Kendal Town 1 - 2 Mossley

Yes, you read the score right.

Mossley's first piece of "giant killing" for four years sees them emulate what they did in Whitby in 2004; that is to put themselves into the draw for the third qualifying round of the FA Cup. And by all accounts it was a deserved victory too.

Further insight as to what went on can be found here and here (or at least it will be soon), but not here because I wasn't there.

I've said before on the blog that there are times when spending hours journeying around the country to watch football, even if it is a big match, comes second to other things in life. And there are times when it falls even lower down the list of priorities than that and this was one of them.

The plan to fill what would otherwise have been a blank couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon was to watch Stalybridge's FA Cup tie against Farsley; a game which turned out to be full of goals and incidents.

That was the plan. However, on the way to Bower Fold, a spur of the moment decision was made to take in Droylsden's game against Bradford Park Avenue instead, purely on the basis that it had been a good while since we'd seen a game at the Butchers Arms. And unless Mossley draw the Blood's in a cup competition anytime soon, it will be a while till we see another match there too after this game.

Droylsden 2 - 1 Bradford Park Avenue

As is compulsory in games between sides from different levels of the pyramid, I've got to use the phrase 'you couldn't tell who was the side from the higher division,' but for possibly the first time ever it's not a compliment.

Boy was this game bad. To put in terms of something a Mossley supporter could understand, it was like our match last season with Chadderton in the MPC, only without the scintillating football and box to box action that was in evidence in that fixture. Yep, that bad!

Droylsden's main plan of action appeared to be to get the ball forward as quickly as possible and hope for a set piece, while if Bradford had a plan it was so secret that they hadn't told the players.

The Droylsden bench struggle to contain their excitement during the game...

A goal from substitute Stuart Rudd just after the interval cancelled out the opener scored by Droylsden's Colin Cryan (naturally following a set-piece) in the one real moment of note in the first half, and it was at this point that the referee obviously thought, "if people aren't going to talk about the football, they might as well talk about me."

The man in the middle's first moment of inspiration (and for inspiration read 'crazy brainstorm') came when the Droylsden goalkeeper and a team mate collided with one another, leaving Chris Hall with an empty net to put the loose ball into. At least he would have been had the referee not decided that two players from the same team running into one another was a foul; a moment of incredulity which he then compounded by booking the former Stalybridge forward for seemingly being the only opposition player within a ten metre radius of the incident to blame it on.

That was nothing though compared to what happened in the 72nd minute when the match official awarded Droylsden a penalty for no discernible reason whatsoever; a decision so unbelievably poor that even some of the home fans were embarrassed that they'd been given it. You don't look a gift horse in the mouth however and the spot kick was duly dispatched by Sean Newton, effectively signalling the end of the game as a contest - although the actual end couldn't come soon enough.

Still if you want to see what few highlights there were, the majority of them, including the penalty incident (but with one noticeable exception) are in the following video:

Or you can view it here in slightly better quality.

What the days events mean though is that along with the Droylsden fans, we Mossley supporters will also be repeatedly hitting the F5 button while on the FA's website this coming Monday morning, to see who we've been drawn against.

Some fans will be hoping for a glamour tie, if indeed there is such a thing possible in the Third Qualifying Round, but I for one will be hoping for a meeting with the worst team still left in the competition. Why wish a harder path for yourselves when you're this close to the First Round Proper? Screw "the magic of the cup" and bring on the League sides, the cameras and the big pay day in the easiest way possible.

The Club Formerly Known As Netherfield

An outbreak of high temperature’s and cold sweats amongst the Lilywhite support can only mean thing (no, no that he’s coming back) – it’s FA Cup fever time once more.

It's hard to believe I know, nearly October and we're still in the World's Most Famous Domestic Knock-out Competition ™, but here we are: only 270 minutes away from being thoroughly patronised by the national media.

It would be stupid not to acknowledge that this is going to be a very tough game but aren’t they all at Kendal. It’ll be difficult but it’s not as though we haven’t upset the odds at the Lakeland Radio Stadium in recent years is it? I mean, who can forget the events of that now infamous Tuesday evening back in April 2005...

<-wibbly-wobbly, wibbley-wobbly->



<-wibbly-wobbly, wibbley-wobbly->

Oh! It appears that the flashback plug-in for this blog isn't working properly. Nevermind though because all you need to know is that we won a must win game 2 - 1 thanks to a goal deep into injury time from Leon Mike, setting in motion celebrations that almost caused the stand the majority of the travelling support was in to collapse.

It would be nice to see such scenes again this weekend but I don't think anyone would mind if we won in a less fraught fashion either. In fact just simply winning would be nice as we haven't beaten a team from a higher division in any cup competition since the 2 - 0 victory over Whitby four years ago, which, coincidentally, was also in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup. To be fair though, until this season it had been a while since we beat anyone from any level in a cup tie.

Will luck shine upon us or will our dreams of a match against such mighty teams as Vauxhall Motors be crushed once more? Who knows? But as always the fun part is watching and finding out.

All that remains for me to say is good luck to Mossley! We may need it but we do deserve some for once.

Passing The Time

It's been a while since I've done this but with no midweek football to write about, I think it's time for another trail around the internet to find something humorous to pass the time to the Kendal match with.

