The Even Later December Message

And that's it in terms of Mossley and football and everything else for 2010; a year that has been slightly more eventful than most at Seel Park: no floodlights for half of it, home games played in a neighbouring town, some great football interspersed with some truly woeful stuff, the return of the managerial merry go round... there was never a dull moment. Oh! Wait, there was.

So what does the New Year hold besides 29 games crammed into its opening 16 weeks? Well, probably more of the same really; the odd great game here and there, a fair amount of moaning and as we haven't had one for nine or so months, a situation occurring where the club stands teetering on the edge of a financial precipice.

Actually that list could equally apply to almost every club plying their trade on this green and pleasant land, especially the last bit about money worries. A number of clubs have ceased to be this year and with no sign of this new age of austerity ending for the foreseeable future, it's almost a certainty that they'll be joined by more over the coming months and years. To those people supporting and running clubs who'll be facing such a situation in the coming weeks and months ahead: good luck.

As for things closer to home, that is to say this very blog you're reading now, there will be changes over the next calendar year. Not just design-wise but content-wise too. It won't have failed to escape your notice that this site is starting to contain fewer actual reports on Mossley's games and I don't think that's going to change any time soon. Why? Well that's a question that deserves a more detailed answer than I have time for now.

What I can say though is that the blog's scope may expand a little. To include just what though is something I'm keeping close to my chest for the time being in case it doesn't happen. After all there's no point setting yourself up for fall. Or fail to use modern internet parlance.

I'd like to take this opportunity however to thank those of you who still make the time and effort to visit this little corner of the internet and read whatever ramblings I've chosen to share with the world. It's appreciated - a lot! - so thank you and for the kind words that have been imparted too. :-)

Like I did at this time last year though I shall leave you with TVGolo's look back at 12 months of blunders, ridiculous misses, angry ball boys, one man pitch invasions and the never gets tiring at all sight of officials being knocked over:

Happy New Year and on to 2011 and whatever it may hold.

Mossley 1 - 1 Curzon Ashton

In what can be described as a bit of a turn-up for the books, Mossley's annual home league defeat to Curzon Ashton ended in something other than a loss for the Lilywhites.

It might not have been a win but a draw is an improvement on the multi-goal hammerings we've received off our near neighbours at Seel Park in recent seasons. It's a result too that stretches our unbeaten run to over 5 weeks. Okay, it may be 5 weeks that only encompasses a grand total of 3 games due to the weather but good news is good news no matter how slightly less impressive it sounds when you look at it in finer detail.

From the things I've been told about the game it should have been a victory for the Lilywhites. However our inability to put the ball in the net when we were on top reared its head once more and the one goal we did score (another impressive edge of the box effort from Kristian Dennis apparently) was cancelled out later on when the visitors decided turn up in spirit as well as just body.

The first nine words of the previous paragraph should be a clue that you're not going to find an eyewitness account of this post-Christmas derby on here. If you want some internet musings from those of a Mossley persuasion who attended then you should visit here and here.

If you require a neutral eye's view on proceedings then you could do a lot worse than heading to Beat The First Man where NikNoCee has documented the game in one of his increasingly more frequent trips over the Pennines in search of football. While you're there you should take a bit of time to read the rest of the site because there's a reason why it has been chosen by The Guardian as one of the 100 general football blogs to follow in 2011.

Next up for the Lilywhites is a New Years Day trip to Woodley. Is there any better way to celebrate a new calendar year than spend it in a dank corner of Stockport in dank weather? At it happens the answer is yes which is I won't be there but I'm sure there'll be a proper Mossley report on here soon.


The Late December Message

Christmas Filler: Part Two

In retrospect it was probably a mistake to suffix yesterday but yesterday but one's blog entry with 'part one' as doing so has meant having to come up with a 'part two' so I don't look silly. Okay, sillier than usual.

In keeping with the minimum effort theme of the previous post I'm going to once again release into the wider public arena another video which has only ever had the eyes of a few people clapped on it. And once you watch it I've no doubt you'll be wishing that it had remained under lock and key in a dark, distant corner of the internet because - and I'm going to be brutally honest here - it's not really very good. Actually 'not really very good' is far too higher praise for it.

I'll readily admit that it's not the best one I've ever done, even by my shockingly low standards, but in my defence it captures the match perfectly. And the match in question is another fixture from the 2008/09 season but this time it's not league but cup football, or to be more precise the height of excitement that is the President's Cup, the Northern Premier Leagues answer to the question: can you come up a meaningless and universally unloved competition that blights the footballing landscape like a... sorry, I was getting away there.

Anyhoo the 'action' (purely for want of a better term) is from Mossley's 3rd round tie at Chorley (more here) and it starts with the home side already one-up.

Alright, don't say I didn't warn you:

If there's to be a 'part three' (I've now learnt not to promise such things) I'll endeavour to come up with something that's a bit more interesting.

Not much more but a bit.

Christmas Filler: Part One

The lack of games to report on because of the weather’s current match postponing, Arctic like qualities has thrown up an interesting puzzle: How do you update a blog with something that may prove vaguely interesting to someone, somewhere whilst exerting the minimum amount of effort in its production?

After pondering this conundrum for the better part of one blink of an eye I hit upon a solution: post something I did ages ago that not very many people have seen. And that is why the next-but-one paragraph is followed by the video of a random league game (this one in fact) from two seasons ago which had previously been hidden to all but a few people… until now!

So if you're sitting there with nothing better to do for the next four or five minutes - and the fact you're reading this blog kind of suggests you haven't - then why not spend them watching Mossley pick up what was a well deserved win at the Irongate back in 2008?

Go on, you know you want to.

Cammell Laird 1 - 2 Mossley

I almost forgot that last week, amidst the glut of postponements there has been recently due to the chilly and white flakey weather, Mossley actually managed to play a competitive game football.

As you might expect by now when it comes to away matches: I wasn’t there, so if you want to know more about the Lilywhites first ever win in Rock Ferry then click on this link.

Instead of enjoying the veritable charms of Birkenhead by night I was 41 miles away on the terraces at Seel Park, bumping the crowd watching Mossley reserves take on their equivalents from Bamber Bridge into the high single figures.

Of course I could furnish you with a report on this game but given that the only player I recognised was Lee Blackshaw it’s likely that you’d get mildly irritated by a string of sentences describing ‘thingy’ passing to ‘what’s he called’ before ‘you know, him up front, no, not the tall one’ sends a shot bobbling wide of its target.

I shall therefore just say that while it can be argued that Brig’s 5-1 victory was a little flattering, there’s another argument to be had that the margin of defeat could have been a whole lot worse had it not been for a missed penalty and other miscues from the visitors.

It would be errant of me though not to point out that the Lilywhites second string did play some very, very nice football at times - the passing, movement and awareness at times was exemplary. The problem was, much as it has been for the first team as well for a significant part of this season, all of these well-constructed moves fizzling out into nothing. There were shots at goal but all were straight at the keeper; even Blackshaw’s goal, as well taken as it was, made its way into the net under the body of the Bridge goalie.

The positive though - if there is such a thing to be taken from a hammering at home - is that it was such a young side Mossley had out that the game will probably be a valuable addition to their learning curve. Then again, how many times have we seen such things as supporters yet we still keep coming back for more?

With the weather having taken another turn for the worse and the forecast for the coming week looking decidedly frosty, the chances of seeing another game of football involving Mossley being played in 2010 is closer to zero than the temperature.

So as well as starting to save my pennies in readiness for attending the four game a week marathon we’re almost certainly going to be having in April in order to complete all our fixtures before the end of the season, I'd better come up with something to put on the blog in lieu of the trickle of match reports.

Well I have to give the two people who visit here every week something new to read, don't I?

30 Years Ago: Part Seven

As briefly mentioned at the end of the sixth part of this blog's reminiscences about Mossley's 'golden age', the Lilywhites reward for their one goal victory over Crewe Alexandra in the 1980/81 FA Cup was...

