The End

And you've no idea how close that heading above came to meaning something other than just 'of the the year.'

That's right, what you're reading now came very close to being a valedictory post - a farewell to the few. But as you can see though, a late change of heart obviously took place and we're still here. The reasons as to why this very site your reading almost took a trip to the digital equivalent of Dignitas will remain between me and... well, just me really.

Anyway, as Mossley80 is still here for the foreseeable future I think I'd better make the now traditional last post of the year.

So if you're a player, part of the management, one of the backroom staff, a member of the committee and board, a helper at the ground or a fellow supporter I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year.

And to those of you who still go to the trouble of visiting this little corner of the World Wide Web occasionally, I want to say thank you for doing so and to wish you all the best for the coming year.

As I can't finish on a song (I could but I don't want to end the year on a low note and a multitude of wrong ones) I'll end with a video. Or two to be more precise.

What they contain are some of the footballing highlights of 2009 and by 'highlights' I don't mean good goals, incredible bits of skill or great saves. What follows are bits everyone wants to watch again and again so sit back, relax and watch some unbelievable misses, referees getting hit by the ball, referees hitting players, Jens Lehman getting shown up by a ball boy, Elizabeth Lambert (U.S. college football's very own no-nonsense tackler) and much, much more.

Once again though, a Happy New Year and see you in 2010.

The Seasonal Thing...

Well! The updates have been a bit sparse over the past week haven't they?

For that I apologise. I had planned to do something special for Christmas week but, sadly, some far less trivial matters arose which take an infinitely greater priority over blog writing. Anyway, there's always next year (he says tempting fate nth year running).

As there's likely to be an absence of football to report on during this festive season due to the weather, I'll endeavour to post something on here before the year is up - even if it's only a lazy link to something on YouTube.

With that out of the way, all that remains for me to do in this particular update is impart my usual Christmas message. So what ever your role is at Seel Park, be it player, manager, coach, committee member, helper or supporter - a Happy Christmas!

And to you, the few who still visit this site regularly, be you in England, New Zealand, Russia or any of the other 192 countries that make up this planet - a very Merry Christmas to you too.

Coming soon: Mossley80 wishes everyone a 'something' New Year. Will that 'something' be happy or horrible? Tune in next week to find out.

Salford City 4 - 1 Mossley

Is it just me or is anyone else looking back on that fourteen game unbeaten run we had in the same way that people of a certain age remember parts of a town were once 'nowt but fields'?

It may only have been a little over a month ago that we looked unconquerable but after recent results and performances it seems like it was a lifetime ago. I've just had a look at some of the video I took during that spell and was slightly surprised to find that it wasn't in black and white.

Why such a gloomy and dispirited opening? Well, I'll tell you. It's because the up-down nature of Mossley's season continued at Salford's Moor Lane ground as they followed up their victory over promotion chasing Bamber Bridge with a heavy defeat against a side desperately trying to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle. The latter description being one that may be applied to us soon if we're not careful.

I say up-down... it's actually been more down than up. In fact its been down and further down until we've reached the point we're currently at where the shovels are coming out in preparation for some digging.

Anyway, speaking as I was of things past (sort of), every December there always used to be a 'Circus Special' on television. A programme which enticed families to gather round the goggle box and “Ooo” at the acrobats, “Aww” at the animals and curse like merchant seamen when the clowns came on to do their, oh so hilarious, bucket of confetti/water schtick.

Those days are long gone now but it was nice of Mossley to rekindle those distant memories of Billy Smart's Big Top with their own modern take on that former Christmas staple. So while the 'March of the Gladiators' plays in the background, let me bring you Salford vs Mossley! Where you'll read about an incredible fifteen minute spell before the interval in which the visitors conceded a comedy penalty, a soft goal, an own goal and had a man sent off.

Before the zaniness began though the game had been relatively even. There was little in the way of entertainment (at least from what I could make out under Salford's apparently 1 LUX strength floodlights) but the best chance had fallen the Lilywhites way. It came midway through the half when Matty Kay was sent clear of the Ammies defence with a well placed through ball. However, with only the keeper to beat Mossley's leading scorer hooked a weak, bobbling shot well wide of the goal. However it was more than Salford had managed, as despite playing some nice passing football they'd produced precisely nothing in the way of trouble for Mossley keeper Peter Collinge.