So to the first clip. It's the opening skit from recent edition of Saturday Night Live, the long running hit and miss US TV show, in which Tina Fey (ahhh, Tina Fey...) stars as US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

What's scary, as well as funny, is that some of the lines (including the one about seeing Russia from Alaska making her an expert on foreign policy) are ones actually said in all seriousness by someone who's a heartbeat (and a struggling one at that) away from being the most powerful person in the world. Not scared? Well you should be:

In all probability it's likely that you didn't find that quite as funny as I did. Ideally I'd put more videos like on the site because I like satire and topical humour, but I know my audience and what they want is base humour - either people getting hurt in an amusing ways or something lavatorial. So with this in mind...

People getting hurt in an amusing way:

Something lavatorial:

Finally, some of you may remember a couple of months ago the video I posted of the Count from Sesame Street being censored. Well further evidence has come to light that the Children's Television Workshop's finest offering isn't quite as wholesome as it seems:

And that's it. If you watched all four videos from beginning to end you'll not only have hopefully had a chuckle or two but you're also 14 minutes nearer Saturday's game in the Lakes. How about that for a service?

And it was free!

Mossley 3 - 4 Garforth Town

If at some point later on in this match report you get the feeling I'm pulling my punches somewhat, that's because I am.

Some of the scenes in this game coupled with a certain event over the past week which I may touch upon soon, have really got me riled up. I'd love to get it out of my system with a bilious rant but the blog really isn't the medium to do it with; I don't want to write something that I may later regret and in doing so give some over officious and/or egotistical twerp a feeling of smug satisfaction.

Now with that out of the way...

Normally a match in which one side wins by the odd goal in seven would be classed as a “thriller” but despite the presence of some exceptionally well taken goals, to label this game in such a manner would be bestowing it with a status it didn't deserve. That's not to say that it didn't have its moments of high drama, it's just that there was an awful lot of nothingness that filled the space between them. At least on the pitch that is.

Although Garforth almost opened the scoring in the seventh minute through a Duncan Williams shot that was turned expertly over the crossbar by Mossley keeper Liam Higginbotham, the majority of the early chances fell to the home side. An in swinging corner from Nick Boshell forced Garforth into hurriedly clearing the ball off the line and ex-Lilywhites captain Lee Connor, displaying a turn of pace that shocked those of us who saw him last season, was forced to do the same to stop a Michael Fish shot from entering the net.

The longer the game went on though the more Mossley began to struggle to break down an increasingly crowded visitors defence and just before the half hour point they were hit with a sucker punch. A swift counter attack, assisted in no small part by Leon Henry being manhandled off the ball by not one but two of the visiting players, saw Garforth quickly outnumber the few men in Mossley shirts that hadn't gone up for a corner. The ball eventually made its way to the spare man, Nathan Kamara, who supplied the finish that put 'The Miners' ahead.

Mossley certainly didn't deserve to be behind at the break and it looked like they wouldn't be when with a minute of the half remaining, Michael Fish capitalised on a mix-up between Ben Small and Garforth keeper Gavin Phillips to steal between them and lob the ball into an unguarded net from twenty five yards.

However another Garforth goal deep into added time at the end of the opening period ensured that Mossley would indeed be starting the second half in arrears. This time it was Brett Renshaw who did the damage by hitting a superb volley into the Park End net, although it has to be said that the lack of anyone marking him undoubtedly made his task that tiny bit easier.

And that deficit worse only four minutes into the restart. Once again Mossley's defence was caught and sixes and sevens, this time by nothing more than a long punt up the pitch (you know, just like Brazil), and substitute Andrew Rowan produced a finish that surpassed Renshaw's in terms of execution to fire the ball across Higginbotham and into the bottom corner of the net.

At this point it looked as though the game was beyond Mossley's reach as the invention they'd shown in previous matches this season to unlock packed defences was sadly AWOL. Out of nothing though they were given a foothold back in the game six minutes later when Ryan Cook struck a wonderful 30 yard shot that bounced into the net off the crossbar as Phillips stood waving the ball out for a goal kick.

A renewed belief that they could salvage the game now surged through Mossley but it was to be all too brief. Not only were they thwarted by some poor decision making in the final third of the pitch (and I do mean poor) but also by Town adding another goal to their total. This time it was Greg Kelly who benefited from the Lilywhites cheaply surrendering possession in a good position, and after riding one challenge on the halfway line, there was little to stop him adding a fourth.

With the outcome now looking beyond doubt the game devolved into a series of petty fouls interspersed with large amounts of time-wasting and gamesmanship so incredibly poor that even Dick Dastardly himself would have been appalled. At least that's if he wasn't a non-sentient Hanna-Barbara cartoon character.

At least that was until the ninetieth minute when Nick Boothby scrambled a third goal for Mossley over the line, setting in motion a frantic four minutes of added on time which culminated with the referee somehow managing to miss both Graham Kay being taken clean out by a Town defender as he charged into the box with the ball and a punch being thrown in the ensuing melee.

Whether Mossley deserved a point out of the game is a debate far too lengthy to go into here but they certainly paid the price for not taking their chances when they were on top and allowing themselves to be 'bullied' by a far more physical team. And it's the latter reason which is a cause for concern as it's the common factor between this and the only two other defeats we've suffered this season.

In all three games we've been beaten by opponents whose primary modus operandi is to "get in their faces". By that I mean they continually closed down players and generally make life as difficult as possible for their opponents be it through fair means or by foul. And when it comes to such a thing there's no greater proponent of it than Garforth.

