping volley over Dootson's replacement for Mossley's fifth and his fourth of the game.

But what happened in the first half I hear you cry? Oh, you're not? Well I'll tell you anyway.

The opening forty-five, while not reaching the heights the game was to touch in the second period, was watchable and not without its share of incidents. And just as in the previous friendlies, Mossley's opening goal arrived with little warning. Like Hyde, the Lilwhites had posed no real threat to their opponents goal when, out of nothing, Phil Charnock cracked an inch perfect low shot from 30 yards through a group of players and past the dive of Craig Dootson.

A goal in front, Mossley started to press forward a bit more to try and push home their advantage but twice before the break they were caught flat at the back, allowing Hyde to go into the interval ahead through a couple of very well taken goals, particularly Matthew Tipton's chipped effort a minute before they all trooped off for the orange slices. What happened next you've already read about.

All the good points from Mossley's games over the past week were in evidence again in this one: the desire to keep the ball on the deck, the willingness to shoot when the opportunity presents itself rather than trying to walk the ball in the net, the continual closing down of the opposition when not in possession and the fact that the players seemed to be enjoying themselves.

It's still pre-season though but even if we take just a tiny bit of what we've shown so far into the games that matter, it's almost a certainty that we won't be spending January through to April anxiously eyeing the results around the foot of the table.

To be honest I've no idea why I bothered writing any of the above as you can it all for yourself in the following clips. All eight goals, near misses, good saves and a couple of challenges that were way O.T.T. for a friendly, uploaded to YouTube for your viewing pleasure:

Mossley 3 - 4 Droylsden

It may be July but we've already had the first shock of the new season. Following over 24 hours of almost non-stop, and at times torrential, rain a Mossley home game actually went ahead!

Normally when we've had the kind of weather that gets amateur Noah's excited, the Seel Park surface is more suited to the growing of rice than playing football, but not only was the pitch playable it looked like it hadn't been touched by a drop of water - no puddles and solid under foot. Could it be that the age of miracles is finally upon us? Or, a trifle more likely I'll admit, has the drainage finally started to work properly?

Despite the numerous heavy showers prior to kick-off the game began under blue skies but it was a start that was anything other than bright for Mossley. Already a goal down after three minutes, Droylsden were knocking the ball around with an abandon that in days gone by would be classed as gay and things were looking ominous for Mossley.

Just as in the Stalybridge match four days earlier though, the Lilywhites scored a goal without ever having looked remotely threatening and then proceeded to run rings around their more senior opponents.

Michael Fish started the Lilywhites scoring spree in the seventh minute when he hooked a cross from a quickly taken free-kick into the net from close range, and this was quickly followed up two minutes later when Danny Dignan capitalised on some shoddy defending to put Mossley ahead.

The home side now looked dangerous everytime they went forward and when a looping shot cannoned of the crossbar, one Droylsden fan behind the goal (20 minutes into his sides first friendly) let loose a prolonged verbal volley at his side, comparing them numerous times to various quantities of excrement, e.g. piles of s**t, loads of s**t, etc.

Thankfully he was cut off in mid-flow when Mossley scored their third of the game. Obviously buoyed by the support being given by the man stood behind them, Droylsden once again cheaply surrendered possession. Dignan was again the beneficiary of the visitors mistake and after taking the ball past Danny Meadowcroft he calmly who calmly slotted it past Kennedy for his second of the game.

The interval saw both sides make a host of changes to their line-ups and in truthfulness the second period was nowhere near as good as the first. There was plenty of effort but little in the way of goalmouth action and the longer the match wore the more it seemed like both sides had settled on 3 - 1 being the final score.

As we all know though in football things can change in a minute, and within the space of two of them Droylsden had drawn level; like Mossley in the first half, the Bloods benefiting greatly from some sloppy passing by their opponents. With five minutes left another defensive slip-up presented Droylsden with the opportunity to win the game and despite the best efforts of a defender on the line, it was one Maguire took.

It would have been nice to have won, especially after being 3 - 1 up for the majority of the match, but you can't have everything. While some elementary mistakes ultimately gave Droylsden the win (which is to be expected from a group of players who've barely met let alone played along side one another) it has to be said that until they occurred Mossley never looked in any kind of trouble. I know it's a cliché but at times you couldn't tell which side was the one that plies their trade at a higher level of football.

Of course Mossley were the recipients themselves of some ridiculous generosity from the opposition but who amongst us cares if Droylsden can't defend properly?

