Mossley 1 - 3 Durham City

I'm going to keep this report short, not through circumstance but by choice.

I could put into words exactly how I feel about this game but what would be the point? Any criticism of the official would more than likely see the club punished, even though this blog has nothing to do with Mossley AFC in an official capacity whatsoever, so why run the risk of one person's opinion being taken as a bona fide statement from Seel Park.

Frankly the far better team on the day won and the performance of the official in the middle only serves to take the attention away from this indisputable fact. As bad as he was he wasn't responsible for the sloppy passing, the shoddy marking or any of the other contributory factors to the goals we conceded.

All of which came within eight minutes of madness at the beginning of the first half in an, at times, heated affair with league leaders Durham at Seel Park.

Benefiting from the strong wind blowing against their backs and a catalogue of errors from the home side, strikes from Chris Smith, Matthew Moffat and Steven Richardson raced their side into a three goal lead with the game barely quarter of an hour old. And had Richardson not wasted two other good opportunities it could have conceivably been a lot worse for the Lilywhites.

After that early blitz the home side began to force their way back into the game and by the time they reached the interval they were starting to look the better of the two teams.

The momentum they'd built continued after the break and from the restart they had their opponents on the back foot. The pressure almost paid off immediately too when when Danny Dignan was felled in the area by the Durham keeper, only for the referee to book the Mossley player for diving despite keeper Craig Turns nobly informing the official that he had indeed caught him.

They didn't have to wait long though to pull a goal back and it came when Clive Moyo-Modise struck a low shot through a crowd of players from the edge of the box.

The effect the goal had on Durham was visible but Mossley were unable to capitalise on a steadily growing panic in the visitors back line. Although they were playing the better football, and spending a lot of time in and around the Durham area, they couldn't turn that possession into shots on goal.

City's ventures forward on the other hand, despite being fewer and further between, always looked dangerous and that they didn't add to their lead was down to some good defending and a couple of stunning saves from James Mann.

As the teams trooped off the heavy pitch after a fractious end to the the game, Mossley will have done so wondering about what might have been had it not been for that early lack of composure that ultimately cost them the game.

I've not much more to add really. There is the caveat to Mossley's performance that with injuries and suspensions leaving us with only fourteen players to choose from, it was a scratch side the Lilywhites had to field. And while we had a few purple patches in the game it was never really going to be enough to beat a direct Durham side going for the league title.

Personally I can't wait for this season end.

Mossley's campaign now revolves around one cup match at the end of April, with nine other matches in between, and I've reached the stage now where I'm sick of seeing games spoilt by the officials. This isn't a poor hard done to Mossley thing, I've been a neutral at numerous Curzon, Woodley and Salford games since the turn of the year and seen matches change on the basis of some poor decisions – not marginal ones, down right awful ones.

Of course, officials are human like the rest of us but... oh, what's the use. Nothing will change so why bother arguing the case against.

I said I'd keep it short and there it is.

Mossley 3 - 1 Trafford

Contrary to popular opinion, revenge isn't sweet.

It's a feeling that's incredibly hollow and has a very bitter after taste but that doesn't mean it's not thoroughly enjoyable, as this victory over Trafford will attest to.

A mere seven days after being dumped out of the Unibond President’s Cup by the south Manchester side, Mossley gained a modest amount of payback for that controversial exit at Shawe View by using up a season and a half's worth of luck in at a wet and windy Seel Park.

Actually wet and windy doesn’t even begin to describe the atrocious conditions the match was played under.

After seven days of relatively nice weather, the prospect of a match taking place on a dry Seel Park angered the rain gods and for two hours before kick-off it was as if the ground had been relocated to the foot of Horseshoe Falls at Niagara.

A series of heavy and prolonged downpours that had begun falling in the build-up to kick-off had grown into one non-stop torrent by the time the match finally got under way. Coupled with a driving wind blowing the length of the pitch, it was testament to both sets of players that they were actually able to remain upright on the increasingly slippery surface, let alone attempt to play football when proceedings started.

The consequence of both teams having to expend their energies on battling the elements as well as each other meant that the game passed slowly without incident until it unexpectedly burst into life in the 24th minute. How unexpectedly? Well those of us under the Bus Shelter had already resigned ourselves to watching a goal free game.

During an all too brief lull in the weather, Trafford became the first side to string together a series of passes and in doing so they opened the Mossley defence, presenting Scott Barlow with the opportunity to put his side in front from very close range.

If luck had been notable for its absence in their meeting with Trafford a week earlier, it certainly came to the Lilywhites assistance in this game. Their first stroke of good fortune came nine minutes after the visitors had taken the lead when Clive Moyo-Modise's 20 yard shot took a deflection off the outstretched leg of a defender and beyond the reach of keeper Tom Read to draw Mossley level.

It got even better for the home side four minutes before the interval when another ricochet ensured that they'd begin the second half holding the advantage. This time it was Daryl Weston who benefited from his shot being deviated from its initial path by an attempted block – the ball looping high over an exasperated looking Read and into the net.