That's not to say that Mossley weren't complicit in their own downfall also. As well as some uncharacteristically poor defending (some of it real schoolboy stuff) we paid the price for some poor decision making at the other end of the pitch: overly ambitious efforts on goal when other players were better placed, wayward passes, poorly delivered and often rushed set pieces, and like the match at Salford there was more than one player whose contribution to the match was less than what was to be expected.

On the positive side we scored three goals without ever coming close to playing as well as we have done in recent weeks but the flip side to that is when you do such a thing, especially at home, you really shouldn't be on the losing side.

However we've certainly seen worse performances at Seel Park since the the first day of January, and I think we all knew that this was never going to be an easy match for Mossley. Garforth's notoriety now precedes them and in this respect we certainly weren't disappointed.

If you can happily watch the football they produce I say good luck to you. If you can support or defend the actions of the manager/owner though I hope football's exit door hits you hard on the way out.

After his behaviour in this game which included amongst other things running to the opposition dug out and celebrating a goal in front of them, I firmly believe that every second this man spends in non-league football is one too many. I'd love to be able to tell you exactly my thoughts on Simon Clifford but I don't want to give him and his over inflated ego the satisfaction of knowing that somebody is going to the trouble of writing about him – even it is less than complimentary.

It's one thing to be graceless in defeat, it's another to exhibit the same traits in victory which is exactly what Garforth did at the final whistle, choosing to celebrate the win by jumping over some of the Mossley players as they made their way from the pitch.

There's a saying that goes be nice to people on the way up as you may meet them again on the way down. Garforth on the other hand, as evidenced by numerous comments on forums and message boards around the league, are making enemies without going anywhere. Therefore when Town finally get their comeuppance (as all teams invariably do from time to time) you're going to see the greatest outburst of schadenfreude since John Terry and Ronaldo missed penalties in the Champions League Cup Final shoot out.

If this is path they're wilfully choosing to venture down then so be it. They just shouldn't expect us all to believe that they're simply misunderstood bohemians bringing Brazilian football to the unenlightened masses, when in fact they're nothing more than a blight on the game. But sadly, until Rollerball comes to these shores it looks like we're stuck with them.

And the less said about the referee (how Small remained on the pitch for the entirety of the game is a mystery) the better. He's fortunate that there's only so much ire to go around today.

Thankfully results elsewhere meant that Mossley lost no real ground in the race for the title but if they want to be challenging for honours come April, this result may be just the reality check that's needed after what has been an otherwise impressive start to the season. The last two games will almost have certainly told the management more about the team than any of the seven wins we've had this season will have done.

And with a bit of luck it will be the last time (one way or another) we ever see Garforth at Seel Park again.

Hey, we can but dream.

Now I'm off to find a way of releasing that pent up frustration without running the risk of libelling someone. Apropos of nothing, does anyone know how much a good pair of boots and a cat costs*?

* Only joking animal lovers

Oh No It's Garforth Again...

This Saturday we welcome Garfoth Town AFC back to Seel Park for the third time in ten months. And after the three occasions when we played them last season we can assume that the A stands for anti.

Watching Town wasn't a particularly pleasant experience. Despite their owner/managers embracing of 'samba football', other than an impressive cameo by Jason St Juste at Seel Park in November, there was little evidence of it on the field. And nothing seems to have changed this year.

After the first game of the season Colwyn Bay fans passed comment on Garforth's unique style of play, as did Clitheroe's following the second match.

Their third game against Curzon inspired Gary Lowe to give the majority of his next programme notes to over to condemning Garforth for their style of play and their gamesmanship which, according to the Blues manager, appeared to involve falling over a lot and pretending they were injured.

Last year we did the hat-trick against Garforth. Not the good one, the middling one – won one, drew one, lost one. That solitary win came in the penultimate match of the campaign when Leon Henry scored what was not only the winner but what turned out to be Goal of the Season as well. Something you can still relive by clicking the M80Tube link in the menu on the right.

In the summer it was announced (where exactly I wish I could remember) that 'friend of the stars' Simon Clifford would be taking a more hands on approach to the management side of the club again after the distractions of business took him away from it.

One of these distractions was choreographing the football in a film based on the book ‘That Damned United’ – a semi-fictionalised account of Brian Clough’s 44 day spell in charge of Leeds.

His role is similar to the one Pele had on Escape to Victory but instead of overhead kicks and back heels, expect to see on a cinema screen near you shortly, someone who vaguely looks like Billy Bremner attempting to kick the ball over the main stand at Elland Road. Still, on the evidence of Mossley’s matches against Garforth last season, the tackling 'dirty Leeds' were renowned for in the 70’s will at least look authentic.

And just like Edison Arantes do Nascimento, Clifford will also be “acting” in the film as well, playing the role of Leeds forward Mick Jones. Rumours that Garforth have asked the league to postpone their fixture due to take place on Oscar weekend - “just in case” - are still to be confirmed.

Salford City 2 - 0 Mossley

Frasier. Christmas when you're a kid (and holiday's when your older). A bag of slightly burnt salt and vinegar crisp. Mossley's six game winning streak.

At face value all are seemingly disparate but they share one thing in common – good things that come to an end.

And while it's true that all good things must do so, there must be better ends than the one Mossley produced at Salford to not only finish their interest in the League Cup but that aforementioned sequence of results as well. Not only was it a disappointing though, it was a controversial too.

Despite Mossley having two goals disallowed for offside there was no one inside Moor Lane who would have begrudged Salford their two goal lead at the break. In a complete turnaround from recent matches, Mossley looked sluggish and disjointed as they struggled to impose themselves on the game; there was more than one player in an orange shirt having what can charitably be described as an off day.