The following articles are taken from the edition of the Mossley & Saddleworth Reporter published in the week leading up to the game. Along with previewing the game and detailing the story that Mike Summerbee would not be replicating his cameo in a white shirt from the previous round, there's also news of Mossley's hi-tech approaching to securing their property; one which judging by trips to numerous grounds in the 21st Century has yet to be surpassed by advancements in technology:

After all the build-up the game unfortunately turned out to be something of a damp squib. At least it was if you were a Mossley supporter because I'm sure the travelling fans from Mansfield were reasonably happy with what transpired. The Lilywhites, while not disgracing themselves, didn't put in the kind of disciplined performance they were noted for until it was too late. Not for the first, or indeed the last, time at Seel Park there were a lot of people left to ponder on the thought: "if only..."

Below are four reports on the game taken from the Sunday and Monday editions of the tabloid newspapers:

The cup exit, as bitterly disappointing as it was, did at least mean that Mossley could concentrate on trying to secure a third successive Northern Premier League title and reaching Wembley again in the FA Trophy.

It wasn't to be though. The 13 point lead Runcorn had built up in the league while Mossley were on their FA Cup run proved to be insurmountable (it was a time when it was still only 2 points for a win) and the Lilywhites finished runners-up; a position they would end up in at the close of the following two seasons as well. In the FA Trophy Mossley made it as far as the quarter finals before they came unstuck in North Wales, losing 5-3 to Bangor City.

And with that comes the end of this look back at what happened three decades ago when Mossley, a team from a small Northern mill town, were arguably one of the top sides plying their trade outside of the professional leagues. There are a few scrapbook cuttings left but they're from a time that no-one particularly wants to relive: our mid-eighties slide to ignominy and the first of a long series of brushes with oblivion.

I hope that this and the preceding six parts brought back some happy memories for those of you who were around to experience this incredible period of the club's history first hand. If you're too young to remember or weren't following Mossley at the time then I hope they proved to be of some interest.

Most of all though I hope they brought some enjoyment. Even if it was only a little bit.

Mossley 6 - 0 Trafford

No, your eyes do not deceive you. The score above is correct - we did indeed put six unanswered goals past Trafford. Yes, really!

To be honest I don't think I would have believed that score line if I hadn't seen it for my own eyes, especially after the way we've been playing recently, but not only was it a comprehensive win it was a thoroughly deserved one too. Then again I suppose that’s a given as surely there can be no such thing as a lucky six goal victory?

In fact the only criticism I have about the result (and it's an itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny, microscopic one at that) is that Mossley didn't score more. It wasn’t a case of ‘could have’ reached double figures: we ‘should have’ reached double figures for the first time in the club’s history.

The reason why being - and there’s no nice, sugar-coated way to put it - Trafford were shockingly awful. Not only did the visitors fail to register anything that can be remotely described as shot in the general direction of Mossley’s goal, I can’t recall them winning a corner or spending more than thirty seconds in the opposing half of the pitch.

That’s not to denigrate Mossley’s performance in any way because they played extremely well - magnificently so even - but there’s no question they were helped along the way by the most hapless display I’ve seen from a football team since… well, let’s just say it involved the Lilywhites and leave it there.

Like everybody else with a link to Mossley though I'm more than thoroughly happy with six goals the team did score, and what a set of six they were. There were no scrambled efforts or scruffy tap-ins from a matter of inches - everyone was a doozy in its own special way.

The goals started to fly in as early as the fourth minute when Callum Byrne fired the ball home from twenty yards and quarter of an hour later Kristian Dennis doubled the lead from a similar distance. Ben Richardson then added a third with a powerful close range volley before Byrne notched his second goal of the evening. A rather natty piece of ball juggling just inside the Trafford half by Mike Fish created the opening and the loanee from Rochdale lifted the ball over keeper Tom Read to finish a well worked move.

An even better passage of play took place not long after that would have undoubtedly been goal of the season if Sam Hare could have applied the finish to a move which numbered more than twenty passes and tore Trafford apart. A miskick at the vital moment though denied him both his goal and the chance to pick up a small trophy in the social club in May.

With the temperature dropping below freezing point and the ground whitening under a thick layer of frost there was a worry that the match might not see out the full ninety minutes. Happily though the ground failed to harden during the second half and in a touching show of solidarity with Mother Earth, neither did the Trafford defence.

Chances came and went for the home side with a frequency bordering on the incredible but it wasn’t until just after the hour point that the Lilywhites troubled the net again. Kristian Dennis equalling Byrne's tally for the evening with an effort that was a near carbon copy of his first goal in the preceding half.

With a bit more composure in front of goal Mossley would have added a sixth long before Matty Kay did so eight minutes from time. Last season’s top scorer taking advantage of the acres of space afforded to him to finally open his account for this campaign.

And having read about the goals you can now see them:

It’s a horrible football cliché to use but as bad as Trafford were, you can only beat what’s in front of you and Mossley (another horrible football cliché coming up) did so with some aplomb.

Will a victory as convincing and as comprehensive as this one finally kick-start our league campaign? Truthfully I’ve no idea. I thought the four goal win over Ossett a fortnight earlier might have had the same effect but that proved not to be the case so who knows? It certainly won’t do our confidence any harm at all which is no bad thing considering that we’re heading into a run of pre-Christmas games against opponents who share our lowly league position.

So get those fingers crossed. Not just for some upcoming wins but that the weather warms up and improves enough to allow the matches to be played.

Mossley 2 - 4 Lancaster City

It's starting to feel like I'm stuck in a Groundhog Day style time loop when it comes to watching and writing about Mossley.

Dominating possession - ✔. A not overly exerted opposing goalkeeper - ✔. An over-abundance of attacks consisting of a short sequence of passes followed by a lumping the ball down the centre of the pitch - ✔. Calamitous, laugh or you'll cry defending - ✔. The opposition registering a win without having to break too much of a sweat - ✔. Leaving at the end wondering if it is going to start getting better any time soon - ✔. Looking at the fixture list and coming to the conclusion that it probably won't - ✔.

The only way I know for certain that I'm not reliving the same ninety minutes over and over again is the steadily decreasing temperature and the changing colour of the opposition's shirts.

We did get something a little bit different though. For a while it appeared that the one notable event in the first half would be Daryl Weston managing to get the ball through the window of the tea bar, which if you know the geography of Seel Park is quite some achievement. Sadly, by the time it came for the teams to leave the pitch for the break the majority of people inside the ground were wishing that the sight of pies, peas and gravy being sent flying had been the only incident worth talking about.

As a Lancaster fan on their own club forum has so accurately put it, the visitors only really played for a total of 15 minutes which straddled the interval and they left with three points. Before they took a 42nd minute lead the Dolly Blues had spent the majority of the game in their own half of the pitch, dealing comfortably with Mossley's laboured efforts to create something with all the possession they were being allowed and looking to hit the home side on the break.

And it was from one of these counter attacks that they scored the opening goal and what a goal it was. A brilliant piece of individual skill from Josh Kenworthy to take two players out of the game was supplemented by an equally impressive bit of teamwork which opened up a space for Max Rothwell to launch an unstoppable shot past Peter Collinge. It was a goal of such quality (and one that my description goes nowhere close to doing it justice) that you couldn't put any blame on Mossley for conceding. If only I could say the same for the three that followed.

It's only fair though that the midfield shoulder some of the blame for the second goal too as it was in their area of the pitch, deep into injury time at the end of the first period, that the ball was lost in a surprisingly cheap fashion. City broke upfield and despite Paul Jarvis horrifically mis-controlling a cross that was played into him on the edge of the six yard box, the lack of any close marking whatsoever meant he had time to chase the loose ball down and finally get it under control before putting his side two ahead. Two then became three ten minutes after the restart when Kenworthy took the ball off Ben Richardson and calmly slotted it past Collinge.

Going three goals down seemed to spark Mossley into taking control of the game once again (though it could be argued that the resurgence was due in part to Lancaster sitting back on their near unassailable lead as well) but not for the first time a lack of guile and incisiveness at the business end of the pitch meant they were confined to shooting from distance.