If it hadn't been for Read's alertness the half-time oranges would have tasted even better for the Lilywhites as it was only the Trafford keepers reactions that stopped Danny Dignan adding a third to the home sides total.

Unsurprisingly given that they were now playing into a wind that had picked up even more strength during the break, Mossley spent most of the second period desperately trying to break out of their own half. On the positive side however, the mass bank of white shirts facing the visitors made it incredibly tough for Trafford to get a sighting of James Mann's goal

On the few occasions they did find a chink in the armour though, luck came to the Lilywhites aid once again. Shaun Whitehead saw not one but two shots that looked certain goals crash off the cross bar and to safety, while substitute Chris Mackay could only watch in disbelief as his net bound free-kick late in the match deflected off the back of Mattie Kay and onto the upright.

As Trafford piled men forward in search of an equaliser they became increasingly susceptible a breakaway goal and that's precisely what happened a minute into injury time; Alex Mortimer and Dave Brooke combining to present Chris Hirst with ball on the edge of the visitors box, from where the loanee from Macclesfield Town struck a low shot that bounced under Read and into the bottom corner of the net.

It might not have been the prettiest of victories, or the greatest of games, but that doesn't make the win any less welcome - especially as it ends a run of five games without a win.

All credit to the players from both sides too for managing to put in some decent performances in despite the awful conditions and provide some entertainment – far more than we had any right to expect.

Even though we're only a few days off the end of March we've, amazingly, still got one quarter of the league programme left to play and this result will hopefully be one that puts us in good stead for those final ten games. With thirty points still left to play for, who knows what might happen between now and that final game at Rossendale. Reaching the play-offs may seem highly unlikely but stranger things have happened. I mean, who'd have thought Seel Park would ever have a television gantry?

And if the luck we had in this match continues I wouldn't rule out the league title just yet! Okay, that may be going a bit too far.

A final word about the attendance though – 99. Yes 99, and that included the three incredibly humourless people who made the incredibly long trek from, er... the other side of Manchester. Where the hell was everyone else?

Lancaster City 0 - 0 Mossley

And according to the few comments about the game that exist from both sets of supporters, zero was also as high as the game got on the entertainment scale.

Nevertheless, as dull and forgettable as the game apparently appeared to be, the result brings to an end Mossley's sparkling run of four straight defeats which meant the whole thing wasn't a complete waste of time. Whether those who actually made the lengthy trip up to "the hanging town" hold the same opinion isn't for me to pass comment.

It's not as though having missed this match (or rather not having the slightest inclination to attend it this particular weekend) I got off lightly either.

In order to fill what would have otherwise been a blank afternoon, I went to watch Curzon Ashton play Ossett. And with the power of hindsight I wish I'd left the afternoon blank.

To give the game its due though the first half was relatively interesting as Ossett played the hosts off the park for forty five minutes. Unfortunately for the them the opening period went on a touch longer and Hasim Deen headed Curzon into an undeserved lead in injury time. The second half had barely started either when the home side doubled their lead and killed the game off.

What followed was three quarters of an hour of tedium in rapidly cooling conditions; the ambient temperature dropping from tepid to freezing in that special and frighteningly fast way it does on Ashton Moss.

To give you some idea of how bad an uninteresting the game became, midway through the second half one of the Curzon centre halves sidled over the touchline towards where we stood and asked us why we weren't watching Mossley that afternoon.

This slowly turned into a lengthy discussion about travelling distances, the Lilywhites poor run of form and how fortunate Curzon had been not to be behind at half-time, all while the ball was in play less than half the length of the pitch away.

Yes, that's how bad things had got - the players were striking up conversations with spectators for something to do.

What other little entertainment there was mainly involved counting the crowd (which didn't take long) and listing the various other better things we could have been doing that afternoon. And, oh, was it a long, long, long list...

Catching Up On Other Stuff

Now that for the first time in a few weeks I've been able to go a couple of days without having to find new and amusing ways of describing another defeat (damn you fixture pile up!), I've been able to catch up on something that ideally should have been on the site a few weeks back.

So, better late than never, here are some of the highlights from Mossley's Manchester Premier Cup semi-final win over New Mills.

Relive the thrills and spills! See some of the awful challenges New Mills put in (see how close Lee Blackshaw came to picking up a serious injury at 2:30 into the video)! Hear the phrase “Get him off!” said three times in four seconds! Watch the incredibly shaky footage of Mossley's post match celebrations! Wonder how on earth it took me two weeks to put the whole thing together.

Without further ado:

Trafford 2 - 1 Mossley

There's a train of thought in some medical circles that the brain has only a finite amount of space to store happy or pleasurable memories; that there comes a point when new ones will see older ones banished from the mind and consigned to being forgotten.

If this is indeed the case, the supporters who made the short trek to Shawe View went to sleep last night safe in the knowledge that there was no chance of any long cherished memories having been banished to the ether by the time they woke up this morning.

Continuing along the path travelled since the interval at Ossett Albion a week earlier, the Lilywhites latest outing produced another performance that lacked the spark and verve we know they're capable of. And with its omission they allowed an equally lacklustre and soporific Trafford side to take the honours and claim a place in the President's Cup final.