That all changed though when a lofted cross into the box hit Lee Blackshaw on the back as he tried to duck out of the way. The left winger (who at times on the night was also our last line of defence) then failed to connect with the ball during an attempt to clear it to safety; his swinging leg instead making contact with a City player who proceeded to hit the ground like a 747 with no undercarriage. The referee had little option other than to award the home side a penalty which ex-Lilywhite Rhodri Giggs converted.

Within a matter minutes things got even worse for the visitors as Sam Walker was shown a straight red card for a lunging tackle on Salford full-back Alex Mortimer and Craig Mahon capitalised on some slack defending (others would say non-existent but I like to put a positive spin on things) to put the home side two goals up.

Salford had a few more opportunities to increase their lead but the salt was really rubbed into the wounds on the stroke of half time as Collinge became the second Mossley player on the night to miss the ball while attempting to kick it. Unfortunately, what with being the goalkeeper, his “swing and a miss” allowed Graham Kay's softly hit back pass to roll past him and slowly into the net. Laugh? I had to or else it's quite possible I'd have cried!

The uphill battle Mossley faced in the second half could have been even steeper in the few minutes immediately after the restart. A point blank save by Collinge stopped David Neville putting the home side four up before Tom Spearitt turned a Salford free-kick onto his own goal post. It was hard to know what made the louder noise: the ball clanging off the upright or the collective sound of the Mossley supporters heads as they banged them on the pitch surround in frustration.

Faint hopes of what would have been a remarkable, and frankly Lazarus like, comeback were ignited when Matty Kay finally got his name on the score sheet in the 68th minute. Raising the dead is one thing though, injecting some into a listless Unibond First Division side is another and while Christmas may be a time of miracles, there are some things even beyond the capabilities of an all powerful, omnipotent being. And so those rekindled hopes were quashed when Neville restored the Ammies three goal advantage not long after.

We can bemoan that we didn't have the rub of the green, that fortune was against us but the simple truth is there's no so thing as an unlucky 4-1 defeat. 1-0, yes. 2-0, on occasions. But 4-1?

The penalty actually was a tad unlucky. It was just one of those things in which fate conspires against you - where destiny turns into a pigeon and craps in your eye as you look skywards to see if it has stopped raining. That said the ball should have been cleared.

Sam Walker's tackle may not have injured Alex Mortimer in the manner with which the former Mossley player reacted, but when you fly into a tackle the way he did you can't blame the referee for issuing a red. Lets not forget either that it was his third wild challenge within the space of a minute, the red mist having descended after being on the receiving end of a nasty foul himself. No lack of luck there, just self-discipline.

The second goal was down to bad defending. A simple lobbed ball from the halfway line towards the edge of the box and the Salford forward ran through a static back line to tap the ball home. Goal number three - a wild kick instead of the controlling the ball and game over. Honestly, if this result was down to having no luck then we'd have lost by more as I can think of more than a few moments which went our way rather fortuitously.

The fact we lost was down to us simply not being good enough. That for the second time in a fortnight we were out-thought and out-fought by a team at the trap door end of the division. Another ninety minutes in which some players were noticeable by their absence even though, according to the team sheet, they were on the pitch.

I'd love to be able to but being only a humble football supporter I can't explain the reasoning behind the decision to relocate Steve Settle from centre forward to right wing back. A move which has turned our most dangerous player and 50% of a forward line that was scoring goals for fun (as well as their weekly remunerations) into a peripheral figure. His impact on games since his switch to the wing has been so minimal that somebody asked midway through the second period if he'd touched the ball since the interval, only for me to tell them he'd been substituted at the break.

Hopefully the current malaise is nothing more than a temporary blip – a small slump we have to grin and bear before we ascend the crest of another period of imperious form. If it isn't... <gulp>!

The Lilywhites now make an equally short trip to face Trafford and it's to be hoped that it's their 'Dr Jekyll' side that turns up at Shawe View. If it's the 'Mr Hyde' version though - the one which allowed a struggling Salford side to do the double over them (and register their first home win of the season) - it's doubtful that Mossley will head into the Christmas fixtures with much seasonal cheer.

One circus performance a year is more than enough without a matinee four days later.

Mossley 1 - 0 Bamber Bridge

I'm not one to blow my own trumpet but my ability to write bunkum at times is pretty impressive.

Take this game for example: it was poor. Remove the two red cards and the goal and your left with almost ninety minutes of tedious, indescribable banality. Despite all this though I've somehow managed to knock out 600 plus words about it! Incredible, eh? Just imagine how big it could get if something exciting happened... the report I mean!