That's not to take anything away Salford though. They played some good football, particularly in the first half when they were knocking the ball around with an abandon that had been missing in the game between the two sides ten days earlier. The biggest thorn in Mossley's side was City right winger Forrester whose pace and power caused Mossley no end of problems all night.

Salford's opener was a text book example of counter attacking football. Four passes and eighteen seconds after a Mossley foray had come to disappointing and limp conclusion on the edge of the Salford box, Dwyer was placing the ball past Higginbotham.

Rather than a fine example of great teamwork or a moment of individual brilliance, Salford's second goal was down to some poor defending by the visitors; Mossley allowing Barry Massey to head home a corner with relative ease eight minutes before the break.

A reshuffling of the Mossley ranks at half-time saw them finally get a grip on the game but in and around the opposition box where they've been so strong all season, they struggled to fashion any openings of note. The one exception being a shot from substitute Dignan that was blocked on the line following a good solo run.

It was Dignan as well who featured in three incidents which clouded the game from a Mossley perspective and gave the game its controversial edge. His pace was causing the Salford defence no end of problems and twice he was pulled and hacked to the ground to the box after beating his marker, only for the referee to wave play on; on the second occasion his decision even seemed to catch the home team surprise as they stopped in their tracks under the expectation that a spot kick was to be awarded.

If the defence for the non-awarding of a penalty after these two moments was that there was an element of doubt (which is difficult to believe), there could have been none whatsoever for the third incident; one that could have had big repercussions for Mossley's season.

Danny Dignan had used his pace to take himself past Bellamy, get to the touchline and play the ball across the face of goal when the Salford defender took the Mossley forward clean out. It was a bad challenge which subsequently led to Dignan receiving lengthy treatment before being stretchered back to the changing rooms. Amazingly (though maybe not that much after the previous decisions) the “tackle” was deemed perfectly legal by the referee who trotted back towards the halfway line with a line of understandably irate Mossley players in his wake and a host of comments being aimed towards him from the sidelines.

It's at times like this when just pointing to the video would be easier but as we're currently falling foul of the one rule for one law operated by the league, you're going to have to make do with stills of that tackle:

Dignan gets past the Salford defender and prepares to cross.

This is the moment Dignan makes contact with the ball.

And this is the moment the Salford defender makes contact with Dignan. As you can see, in no way at all was this a penalty...

I'm loathe to criticise officials because they have a difficult and thankless job to do and, importantly, they very rarely tend to lose teams games. In regards to the latter point this game wasn't the exception that disproved the rule, Mossley weren't good and were beaten in the first half by a team visibly more 'up for it'.

The officials do however deserve all the criticism they get for some truly awful decisions in this match. Even ignoring the questionable nature of the judgements which ruled two first half goals by Mossley narrowly out for offside, the fact that the game was allowed to get to a point where players were throwing themselves into wild challenges knowing full well that they were likely to receive no punishment for it was disturbing.

Fortunately the latest news is that the injury Dignan suffered isn't as bad as initially feared, and it's safe to say that those initial fears were very bad. It doesn't however make the fact that the challenge and perpetrator went unpunished any more palatable. This isn't a rant because we lost the game, it's a rant because we nearly lost a good player for a lengthy period of time through the inactions of match officials who refused to curb the incidents that built up to this moment. And because they saw nothing wrong with a poor, late tackle that could easily have seen an ambulance wending its way to the ground.

There's an argument that in the long run this defeat may do Mossley the world of good, ridding of them of any complacency that may have set in after the impressive run of results they've put together. It's not one I subscribe to myself but it will be interesting to see the sides reaction to this reversal in the next match as it will tell us a lot about the character of the team.

In the end it could have been a whole lot worse, in more ways than one too, so as small mercies go it's better to to put in a performance like this in one of the minor competitions than save them for those that really matter.

A Little Bit Of Politics

Because its only ten days or since I last did a preview for a game at Salford, the need to do another one quite so soon after for this League Cup encounter is about as great as Sarah Palin's need to be a little more right wing to court ultra conservative American voters.

Apologies for going a little Ben Elton there (i.e. being not very funny) but as all that's happened since I wrote this is that we've won three games and they've won one and lost one, there's not a lot more I to add.

I'm sure that there's a really interesting piece about Salford City that's crying out to be written but as I can't be bothered sitting here behind my laptop all night waiting for that bolt of inspiration, it's going to have sob quietly in the corner for a while longer yet.

Flixton 1 - 4 Mossley

If you listen very carefully that paper tearing sound you may hear is a £1500 cheque in Soho Square being torn into tiny pieces as the Football Association prepare to write and endorse Mossley another one for £3000.

Or to put it in less flowery terms, we're through to the next round of the FA Cup.

And a relatively comfortable passage it turned out to be too at Flixton's Valley Road ground.

That's not to say that weren't a few moments of concern, particularly in the first half when goalkeeper Liam Higginbotham had to react quickly to stop a free-kick taken by Ashley Kelly from sneaking in at his unguarded near post. Tom Murphy shot into the side netting and Kelly went close again with a shot that flashed across both Higginbotham and the goal.