Yet it was from one of these slightly hopeful long range efforts that Mossley pulled a goal back. The ball from a Lilywhites corner wended its way to Mike Fish on the corner of the Lancaster box and with the aid of a slight deflection he curled a shot into the net to give the home side the glimmer of hope of a comeback.

It was enough of a flicker to increase the rate of huffing and puffing from the men in white shirts but the chances needed to realise that recovery were few to non-existent and any optimism left was extinguished five minutes from time. Once again the misery was self-inflicted. Cavell Coo played an ill-advised and misdirected pass across the back line which gave Rothwell the chance to break clear and register his second and Lancaster’s fourth goal of the match. The afternoon’s scoring still wasn’t completed though and in injury time Michael Thomas added a bit of respectability to the score line with an absolute humdinger of a shot from 25 yards out

Not bad for a centre half, eh?

In some respects the final score is harsh on a team that controlled so much of the game but matches aren’t won by finishing having had a greater share of the possession. If it was there’d certainly be more than four teams between us and the bottom of the table which is how it stands at the moment.

What has let us down on this and umpteen other occasions so far this season is our inability to do the fundamental basics of the game properly: attack and defend. Rather worryingly too we don’t seem any closer than we were back in August to rectifying the situation. It doesn’t matter how many times the personnel changes (and with around forty players used they’ve changed quite a lot) the same problems continue to exist.

And while they do that Groundhog Day feeling will go on, and on, and on...

30 Years Ago: Part Six

Back in June I said that the look back at events of 30 years ago wouldn’t end with the coverage of the teams return from the FA Trophy final, simply because there was another notable event in Mossley AFC’s history during 1980.

On the 22nd of November (three decades ago to this very day in fact) the Lilywhites claimed their first, and so far only, Football League scalp in the FA Cup when they beat Fourth Division Crewe Alexandra 1-0 in the first round of that season’s competition.

Unfortunately, unlike the Trophy games, my memories of this famous victory for the club are practically non-existent because I wasn’t able to attend the game. Having spent the best part of the week leading up to the match in Manchester Royal Infirmary having had an operation to try and improve my hearing, I was under strict doctor’s orders not to leave the house for two weeks. And as welcome as a fortnight off school was, it didn’t come close to making up for the bitter disappointment ofnot making it to this game.

What I precisely did miss can be read about in the following report on the match which appeared in the Mossley & Saddleworth Reporter:

It was a game also memorable for being Mike Summerbee’s last ever game of competitive football having come out of retirement (and off the back of playing alongside Pele, Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone in Vichy France) as a favour to Mossley’s then manager, Bob Murphy. With it being his last game the fixture does get a lengthy mention in his autobiography and what follows are a few selected extracts:

My professional career had been over for eighteen months when I agreed to help out an old friend and shirt customer, Bob Murphy, who was the manager of non-League club Mossley. A couple of months earlier Bob had said he was short of players: would I turn out in an emergency if required? I said I would, not thinking he would ever be that desperate. Well, Mossley reached the first round of the FA Cup and there was Bob on the phone asking me to play against Crewe Alexandra. He registered me as an official footballer once more – and I had to find some boots again.

Michael Crawford was staying with us at the time and he took Tina (Summerbee’s wife) along to watch the game; I told him not to start laughing or anything. I had to do the best I could. I got to the ground at about 12:30pm, far earlier than I ever used to in my career, but I knew I had to warm up gradually. I was out on the pitch, gently preparing for more than an hour, and then came into the changing room.

‘I’m going to make you the substitute, Mike,’ said Murphy as I went in.

‘You can’t do that,’ I said and it wasn’t ego talking. ‘You have to put me on now, otherwise I won’t be able to play at all. It’s taken me an hour to warm up on the pitch. Put me on from the start.’

As he was doing the team talk I kept walking round all the time, kept moving. I couldn’t afford to stand still for a moment. Then it was out for the game and a fella in the crowd shouted: ‘What are you doing out on the pitch, you b*****d, Summerbee?’

‘How does five hundred quid sound?’ I said to shut him up. Actually, I was playing for nothing. For the first time in my life I was an amateur.

The Mossley pitch had a slope and we played down hill in the first half. I stayed out on the wing and just clipped a few balls in when I had the chance and jogged back to keep the team shape. At half-time it was 0-0 and I had to keep moving through the break. I could already feel the stiffness creeping into my body. In the second half we were going up the slope and to me it felt like climbing Kilimanjiro. Behind me at full-back was was a young lad who kept overtaking me and I was really struggling, sucking air up my rear end. I could hardly move but I kept going. A minute from time there was a corner on the left hand side. I went over and took it, and the centre forward, who was a big fella, rose up and, boom, the ball was in the back of the net. 1-0. We’d won the game and there were all the wide-eyed celebrations you get when a minnow wins an FA Cup tie against a League side.

The Mossley chairman came in afterwards and looked straight over at me and said: ‘You’ll be playing in the next round.’

‘No I won’t,’ was my instant reply. ‘I can’t. It will take me three weeks just to walk properly again.’

And I’ll tell you how stiff I was. I dropped the soap in the shower and I couldn’t even bend down to get it. One of the young lads had to pick it up for me. Outside I found Tina and Michael and they were laughing their heads off. That was it. Finished. Job done. It was the last match I played. The boots went in the skip again.

There are a couple of inaccuracies (the time of the goal and the centre forward didn’t score as intimated) but nothing compared to those in Neil Warnock’s book.

Some more clippings from the Mossley & Saddleworth Reporter:

The reward for this 'giant-killing' was a second round tie against more Football League opposition - Mansfield Town. And it's that game which will make up the seventh and final 30 year trip down memory lane in three weeks time.

Harrogate Railway Athletic 4 - 3 Mossley

If you look at basic facts that can be gleaned from this game - Mossley coming from behind three times before losing to a goal deep into injury time - it would appear that we were once again the unfortunate victims of an absence of luck that some fans think is responsible for our lowly league position.

The comments of those who attended the game though tell a different story; "If we'd have got ANYTHING out of this game - we wouldn't have deserved" standing out amongst many as for the first time this season the forum played host to more than a few postings questioning tactics, team selections and other points of concern that had previously only been talked about with quiet concern on the terraces.

With two home games aginst mid-table sides up next it will be interesting to see how the Lilywhites react to this latest setback. If by 9:45pm on Tuesday evening a run of one win in eight games has been extended to one win in ten outings then it's likely that the concern expressed in the aftermath won't be quite so mild mannered. Alternatively four to six points from the same games could push us up to a respectable spot in the middle of the division.

As always with this club it's going to be interesting to see what does transpire as it's never not dull... well, not often.

Mossley 4 - 0 Ossett Albion

If you're a regular visitor to this blog it can't have failed your notice that updates have been somewhat tardy over the past few weeks. That reports on games are being posted at least a week past a point where all right minded people have given up caring.

There is a reason. Well there's a big one and a small one. The small one is that the new Call of Duty game has eaten up a proportion of my free time as I try to get past the point of being utterly rubbish at it on-line (progress update since this paragraph was first written: still utterly rubbish). The big one is that I simply couldn't be bothered. I know I've said numerous times in the past few months that I'm becoming fatigued with football but that feeling just continues to grow and grow. Why it does I may elucidate on at a later time when I'm in the mood for the argument it may possibly cause.

In the meantime though I should really get this report done, especially as in a break from the recent norm, it's on about a match that Mossley won. The scoreline suggests it was a comfortable victory and effectively it was with the Lilywhites almost dominating the game from start to finish. But it's that 'almost' bit which, no matter how well the home side played for the majority of the match, could have seen the three points slip from their grasp.

Mossley opened the scoring with their first shot on goal in fifth minute - Callum Bryne getting his temporary spell at the club off to quite the start with quite some strike - and 75 minutes and approximately 483 efforts on goal later they added a second when Mike Oates got on the end of a huge upfield punt and turned the ball past the Ossett keeper. The third followed not long after when Lee Blackshaw curled a low free kick into the bottom corner of the net and contrary to what you may have seen elsewhere, the Lilywhites final goal of the night came courtesy of Ossett's very own Ryan White. How Oates has been credited with it is a mystery I'm sure Arthur C. Clarke would have eventually got round to investigating had his TV show not finished 30 years ago and he not died in 2008.