To say the game was disappointing (in the most part) would be something of an understatement. To say that it was somewhat controversial too wouldn't be.

The contentious moment, or rather the most pivotal one of many, came sixteen minutes into what was otherwise an eminently forgettable first half.

After Scott Barlow had used his considerable pace to take him clear of the visitors defence, he was met head on by James Mann just inside the penalty area. The Lilywhites keeper went to ground and knocked the ball out of Barlow's path and to apparent safety before both players collided with one another.

To the Mossley players undisguised amazement however the referee brought the game to a halt and pointed to the penalty spot. Even though during the resulting protestations the official allegedly admitted that Mann had reached the ball first, his decision to award the foul and show a yellow card was based entirely on the keepers momentum; or rather his inability to do what no-one else has evade done and evade one of Newton's Laws of Motion.

It was a gift for Trafford, one of many on the night from the officials, and one Andy Lundy accepted by converting the spot-kick.

That's not to say that the ludicrous decisions were all one way. The game was just a couple of minutes old when Nick Boothby somehow escaped being shown a yellow card for really poor challenge from behind but the pièce de résistance came in the second half.

Right back Christian Cooke got into a muddle with the ball at his feet and was ultimately robbed of it by a Trafford player. As the Traffordian set off on his now clear path to goal, the assistant referee for some inexplicable reason flagged for offside. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful he did as a resulting goal from the move would have been the final nail in Mossley's wooden overcoat, but how can you trust that other decisions are correct when ones like this are so wrong?

That said it was one of the few points of note in what was turning out to be an equally incident free second half; one slowly crawling towards its conclusion with only the occasional other head scratching decision from an official to break the monotony. With over an hour gone it looked increasingly like the one meaningful shot that had taken place in the entire game would win this Unibond President's Cup semi-final.

That changed with twenty minutes to go when a series of Mossley substitutions finally injected some much needed fire into the Lilywhites bellies and, for the first time in the match, one of the two sides began to enjoy a sustained spell of pressure. Substitute David Brooke was the first visiting player to go close, glancing a header narrowly wide of the right hand post, before Alex Mortimer and Chris Hirst brought the first saves of the evening out of Trafford keeper Andy Read.

Despite getting a hand to the ball though, Read was unable to stop Lee Blackshaw's 80th minute effort from nestling in the bottom corner of the net after the winger had cut into the penalty area from the left. At this point of the match, with Mossley in the ascendency, it looked like there was only going to be one winner.

Football's fickle finger fate however had other ideas.

You see the joy at drawing level lasted barely thirty seconds. A hoofed clearance from deep within the Trafford half caught Mossley's back line cold/asleep/still in a celebratory mood (the choice is yours) and Barlow had all the time he needed to slot the ball past Mann for his and his sides second goal of the match.

It was the metaphorical kick in the teeth for the Lilywhites but to their credit they pushed hard over what little remained of the game for an equaliser that would take the tie to extra-time. The closest they got was when Nathan Neequaye smashed a close range shot into Read's face and without that second goal, Mossley bowed out of the President's Cup at the final whistle.

Unlike most other semi-finals were there always appears to be a great wailing or gnashing of teeth from the supporters of the defeated teams, there was none from the travelling fans last night. There was some disappointment and, yes, even a touch of anger at the officials, but the most overwhelming feeling you got as the way was made home was one of frustration; the kind that comes when you know that a side can play well and just... well, just isn't.

We flitted in and out of spells of good football last night, much as we have done for a while, and until we can start stretching those moments into longer periods of time we'll continue to struggle.

The one big positive out this match is that we finally got round to producing some telling crosses again. In fact there were probably more decent crosses in the space of last night's game than there has been for weeks. The problem was that every single one was an easy catch for the keeper - the only pressure on him he had was the tightness of the shirt around his jiggling moobs.

The biggest killer about this game though was that Trafford weren't all that brilliant either. Barring the two goals they only had one other real chance but that's football – Trafford took theirs, we stood watching ours fly into the hands of the keeper.

With the run of defeats now stretching to four games, let's hope we can can start picking up points before a slump becomes a slide and, maybe along the way, push some old memories into the cerebrums waste bin.

Mossley 0 - 1 Chorley

As many people have said since the phrase was first uttered, “you can't polish a t*rd”, so I'm not even going to try and bother to add a shine to the huge, nut-filled, steaming curler that this game was.

However, if you would like to read a report that made this particular ninety minutes seem like a “must see” game of football I suggest you read the report on the Chorley forum. The match witnessed in it was infinitely better than the one most of us had paid to see - one in which two poor teams appeared to be competing as to who could send the crowd to sleep first. If only they'd succeeded...

While Mossley's prospects of attaining a place in the top five may not be mathematically over just yet, this defeat, their third in five days, realistically brings to and end their slowly dwindling hopes of claiming a play-off spot. And it did so in a disappointing fashion.

The strong and bitterly cold wind blowing across Seel Park meant that conditions were hardly conducive to passes above head height but that's precisely what happened; both sides in the main resorting to pinging the ball through the swirling air.

