Clitheroe 0 - 0 Mossley

If you've read the report on the game that's in the Non-League Paper you're probably thinking that I should be ecstatic with a point rather than just happy, seeing as it paints a picture of a match in which the home side fashioned considerably more chances than the plucky visitors.

What it skilfully neglects to say is that the game should have been done and dusted as a contest in the opening thirty minutes because during that time frame Clitheroe barely got out of their own half; they simply weren't allowed to by a Mossley side firing on all cylinders. Well... all but one.

You see, not only was this Mossley at their best, it was the Lilywhites at their most frustrating too. A solid defence and fast attacking football ultimately let down by the final ball; be it an over hit cross or a shot that was dawdled on for too long. Wonderful and hair tearing in equal measure.

The Pavlovian reaction to a missed opportunity in football - a cry of “ohhhhh!” and the placing of hands on the head - was one the travelling contingent of supporters displayed many times during that opening third to the game. It was almost agonising as the Lilywhites went so near on numerous occasions to taking the lead, yet in doing so remained so far away too.

You didn't have to possess incredible powers of foresight to know that Clitheroe would eventually force their way into the game and they did so with two shots that Peter Collinge did fantastically well to stop and hold. Mossley responded with a quick break that finished with Steve Moore rather tamely shooting into the arms of goalkeeper Danny Hanford, who was called into action again moments later to tip an inswinging corner from Karl Brown onto the cross bar.

It was these incidents within a few minutes of each other which set the pattern for the remainder of the game. Shots were cleared off the line, goalkeepers flew through the air, crosses rolled across the face of goal just millimetres beyond the reach the outstretched legs of inrushing forwards: it was exciting end to end football.

Actually I should qualify that statement. It was exciting when the team you supported was on the attack. When they were on the receiving end of one it was more than a little nerve shredding. The sensations heightened in the closing moments of the match during which both sides had a host of opportunities to win the game; the visitors thwarted by Hanford, the home side by their lack of accuracy.

Going back to the Non-League Paper though, it also states that the home side should have had a penalty and they should have done... if an incident had actually occurred in which one was merited but there wasn't. What the report was alluding to was a tackle by Graham Kay midway through the second half in which he clearly won the ball before the attacker fell over his leg.

If there's any sense of injustice at a decision in the game it's Mossley who should be feeling it. With ten minutes of the game gone Steve Moore was brought down from behind just outside the box. Given that the person doing the bringing down was the last man and denying a goal scoring opportunity as well, it was assumed that not only would a free-kick be forthcoming but that we'd see red card waved in the direction of Liam McManus too. And what followed was a lesson in why assumptions are useless in this particular sport.

The free-kick was awarded but rather astonishingly there was no dismissal - not even a yellow card or a "don't do that again" talking to from the referee. Even the Clitheroe players looked shocked that they weren't having to make plans to play eighty minutes with ten men.

What it did though was set the tone for a string of bizarre decisions (that benefited both sides) over the course of the game from the man in the middle. And never has that term ever been so applicable to a referee because only at set-pieces did he ever seem to leave the central third of the pitch; it really was just one step up from the match being officiated from a deck chair by the centre spot.

As close and as even as the game was by the sound of the final whistle, it was one Mossley should really have won in that opening thirty minute spell; allowing us to spend the final hour of the game with our metaphorical slippers on, reading a metaphorical paper from the comfort an even more figurative armchair, safe in the knowledge that all three points available were ours.

That said however I'm still happy with a point. Why? Not sure really... I think it may be the prescribed medication kicking in!

Seriously though, a point in a fixture which is notorious for unpredictable results and a sense of being hard done by is good enough for me. More so because it shows we're improving as this was exactly the kind of game we'd have probably lost a month ago. You know, way back in the dim and distant days of early September when it looked we'd concede a goal if the opposition as much as glanced at our half of the pitch.

It's also pleasing to note that an ex-player didn't come back to haunt us. Then again as that ex-player was Gavin Lee Ellison, a player jostling with Fraser Robinson and Neil Brisco for a certain special spot in the pantheon of recent Mossley greats, it's maybe not that altogether surprising.

All things considered then, not a bad day at all. Good game of football, fifth match unbeaten, another clean sheet, weather not too bad and a decent atmosphere. Even though the latter was almost ruined by the presence of someone who still believes that sounding an air horn when the ball is kicked is the height of terrace wit and a valuable psychological tool. Whereas what it actually does is make everyone else wonder if it would make the same sound if it got inserted somewhere, preferably sideways.

For a week and a bit though we can at least forget about the trials and tribulations of league football and concentrate on three cup competitions. Whether or not the importance of them can be boiled to ‘only one really mattering’, it would be nice to be able start a report in a fortnight’s time mentioning our eight game unbeaten run.

Then again, even if results went against us, I’m sure the Non-League Paper wouldn’t mind if we did.