As it was though it the one moment of quality football, in a match that was otherwise devoid of it, was enough to return Mossley to winning ways after three consecutive defeats.

A good indicator that a game isn't quite as exciting as it could be is when the spectators spend more time looking at their watches than the match being played in front of them. And for the vast majority of the opening period that's precisely what most of the people filling the terraces at Seel Park were doing they were doing as Mossley and Bamber Bridge produced a first half that was as forgettable a forty five minutes of football as you're ever likely to see this season.

The sum total of both sides efforts during this time was a single shot apiece. Bridge's Danny Mahoney brought a routine stop out of Peter Collinge with a long range strike while Steve Moore scuffed only Mossley's opportunity wide of the goal in the fifth minute.

Thankfully what followed the after the interval was an improvement on what had gone before it, even if it was only marginal. The reason for this slight upturn was mostly down to Mossley retaking the pitch looking a more determined and focussed side than the one that had left it fifteen minutes earlier. Within the first ten minutes of the restart they'd tripled their shot count for the afternoon as Steve Moore forced Mike Hale into making two saves before the same player had a goal, correctly, ruled out for offside.

Bamber Bridge on the other hand seemed to be more pre-occupied with giving away needless free-kicks than troubling their opponents defence. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a team quite so hell bent on getting into trouble from the referee – it really was something quite extraordinary to watch. As the half wore on the number of illegal, and often unnecessary, challenges grew steadily before the self-destruct button was finally pushed in the 74th minute – centre half Martin Moran receiving a straight red card for cutting Michael Fish down just outside the box when he only had Hale to beat.

After a lengthy delay caused by Moran pleading his innocence (even though in the immediate aftermath of the foul he'd spent an age pointing out to the referee precisely where in the D he'd tripped Fish), the free kick resulting from the incident was taken and ultimately wasted but it didn't take the Lilywhites long to make the extra man count.

With nine minutes left the first lengthy spell of consecutive passes by either side saw Mossley send Steve Settle clear down the right wing. As defenders began to converge on him he rolled a low cross directly into the path of the inrushing Matty Kay, who slid the ball past Hale from twelve yards for his fifteenth goal of the season.

The visitors chances of getting something from the match were then dealt a further blow when Chris Marlow became the second Bridge defender to be ordered from the field of play by the match official. The full-back's two yellow cards both coming for fouls on Settle.

A looping cross come shot by Karl Brown would have doubled Mossley's lead had it not been acrobatically tipped to safety by Hale in injury time, but it was also in these closing stages that the nine men went close to grabbing an unlikely point. A free-kick awarded just outside the angle of the box was whipped towards goal by Richie Allen but Collinge was alert enough to scramble across his line to pluck the ball out of the air before it altered the score line.

It's a game that won't remembered for long but this was one of those times were the result was far, far more important than the performance as it not only arrested a poor run of results but allowed Mossley to register only their second home league win of the season.

I could add more but apart from offering my congratulations to the players and management for the win, I'd like to begin forgetting this game as soon as possible. Starting now.

Chip Wrappers: And Our Opponents Are?

I know mistakes are sometimes unavoidable - goodness knows I've made enough of them myself on here down the years - but from tonight's Oldham Chronicle (11/12/2009):

Original article here.

Personally speaking I'm hoping it's Bamford who turn up as the way we're playing at the moment I'd rather face a team from the Hope Valley League (Division B) than a side currently sitting seventh in the Unibond North. That way we can at least hope for a draw.

Lancaster City 3 - 0 Mossley

This is going to be brief.

I didn't go to Lancaster to watch this League Cup game but thanks to the match commentary provided by Bailrigg FM I was able to keep up-to-date with events at the Giant Axe from the comfort of my own home. I say comfort even though the listening was anything but.

The coverage itself was excellent with the commentators doing their damnedest to inject some life into a game that appeared, from the moment Lancaster scored their first goal anyway, to be a foregone conclusion. Selected highlights from the two hours of coverage being the ongoing discussion about Andy Watson looking like Jaap Stam, the ever changing pronunciations of Nathan Neequaye's name (Neekie, Nekwee, Newquay being just a few of the variants) and the off mic 'When Harry Met Sally' moment as the female commentator learnt of Barrow's result in the FA Cup.

However one of the themes running throughout the evening wasn't funny at all and you can't blame Bailrigg for harping on about it. The theme in question being how bad Mossley were. They didn't pull their punches either. What was being said by four people who hadn't seen us before this season was much the same as comments made at Woodley last week and at games in August and September.