As a consequence it spent more time flying out of the ground than launching any meaningful attacks and, unsurprisingly, it was the ball boys who ended up seeing more action than either of the goalkeepers over the course of the first half.

It meant chances were at a premium and only on three occasions did the game threaten to burst into a modicum of life in the opening forty five minutes.

The first moment arrived with the game barely two minutes old and fell the way of the visitors. A lack of communication between Mossley's two centre halves allowed Adam Farrell to advance on James Mann's goal but his attempt to lob the keeper ended disastrously with the ball bouncing a yard wide of the gaping goal. The two other opportunities fell the way of the Lilywhites with Danny's Toranczak and Egan both glancing headers narrowly wide of the uprights.

As well as few shots from distance that didn't go anywhere close to troubling the score sheet that was as good as it got before the break and to be honest, there wasn't much improvement after it.

What little there was though was down to the visitors beginning to show a touch more invention as an attacking force and their improved efforts were rewarded with a penalty eight minutes after the restart. As good as Chris Ward's spot kick was though, it wasn't as good as the save from James Mann that met it and kept the match at stalemate.

James Mann makes the penalty save.

Chorley continued to press forward but the lack of any kind of end product to their attacks meant that what few chances presented themselves were wasted. No greater evidence of this came when with two minutes of the match left, Sharrock was put clean through on goal but, with his moment of glory in front of him, all he could do was spoon an incredibly weak effort into Mann's arms.

A minute into injury time though his blushes were spared when some lackadaisical marking allowed James Mullineux to rise unchallenged at a corner and head home a winner for the Magpies. A victory that despite the poor quality of the game no one from Mossley could begrudge them.

It stands without reason that the fatigue of having to play five games in ten days had taken some toll on Mossley but it can't fully excuse what was, all told, a poor performance in which ideas were sorely lacking.

And just to show that I'm not completely self-unaware, it's something that can equally be applied to this match report too. There's no way I can get nearly a thousand words out of it like the previously mentioned report on the Magpies forum (for which the writer deserves a medal) which is why I'm finishing it... now!

Skelmersdale United 4 - 2 Mossley

If I wasn't churning these match reports out on something approaching automatic pilot after the splurge of games we've had, what follows this opening sentence might have been a touch more vitriolic.

And there was an awful lot to raise the ire too: Mossley's performance; another game presided over by the latest in a seemingly never ending list of buffoons; the sheer annoyance and irritation of the Skelmersdale chairman's sub-village disco dj-ing; the man in the middle; the “If I was chocolate I'd eat myself” arrogance of some of the home supporters; the main match official; the crap signage on the towns roundabouts; the Skem fan who'd parked his car in front of one of the paths into the ground... the list is nearly endless. And did I mention the referee?

In fact it's quite possible that through the above I could have rediscovered the zest for a lengthy diatribe. The bitterly sarcastic railing at all and sundry that's not been seen since Mossley80's golden years. Not that its really had any golden years...

Thankfully though I've calmed down a bit as I've grown older (and studied the laws on libel and slander) so there'll be no spleen venting in this report. That's not to say though that there isn't an alternative draft sitting in my hard drive full of the kind of spit and venom you'd normally only reserve for people who use the heads of puppies to bang nails into the eyes of kittens.

Though Mossley went ahead in the third minute, it was, even at that early stage of the game, completely against the run of play; Skelmersdale having wasted two glorious chances to open the scoring not long after the match had kicked off.

Take the lead we did though and it was all thanks to a moment of high comedy. Centre half White made a complete hash of dealing with Reece Kelly's lofted forward pass; an error compounded further by the keepers hysterical attempt to rectify the situation by starfish jumping over the ball, giving Chris Hirst the opportunity to stroke the it into an empty net.

And frankly that was about it from Mossley as an attacking force in the opening half. They had a couple of corners but nothing else you could claim was even a fraction of a chance.

The goal the Lilywhites were defending began to lead a charmed life and the only surprise when Skelmersdale eventually put themselves in front was that it had taken them so long to do it. Goals in the 24th and 37th minutes from Towey and Robinson respectively edging them ahead. And both coming as the result of some less than spectacular defending. It could have been worse too and the 2 – 1 scoreline at the interval did flatter Mossley somewhat.

What was to transpire in the second half might have been different had the referee shown any kind of bottle and sent Neil Robinson off for an horrendous two footed lunge on Chris Middleton just before the break. The loud crack that accompanied it had some of us fearing the worst but there were more than one or two audible sighs of relief as Middleton quickly got to to his feet.

It was as clear a red card offence as you're ever likely to see (even the non-egotistical section of the Skem support admitted he should have been sent off) but as well as not flashing that colour at an unrepentant Robinson, the referee didn't show him what would have been his second yellow card of the match either- his first one having been awarded for dissent.

So there you have it, proof once and for all that calling a referee a tosser is a far more serious offence than someone coming close to having their leg broken. Isn't it wonderful that the football authorities and match officials have their priorities in order?

