Mossley 3 - 1 Brackley Town

I'm going to start this report with an apology because what follows may prove to be disappointing.

Why? Because the simple fact of the matter is that I could spend from now until the day I finally breathe my last writing, re-writing and tweaking this report and still not come close to doing the game it's about any justice whatsoever.

The emotions experienced, the support, the team, the character and spirit shown and, not least of all, the game itself are all worthy of their own lengthy essays but in trying to combine the lot into one it's inevitable that I'm going miss something out or that it's going to become slightly rambling.

With this in mind, if you feel a noteworthy moment has been omitted please feel free to write about it in the comments section or, even better, add your thoughts on the match: the more the merrier in fact.

It was one of those the games, the kind like Lymington in '03 and Kendal in '05, that if you were there you're never going to forget. One where in a few years a time someone will say “Remember Brackley?” and you'll just nod and exchange smiles as the memories of what unfolded on the evening of the 3rd of November, 2009 coming hurtling back to the front of your thoughts.

I know it seems ridiculous to think of an FA Trophy 2nd qualifying round replay in such glowing terms but it's matches like this one that you live for as a football supporter; a game where you kick every ball with the players and experience every possible emotion as you barrel at full speed to one of two possible outcomes, hoping against hope that the ending you arrive at is the happy one.

In the run up to this game there was more than one or two supporters hoping for some inclement weather in the belief, misguided or not, that it would give Mossley some kind of advantage over their opponents and oh, did they get their wish. Torrential rain, strong winds, lightning, hail storms – and that was all in the the three hours prior to the match kicking off. By the time proceedings finally got under way only the rain remained, which while not great was preferable on its own than with the conditions that had accompanied it during late afternoon.

Added to the couple of days of near non-stop downpours we've had since the weekend, it's quite remarkable that this game actually took place at all. It certainly wouldn't have last season, or in many of the ones before that, but the work carried out on the pitch in the summer has certainly proved its worth.

So it was on a rain lashed Seel Park surface that Mossley came back from the brink of defeat for the second time in three days. Not only to take the game into extra-time but to set up a shock victory against their high flying, and reputedly high spending, visitors from the senior division of the Zamaretto League.

One goal down and with only seconds of regular time left on the clock, substitute Lee Blackshaw took advantage of the gap left by the right back who'd been shown his second yellow card moments earlier, to fire Steve Settle's low cross through a crowd of players and take what had been a thoroughly absorbing contest into extra time.

It was the very least Mossley merited too as it would be quite the understatement to say that Town's goal had led something of a charmed life over the course of the preceding eighty eight minutes. From the 7th minute onwards when Ben Richardson brought a smart save out of Richard Morris with a fierce long range drive, Mossley created a seemingly never ending series of openings but they could just not put the ball between the posts. Even when they had the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot before the interval, top scorer Matty Kay found the back of the stand rather than the back of the net.

But as is so often the case it was the team which had barely had an attack of note that took the lead. During a rare scene of panic in the Mossley penalty area the ball hit the raised arm of a defender and unlike the home side, Brackley made no mistake with the opportunity awarded to them from the spot. Ben Mackey firing his shot low and hard past Peter Collinge.

To the Lilywhites immense credit though they refused to let their heads drop and over the remaining twenty minutes of the initial ninety the pressure they exerted continued to grow and grow. A last throw of the dice by manager Chris Willcock saw Mossley playing with five forwards and centre half Graham Kay acting as a makeshift sixth yet still the ball refused to go where they wanted it to.

When Steve Moore hit the post with minutes left it looked like it was going to be what's commonly referred to as “one of those nights” for the Lilywhites; a match full of what ifs. But with only the vapours of normal time remaining Settle played that ball across the box and the home side got their just reward, sending the clusters of home supporters gathered on the terraces into a frenzy. And I'm not ashamed to admit that as I bounced around like a man possessed there was the semblance of a tear in my eye brought about by a mixture of happiness and relief.

With bodies rapidly tiring through a combination of the games pace and the heaviness of the pitch, the man advantage Mossley held through Jon Brady's dismissal quickly began to tell in extra-time.

The sending off itself was avoidable yet somehow inevitable too. Booked very early on in the game for some silly comments directed towards the referee, it was surprising that further sarcastic barbs aimed at the official didn't earn Brackley's player manager a second yellow card. What eventually did though was a needless and rash challenge on the edge of his own box which, fortunately, only succeeded in injuring himself and it took some lengthy treatment to get him in a fit enough state to walk from the from the pitch with a red card in his wake.

Shots rained in on the Saints goal from all angles and in the 103rd minute of the game, one finally reached its intended target. A scramble instigated by a cross from the left by Danny Egan ended with Nathan Neequaye hammering the ball past Town's substitute keeper from close range and for the first time in the two games Mossley were ahead.

There was time for a couple of 'heart in mouth' moments as Brackley threw men forward in search of their own late, late equaliser. In doing so they left themselves susceptible to the counter attack and with a minute of the tie remaining, Neequaye was the beneficiary of one such breakaway; his second, and Mossley's third, goal of the night lighting the blue touch paper on more scenes of excited celebration on the terraces.

Nathan Neequaye celebrates putting the game beyond Brackley's reach with Steve Settle

The win was no more than Mossley deserved and stands as a testament to the incredible spirit they showed in refusing to let their heads drop when they went behind and time appeared to be their greatest opponent.

And speaking as a fan I've got to say that a 'it's not over till the final whistle' attitude from the players makes it a whole lot easier to support them. Words of encouragement flow from the tongue much faster and easier when it looks like the players care as much as you do about the outcome.

It certainly puts those weeks and months of 'going through the motions' we've seen during some parts of this decade into a stark contrast. Motion being quite an apt synonym to describe quite a few of those periods.

Both sides though deserve an enormous amount of praise for producing such an entertaining game of football in the adverse conditions it was played under. It's Mossley though - and deservedly so on the evidence of this 120 minute encounter - who'll be making the late November trip Ilkeston Town in search of further Trophy success.

Like I said way back at the beginning, what's written above will never stand as a fitting tribute to the efforts that went into claiming that place in the next round of the competition. What I hope though is that what's there will spark a few happy memories and they'll fill in those wonderful missing details.

In the coming days, though it's more likely to be next week, I'll hopefully have some video on this very blog to assist you in reliving the experience once again. For reasons however too long, too technical and too boring to go into, I sadly don't have any footage of that late equaliser. I do have our winning goals though so there's still something to watch that has the ability to make the hairs on your neck stand to attention.