Another mystery is why I bothered to detail the goals when you can see them for yourself - just about - in the following video:

The outcome could have been very different though if it wasn't for a brilliant piece of last ditch defending a minute or so prior to Mossley's second goal. Yes, this is the aforementioned 'almost' bit of the game where Ossett briefly got the upper hand and it stemmed from a 75th minutes change of formation from the Lilywhites.

Before the reshuffling of the pack Mossley were lined up in 5-3-2 formation with the full backs pushing forward at every available opportunity, effectively making the shape 3-5-2 for significant periods of time. It worked fantastically well too; Ossett barely got within glimpsing distance of the Lilywhites goal let alone close enough to have a shot. After the change though Mossley reverted to the flat back four they've been using for the majority of games this season and just like in the majority of games this season, the defence got wobbly and things didn't look quite so rosy.

The ball was lost and given away with embarrassing frequency in an incredibly short space of time, culminating in a moment in which Ossett should have equalised. A cross from the left arrived at the feet of one of two Albion players alone and unmarked in the middle of the Mossley penalty area. The resulting shot beat the dive of Peter Collinge but not the outstretched foot of someone in a white shirt who'd managed to get back and hook the ball off the line. I'd like to name who that player was but because it's only possible to make out shapes and not who's who at medium to long distances under the new floodlights, I can't. So to whoever it was who stopped the visitors drawing level: thank you.

Overall though this was a much improved performance from the men in white shirts. However, just as you can't get carried away after one defeat, it would be silly to do so after one good result. If we can put in performances and results like this more consistently (and against better teams than Ossett - let's be honest, they were pretty poor) then it will be time to start thinking that a corner has been turned. The outcome of the next game at Harrogate Railway should give us a clue to whether that may be soon or a while longer yet.

Chester 3 - 0 Mossley

A fixture against the league leaders is not something you look forward to when the side you support is hovering just above the foot of the table. Doubly so when indiscipline in a cup match a fortnight earlier means four regular starters are spending the Saturday afternoon elsewhere through suspension.

There are those rare times though when everything is stacked against you and all hope looks lost, that adversity brings triumph and the underdog succeeds. The one positive that seems id to have come from the game - that we only lost 3-0 - should give you an indication that this wasn't one of those said times.

Of course being one of those namby-pamby fair weather fans I didn't make the journey to Chester; £16 on a train ticket and £9 on an entrance fee (plus whatever it cost to buy something to eat) is not something I'm willing to fork out on when money isn't exactly abundant. I'll be honest too and say that the desire to attend was also tempered by the fact I wasn't expecting a positive result of any kind at the Exacta Stadium. I did think though that we might have had them on the back foot for a few passages of the game but that doesn't appear to have happened. The comments I've heard and read from the supporters who did attend (both Mossley and Chester) doesn't paint the Lilywhites performance in too great a light.

If you'd prefer to make your own mind up on how the Lilywhites played rather than rely on the opinions of others, watching the games highlights may help you come towards a conclusion and you can do just that by clicking on this link.

So in conclusion, we lost a game and no-one is particularly shocked that we did. A verdict which could be the default one for the coming months if we're not too careful.

Ossett Albion 1 - 1 Mossley

Following a complete calendar month of nothing but knock-out football, the always amusingly named Dimple Wells Stadium was the venue were Mossley reacquainted themselves with the run-of-the-mill mundanities of life in the Evo-Stik First Division North.

And along with the vast majority of my fellow Lilywhites supporting brethren I wasn't there to watch it which of course means that the "better supporter than you" brigade were out in force on the forum. What's laughable is that when we played at Ossett Albion three seasons ago during Gerry Quinn's reign as manager, only six Mossley supporters turned up to that particular match yet there was no thinly veiled digs at other supporters after that on the forum or producing a list of those who went (really, that happened after this game). Anyway, Smiffy has written about this little internet episode better than I have or can so I suggest popping along here to read it.

As for the game itself (a report on which is here) it sounds like it was the latest in the long line of what might have beens had but just a couple of an apparent hatful of chances been taken. However, even if it was three points tossed away through our ongoing inability to stick the ball into a 17.86 m2 target with any regularity in league fixtures, after four consecutive defeats a draw isn't so bad. Although I do though reserve the right to change that particular opinion should we fail to stave off relegation to the Vodkat League by a solitary point.

Mossley 2 - 3 Nantwich Town

Because there are only so many ways you can write about a defeat that could have been avoided if we'd taken a fraction of our chances and defended a lot better, this is going to brief as I exhausted all of this season's variation on that particular theme after the loss to Curzon Ashton in the last match.

As you may gather from that opening paragraph it was same-o same-o from the Lilywhites as they exited the FA Trophy in the same manner they left three other cup competitions in the preceding eleven days: in a disappointing fashion wondering what might have been if they hadn't been quite so... well, disappointing.

Part of the reason for the employment of the 'd' word is that Nantwich, despite residing in the division immediately above Mossley, didn't look anything special yet still left Seel Park with a win and three goals despite rarely threatening the Lilywhites goal.

I can't remember them mounting a single meaningful attack in the opening 39 minutes leading up to their equaliser. It was a leveller that could have been easily avoided but a player losing his marker, a poor clearance and a heavy enough deflection off a defender to warrant the use of the term o.g. proved sufficient enough to wipe away Mossley's advantage; a lead that had been gained 10 minutes earlier when Sam Hare bundled home a cross from the left wing by Aaron Chalmers.

In reality Mossley should have had the game sewn up before Michael Lennon put the visitors back on level terms but the on-going problem of failing to stick the ball in the back of the net when presented with a golden opportunity meant that the Dabbers always remained in the tie.

This failure to kill off the Cheshire side was brought into sharp focus 7 minutes into the second period when the home defence did its Red Sea impression and parted, allowing Glynn Blackhurst to go ‘Moses’ and break clear of the chasing pack and score. Although Andy Watson cancelled out the lead with a header just after the hour, Nantwich edged ahead again when Rodney Jack finished a great move by smashing the ball past Peter Collinge. It wasn't too dissimilar to a move Mossley had themselves made minutes earlier. The only difference being that whereas Nantwich had found the back of the net, Mossley barely found the arms of the goalkeeper with a weak bobbling shot.

The game should have been forced into a replay in the dying stages of injury time but half of current Mossley's problems were put into a nice nutshell when Mike Fish headed high over the cross bar while unmarked in front of a near open goal. And with it went the Lilywhites hopes of winning a trophy this season.

I know that silverware through winning the league or the play-offs is still a mathematical possibility. Viewing recent games though through some non-rose coloured visual aids suggests the chances of doing so are so small that if you were to read it as a percentage you’d have to go through 10 decimal places before you hit a number that wasn’t a zero.

If the problems currently plaguing the team can be sorted in an expedient manner, a top-half of the table finish isn’t beyond question. If they aren’t… well, the reports on this blog are going to start to look very, very samey indeed. Even more so than usual.

Mossley 0 - 2 Curzon Ashton

In the grand scheme of things the NPL/Unibond/Evo-Stik President's Cup is the New Coke of non-league trophy competitions. It's a blight on the fixture list, taking up a valuable midweek slot that could host a league game and help alleviate the inevitable fixture pile-up come April. A contest played in barely filled grounds (even by this levels standards) in which victories are met with the same shrug of the shoulders that greet defeats.

The thing is though that when you've just crashed out of two cups in the space of five days its stature does grow a little; it suddenly doesn't look quite so meaningless. There's still no great wailing and gnashing of teeth at being beaten but there is a touch of despondency at seeing another faint hope of silverware disappear. The melancholy heightened further by it coming at the hands of your near neighbours - Curzon Ashton doing to Mossley in the President's Cup what they'd done in the Manchester Premier Cup the previous Tuesday.