Anyway, here's the bit you've skipped the above carefully constructed paragraphs to see - clips of the game:

So there you have it, a game that will be remembered for a few well taken goals, sloppy passing, nice weather, a Droylsden fan with a lack of perspective and some 'Last of the Summer Wine' style antics from a few of the home supporter's in trying to retrieve a wind displaced hat.

What? You didn't see the latter? Oh you missed a treat...

Mossley 3 - 1 Stalybridge Celtic

No, your eyes do not deceive you. After over a month of inactivity Mossley80 is back to report on the start of the 'phoney war' or the the pre-season friendlies as they're otherwise known.

First of all I'd like to apologise for the lack of updates over the close season. I had written a couple of pieces but announcements elsewhere (for example the statement about the shares) made them redundant before I'd had chance to post them.

I had also intended to redesign the blog slightly to freshen it up. However the passage of time has seen that little project grow from simply changing a few of the graphics to a complete rebuild from the source code up. This has meant getting to grips with two programming languages I'd previously avoided like the plague (along with other techy stuff too boring to divulge) and it has been a slow and incredibly time consuming process. As such it means that something I hoped would be ready for the start of the season won't be; in fact having it ready by Christmas is looking incredibly optimistic at the moment. The basic structure of the new site is up, running and navigable but until I'm completely happy that everything is working properly and the glitches are debugged, it shall remain under wraps.

Anyhoo, all that's for another time. What you've come to this page wanting to know about is Mossley's first friendly of the season against Stalybridge Celtic in the Frank Robinson memorial trophy. The eagle eyed amongst you will have already noticed the score at the top of the page so as half of my work is done, I'll just fill in the blanks.

This could be very well be Nick Challinor on the ball for Mossley but I'm not 100% sure. Too many new names and faces to learn in the space of 90 minutes..

For the first twenty minutes of the game Mossley looked exactly like what they were - a team of strangers. Passes were wayward, tackles were missed, positioning was just an eleven letter word, etc. and somewhat unsurprisingly a virtually full strength Celtic side dominated the proceedings. That they didn't capitalise on this advantage was down to three things: last ditch defensive blocks, a couple of outstanding saves from Liam Higginbotham and some finishing from Celtic's forward line that the word 'laughable' could have been invented for.

Around the midway point of the half though Mossley finally began to click. Passes started to find their intended recipients, important tackles were being won and the Celtic defence was suddenly having to treat the game as more than the gentle run out it had previously seemed.

The Lilywhites improvement was quickly rewarded when the Stalybridge keeper spilled the ball under pressure, giving former Celtic reserve Michael Fish the relatively easy task of rolling the ball into an almost open net from close range. Less than ten minutes later a much more impressive strike from the edge of the box curled its way around the Bridge custodian and into the net, doubling both Mossley's and Fish's tally for the game.

The interval saw both sides take the opportunity to make sweeping changes to their respective line-ups and the following forty five minutes of football was a much more evenly balanced affair. Mossley went close to adding to their total when one of the many Dave's we currently have in the squad hit the crossbar with a looping effort, before Lee Ellington halved the deficit for Celtic just after the hour mark with a nicely executed volley from around 12 yards out.

If there had been something important riding on it, the rest of the game could probably have been described as nail-biting. Like the first half the visitors once again began to spurn a series of golden opportunities although the Lilywhites do have Matthew Kemp, and hit two goal line clearances in the space of a minute, to thank in part for keeping their lead intact.

Not that Celtic weren't living dangerously either. Time and again the Mossley forwards broke through their high defensive line (I say line, I've seen u-bends straighter than Stalybridge's offside trap) and five minutes from time, with Mossley down to 10 men through injury, local lad David Brook sealed the victory with a cool finish when one-on-one with the keeper.

You can just see how good a finish it was in the following video, which contains clips of the other three goals scored along with a few other chances I managed to capture. It's all a bit shaky but it is pre-season for me as well! ;):

With the first match of the summer now come and gone, try as you might, you can't help but be ever so slightly impressed by Mossley's performance against a much more experienced and established side. However they are merely friendlies and just as you can't get overly depressed and critical after a defeat, you shouldn't go overboard with optimism and praise either following a fine result; a good pre-season doesn't necessarily mean a good season and vice-versa. I mean, we're not going to come up against players like Chris Hall every week - a large proportion of teams we'll face are going to have forwards who can shoot straight.

When all's said and done though, our trialists beat their trialists. ;)

So today the Frank Robinson Memorial Trophy, tomorrow the world! Saturday Droylsden at home.