Maybe if Middleton had rolled around on the ground, screaming in agony as was the wont of Skem's players in this fixture and the one at our place whenever they got fouled, fouled someone or lost the ball, the offender may have got the punishment he deserved but no. Mossley were punished for one man's honesty and another man's failure to apply the rules he's supposed to have learnt.

It was a sequence of events that not only annoyed the travelling supporters but Mossley manger Chris Willcock too, and his forthright views on what he thought of the referees judgement earned him a seat in the stand for the rest of the game.

He was joined on the sidelines not long after the restart by Daryl Weston, who received his second yellow card of the game in the panic and chaos that followed Andy Robertson's ill advised sojourn outside his area to try and collect a through ball.

Despite having an extra man though Skelmersdale were struggling to make their advantage count. However, just as it was beginning to look as if they were running out of steam, an ambitious shot that was heading into touch took an enormous deflection off of Nick Boothby and sailed over Robertson's head and into the net.

The deficit Mossley faced was back to one almost immediately when Hirst tapped home his second goal of the game following another Laurel Hardy moment from White and the keeper. It was to be the visitors last hurrah though.

A goal mouth scramble ten minutes from time ended with Chris Almond adding a fourth goal to Skelmersdale's collection and that the proverbial floodgates didn't open after it was down to a mixture of good goalkeeping, luck and the type of finishing that's likely to stop Skem's promotion push in its tracks now their star striker has left.

Whether it was fatigue finally starting to kick in or not, Mossley were poor in this game. Other considerations can be taken into account such as the officials, etc. but we simply didn't deserve to win. Or even draw. To be honest, that we weren't on the receiving end of a cricket score is one of the few positives to be taken from the night.

Mathematically, with a potential 39 points still to play for, we're not out of the hunt for a play-off spot yet but the last two defeats certainly haven't helped our cause any. And with some tough games coming up very shortly it's imperative that, if we do harbour ambitions of challenging for a top five place, we beat Chorley in the next game.

If we don't? Well a cup final (or possibly two) isn't too bad a consolation.

Ossett Albion 3 - 0 Mossley

You didn't have to be a half-competent statistician to have worked out that the likelihood of this match reaching the same heights as the previous one between the two sides, a mere three days earlier, was going to be slim.

While lightning does tend to strike twice in nature, it doesn't tend to in football and so it proved as the Yorkshire side gained swift revenge for their defeat at Seel Park last Saturday.

That's not to say it couldn't have matched the previous weekends goal bonanza. In fact it almost certainly would have done had Mossley managed to convert just a handful of the seemingly never ending series of chances they created in the first half. To say that the Lilywhites were the better side by considerable some distance would be giving Ossett far too much credit for their contribution to proceedings.

From the very first minute to the forty fifth, Mossley looked dangerous every time the ball entered Albion's half of the pitch. Unfortunately however their inability to apply the finishing touches to some, at times excellent, sweeping moves across the park meant that Ossett's keeper, Lee Ashforth, spent more time sighing with relief than having to catch his breath through being over exerted.

The prickliest thorn in Ossett's side was Chris Hirst who was the architect of the majority of Mossley's best chances, but along with Danny Toronczak, Lee Blackshaw and many, many others on the night, he was also guilty of failing to put away chances that ought to have finished the game as a contest by the break.

And I'm not talking about just one or two good chances – it was more like eight or nine and it's a total that would be well into double figures if you lumped in the half chances and penalty appeals too.

Even so, for all their good play, and as if to prove how cruel football can be at times, it was Mossley that went in at the interval a goal behind. A mistimed interception on the halfway line in the 18th minute had given Gareth Hamlet the opportunity to run unchallenged towards Andy Robertson's goal and fire his side into the lead; Ossett's solitary shot of the half.

Sadly the Mossley side that left the pitch unlucky to be losing at the interval didn't reappear for the second half. Everything good about their play in the opening period wasn't in evidence after the restart and the game slowly began to drift away from them; ultimately disappearing when Riordan prodded in from close range after the visitors marking had gone awry at a free-kick

There was a “what if?” moment with twenty minutes to go when Lee Blackshaw's one-on-one with the goalkeeper was cut short by a unique interpretation of the offside law by the linesman. Had the Lilywhites winger been allowed to carry on and net his third goal in three games it might well have laid the foundations for an unlikely comeback.

Hypothetical situations don't win games though – goals do and Ossett's third on the night from Thornton (and another ode to the perils of slack marking) ensured that they'd be collecting the three points on offer and with them, bringing to an end the six game unbeaten run of Mossley.

The strange thing is that despite fielding a near identical side, Albion were much worse than they had been at the weekend. The only visible difference about them was the adoption of an 'if it moves, kick it policy' which does them no credit at all. But then when the man in the middle is prepared to turn a blind eye to some less than fair play (surely he couldn't not have seen what was going on at times off the ball) I suppose it follows that you'll try to use it your advantage.

As I keep saying on here, almost mantra like, officials come in for some undue flack at times and are an easy scapegoat to blame a teams failings on. Since Christmas though we haven't half had some right stinkers taking charge of our matches.