It only took ten minutes for Curzon's opener to arrive and in news that probably won't come as a shock, it came with the help of a gaping hole that appeared in the middle of Mossley's back line. The 'parting of the waves' gave Daniel Shannon a clear run towards the net being guarded by debut making keeper Joe Potts (yes we've got another goalie, a game too late mind, but another goalie nonetheless) and to be fair to the newbie there was little he could do to prevent the visiting number 10 from pinging the ball past him.

The remaining 35 minutes of the half became a competition as to who could miss the easiest chance and for a long time it looked like Matty Kay would take the honours for Mossley with a volley over an open net from six yards. Unfortunately the Lilywhites couldn't even claim victory in this little contest as Curzon took the inaugural "How The Hell Did He Miss That?" title and runners-up spot just before the break through wild efforts from Shannon and Carlos Gazapo.

The second half saw Mossley finally force David Carnell into making a couple of saves, including one outstanding full length stop to deny Richard Bennet from putting the home side on level terms. Carnell's efforts ought to have only delayed the equaliser for a split-second though as the loose ball bounced into the path of Danny Murray, but with the goal no more than three yards in front of him the substitute hit the post.

The Lilywhites actually enjoyed plenty of possession over the course of the second period. However, the number of chances that came from it were a fraction of what they should have been because of all the, colloquially speaking, 'faffing around' they were doing; taking an extra touch or ten when there was a chance to deliver a ball into the box, passing instead of shooting... the kind of things that elicit low but audible groans from the terraces.

Curzon had a few chances to put the game to bed before they finally did so in the last minute. If I put my rose coloured spectacles on I could say that Shannon took advantage of Mossley pushing men forward to break clear and score his second goal of the game. It would be telling fibs though because a) we weren't really going all out for a goal in those closing stages and b) it's not as though he and his team mates weren't breaking clear when we were apparently putting an onus on defending.

As I intimated earlier getting knocked out of this competition isn't a cause for alarm. That it completes a rapid hat-trick of cup exits is slightly worrying though as it means we're one FA Trophy defeat away from bringing the curtain down on our season. I know that if we win our games in hand on the teams above in the league that we'll be there or thereabouts at the top of the division but I'm enough of a realist to know that that's a mighty big 'if'.

So keep your fingers crossed for good things in the Nantwich game on Saturday and lets hope we can keep the season alive for a short while longer.

Mossley 2 - 6 Darlington

As the years come and go and the names and faces change, one thing remains constant at Seel Park: Mossley's ability to press the self-destruct button in big games.

Cups, big prize money, the chance for a moment in the spotlight, all of them hone tantalisingly into view every so often, calling to us like the Sirens did to ancient mariners. The analogy doesn’t end there either because just like those Greek ships and sailors who were tempted by the charms of the three unearthly women, we usually end up getting dashed across the rocks too; a look that’s a cross between anger and stunned disbelief on our faces as we disappear beneath the foamy waves for the third time. And a quick look at the score line which heads this article (go on, have a glimpse) should tell you that this isn’t going to be the time where I go on to explain in detail the exception to that rule.

For the first 25 minutes of this 4th Qualifying Round FA Cup tie Mossley were arguably the side most comfortable with the way things were transpiring. Apart from a corner in the second minute Darlington hadn't been within sight of the home goal, whereas the Lilywhites had actually forced the Quaker's keeper into making one important save and were starting to make inroads through a huge gap in the left hand side of the visitors defence. All the good work - the potential - though was undone in an instant as mistakes from two people swung the game heavily in the Blue Square Premier clubs favour.

Firstly, and sadly not for the first time this season (or even the last time in this game), Andy Watson dallied far too long on the ball before getting himself in a muddle and gifting the opposition possession. The person bestowed with this extreme act of generosity was Chris Senior who was probably chuckling away to himself about how he was going to open the scoring when he was upended by goalkeeper Peter Collinge who, having come charging towards the edge of his area in an attempt to stop Darlington capitalising on the error, succeeded in only compounding the blunder by giving away a penalty and receiving a red card for his troubles.

And it's at this point that the second mistake I alluded to kicked in. When the teams were being announced prior the match the notable lack of a goalkeeper among Mossley's seven substitutes became a small talking point - mostly revolving about how unwise a decision it was should the worst happen and our starting number one’s game come to an end sooner than expected. Little did we know that this conversation would be quite so prophetic and even littler did we know at the time the precise reason as to why there was no one on the bench to take Collinge’s place in goal.

No, that's not right: there's actually no rationale at all for why we shouldn't have had a replacement ready to come on and fill such a specialist position, especially as there were so many spots on the bench available. For reasons that I hope will be explained sooner rather than later, the Mossley management had allowed our reserve goalkeeper to become cup-tied in an earlier round meaning we couldn't call on his much needed services. But even with this being the case, there was nothing to stop the club bringing in a goalkeeper on a temporary, emergency basis to cover the possibility of us needing one? We and other clubs have done this in the past so why not this time? It’s not as though it’s a situation suddenly sprung upon us. Criticise me all you want for saying this (because I know doing so out loud has become a taboo subject in recent years at Seel Park) but it’s really, really bad management - pure and simple.

Anyhoo, back to the game. Right back Ben Richardson was given the task of trying to stop a professional side scoring a goal for 65 minutes and unsurprisingly he failed just 30 seconds into his task as Tommy Wright fired the spot kick past him. There's a small argument at this point to be had about whether Wright should have been on the pitch himself. Prior to the goal his only contributions to the match were three wild elbows swung into the heads of Mossley players (only picking up a booking for the third one) and a dive on the halfway that was so ridiculous that not only should he have been shown a yellow card, but forced to apologise to everyone in the ground over the p.a. as well for such an embarrassingly poor piece of gamesmanship.

His team mate Chris Moore wasn't quite so fortunate in escaping a booking for amateur dramatics. From where I was stood - admittedly at the opposite end of the pitch - it looked like Richardson in his role as makeshift custodian had taken out the Darlington player as he lined up a shot. Instead of another penalty and another red card though, the triple salco with full pike that Moore embellished his time in the air with persuaded the officials that the whole thing was a nefarious plot to seek an unfair advantage.

The relief didn't last too long though as Mark Bridge-Wilkinson soon doubled the Quakers lead (another beneficiary of Mossley's charitable nature with the ball) and out came the calculators in preparation of tallying up the coming deluge of goals.

Something rather unexpected proceeded to happen though. Rather than sit back in the hope of keeping the score down to low double figures, Mossley began to press forward and six minutes from the interval they halved the arrears. An angled ball from Lee Blackshaw made its way inch perfectly through the aforementioned hole in the Quaker's back line and Mike Oates finished the move with a low shot under keeper Sam Russell. Yes, Quakers and Oates. If we'd won I'd have taken the time to come up with a tortured gag in which that was the punchline so see, even this defeat has a silver lining.

With a tiny bit more luck Mossley might have even grabbed an equaliser before the break as they forced a series of corners which got the visitors defence a little jittery judging by the “words of encouragement” passing between their players. Even though that leveller didn’t arrive, what they had done was enough to suggest that the game might not be quite the walkover for Darlington that people were beginning to expect after Collinge’s dismissal.

That belief lasted until the third minute of the second half when another cock-up at the back gave Senior a clear run on goal and the opportunity to restore his sides two goal advantage. Six further minutes later that hope of an unlikely comeback was rather incredibly back again. As if to prove that anything the Mossley defence could do, they could do worse, Quakers centre half Kevin Austin suddenly seemed to become confused by the small round thing which had appeared on the ground in front of him. Just when it looked like we were about to see a world first: a grown man lose a staring contest with a football, Steve Settle picked up possession and slotted a shot under the advancing Russell to bring the ten men of Mossley back into the match.

For a while the game balanced on a knife edge as it became a question of which defence would wobble next. Unfortunately it turned out to be Mossley’s as Austin atoned for his error by firing home from a corner after being left unmarked on the back post. To be fair to the Lilywhites however an unmarked opponent or two was to be expected given they were down to nine players at the time; midfielder Chris Rowney was on the touchline receiving treatment for an injury as the ball crossed the line.