Those incidents excepted, the majority of the action took place inside the Flixton half but despite the possession Mossley enjoyed they only had one goal to show for their endeavours. That solitary first half strike arrived in the 14th minute when, after managing to wriggle free of the very close attentions of Flixton's McAllister, Danny Dignan fired a cross into the box that was met and placed past the goalkeeper by an unmarked Ryan Cook; the Mossley number eight's first for the club.

Over the remainder of the period the visitors had enough chances to have booked their place in the next round by the interval but a steady mix of poor finishing, some good block tackling and the occasional save by Perry meant that come the start of the second half, Flixton still harboured hopes of causing an upset.

These hopes got a further boost at the start of second half when Perry saved a Michael Fish spot-kick after the home side were penalised for a handball in the box. However it turned out to be short lived as four minutes later Fish shrugged of any disappointment he may have had at the penalty miss to double Mossley's lead, stroking home a right wing cross by Dignan in what was almost a carbon copy of the first goal.

As Flixton's discipline began to fray, leading to a whole host of bookings for dissent, Mossley started to put further distance between the two sides. Dave Hanlon and Graham Kay went close to adding a third to Mossley's total before Fish did just that in the 74th minute. Just as he'd done in the previous round against Ramsbottom, the Lilywhites leading scorer chased down a backpass and in doing so, forced Perry into making an error that he capitalised on by rolling the ball into an empty net from an acute angle.

A fourth and final goal for Mossley on the afternoon came in the 82nd minute via the head of Danny Egan. The substitute planting Simon Wood's deep cross past a static keeper from close range. That wasn't to be the end of the scoring though. With the game approaching its climax and the result not in question, the home side found a second wind and while it may have been scant reward, Rick Hodkin made sure that the Lilywhites wouldn't be heading back to Seel Park with a clean sheet.

It's something I doubt they'll be too upset about as they also head home with an increase in prize money from the FA and, more importantly, a place in the draw for the next round.

To be honest it wasn't the best game in the world and though Flixton probably posed more questions than either Salford or Halifax had done in the past week, the result was never really in any question; Mossley easing through without ever appearing to move out of a low gear.

That was a short report wasn't it? And there was you thinking before you clicked here that you'd have to have a break halfway through reading it to have your supper or go to bed or something!

To console you though here are the highlights, and enjoy them while you can because there won't be many more of them on here in the future. But hey, that's for a posting on another day:

Twelve Wins From UEFA Cup Place

The NWCL nostalgia trip continues in the FA Cup this Saturday as we follow up early season matches against Clitheroe, Warrington, Ramsbottom and Salford with a trip to Flixton.

It’s been a few years since we last made the trip to Valley Road and negotiated one of the narrowest set of turnstiles at possibly any level of football. To be more precise it was the 2002/03 season when two players made their debuts for Mossley. One was Rob Matthews who made the kind of start most can only dream of when they sign for a club and the second was Lee Blackshaw in his first spell at the club.

Looking at the history between the two sides reveals a statistic that, if mentioned here, would probably tempt fate.

Always one to cock a snook at destiny though the fact is that we've never lost to Flixton in a competitive match. A couple have ended in draws but the majority of them have finished in wins for the Lilywhites. In these games a total of 39 goals have been scored; 13 of them having been notched by Mossley in the last two meetings.

The Flixton line-up should contain Chris Downey, one of the more popular players to have pulled on the Lilywhites shirt in recent years, and there are many amongst the Seel Park faithful who wouldn't bet against him getting on the score sheet in this game. Downey has already found the back of the net seven times this season and all of them have come in the FA Cup.

Complacency is the watch word for Mossley in this game. On paper this looks like a banker for the away side but sadly football's not played on a sheet of A4 – it's played on grass. Unless of course you're Garforth where it's played approximately 60 foot above it.

Flixton are exactly the kind of opposition who've put paid to Mossley's hopes in more cup competitions than I care to remember this century. NWCL opposition or not, this would be a great victory for the Lilywhites if we could do it. So fingers crossed that all some us will be doing at work on Monday morning is watching the FA website and pressing F5 every three seconds in anticipation of the next round draw.

Mossley 3 - 1 FC Halifax Town

It's at times like this that I hate not owning a hat.

Be it a bowler, a boater, a Panama or even a stovepipe, I just wish I had one to hand. Not because I fancy looking dapper for a while or even because I feel there's a yawning trilby sized hole in my life. I want one purely so I can doff it in the direction of the players and management of Mossley AFC.

What the hell - I'd doff it to them a couple of times after this match.

I hate gushing and over the top praise in match reports. I also like to keep the superlatives to a bare minimum but after this performance I can't really avoid it. To put it simply this was the best all round performance I've seen from a Mossley side in five years. If their performance at Salford the previous Saturday was very good, this one was a whole series of levels above it.

If I was younger, less self-aware and infinitely cooler I'd happily use the word awesome to describe Mossley's showing in the final eighty nine minutes of the match. Why not the whole ninety? Well...

The game was barely a minute old when ex-Lilywhite Adam Morning (would it have been anyone else) punished a slack defensive clearance to rifle the ball low past Liam Higginbotham from fully twenty five yards out.

In recent seasons a setback like this would have been the cue for Mossley to fall to pieces but the home side simply picked themselves up, shrugged their shoulders, took a stranglehold on the game that they rarely loosened and within five minutes were back on level terms.

After being awarded a free-kick for a foul on Ryan Cook, Phil Charnock floated a perfectly weighted delivery towards Mike Fish in the Halifax penalty area. Mossley's leading scorer however failed to connect with it but with the Town defenders more intent on watching him than the ball, Charnock's set piece continued along it's thirty five yard trajectory and into the net.

