Rossendale United 0 - 3 Mossley

I don't think that with my limited writing skills that I could do justice to this game, as incident packed as it was.

The first half especially which was only a pitch invasion by pandas on pogos away from having almost everything you could want from a football match. Great football, good goals, iffy decisions, penalty saves, angry substitutes, sunny weather, spots of rain and wasps.

Therefore I’m not going to even begin to try and give a run down of everything that happened. Not only is life too short for such a thing, if I did an accurate account of proceedings it’s likely you’d still be reading this report an hour from now and wondering if the final full stop was ever going to come.

Besides, the season’s nearly over and after close to fifty reports I’m feeling de-mob happy and just want to get the last few out of the way as quickly as possible.

My unusually jovial mood is also helped by the fact that after what has been a poor last few weeks, Mossley ensured that they ended the league season on a high note by completing it in the manner in which had begun – by picking up three points in central Lancashire.

The match couldn't have got off to a better start for the Lilywhites either with all three goals coming in the opening eight minutes. In fact it was barely sixty seconds old when the first arrived. Lee Blackshaw beat team mate Mattie Kay at the back post to Reece Kelly's deep cross and fired Mossley in front from close range.

Goal number two arrived five minutes and a host of missed chances later when Danny Egan was given time and space by the home defence to bring Leon Henry's through ball under control and pick his spot; curling an inch perfect effort around Proctor in the United goal.

The Stag's were a fingertip save by James Mann away from halving the deficit in the eighth minute but less than twenty seconds passed before the mountain they had to climb to rescue the game grew even bigger. Mossley broke quickly up field and though Egan hit the post with a shot from the edge of the box, Nathan Neequaye was on hand to tap home the rebound.

Both Mossley and Rossendale had good claims for penalties for hand ball in the first half. This is ours and the only person not to see it unfortunately was the referee. Thankfully though he missed an equally obvious one at the other end of the pitch.

To be truthful a six or seven goal lead by the midway point of the half wouldn't have flattered the visitors, such was their dominance of proceedings. Even so, on any other day the third goal would have effectively ended the game as a contest but with Rossendale needing a win to avoid relegation they began to throw men forward in an effort to salvage their season. And in throwing caution to the wind they began to cause the visitors some problems.

None more so than when Phil Eastwood was sent crashing to the ground as he attempted to take the ball past the Mossley keeper. It wasn't so much a trip or a pull but what they term in American Football as a 'sacking' - one player taken clean out.

To the surprise of many, not least the Rossendale players and supporters, only a yellow card was shown for the offence and not the expected red. The home contingent then had their noses rubbed in the perceived injustice by Mann not only saving the resulting spot kick from Ellis, but pulling off a string of good saves too that enabled his side to enter the break with their three goal lead intact.

Rossendale appear to have a zero tolerance approach to missing penalties too as Ellis was hauled off at the first available opportunity; a decision he took in good grace by smashing one of the Perspex side panels to the dugout - something that’s far more difficult to do than scoring from twelve yards out.

James Mann stops Ellis's spot-kick and the Dale management ready the subs boards.

Despite there being no further additions to the score line, the second half was no less entertaining than the first. With scores elsewhere condemning Rossendale to life in the North West Counties League unless they could overturn Mossley's lead, and the visitors looking to exploit the gaps their opponents were now leaving in defence, chances came and went in a near frenzy of attacking, end to end football.

Both sides did manage to find the net on at least one occasion but the ‘goals’ were chalked off for offside and, in Mossley’s case, a reason that shall remain unbeknownst to all but the referee.

As the final whistle neared though and the spectre of impending demotion loomed large over them, the wind began to fall from United's sails and it was only some poor finishing that stopped Mossley from racking up the score line they'd threatened to reach in the opening moments of the match.

So what did we learn from this match? Well, firstly, that after a few weeks of bad to indifferent Mossley turning out for matches, the good version is still around – the one we spent the first few weeks of the season being mightily impressed with. If it’s this incarnation of the Lilywhites that turns up at Boundary Park on Wednesday night, the Manchester Premier Cup final against Droylsden might not be the foregone conclusion many were expecting.

Fnally, we can end the league season safe in the knowledge that, despite all the criticism it gets, Seel Park isn’t the worst playing surface in this division. However, now Rossendale have been sent down to reacquaint themselves with the delights of the Atherton slopes and Abbey Hey by night, it’s likely to be a title we’re fighting Chorley tooth and claw with for next season.

And that’s that for what has been quite an eventful Unibond First Division North 2008-09 campaign. Well done to Mossley for securing a top ten finish and commiserations to Rossendale for cementing a twenty first placed finish at the death.

Anyway, off to Boundary Park we go...