Mossley 2 - 1 Retford United

With the end of the season drawing nearer and a whole host of postponed games to try and fit in to what little of it is left, you'd have forgiven both Mossley and Retford United if they'd chosen not to take this fixture in a minor cup competition that seriously.

Even though a place in a semi-final was the reward for the winners, the prospect of another fixture to fit into an all ready overcrowded schedule wouldn't have been a particularly welcome one. To both sides credit though they played it like there was something far more important at stake and provided the crowd at a fog enveloped Seel Park with a game worthy of a better competition than the President's Cup.

The early momentum was seized by the hosts and from the moment Lee Blackshaw almost put them ahead in the third minute, the Lilywhites, over half of whom were making either their first or second appearances for the club, dominated their high flying visitors from the Unibond First Division South.

Chances came thick and fast as United's back line struggled to cope with the pace of Mossley's attacks and it was only their keeper, Chris Kingston, who was stopping the men in white from running up a cricket score; the pick of a string of superb saves being a one handed stop at point blank range to deny Michael Fish.

He was finally beaten however in the 28th minute when a thunderous free-kick from the edge of the penalty area by Danny Dignan flew beyond his reach with the help of the merest of deflections.

The scoreline finally began to reflect the balance of play when the lead was doubled in the second minute of time added on at the end of the half. A move down the right wing reached its conclusion when Reece Kelly split open the United defence with an inch perfect through ball that gave Craig Buckley the chance to roll the ball past Kingston for a debut goal.

The flip side to the celebrations that took place though was the sight of Danny Dignan lying on the pitch in a considerable amount of distress after being the subject of an horrendously late and somewhat cowardly challenge earlier in the move, and one which astonishingly saw the perpetrator, former Lilywhites captain Danny White, go unpunished.

The lack of any kind of punishment was made all the worse, and not a little farcical, when Dignan's replacement Danny Egan was shown two yellow cards in quick succession for lesser offences midway in the second half.

But that's what football has come to: potentially career ending tackles – okay, a rude word in the direction of the referee – yellow card. It wouldn't be so bad if there was some consistency as the man in the middle allowed a considerable number of Retford players to abuse him without reproach during the course of the game.

At the time the red card was shown Mossley were already having to withstand an intense amount of pressure being placed on them by their opponents.
As cliché's go it's one I'm incredibly loathe to use but not for the first time on this blog I find myself with no other option than to type: it was the proverbial game of two halves. And not for the first time feel dirty for having done so.

Whereas Mossley basically controlled the first half, they spent the second virtually encamped in and around their own penalty area. Whether this was through choice or necessity caused by a fired up opposition is anyone's guess though the truth probably lies between the two extremes.

Despite now controlling the game themselves though, Retford were struggling to breakdown the Lilywhite's relatively inexperienced but resolute defence, ably backed up by goal keeper James Mann.

The immediate aftermath of the dismissal however saw the home team wobble slightly and the Nottinghamshire side quickly made the advantage given them count when Mick Godber pulled a goal back. Happily it was to be almost their last sight of goal too as Mossley quickly regained their composure and their backs to the wall performance limited the Badgers to just one more opportunity - a shot which was cleared off the line after hitting a post - before the final whistle sounded.

And what a sigh of relief greeted that sound. To say it was tense in the closing stages as Mossley defended the Park End goal as if it was the mission at Rourke's Drift would be a tiny understatement. Any more games like this one and fingernails will be the least of my concerns as I'll have gnawed my fingers down to the knuckles.

Some said it was like the Alamo, which in a way it was, but happily with a far better outcome for the defending team.

It's a win made all the more impressive too by not just that it was an untried and untested line-up that went up against the Southern Divisions league leaders, but also by the fact the injury crisis currently affecting the club meant that regular goalkeeper Andy Robertson led the forward line on his own for the last fifteen minutes of the match.

The first half was the best spell of football Mossley have produced since before Christmas and from the first to the ninety fourth minute they worked they're slowly muddying socks off; it was a pleasing and reassuring glimpse of the side we were a couple of months ago. Some of the faces may have changed but the spirit and will to win was there again for all to see.

And even though the victory arrived at a cost with further injuries and suspensions to test an already paper thin squad, it was one that showed that there's enough character in the team to cope with what's going to be a hectic final two months to the season.

Now I'm off to try and relax, coax my nerves back from the edge they were teetering on last night and mentally will my nails to grow again in time for them to be nervously bitten away during the game against Clitheroe and the 20+ matches that follow that one.