Speaking as a supporter it's frustrating because we've seen over the last two months or so just how really good Mossley can be at times. Recently though it's like we've slipped back into the bad old ways; good passing moves have been replaced by a one which involves a solitary pass that travels most of the length of the pitch. That's not to say that the home team weren't shy in belting it forward as after Lancaster, City and Mossley, the most repeated words on the night were ball and long.

The home side went ahead with their first shot of the match in the 19th minute before adding two more late on. Going off the commentary nothing happened in-between that suggested Mossley would trouble the scoreline. We had a half chance in the first period and that was about it, although in the post game round up one of the commentators did say we had two efforts that were way off target. So it wasn't all bad then!

Hopefully things will get back on track when Bamber Bridge vist Seel Park on Saturday and we'll go into Christmas with our first home win in the league for three months. Admittedly we've only had one league home game during that time but a victory would still be nice.

Trafford 0 - 2 Clitheroe

I'll readily admit that while there are many things I'm not good at (a claim the regular readers of this blog will no doubt concur with), making accurate predictions is a skill I'm particularly lacking in. However I think I can declare with some confidence that a significant number of Mossley supporters will have breathed a sigh of relief when the news came through that the game at Bamber Bridge had been called off due to a waterlogged pitch.

I'm aware too that those same supporters won't admit to that being the case but after the debacle - yes, I have no qualms in labelling it a debacle - at Lambeth Grove the previous Tuesday the threat of something worse happening against a much better team was a very real possibility.

The postponement though meant that for the second weekend running the hunt was on for another game to attend. The local Conference North games were dismissed from the "which match" equation very early on (and forever will be while they charge £10 admission), swiftly followed by Curzon's fixture with Warrington (it was cold enough as it was on Saturday without making it worse by standing on the terraces of a stadium with a design flaw that accentuates it). This left just two possibilities: a match at Abbey Hey and one at Trafford.

As games in Gorton have never been pleasurable experiences (matches often taking third place to wondering 1) just what the ker-azy locals are going to lob over the perimeter next and 2) whether it will hit you or not) it was decided that Trafford versus Clitheroe would be the match of choice. But then you already knew that by looking at the heading to this post didn't you?

Initial fears that the journey to the opposite of Manchester would be punctuated by hold-ups at notorious Christmas traffic black spots - the Ashton bypass, Stockport and the Trafford Centre - proved to be unfounded as the roads were empty. Seriously. No snarl-ups, no go slows, no stops, no waiting... it was like Christmas Day itself rather than the third Saturday before it.

Anyway, talking about traffic density (or the lack of it) isn't talking about the match. Then again there's not really much to discuss their either. A good, if fractious, first half gave way to a pretty dull second period that was enlivened briefly by a mass punch-up instigated by a series of reckless tackles by Melford Knight. How he managed to avoid a red card and remain on the pitch for ninety minutes is a puzzle only equalled by that of how his opposite number, Gavin Lee Ellison, did likewise. That's right! Two of Mossley's greatest ever midfielders were on show and what a master class they provided. Not too sure what it was in though...

The highlight of the handbag war however was Clitheroe's keeper running three quarters of the length of the pitch to join the melee before doing his best 'hold me back' posture; a situation which would have looked less ridiculous if some one actually had been trying to hold him back. Instead he looked like a very bad mime artist trying to walk into an imaginary strong wind.

With seven minutes of the game left Clitheroe took the lead and in injury time they added a second; a thunderous shot from distance which hit the crossbar twice before going into the net.

It wasn't the greatest game in the world but it was by no means the worst either. I realise that's a terrible way to sum up a match but there's nothing more to be said about it really. No, wait! Hang on! There was the er, ... ... the erm, ... ... Sorry! Thought I'd remembered something for a moment then but I hadn't.

Never mind, eh?

Woodley Sports 2 - 1 Mossley

It may be only two weeks since Mossley were on the crest of a fourteen game winning run but it felt like another lifetime ago as the Lilywhites crashed to a thoroughly deserved defeat at the Lambeth Grove home of Woodley Sports.

No, your eyes do not deceive you; I did say that this defeat to a team third bottom of the league, and with only previous victory this season, was deserved. It would be nice to be able to bend the truth a little and claim that we were somehow unlucky, the victims of a miscarriage of football justice but we weren't. We were just downright Bad. That's right, bad with capital b.