It was a swift reply from Mossley but it might have been swifter had it not been for an incorrect offside decision given against Michael Fish as he broke through the Town defence a minute or so earlier; one of many borderline decisions that failed to go in Mossley's favour as they attacked the School End.

While Town were confined to having the odd shot from distance every now and again, over the remaining forty minutes of the half there wasn't one of Mossley's more attack minded players who didn't have a shot on goal or come close to worrying the scoreline.

Danny Dignan hit the foot of the upright, had a very strong penalty appeal waved away after being sent crashing to the ground and like Lee Blackshaw, Sam Hoult and Fish, was denied by some fine goalkeeping by Jon Kennedy. The best chance though fell to Simon Wood but the right back couldn't provide the finish to a flowing move down the right flank which he himself had started in his own half.

After the interval it took Mossley just three minutes to do what they had so agonisingly failed to achieve on numerous occasions in the first period and take the lead. The architect of the goal was Lee Blackshaw who used his pace to advance half the length of the pitch, beat his marker Tom Harban and draw the keeper out before cutting the ball back to Michael Fish, who in turn finished the move by side footing the ball home from close range.

In a game containing some wonderful moments of football from the Lilywhites, they produced the move of the match in the 54th minute. Halifax were made to chase shadows as the home side strung together over twenty passes in a passage of play that culminated with Fish drawing a point blank save out of Kennedy that was equal in stature to the build-up. If the header had been just a foot either side of the keeper then the goal of the season award would have been a foregone conclusion.

There was still a third of the game remaining when Mossley were provided with the opportunity to add a cushion to their lead. Like the second goal it came through Blackshaw flashing past his marker in the penalty area only this time Harban tugged at his shirt and under the direction of his assistant, the referee pointed to the spot. It may have been a soft penalty, especially compared to the challenge by Lincoln Adams on Dignan in the previous half, but it was an unquestionable one and Michael Fish converted it to put his goal tally into double figures for the season.

Just as they'd done against Salford three days earlier Mossley continued to push forward in search of more goals, and if it wasn't for Kennedy proving to be a formidable obstacle to beat, they would have sent the Shaymen back across the Pennines with an even more convincing defeat.

At the other end of the pitch Halifax seldom threatened. In fact the only thing that seriously looked in danger were the drains directly underneath the path of substitute Nigel Jemson when he embarked on a run. There were a couple of minor scares when the game was in its death throes but the closest Town came to scoring was when an unintentional back pass by Graham Kay had Higginbotham scrambling across his line.

Apart from that the visitors could offer nothing that would take the edge off what was a fantastic display by the Lilywhites; a deserved victory that sees them leapfrog Newcastle Blue Star and into first place in the league table.

I'm desperately trying not get carried away with this performance as being a long time Mossley fan I know there's a prick waiting to burst our bubble (insert your own joke here) but it's hard not to. The atmosphere amongst the home support in the second half of this game was as electric as I've known it for some time. It may not have translated into songs or chants (hopefully that will come) but to hear Seel Park buzzing like it was when there was a near miss, a good tackle, or an intelligent piece of play was amazing.

Prior to the match it had been the better part of four years since the Lilywhites had gone more than four games unbeaten but this victory, their fifth on the trot in all competitions, finally laid that particular ghost to rest and in some style too. It means I'm now looking for another lesser known statistic to obsess over so if anyone has any ideas please let me know.

It would be easy to argue that Mossley's performance was in a large part down to Halifax's poor showing (a line that Town manager Jim Vince sadly appears to be taking) but it would be lazy too. Instead of Halifax's players not performing, the players in black and white simply refused to let them perform. Mossley dominated the match not by accident but through choice and that's what separates the good teams from the rest.

Around ten months ago we played FCUB and we claimed a fully merited 2 - 0 win. To have heard some of their support though as the toys came flying out of their pram (a special mention in particular to the M.E.N. and the Grand Duke of Sour Grapes who occupies their managers position), you'd have thought that we'd fluked and cheated our way to a win. Grace in defeat apparently not being one of the facets of football they made a great deal of noise about wanting to reclaim.

Therefore it was refreshing to see and hear Halifax supporters at the end of the game not only congratulate Mossley on the win but admit that the better team had won and could have done so by a bigger margin. It's an honesty that is a rarity even at this level of football and I applaud them for it. Supporters there for the football and not the ego massaging.

The season may be only seven games old but having already broken their long running cup jinx less than a fortnight earlier against Ramsbottom United, Mossley unburdened themselves of another unwanted statistic against Halifax. Spookily the score in both games was 3 – 1.

Prior to the match it had been the better part of four years since the Lilywhites had gone more than four games unbeaten but this victory, their fifth on the trot in all competitions, finally laid that particular ghost to rest. It means I'm now looking for another lesser known statistic to obsess over.

As well as that previously mentioned hat.

Who wants to read about it though when you can watch it?

If you thought the Salford video was too long then I'd advise you not to watch this one as it's three minutes longer – and that's after plenty of umming and ahhing at what to leave out to get it under YouTube's ten minute limit.

Anyway I hope it manages to capture the mood around Seel Park on the night (at least if you're a Mossley fan) and you enjoy it. And afterwards, maybe you can harbour a guess at who's doing the Ernie from Sesame Street impression at the 56 second mark. And, more importantly, why?

Like last time, for a better version of this click here and then on the higher quality option beneath the video window.

