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.