His absence from the pitch was made permanent though with a quarter of the match still to play when he received a straight red card for a... actually, I don’t know what to call it. To label it a tackle would be giving it a status it frankly doesn’t deserve. It was a spectacularly awful challenge and that the Darlington player was able to leave the pitch without the aid of a stretcher is something we should be thankful for. And to whoever clapped Rowney as trudged off the pitch: Really? That was worthy of applause? A potential leg breaking incident which also left us to play out the last 25 minutes with nine men? I thought we were better than that.

Sorry, did I say nine? What I meant to say was eight because in the bout of handbags that developed after Rowney's moment of infamy, Settle received his second yellow card of the afternoon. What he did during those few seconds of pushing and shoving that was any different to what players in a red shirt were doing is beyond me but off he went, no doubt ruing the first and wholly avoidable yellow card he'd picked up minutes earlier for pointlessly arguing with the referee.

With Mossley now employing a formation that consisted of one man up front and six players dotted across the pitch behind him, the fans sat back and waited for the proverbial cricket score to arrive. Goals did arrive but it didn't turn out to be quite the rout that many probably feared.

Darlington's fifth goal involved a mixture of the bad luck and hopeless misjudgement which had haunted Mossley all afternoon. Watson once again gave the ball away when there was no danger at all but it looked like the error wouldn’t be punished as Gary Smith hit what can only be best described as a pea roller towards goal. However when the gods are against you they really rub it in and as Ben Richardson dropped to stop the shot, the ball hit a divot and bounced over his head and into the net. Five minutes from time Chris Senior completed the scoring with a venomous shot from the corner of the box; a goal as simple and as straightforward as that description makes out.

Between the fifth and sixth goals Mossley themselves went close to adding another to the score sheet and it took a very good piece of goalkeeping to stop Oates firing off a shot after the forward had waltzed through one of the gaps where the visitors defence really should have been.

All it did though was make you wonder what might have been had the game been eleven versus eleven for the entire ninety minutes. Or even ten (including a proper, back-up goalkeeper) against eleven because any visiting supporter who says they were comfortable with a man advantage is kidding themselves.

The Quakers (if you’ll pardon the coming pun) were no great shakes. During the period of time both sides were equal in number they didn’t manage a single shot or put together an attack that didn’t have its genesis in a Mossley defensive mistake. And even at the end of an opening period in which they’d played almost half of it against ten men and a makeshift keeper, they’d only managed two shots on target (one being a penalty) and conceded a goal.

“What might have been” though is a question we ask too many times after games like this. When you look back through Mossley’s recent history the big games always seem to come with a caveat: we played well and but for suspensions/team selections/tactics/indiscipline we would have won, and this one is no different.

From a personal point of view I’m disappointed to read our manager’s post match comments in the print edition of the Oldham Chronicle (they aren’t in the online version) in which he puts the responsibility for the defeat on mistakes made by players. I have no problem with that if he also acknowledges the blunder he made in not having a substitute keeper available, which played just big a part in the loss as the other reasons, but he doesn’t; the responsibility for the loss is put squarely on the shoulders of the players which is a tad unfair. If you’re going to proportion blame after a defeat like this then include a mea culpa or don’t say anything at all.

I’d probably better end this now so that the one or two of you who’ve made it this far can go and bathe your eyes with Optrex and return to everyday life but a final word about the Darlington fans. Apart from three drunk supporters at the end of the game leaning over the balcony outside the clubhouse calling Mossley fans s**t, they were an incredibly friendly bunch.

There wasn’t any of the “we’re better than you” and belittling attitude we’ve come across from some fans of other clubs recently. And yes, by that I do mean Halifax. The difference between the Shaymen and the Quakers was so marked it was untrue, especially when unlike the former, the latter have a more valid reason for acting superior and giving it the ‘big I am’. Because of that I wish them the very best of luck in the next round against Bristol Rovers (the prize we could have won) and with that defence I think they may need it .

Who knows, maybe we’ll get the chance to right the wrongs in this match next year. If we do, lets hope Odysseus isn’t registered to a club and cup tied?

Mossley 2 - 3 Curzon Ashton

Back in August I said that this season I wasn't going to put the football ahead of my health and it turns out that this Manchester Premier Cup game was the first game to fall under that self-imposed edict.

As much as I'd like to have seen a Mossley side full of players with their minds on Saturday's FA Cup match take on Curzon Ashton, the prospect of spending Wednesday feeling like somebody was using a pneumatic drill to massage my spine as a 'reward' for my attendance meant that while the two teams went head to head at a cold Seel Park, I was at home with a mug of tea and looking forward to being able to put my shoes on the next day without experiencing some quite excruciating agony.

Fortunately there are some souls who've been better assembled than I have and they've written some words about the fixture and placed them on the world wide web. For the Mossley view you can visit the official site or Six Tame Sides, for an independent view there's this blog and for the Curzon view... well, I'm sure if you give the club a ring someone will tell you over the phone.

What the 3-2 result in Curzon's favour means is that we won't be gracing the Boundary Park frigidaire with our presence in May for the final. Bad news for Mossley and their trophy winning aspirations but good news for those of us who like to pack our winter woolies away by the middle of April.

Shepshed Dynamo 1 - 4 Mossley

And the cup wins keep on coming.

While Mossley may be struggling for consistency in the League, their form in the cup competitions has been quite the opposite (as long as you pretend that the League Cup game against Trafford last month never happened) with Shepshed Dynamo becoming the latest side to fall defeated at the colourfully attired feet of the Lilywhites.

It was quite the convincing victory in Leicestershire too by all accounts (which can be read here and here) with Shepshed themselves declaring that they were flattered by the score line; Mossley’s third 4-1 victory in the space of four games.

Not only is it a win that puts us into the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy (and a home tie against Nantwich Town) it also means we’ll go through the month of October without having played a single league fixture; our cup matches having taken up all eight possible match day slots.

With the likelihood of there being another bad winter on the horizon as well - and the all the postponements that will inevitably bring - it’s probably time to start saving now for the three or four matches we’re probably going to be playing every week in April as we plough through the backlog of fixtures.

Mossley 4 - 1 Lincoln Moorlands Railway

Breathe out... ... ... and relax.

It's a hearty "phew!" to be exhaled too because this game wasn’t quite as straight forward as what the score line above may lead you to believe. At face value it suggests that Mossley may have dominated proceedings and to be fair they did - controlling virtually all but a small percentage of the play - but their extraordinary ability to do so while remaining one scuffed pass away from disaster meant that the finger nails of the home fans would not go on unbitten for long stretches of this FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round replay.

The pattern of the game was set out early on with Mossley looking to attack their opponent’s goal at every available opportunity (to wildly varying degrees of success) and the Lincolnshire side focussed on attacking anything that moved; a tactic which saw them come into contact with the ball occasionally and the ankles of men in white shirts slightly more often. Within the first five minutes alone there were three challenges perpetrated by the visitors that were all worthy a booking yet it was only the third one which received the requisite punishment - a three for one special offer that went on all night and one taken advantage of by far too many players.

For all the possession Mossley had in the opening period they didn’t really create a lot of chances with it. There were plenty of crosses and cut backs from wide positions but rarely did they lead to Railway’s goal being troubled. Only twice in the first half hour was keeper Mario Ziccardi was called upon to rescue his side; the first time to deny Ben Richardson after the right back had made one of his trademark darts into the box and the second to keep out a fizzing shot from the edge of the area by Mike Fish. The closest Mossley actually came to taking the lead was when the ball grazed the cross bar after a low cross from Steve Settle ricocheted off the knee of a defender.