Absolutely No Mention Of Howard Brown

Hubris isn’t a stranger to this level of the non-league pyramid.

It’s not that long since a sizeable number of AFC Telford United fans were mocking the league and its perceived easiness until reality kicked in (or rather off) and promotion was scraped in the play-offs. After that they became a lot more bearable and friendly.

The reason as to why I’m telling you this is because there were echoes of this in the not to long ago on the Halifax Town forum. To some this season was a foregone conclusion; the rest of us, with our tiny crowds, destined to be left bobbing around in the wake of Town’s surge towards the league title.

Unlike Telford in those early days though the number of level headed people among Town’s following, those who from the get go fully realised the situation they were in, appears to outweigh the few who still seem unable to grasp the gravitas of their plummet down the pyramid.

On the whole, judging by their forum, they appear to be a friendly bunch which is something of a bonus with teams with a large following, as those of us who suffered through some of the FCUB’s fans “it’s not about the football” rubbish when their fans visited us with last season will attest to.

Being a brand new club Halifax have had to build the current team from scratch. It was a task handed to Jim Vince who left his post as Witton Albion manager twice (don’t ask) at the end of last season, the nature of his departure leaving a lot of people at Albion with a sour taste in their mouths. But then again, when you’re as bitter as most Witton fans on the internet appear to be it’s not that difficult a thing to do.

And before any Witton fans who stumble across this while Googling head for the comments section and complain, if you don’t want to be seen as bitter, do occasionally admit that the better team won when you’ve been turned over.

Familiar faces among the Halifax ranks are midfielders Ross Clegg (is it really seven years since he played for us?) and Adam Morning, non-league football’s Littlest Hobo.

If any FC Halifax Town fans planning on making the trip are reading this, and it’s a long shot given that even Mossley supporters don’t read this blog, I hope your short journey across the Pennines is an easy one but that the result ensures the one back is thoroughly miserable. Sadly though I think you’ll be going back with smiles on your faces as I’ve just remembered that Mossley’s accursed ‘four game’rule is due to kick-in.

Damn! And I was all happy and upbeat after the weekend as well...

Salford City 0 - 4 Mossley

No matter how much despondency and despair we've had over the years at Seel Park occasionally, and I do mean occasionally, you do get the very brief thought that God (should he/she exist) might just be just a teensy-weensy bit of a Lilywhites fan.

Take this game for instance. While the rest of the country was battening down the hatches and declaring shock at the arrival of such un-British weather like, er..., heavy rain, Mossley fans were basking not only under the warm sunshine in Salford but the glow of watching the side they support expertly dismantle one of their league opponents.

Mossley's last visit to Moor Lane ended with them leaving with three points and four goal margin of victory. Five years later, sameo sameo.

In a strange way the final result is one that both sides will be happy with but for completely different reasons. Mossley because its three points and four goals that takes them joint top of the Unibond First Division North and Salford because it was only four goals.

The game however may have had an altogether different complexion had Mark Dwyer's sixteenth minute shot (City's one real effort of note) bounced over the goal line and not along it after cannoning off the post. It was a moment of good fortune for Mossley but nothing compared to some of the luck Salford were enjoying at the opposite end of the Moor Lane pitch.

Not only had the visitors had a seventh minute Danny Dignan effort narrowly ruled out for offside, Salford also survived two extremely good claims for a penalty. The first coming after Dignan was floored by a challenge from behind by Tudor as he broke into the box and a second when a Lee Blackshaw free-kick was diverted over the cross bar by a raised arm in the Salford defensive wall. Add to that City defender Bellamy escaping without even a talking to, let alone a card being shown, after pulling Michael Fish back as he pulled clear of the back line it gives you some idea of the charmed life the home side were leading.

That said the City defence were, in the main, doing some sterling work in trying to repel the flood of white shirts charging towards their goal, particularly as they were receiving little in the way of assistance from what could charitably be described as 'the Salford midfield'. But with Mossley showing a significantly greater degree of invention and pace as the game wore on it looked more and more like a cause that the home side were going to lose sooner rather than later.

And so it proved in the thirtieth minute when the Lilywhites finally took the lead. A free-kick awarded 25 yards out for a block on Ryan Cook was converted by Michael Fish. The Mossley number nine stroking the ball almost effortlessly past both the Salford wall and a goalkeeper who remained rooted to the spot.

The second goal followed a host of missed opportunities by the visitors and like the first was scored from distance. This time though it came through some good football in open play by debut maker Cook and finished by the right boot of Danny Dignan.

A lengthy half-time interval failed to knock Mossley out of their stride and within seconds of the restart City's defence was once more under siege. Chances were again coming thick and fast but it wasn't until just before the hour point in the game that Mossley finally killed off any lingering doubt, if indeed there was any at this stage, as to where the three points would be heading.

For the second time in the match it was Fish who found the back of the net, directing Nick Boshell's perfectly weighted ball from the right wing past Salford keeper Martin Campbell from close range. Eight minutes later Mossley's leading scorer completed a deserved hat-trick by placing another right wing cross beyond the reach of Campbell; Dignan supplying the assist this time around.

The remainder of the match saw Mossley pour forward in ever growing numbers past an increasingly bedraggled Salford defence and create enough chances that, if converted, would have taken their tally closer to double figures . A mix of good goalkeeping, a lack of composure, over elaboration and the assistant referees flag though ensured that the scoreline, if only from a Salford perspective, remained reasonably respectable.