Apart from a moment in the second half when Topsy made a late bid for the Christmas number one spot with a self-composed ditty about skateboards, there was little to warm the travelling supporters on a bitterly cold and wet night in Stockport. In fact it's hard not to feel every chilling bite of an icy wind when the side you've travelled the best part of ooh, a quarter of an hour to watch are outplayed, out thought and out fought by their opponents from virtually the sound of the first whistle to the last. And believe me, I wish I was exaggerating with that particular point.

It was only the reflexes of goalkeeper Peter Collinge that stopped Mossley from being a goal down within the first five minutes of the match after Antoni Sarcevic (who was booked 10 seconds into the match) effortlessly sliced open the barrier of white shirts in front of him. The ease with which he bore down on the visitors goal should have served as a warning for the Lilywhites but it went ignored and they were punished for it in the 21st minute. Picking the ball up on the halfway line, Sarcevic moved unchallenged to the edge of the Mossley box and a short pass into the path of Kris Dennis gave his team mate the opportunity to the find the net with a low shot.

That Mossley were still only a single goal behind by the half hour point of the match was a touch surprising but not quite as surprising as the goal which enabled them to go into the break on level terms with their hosts. Before Steve Moore netted the equaliser from the penalty spot – Woodley's punishment for a clumsy and unnecessary challenge by Matt Cotton on Mike Fish – the Lilywhites had shown absolutely no threat as an attacking force at all. Again I have to point out that I'm not embroidering the truth for effect here, the penalty was our first anything of note.

Unfortunately the goal didn't lay any foundations for better showing after the interval. Woodley continued to look the better of the two sides and Collinge was again called upon a couple of times to keep them at bay. In the 73rd minute however he was beaten for the second time in the match. And to make matters worse it came directly from a rare Mossley attack.

A disastrous (although the word laughable would suffice to) corner routine allowed the home side to quickly counter but their surge forward looked to have come to nothing as the Mossley defence broke up the attack. The sighs of relief from the visiting fans on the terraces were caught mid-exhale though as a sloppy pass handed the ball straight back to Woodley and from the halfway line, Gary Gee lobbed the ball over a furiously back-pedalling Collinge and into the net. The sound of celebrations from Woodley deafened by a mixture of two four letter expletives that were tripping loudly off a sizeable proportion of the Mossley supporters tongues.

There was still time to mount a comeback though but in response the visitors could only manage to muster a couple of half chances before the end of the game. Substitute Nathan Neequaye hit the side netting and an effort from distance by Matty Kay was spilt by Ben Connett but the home sides claim on the three points was never really challenged.

The final whistle was the cue for some cup winning-esque scenes as Woodley celebrated their rare and undeniably merited victory (I didn't stop long enough to see if they went on a lap of honour). Mossley on the other hand slinked quietly off the pitch (tut-tut if you're thinking well that's what they did on it too), ruminating on a performance that was far, far below the standard they've shown recently. At least I hope they were as it was one of the two things I exited the ground wondering. The other thing being whether or not I'd ever get the feeling back in my fingers in time to write this report and you know what? I wish they hadn't and I'd put money on the fact that you're thinking the same too!

I've thought long and hard to come up with a list of positives from the night yet after all the deliberating, cogitating and digesting I've done, there still only remains one item on it: the match came to an end. And we were made to wait longer than expected for that as the referee bolted an additional and inexplicable five minutes of injury time onto the end of the game. As if we weren't suffering enough already!

The list of negatives though runs to many pages of a Microsoft Word document. You'll be be happy to know that I'm not going to cut and paste them into here but just to give you a taster of what was on the roll call of downers: the incessant use of the long ball, despite the touchline imploring of the manager not to do it, to two forwards who aren't suited for it; two forwards so similar that they were making the same runs into the same space, the result of which was that we were effectively playing with on man upfront; Steve Settle, one of the best players of the last two months when playing in attack, being forced to spend another night as a peripheral figure in the wing back position while the player who excelled in that role, Ben Richardson, spends another match on the bench as an unused substitute...

I could go on – trust me, I really could – but if you were there you know how bad it was and what was wrong. If you weren't, sorry! But the memories are still too painful to relive again this early, if ever. In fact why am I sorry? You were the lucky ones.

Hopefully the Mossley side that up till two weeks ago went fourteen matches unbeaten will make a return for their next game at Bamber Bridge. If it doesn't then we can only expect more of the same, just with a longer, more miserable trip home.