Droylsden 2 - 1 Mossley

I have to start this report with a confession.

Being the pessimist that I am I went into this game fearing the worst. Not just that we'd lose but lose badly. No, strike that, I thought we'd get annihilated; that Woodbine Willie would be passing round the Lilywhites changing room before they came out on to the pitch.

My reasoning seemed sound. Not only were we facing a team from two divisions above us, and one that had narrowly missed out on a Conference North play-off, we were doing so after, the Rossendale match apart, what had been a poor run of results.

It was a feeling that intensified upon arrival at Boundary Park (the increasingly dilapidated home of Oldham Athletic) and we saw that we weren't just reduced to the bare bones in terms of squad size for the match, but that we were down to the marrow.

Like the fans at Oldham Athletic, the stands are disappearing too.

Ideally for a match, let alone a cup final, any manager would like a large, fit squad to choose his starting eleven from. However, the result of having to cram over half a season's worth of games into the final two months of it meant that injuries, suspensions and ineligibilities had taken their toll, leaving Chris Wilcock with just 13 players to select from - with one of those being his long since retired self. And if only to compound the problems, there were a significant number of that baker's dozen carrying injuries too.

Now can you see why I expected us to be rolled over.

We weren't though. Far from it. In fact if anything it was something a moral victory for the Lilywhites as even though they lost, the side ravaged by all manner of circumstances took the outcome of the match against an expensively assembled side on the fringes of the Conference to the very final whistle.

In the end the only real difference between the two sides was a ten minute spell immediately after the interval. Mossley's season long problems of defending corners and slow starts to second periods combined to haunt them again as Mike Byron rose unmarked on the edge of the six yard box to open the scoring and put the Bloods in front.

James Mann was then called on to make a string of high quality saves as the Blue Square North side built up a head of steam. He was beaten again though a few minutes later with a shot that even keepers playing at an international level would have failed to stop - a ferocious strike from twenty five yards by Neil Sorvel that doubled Droylsden's lead.

It all seemed incredibly harsh on a Mossley side that had gone off at the break having not only matched Droylsden but also having arguably been the better of the two sides as well.

In terms of chances created Mossley were certainly ahead on points. While maybe not enjoying quite as much possession as Droylsden were, the Lilywhites were proving far more effective at turning what they had of it into efforts on goal.

They also found the back of it with the games first shot in anger in the 4th minute. Unfortunately for them though Lee Blackshaw's ball behind the Droylsden defence had found Danny Egan and his celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee's raised flag.

Next to try his luck was Blackshaw himself who fired over the crossbar from the edge of the box while Reece Kelly hit it with an in-swinging corner. Daryl Weston and Chris Hirst tested Craig mawson on more than one occasion and Byron did well to scoop the ball over his own goal to Egan from getting on the end Ben Richardson's cross.

The Bloods on the other hand, while stringing some nice moves together, were struggling to break down the Mossley defence. Only once did they come close to scoring and it took a good save from Mann to stop Matthew Tipton from doing so.

But then came that spell at the start of the second period and just when it looked as though the floodgates were beginning to open, Mossley simply rolled up their metaphorical socks and began to take the game to their opponents once more.

For all the pressure they were exerting though Mawson was having an easy time of it in the Droylsden goal but that changed when Brown's ridiculously inept attempt at mopping up a Mossley attack saw him spoon the ball over his own keeper's head and into the net from the edge of the box. Another moment of quality brought to the masses by the Blue Square Conference North.

As well as halving the arrears the goal gave Mossley another boost and suddenly Mawson was having to do more than mop up the occasional back pass. Michael Fish went close on three occasions to levelling the game, Kelly fired over and Blackshaw found the keepers arms with a low drive.

As the game moved towards to time added on it looked as though Mossley had snatched what would have been a dramatic, yet deserved, late equaliser. Lee Blackshaw's free-kick was met on the back post by Ben Richardson who steered the ball past Mawsonwith his head and into the net. For the second time in the match though the jubilations both on and off the pitch were brought to an abrupt halt by a raised flag.

It turned out to be Mossley's last hurrah too as Droylsden wound the game down and reclaimed the trophy they last won in 2007.

Continuing with the theme of admission, writing this report has felt a lot like fighting a losing battle because no matter how much I type or how long it has taken me, I could never do justice to the efforts of the players and supporters of Mossley AFC during this game.

Okay, looking back on it in the cold light of day it probably wasn't the greatest match there's ever been. It was entertaining though which is all you can ever ask for in a cup final. And the two don't go hand in hand a lot these days.

In fact it was the only thing stopping the night from being the most intense feeling of deja vu I've ever experienced. That was because the last time Mossley reached the final stage of the Manchester Premier Cup it was against Droylsden, at Boundary Park, the pitch was bad, it finished 2-1 to the Bloods and Mossley's goal came courtesy of the boot of an opponent. The only difference nine years on was that the match wasn't akin to having someone rip out your finger nails while being serenaded by Chris De Burgh.

But back to this game and the players and supporters because even though we lost it didn't feel like a defeat. At least not from my position in the stand it didn't anyway. There wasn't the sense of gloom I normally feel when I've watched us lose a more meaningful than usual game but one of absolute and total pride. Yes, pride.

A pride that comes through having watched your side give their absolute all in attempt to win the match, to the point where they're visibly out on their feet. A pride that comes through standing shoulder to shoulder with supporters doing likewise on the sidelines, refusing to let their increasingly sore throats stop them from giving their side that extra push that may have made the difference.

It's the abiding memory I shall take from this game anyway. The commitment, the atmosphere (kudos to the fans of the “club behind the pub” for their part in it), the whole kit and kaboodle really. From the moment the PA announcer welcomed the supporters of 'Drossley' to the game, right through to the echoes of “Come on Mossley” reverberating around Boundary Park as the teams left the field for the final time...

It was an honour and a privilege to have been there shoulder to shoulder with you.