After a couple of seasons where Mossley have been the wrong side in one sided games, it's nice to make another team and their supporters suffer.

I say one sided but according to the report in the Non-League Paper I, and most other people in the ground, were watching a different game. The official Salford perspective seems to be that the first half was apparently a very even affair with Mossley only taking the lead through a dubious free-kick. I appreciate that they're hardly likely to come out and say “we rode our luck a bit” but it's one thing to bend the truth, another to contort it into a series of knots.

If there's one criticism about Mossley's performance, it's that the winning margin should have been lot more than more than four. We could have easily handed Salford's backsides to them on a large plate with a side salad but we didn't. However, moaning about not doing so would be like being given a million pounds in cash and then complaining that you were being charged ten pounds for the bag it came in – both churlish and missing the bigger picture.

Over the course of the season Mossley will face far more sterner opponents than Salford but as the adage goes, you can only beat what is put in front of you and the Lilywhites did it convincingly and with some style. From back, to middle, to front this was a consummate performance from the men in white and hopefully not the last we'll see from them before the season finishes. Overall it wasn't a bad way to prepare for the series of tougher games coming up over the next month or so.

Finally, perhaps believing God to be a Mossley supporter is just a bit too over the top. For one thing, if it did turn out to be true it would likely be an end to all Judeo-Christian belief systems as it would prove that the supreme being isn't as infallible as they'd like to make out.

Besides, the ultimate argument for him/her not being one can be summed up in two words: Terry and Curran. Thereby not only proving that (s)he is not a Mossley supporter but that (s)he isn't even particularly merciful either.

So here we are at the bit you've skipped the match report to see: the highlights. It's a lengthy series of clips this week so whack the sound right up (and I do mean right up), sit back, relax and immerse yourself in the audio/visual experience that is a slightly low resolution recap of Mossley's game at Moor Lane:

I would suggest though following this link and clicking on the 'view in higher quality option' (which will hopefully be on very soon)below the video window for a much less blurry time.

City Breaks

Five years. That’s how long its been since we last made the relatively short trip anti-clockwise around the M60 to Salford City’s Moor Lane ground.

Not that the passage of time is noticeable when you get there. As David Byrne would put it, “Same as it ever was.”

While it has been half a decade since we played them in a league competition home or away, we have faced them a tad more recently. The Ammies were our opponents at Seel Park in the first round of the Manchester Premier Cup two years ago when both sides produced a match of such mind numbing mediocrity that self-harm looked a much more enjoyable way of passing the time.

The one bright spot in the match was the only goal of the game scored by Peter Wright in the final minutes. Not because it won us the game or was a breathtaking strike but because it prevented an extra thirty minutes having to be suffered by those in attendance.

Lining up against us should be one of the two Brackenridges (possibly Steve) who briefly turned out for us at the back end of our “Back to the Unibond First Division” tour in 2007. Also in the City squad will be ‘bull in search of a china shop’ Barry Massey who, as a consequence of our many years in the NWCL, will be no stranger to Mossley supporters.

Of course that all depends on the weather. Having spent most of the afternoon walking through a seemingly continuous wall of heavy rain, just a mile or so away from the ground, there must be some doubt as to whether the game will go ahead or not. So check before you set off to see if the game is taking place. And that's as close to a public service announcement as Mossley80 will get.

At least it will be until I can talk Alvin Stardust into warning children thinking of watching FC Bury that they're out of their tiny minds.

Mossley 2 - 1 Styal

Apart from the fine weather, the prize money and the attendance, this friendly against Cheshire League side Styal was just like the Ramsbottom United game at the weekend: the visitors on top in the first half while Mossley dominated the second.

Played out in front of a crowd that barely outnumbered the total number of people on the pitch, this wasn't a bad match. In fact it was a very good one.

For some of us it was a night on the tiles. So to speak. Due to the tremendous amount of rain falling on Seel Park, the majority of the few who attended the game chose to avail themselves to the nearly completed terracing beneath the Bus Shelter and mightily impressed they were too. At least as impressed as you can be when it comes to some concrete flagging

The Lilywhites line-up in the first half was a mixture of players on their way back from injury, those on fringes of the first team and a smattering of trialists. Also featuring in a white shirt for the first time since last April was the familiar face of Danny Ryan, although in the unfamiliar role of centre half.

The opening forty five minutes saw Styal take full advantage of a Mossley side that were looking like what they were - a team that had never played together before. Putting Mossley's inexperience forward as an excuse for Styal's first half dominance though would be doing the visitors a huge disservice. They played some really good passing football and frankly deserved to be more than one goal ahead at the break.

After a very brief interval the home team took on a more familiar look for the second period and they were barely out of the Styal half. Despite their dominance Mossley could only find the back of the net twice but it was enough to win the match. Danny Dignan pulled Mossley level and Michael Fish scored the winner as the heavy rain turned into a prolonged deluge.

Like I said in the second paragraph this was a very good match so it's a pity that there weren't more inside Seel Park to see it. You can however understand why so few people turned up. Five pounds to watch what was to all intents and purposes a practice match was always going to put off those other than the terminally bored from coming. Hopefully in future a more realistic pricing policy will be in effect if there are any similar games and the matches will get the audience they deserve.

Meaningless game or not though I still filmed it (can you film something on a digital camera?) and for your viewing pleasure, here are the goals, a small edit/transition I really like and some of the highlights. Just some because I didn't want to have to spend most of the day uploading it.