First and foremost let me say that the men in black didn't cost us this game but they might at least have made things a bit easier for us had they clamped down on Albion's ridiculously over physical, and highly dangerous, approach to the game. Some of the challenges were appalling yet the senior official only appeared to give things if it was accompanied by a scream, something Ossett proved extremely adept at as every missed tackle was followed by a player falling to the floor in mock agony; the type of poor gamesmanship we're unfortunately going to have to face again on Thursday at Skelmersdale.

Not only that but the interpretation of the rules was bizarre. I've already mentioned the “nowhere near” offside decision but also worthy of being noted for posterity are such gems as: Chris Hirst being forced to leave the pitch after being fouled despite not having received any treatment whatsoever; the game being held up for over a minute while Ossett's captain was allowed to tie his bootlace; decisions being given that the officials plainly couldn't see unless evolution had given them eyes in the back of their head; and, like the unnamed songs on an advert for a K-Tel music compilation, there are many, many more.

As I said though this shouldn't deflect from the fact that this was a game Mossley should have won and it's through there own failings that they didn't. Maybe the run of games is catching up. Maybe the rotation system used was one rotation too many. Maybe a few more shots actually on target wouldn't go amiss. Or maybe we just can't play well in depressing surroundings and there's nothing grimmer than Ossett by moonlight. Except maybe Warrington at night and Chorley at any time of the day and year.

Whatever it was, as all reports are contractually obliged to state after matches like this one, we'll play a damn sight worse this season and end up with three points.

It's a result though that while not ending our play-off ambitions, is at the very least a spanner in the works in the attempt to get there. It's almost certain now that the results of the next two games will determine as to whether or not the cups will be the sole focus for us in the last seven to eight weeks of the season. And so what if that turns out to be the case - it's still more than what many of us were expecting to achieve when we embarked on this journey seven months ago.

So no happy endings to our double header with Albion then. We didn't even come close to winning the 'side of meat' (?) available as top prize in the raffle. And there wasn't much to laugh about either unless you espied the surprising number of Mossley supporters who had to touch Ossett's mini-tractor and roller after being drawn Siren like towards it.

Still, what does it matter when there's a trip to glamorous Skelmersdale on the horizon and the fun and games that ninety minutes against a Tommy Lawson side entail? I'm going to start the 'poor gamesmanship' and 'unsporting behaviour' paragraph for the next report now to save a bit of time...

Mossley 5 - 3 Ossett Albion

A weather beaten Seel Park pitch played host to an extraordinary afternoon of football as two rivals for a play-off spot shared eight goals between them in a topsy-turvy game that Mossley ultimately managed to emerge victorious from.

Containing a raft of changes form the side that had beaten New Mills in the Manchester Premier Cup semi-final less than 48 hours earlier, many of them necessitated by injuries picked up through the Derbyshire sides, frankly awful, approach to the game, Mossley started the game with a relatively unfamiliar looking line up.

Not that it stopped them taking the lead in the ninth minute; Reece Kelly notching his first goal for the club with a deft lob over Albion keeper Ashforth from the edge of the box. It was an advantage that didn't last long though.

In fact, by the half hour mark of the game Mossley were behind. A defensive mix-up allowed Dave Syers to steal through a crowd of players and poke the ball past Robertson to draw Albion level but his second of the game, and the goal that put his side in front, was the result of the best move of the match up to that point. Picking up Gareth Hamlet's clever back flick on the edge of the box Syers unleashed an unstoppable volley that flew beyond the dive of Robertson and into the roof of the net.

With half-time looming on the horizon though, Lee Blackshaw sprung Albion's offside trap (I say sprung, he was actually about three to four yards offside) to meet Chris Hirst's through ball and slotted his shot past a motionless Ashforth to ensure that the both sides would be starting the second period on level terms.

And that second period was only four minutes old when Mossley edged themselves in front once more. Again it was another defence splitting pass from Hirst that did the damage and though keeper Ashforth got to the ball first, his attempted clearance was charged down by substitute Nathan Neequaye and the ball rebounded off the Mossley debutant and into the net – his first touch of the ball in a Lilywhites shirt.

Once again though the lead didn't last long, full back Joe Thornton adding Ossett's third from the penalty spot, but their joy at restoring parity to the score line lasted barely a minute.

And it's fair to say that the goal that put Mossley back in front for the third time in the match had a large stroke of fortuity about it. Simon Wood's deep cross from the right wing got caught by the strong wind blowing across the ground and sailed over the head of Albion's frantically backtracking (and diminutive) goalkeeper before dropping into the net.

Woody takes the congratulations of his team mates after scoring the fourth goal.

The old adage goes save the best till last and that's exactly what Mossley did – their fifth and final goal of the afternoon coming as a result of their best move of the game. A one-two between Neequaye and Mattie Kay on the halfway line ended with the former picking up the latter's inch perfect looped pass and advancing on goal, before unselfishly squaring the ball to Danny Toronczak who calmly notched his first goal on his return to the club.

Toronczak nets Mossley's fifth and the eighth goal of the afteroon.

