Mossley 0 - 2 Curzon Ashton

Football returned to Seel Park after a nine week weather enforced absence and with a bump rather than a bang as Mossley got 2009 off to a losing start.

Actually bump isn't the right word. Horrendously, late and tackles are three ones that seem awfully more appropriate.

There's no denying that when they put their mind to it Curzon Ashton are a good footballing side. Unfortunately, and as we had the misfortune to witness far too many times in this game and other recent encounters, it comes wrapped in a style of play that shouldn't be seen at any level of football, let alone this one.

The latter stages of the Boxing Day game were full of challenges that bordered on the downright dangerous (a tackle on Chris Hirst late in the second half that somehow went unpunished springs horrifically to mind) and sadly so was this one.

Even as I write this, over twelve hours after the match had finished, I still can't understand how Chris Curley managed to stay on the pitch after three awful challenges in the opening twenty minutes of the match. It was only when he'd left Danny Dignan in a heap after a challenge that would have been a straight red under normal circumstances that referee finally produced a yellow card from his pocket. But when was the last time we had an official referee a match against Curzon normally.

I'm not saying we're angels – we're more than capable of putting a hard challenge in every now and again but when was the last time you saw someone in a Mossley shirt produce a tackle like the one I've previously mentioned on the Dignan? Hardly six of one, half a dozen of the other.

No doubt somebody somewhere will at this point start moaning that the referee had to allow for the conditions but a late challenge on a wet pitch would still be a late one on a dry pitch. But when you have weak officials it doesn't really matter what the weather has been like - decisions will always be more baffling than correct.

Perhaps the truly saddest sight to see was Curzon's players start screaming in faux agony every time they lost the ball, be it through a tackle, a simple brush of the shoulders or over hitting hit. They may act like hard men but they appear to be as soft as bowl of microwaved puppy diarrhoea.

Unsurprisingly the early stages of the game were punctuated frequently by the sound of the referee's whistle, but despite the countless number of free-kicks awarded around their opponents box though, Mossley failed to punish the Ashton side for their numerous indiscretions.

And it was the same story in open play too. A lengthy series of promising moves by the Lilywhites ultimately amounted to nothing more than the Curzon keeper, David Carnell, breathing a sigh of relief as inrushing white shirts failed to make contact with the assortment of inviting crosses being played in from the wings.

It took a 38th minute effort from Danny Dignan to break the sequence and finally call Carnell into action; the custodian meeting the Mossley forwards superbly executed twenty five yard shot with a save of similar stature.

That moment looked like it was going to be the last one of note in the opening half until Curzon hit Mossley with a sucker punch a minute before the break. A simple ball up the centre of the pitch caught the Mossley defence cold and Alex Elliott held his nerve to slip his shot under Robertson and give the visitors the lead.

Nick Boothby almost sent Mossley into the interval on level terms when he poked his leg out at a loose ball following a corner, only to see it bounce off the cross bar with Carnell beaten. We might have been one down but as the teams trudged off the spongy pitch there was no reason at all to think why we couldn't not only draw level but win the game.

Sadly we were given one after the orange slices.

The second period began with Mossley on the pitch in body, but seemingly not in mind or spirit. Straight from the restart it was virtually one way traffic as the visitors repeatedly cut through the Lilywhites midfield and defence with ridiculous ease. Robertson managed to deny Elliott & Michael O'Connor with two good saves but he was only delaying the inevitable which duly arrived in the 64th minute. Failure to deal with a corner led to a goalmouth scramble which ended with Chris Curley (yes, him) scrambling the ball across the line.

The only positive aspect about the second goal from a Mossley perspective was that it appeared to rouse the Lilywhites from their mysterious slumber and coupled with a change in on-field personnel, they once again began to ask questions of their opponents.

Danny Self went close on two occasions to giving his side a way back into the game, as did Michael Fish who drew yet another stunning save out of Carnell. Further unsuccessful efforts followed from Christian Hirst and Graham Kay to name but two of the host of players who had a pot shot in the closing stages.

But just as Mossley might have rescued the game in its final quarter if they'd been a touch more accurate in front of goal, Curzon's own profligacy at the opposite end of the pitch prevented them from succumbing to an even heavier defeat, and handing their opponents an even more flattering scoreline, as the game became stretched before the final whistle.

There was still time though for another display of forehead slapping officiating when Fish looked to have beaten Carnell in the chase for a through ball only for the keeper to grab the ball outside his box and pull it in. Not being an offside or a throw-in, the linesman must have thought that drawing the referee's attention to this was beyond his remit and again Curzon went unpunished. Oh for a set of officials with a bit of steel in their nether regions the next time we meet the 'Ashton Moss Manglers'.

I've always said that I have no problem with defeats if it looks like we've given it a go. It's a position I haven't had reason to fall back on many times in recent seasons but in this game that statement applies.

That's not to say that there weren't some faults to pick at. Curzon's first goal was just one of those things that happens regularly in football, I've no problem with that. What was worrying was Mossley's non-appearance at the start of the second half. There were some white shirts on the pitch but they weren't doing an awful lot to stop the people in blue ones running past them. It's not the first time this season we've come out after the interval looking unfocused either. Then again it's not exactly something that's new to this season. Maybe switching the half-time tea bags to a brand loaded with caffeine would help...

The other blot on otherwise solid performance was the persistence with the long ball from Robertson to the two forwards at every available opportunity. I can understand why the tactic was employed but it went on for far too long after it was obvious it was a pursuit that wouldn't bear fruit.

Our better and more productive passages of play were coming through keeping the ball on the ground and running at their defence. Chris Hirst in particular had a field day on the wings when he had the ball at his feet, and on the occasions he wasn't being booted into air - yes, I'm looking at you Mr Goodeve - but he wasn't utilised as often as he should have been.

There were a few other niggles as well but in the whole. Apart from the result, I don't think anyone was truly unhappy with the performance. We got a lot more creative in our approach in the final third of the match and with a tad more accuracy to our shooting it would have paid dividends but, alas, it wasn't to be.

It may be a losing start to 2009 for Mossley but if they continue it in the manner that was in evidence for much of this game, disappointing score lines such as this one will be the exception rather than the rule. I hope!

And win, lose or draw it was just nice to finally see a game that didn't involve Woodley Sports.