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.


Mike Smith said...
11:27 pm

Getting away from snaps'n'pix - you see the video footage and you see that some of the football that Mossley played that night was no less than "sublime".... by the way Stephen, I'm sure it's not Grant's backside - but the "wind-type" noise - what's that all about ??

SJNR said...
10:30 am

The "wind type" noise is made up of a few things.

The first is wind, some of it is my breathing, some of it is other people's breathing but a fair amount of it is my finger brushing near the microphone.

All the problems are caused though by the small microphone on the camera is on the top, near a finger hold and it's a tad awkward to get round. It's an incentive though to get a proper DV camera with a microphone on the front!

I've tried to get as much of the good football from the match as possible in the video but there's a lot I couldn't fit in. Therefore there may be a 'special edition' in the future...

I just wish though I'd captured more of the move that ended with Fish's header being saved point blank by Kennedy. :(