The fifth goal also had the effect of finally killing off Ossett as an attacking force and over the remaining twenty minutes the match the Lilywhites had enough chances, which included a penalty miss in injury time, to make the difference on the score sheet even greater.

It's a win that however that extends Mossley unbeaten run to six matches and, more importantly, keeps them in touch with the pack of teams chasing an end of season position in the top five.

It seems silly to say this after a match containing eight goals but it wasn't one of the best games of football there's ever been. Outside of the goals there was very little to write about (thankfully so considering how much space describing the scoring sequence has taken up) but if the trade-off for that is three points and eight goals, I'm not going to complain too much. And I dare say anyone else will either.

And if, as we near the end of this post, you're wondering why what's above doesn't seem that much different to the 'official' match report it's because it isn't.

Because I'm such a slow writer and it takes me a frighteningly lengthy amount of time to do these reports, I'm having to make a compromise in order to get them done as the games come thick and fast.

One or two things may be worded differently, with the odd extra paragraph and lame joke inserted here and there, but from now until the end of the season the chances are that the reports on here may only contain some blink and you'll miss them differences.

It's something I'm going to desperately try and avoid but I thought I'd better give you fair warning in case the best laid plans of a blogger/match reporter don't quite work out.

Mossley 2 - 1 New Mills

A punishing sequence of five games in ten days began for the Lilywhites with them booking a place in their first cup final for six years with a, too literally at times, hard fought victory over NWCL high fliers New Mills.

It couldn't have got off to a better start for the home team either as with just a minute of the match having elapsed, they took the lead. A wonderful piece of close control by Clive Moyo-Modise on the halfway line gave Craig Buckley the opportunity to drop an inch perfect pass over the New Mills defence and into the path of Danny Dignan. Taking one touch to control the ball on his chest as he entered the penalty area, the former Miller stroked the ball past ex-Lilywhite goalkeeper Liam Higginbotham with his second to give his side a dream opening to a semi-final.

Thirteen minutes later things got even better for the Lilywhites as they strengthened their control on the game by doubling their lead. This time it was Lee Blackshaw who found the net, shooting in powerfully from close range after the visitors had twice failed to clear their lines following a free-kick.

And to show that karma's now operating at broadband speed, the opening fell to Blackshaw through Danny Jackson's hysterically inept attempt at a scissor kick clearance; the Miller in question having initially given away the set piece with a cynical challenge on Michael Fish.

Sadly he didn't finish there as an off-the-ball challenge a few minutes later finally put Fish out of the game but sadly not himself. The referee unbelievably choosing to issue him with a final warning rather than the second yellow and red card he deserved.

Also fortunate not to be trudging up the tunnel to the sound of boos was Gary Kharas who got away with a yellow card after punching Gary Buckley in the face right in front of the referee.

As the Mossley Eye said as we looked on incredulously, the referee seemingly had no intention of producing a red card on the night, no matter what happened. A theory that was given weight in the second half after only yellow was shown for an awful tackle from behind by Matty Bunting that put Dignan perilously close to following Fish out of the game with an injury.

Like I said earlier though, karma's getting much quicker these days and Bunting spent last few minutes of the game hobbling round the pitch after twisting his ankle.

I seem to be writing this about a lot of teams this season but New Mills have some very good players so why the feel need to compliment them with a style that, at times, bordered on sheer recklessness is beyond me. To pinch another comment said on the night, they were like Willenhall but without the elan.

If you don't agree with me about the recklessness then I point you to the attempted “tackle” from Meakin in the first half that had Lee Blackshaw not managed to evade, would almost have certainly seen him in the back of an ambulance and on the way to hospital.

Don't believe me? Then I offer you the following still taken from some of the video footage I took. How can players be allowed to get away with things like this on a pitch? Does someone actually have to get seriously injured before action is taken?

Unbelievably it looks worse in motion. And before someone tries to defend it this way, how can a challenge like this be taken out of context?

Anyway, rant over and back to the game.

Over the course of the next twenty minutes Mossley threatened to run riot as chance after chance presented itself for them to wrap up the game before the interval was even on the horizon. That they didn't was down to a combination of some poor finishing and some incredibly narrow near misses; both of which meant that their opponents were still only a goal away from getting back into the game, which they did in the 38th minute.

A spell of pressure which began with Andy Robertson having to make a near point blank save from Matt Smith and New Mills hitting a post from the resultant corner, ended with Carlos Meakin halving the arrears with a low shot past the Mossley keeper.

If it caused the home side to wobble it didn't show and they ended the half back on top and missing chances which if they'd lost the game, they almost certainly would have looked back on and rued.

The early moments of the second period saw Meakin and Moyo-Modise wasting good opportunities to add to the scoreline for their respective teams before the game became a midfield battle; both sides effectively cancelling one another in a high tempo war of attrition. As the pace of the game and the heaviness of the pitch began to take its toll on the players though, more space started to open up and with it chances began to reappear once again.

Mossley's best opportunity to seal the win came when Chris Hirst initiated a two-on-one break, but some over elaboration on the edge of the box gave the Millers time to reinforce their defence and when the shot finally did arrive, it flew harmlessly wide.