As the half wore on Lincoln began to get a little more adventurous and their back line started to sit a little closer to the halfway line than their own 18 yard line. Given how leaden footed their defence was compared to Mossley’s forward line it looked and was soon proven to be a bad idea. A simple through ball gave Mike Oates a free run on goal and he calmly placed the ball past Ziccardi to give the home side the lead. Although looking at the video of the goal, it seems it needed the help of one of the many and infamous Seel Park bumps to take it over the leg of a covering defender as well.

Over the remaining seven minutes of the half Lincoln abandoned their short lived positive approach to the game and returned to the more robust style they’d ‘entertained’ the crowd with previously. I truthfully don’t think the game went on for more than twenty seconds without the referee calling a halt to proceedings for a foul. The match would restart, a group of players would cluster round the ball before one player in a white shirt was suddenly two foot higher (and more horizontal) than everyone else, at which point the whistle would blow, Mossley were given a free-kick and the cycle would begin again. Not even the interval brought an end to the combativeness as the walk back to the changing rooms took three minutes longer than expected due to the first players to leave the pitch having what is commonly described as an ‘altercation in the tunnel.’

Still, things were looking good for Mossley. One up at the break against a team that already looked dead on their feet and one that seemed highly unlikely to finish the match with eleven players on the pitch. And if you think that’s a cue for the next paragraph to begin with the word however, you’re not wrong.

However something happened while the teams were devouring orange segments, drinking energy boosting coloured water or whatever it is players do between halves. Mossley returned to the field of play looking a shadow of the side they were fifteen minutes earlier - full of nerves, misplaced passes and leaden of boot - while Lincoln emerged from the changing rooms like they’d spent the interval channelling the gods of football.

I speak with all honesty when I say that if it wasn’t for the fact that their faces were the same you could have sworn they’d replaced their entire team with ringers, because for ten minutes after the restart they ran rings round us. If I hadn’t been fretting about what this turn of events could mean I might have been impressed with how Lincoln were playing. The fretting didn’t last long though because it was quickly superseded by a full blown collective panic attack when the visitors pulled level; another moment in which Mossley didn't cover themselves in any glory defensively. A failure to clear the ball, an opponent allowed time to put a cross into the area, an attacker winning a header in the six yard box, a man in acres of space at the back post... it was like a compilation of Mossley's recent worst bits - Now That's What I Call Schoolboy Defending Vol 10/11

Even though they had us on the proverbial ropes by the simple act of playing decent football, Lincoln couldn't help themselves from reverting back to the Bruce Lee impressions they were 'delighting' us with in the first half and one spectacularly unnecessary challenge outside their own box later, Mossley were presented with a free-kick from which they were able to retake the lead. Ben Richardson’s delivery was headed back across the face of the goal by Aaron Chalmers and Oates notched his second of the night from close range.

At this point I'd like to say that the wobbles stopped and the Lilywhites strode purposefully onto victory but they didn't. It took a fantastic save from Peter Collinge and the flag of an assistant referee to stop Lincoln drawing level again though the butterflies in the pits of the supporters’ stomachs were settled when the Lilywhites gave their lead a cushion. And a smart little goal it was too with Lee Blackshaw flicking the ball past Ziccardi with the back of his heel. A moment I believe the word 'deft' was invented for.

With time ebbing away and the game slipping from them with every passing second, Lincoln once again set about their opponents legs with great gusto and I'm sure they'll be disappointed that, thanks to the increasing leniency of the referee, they didn't take their card count into double figures. Still, a total of seven yellow cards isn't something to be sniffed at for ninety minutes work.

”Hiiiiiii-ya!” And the referee reaches for his pocket once again...

Three became four for Mossley in the closing stages of the match when Mark Connor bundled the ball over the line following more good work from Blackshaw and that was it: the last hurrah on what eventually turned out to be good night for the majority of people situated within Seel Park.

If you can blank out the jittery period following the interval, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful about this result and performance. First of all there’s the win and the cheque in the post from the FA that comes with it. Secondly, and even taking into account the lower league status of the opposition, this was arguably our best display at Seel Park this season. It wasn’t fantastic but it was a class above the other showings I’ve seen in terms of spirit and ideas.

And if you think that the last paragraph is a little too upbeat for this blog then I should balance it out by saying that the defence looks frighteningly porous at times. Until we start to look a bit more solid we run a real risk of being punished heavily by good sides for the laxness we seem unable to shake.

Still, I'm sure there'll be plenty of time in the comings weeks and months to grumble about the whys and woes - defensive or otherwise – that come with following this club. Till then though it would be silly not to take time out and admire the accomplishment of reaching the 4th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup for the first time in over two decades.

Better still is the fact that there's no pressure in the next round. Our opponents Darlington are three leagues above us and expected to win.; we’re just there to make up the numbers and give one or two of their supporters a 'look how far we've fallen' anecdote. It's a terrible footballing cliché but I'm just going to enjoy the match and keep my fingers crossed that we manage to give them a scare or two before bowing gracefully out of the competition.

Hoping for more than that would be silly... wouldn't it? ;-)

Lincoln Moorlands Railway 1 - 1 Mossley

To go or not to go: that is the question that now arises for me in regards to the replay that resulted from Mossley’s recent excursion to Lincolnshire in the FA Cup.

The hesitancy in deciding whether or not to lumber Seel Park with my presence for the re-match stems on this occasion though from a sense of selflessness rather than the other reasons which has seen me miss or come close to not attending games since April.

You see, I think that I may be some kind of a jinx. I’ve seen five of the six home games Mossley have played so far this season and witnessed them win only once. And even in that solitary (and slightly fortuitous) victory against Garforth, the performances on the pitch have left something to be desired; there has been very little to be effusive about. However, in that one home match I didn’t attend not only did Mossley win (an FA Cup match too), they did so by a margin of more than one goal and put in what was apparently a good performance to boot.

So you can see my quandary. Do I go and run the risk of putting the kiss of death on proceedings or do I stay at home for the greater good? Decisions, decisions, decisons.

It’s a choice I wouldn’t be forced to make though if Mossley could put away their chances as the report on the Lincoln game, along with numerous comments elsewhere, suggests that it was the latest instalment of the Lilywhites ‘Cow’s Bum and Banjo’ show. On the plus side (and it’s a major plus) we didn’t lose and we appeared to have at least made our opponents keeper work up a bit of a sweat – something I sadly haven’t seen at Seel Park on anything other than warm days this season.

Should we win the replay (and that’s nowhere close to being a foregone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination – it is Mossley we’re talking about after all) we’ll be welcoming Darlington to Seel Park for the 4th Qualifying Round; a team who it’s fair to say haven’t had the best of times recently.

We’ve played Darlington once before and that was in the First Round Proper of the same competition 27 long, long, “good grief do I feel old” years ago when we lost a five goal thriller to the Quakers at Feethams. That is to say they scored five goals and were rather thrilled about it.

And such is the weird way that peculiar coincidences are thrown up, after not playing Darlington for almost three decades we’ll be facing them twice in the space of five days should Lincoln allow us to overcome them; three times if the fixture goes to a replay because the youth team are due to take on the Yorkshire side’s youngsters in the FA Youth Cup on the following Wednesday.

Alas, it all depends on which Mossley turns up for the replay on Tuesday against Lincoln: the ‘good’ Mossley or the ‘bad’ Mossley. The only thing we know for certain is that with our current lights it’s going to be hard to tell.

Kidsgrove Athletic 1 - 4 Mossley

Time constraints and the fact that I'm still in a state of shock at this result means this is going to brief... okay, own up! Which one of you just cheered?

My state of disbelief in the 4-1 scoreline comes purely through the fact that a mere three days earlier, the game which lead to this replay suggested that five goals and a scintillating performance from one of the teams taking part would be the second to last thing to happen. The last thing of course being David Icke invading the pitch on the back of an aluminium foil covered giraffe and interrupting the game for five minutes while the theme tune to 80's Saturday morning kids show Starfleet played over the p.a. system.

That's not to say that the not particularly loveable crackpot didn't take to the field of play while riding African wildlife, I wasn't there so I don't know for sure. It certainly isn't mentioned in the only report on the game that exists anywhere in the known universe so I think it's safe to assume that it didn't as it probably would have been worthy of a sentence or two.