The closest the Derbyshire side went to extending the game by another thirty minutes was in injury time. A series of increasingly troubling corners looked to have ended with Meakin heading New Mills level, but somehow Roberton managed to knock the ball away to safety with his legs and keep the Lilywhites lead intact.

The victory means that Mossley now face in the final the opponents they met in their last appearance at the same stage of the competition nine years ago, neighbours Droylsden and at the same venue, Oldham Athletics's Boundary Park.

This time though there'll hopefully be a much better outcome for the Lilywhites and if not (and for the sake of all of us) an infinitely more entertaining game.

I'm going to dispense with my usual inane overview of the game in order to congratulate Mossley - the players, the manager and the backroom staff on taking Mossley to their first cup final since the 2003 NWCL League Cup triumph over Clithroe.

The MPC may not be the greatest competition in the world but there's a not a trophy in any sport that isn't worth winning, including this one.

It also means the players are going to finish this season with at least one medal to show for their efforts. Let's hope that it's one that has 'winners' engraved on it when they're presented next month.

Hmmm... Boundary Park in April, I'd better not pack the thermal underwear away just yet.

Because of the number of games coming up and the lack of time to do anything in, the video highlights from this match will be posted on the internet at a time still to be determined. Unfortunately I can't be more specific than that because frankly, I'm currently more preoccupied with wondering if I can manage to do five reports in ten days without hesitation, repetition or deviation.

One down, four more to worry about.

Thirty Nine Years Ago In West Germany...

Regular readers of this much bypassed outpost on the internet may recall a video I posted back in the summer of Bayern Munich's new kit launch.

Rather than showing off the latest kit it was a lesson to us all as to why you shouldn't shower money on pretentious P.R. firms.

However, it turns out that the Germans have a history for this kind of thing...

The year is 1970 and the people of West Germany are about to witness the unveiling of the kits for the new Bundesliga season on the fernsehen. That's not good enough for the the TV company though who have invited some local fashion designers to come up with better, more colourful ideas.

Things get going around the 24 second mark so you've got time to put a cushion on the floor before your bottom jaw hits it:

Mossley 1 - 1 Harrogate R.A.

For the second Saturday in succession Seel Park played host to a game that won't live long in the memory of those who'd paid to watch it.

The 'it' in question being duller than the point on foam rubber sword.

Admittedly 'it' was marginally better than the Clitheroe game but at the same time it's margin that's only visible with the assistance of an electron microscope.

Apart from one moment when Michael Fish shot directly at the keeper after racing clear of Harrogate's back line, the opening stage of this encounter was decidedly flat. Just as Clitheroe had done in the game a week earlier, Railway were enjoying the lions share of possession but like the previous visitors to the Pennine mud flats, the lack of a cutting edge upfront meant that the Lilywhites were rarely, if ever, troubled.

The match belatedly sprung to life though just after the half hour mark when Mossley suddenly remembered the style of football that's won them more games than they've lost this year and its arrival had an immediate impact.

Despite looking favourite to reach Mattie Kay's intelligent through ball, a moment of hesitation from centre half Craig Laight gave Fish the opportunity to take possession and advance down the left wing. Upon reaching the corner of the Harrogate box, he squared the ball to Lee Blackshaw who in turn stroked it effortlessly past Jordan Yorath for his seventh goal of the season.

The remainder of the half consisted of Mossley trying to increase their advantage but though going close on more than one occasion, they couldn't fashion another goal that would have put further daylight between themselves and Harrogate on the score sheet.

And not for the first time this season they were left to rue not killing the game off during the spell where they were comfortably on top.

There was an early scare for the Lilywhites within minutes of the restart when Railway captain Ben Jones spurned his sides first opportunity of the game, somehow steering the ball wide of the goal he was stood yards in front of unmarked.

It was a warning the home side failed to heed as a virtually identical move, twenty seven very uneventful minutes later, saw Jones rectify his previous mistake by tapping home Ryan Haigh's cross from close range while Mossley stood appealing for an offside decision that was never going to be given.

The goal finally reintroduced some urgency into Mossley's game and though they were able to work a series of good openings, more often than not a poor final ball brought those promising moves to a disappointing conclusion.

There's no denying that the result was a deflating one but it's hard to be critical. I mean, how can you be?

The team might not have reached the performance heights we know the're capable of but this is more than compensated for by the fact we're currently on a four game unbeaten run.

Of course the pitch doesn't help Mossley's cause but it's not the reason for our, at times, laboured performances at home over the past week. It's a sizeable contributory factor but it's also worth pointing out that we produced a similar up and down display on a much better surface at Warrington in midweek.

At the moment we're only playing in fits and starts but once we start eking out those spells of ten to fifteen minutes where we're on top into longer stretches, and with a few tweaks here and there (such as hopefully getting Clive to pass the ball to his team mates a bit more), more positive and convincing results will undoubtedly come.

But like I said we can't complain having taken seven points from a possible nine and reached the semi-final of a cup competition over the course of the last eleven days.

So that's February over with, bring on the sides of March.