Accompanying the £2000 in prize money for emerging victorious from this brush with an old NWCFL foe is the chance to take on another familiar opponent in the next round of the FA Trophy: Shepshed Dynamo, who we still have to thank for our Unibond First Division title in 2006.

If you cast your minds back you'll remember that we practically imploded in the tail end of that season and if it hadn't been for Dynamo beating Fleetwood and Kendal in the final week we wouldn't have stumbled over the finishing line in the championship race. Actually a better metaphor is that we toppled over well before the finish and Shepshed were kind enough to move the line to behind where we fell. So thank them graciously when we turn up at Butthole Lane next week for their part in enabling us to win a bit of silverware.

Mossley 1 - 1 Kidsgrove Athletic

If you’re somebody who visits this blog in the seemingly forlorn hope of one day reading a match report in which the word count doesn’t approach four figures, then today is the one you’ve been waiting for.

I’d like to be able to bring you (or indeed inflict on you if you only come here for the sole purpose of having your sensibilities offended) my usual outpouring of meandering flimflammery but the nature of this match makes it impossible to do just that. I mean, how do you write about an FA Trophy game in which next to nothing happened? As it turns out, the answer to that question is ‘with great difficulty’.

The opening period was as dire a half of football as I’ve seen in quite some time. Nothing of any note happened at all apart from the wind blowing, the birds chirruping and everybody very, very slowly getting 45 minutes older. A small frog also appeared on the edge of the pitch midway through the half and the fact that this has got a mention and a photograph should be a good indicator as to just how bad things were.

A frog. Probably as bored as us too.

Eight minutes after the interval the tedium was finally broken when not only was there a shot, it was on target and it hit the back of the net too. By this stage of proceedings I don’t think supporters would have cared which side scored as long it meant something had happened but thankfully for the home fans it came in Mossley’s favour; Mike Oates dinking the ball over a couple of players and the line with what the tabloids would probably call a ‘cheeky little lob.’ And should you so wish, you can watch it over and over again:

Moments later Connor Hampson scuffed a shot wide when it looked easier to score and with it came the end of the brief flurry of excitement, the game quickly returning to its pre-goal dreariness. And, oh, how the Lilywhite supporters wish it had remained that way as with 15 minutes of the match to go and Kidsgrove posing no threat at all, Mossley’s philanthropic nature gifted them an equaliser. That’s far nicer than saying it was yet another almighty cock-up isn’t it?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but it began with a ball that should have been cleared but wasn’t. It was then rolled gently to the feet of an opposing player and after being given a guard of honour by the Mossley defenders on way to into the box, he had the time to measure and then hit a low shot past Peter Collinge which pulled his side level.

There was a half-chance or two for Mossley in what time there was remaining but the unwanted prospect of a Tuesday replay loomed larger with every misplaced pass and dead end run. And that’s what the final whistle brought: the chance to re-watch both sides bore one another again in midweek, only this time at a ground 30 miles closer to the equator.

I’d go into further details about how we played, the good and bad points, etc., but that would mean spending even more time dwelling on a game and I need to put out of my head as soon as humanly possible. Especially if I want the nightmares to stop.

Mossley 2 - 1 Garforth Town

I can recall precisely what time Garforth opened the scoring because a mere 15 seconds earlier I'd looked at my watch, turned to the person next to me and said, "22 minutes gone and absolutely nothing has happened."

Now if I was paranoid (or more paranoid than I actually am) I'd probably believe that the goal came through this inadvisable tempting of fate but in truth it was down to yet more sloppy defending from Mossley. For the umpteenth time already in the five games I've seen this season an opposing player was allowed the freedom to run towards the Mossley box and ping a cross over to an unmarked team mate. On this occasion it was Chris Howarth who was the beneficiary of this sadly repetitious event and he hammered the ball into the net to register what will probably be the easiest goal he'll score all season.

If the lesson of not to leave players unmarked in the box hadn't been learnt over the course of the past month, it was hardly likely that it would over the course of the following five minutes so it didn't come as a surprise when the same set of circumstances transpired once more. What was a surprise though is how Garforth didn't double their lead as with an entire goal to aim at a visiting attacker, whose identity will forever remain a mystery to me, shot directly at the one Mossley player on the line. If the ball had nestled in the back of the net I'm practically certain that Garforth would have claimed all three points but it's incidents like these which become turning points.

Not that there was any evidence it would prove to be a game changing moment as Mossley's attacks were just as blunt and scarce as they have been in all the league matches at Seel Park this season. The Garforth goalkeeper did produce a spectacularly acrobatic save to prevent a Steve Settle shot from going off for a goal kick but in truth there was only one side that looked like scoring. And here's a hint: it wasn't Mossley.

And so it proved on the stroke of half-time when Town centre half Tom Marron produced a goal out of nothing. There appeared to be no danger at all but with his back to goal he hooked the ball over both his shoulder and the keeper and into the net. Unfortunately for him it was his own keeper and his own net but that shouldn't take anything away from the sheer quality of the effort because I don't think any player in the world could replicate it.

The Evo-Stik website has the o.g. as being scored by Andy Villerman and that does a great disservice to Marron so I hope he's pleased to know that there's at least one corner of the world wide web that will correctly salute him for his commitment to the Mossley cause. It's a good job there was no one round to capture it on film though, eh Tom? Oh, that's right...

Some of the best things in life are sudden and unexpected (apart from being hit by a bus of course) so the fact Mossley went off at the interval on level terms was a rather pleasing thing. And it got even more pleasing five minutes after the restart when Lee Blackshaw fired a 25 yard daisy cutter past keeper Lee Kelsey after being gifted the ball by a Garforth defender.

In the 15 minutes following the go-ahead goal Mossley produced some of the best football I've seen them play this season. Not only was there some invention and intelligent passing and movement, it was finally married to some efforts on target - ones which actually had to make the keeper work to prevent the ball from hitting the net.

One effort was hacked off the line and Kelsey had to make a great save to stop Steve Settle putting Mossley further in front before producing an even better block to prevent... erm, actually I don't know who it was he stopped from putting their name on the score sheet because the shot came from one of the dark spots dotted around the pitch. That's right, a month into the season and there are 33 miners a mile underground in Chile who still have better lighting than we do. I don't want to keep bleating on about it (really, I don't) but the current set-up of the lights could cause us problems if they're not altered.

This period of Mossley pressure didn't last long but at least it was enough to constitute a spell which is vast improvement on the glimpses we've otherwise been getting.

In their attempts to get back on level terms Garforth abandoned the patient passing approach they'd been employing all evening and began to launch the ball as quickly as possible up the pitch. It's not pretty to watch but it's effective, especially when used against a somewhat shaky defence. It led to a few heart in mouth moments for the supporters as they noticed the odd player or two in a yellow shirt ghosting into the box unmarked but Mossley survived these late scrapes unscathed in order to secure/hang on for (delete as appropriate to the levels of rose tint in your glasses) the win.

And lets make no bones about it – the win is all that mattered. It would have been nice to have claimed the victory through playing breathtaking football but given our league position, even at this early stage of the season, getting points in any way, shape or form was paramount.

To be fair though the performance was better than the ones I've seen so far at Seel Park this season. However, despite this improvement there are still aspects of our game that any side with a half decent attack or regimented midfield will have a field day with unless we finally get around to addressing them. The them in question being the sloppy passing, the slack marking, etcetera, etcetera, and so forth.

I'll ignore those worries for the time being though (at least until the next game) and I'm just going to be happy that I've eventually got to witness Mossley win a game again. After all, you have to enjoy these small pleasures in life while you can.

While reading the above you may have noticed the omission of something that every other report on the game have mentioned. There's a reason for that. Well two actually. No, three. The first is that it had no bearing on the game whatsoever. Second of all, I've no wish to get involved with assisting Simon Clifford in his publicity stunt. Finally, and I know it may well contradict point number two, I'm umming and ahhing as to whether or not to do a separate post on the subject

Dunston UTS 1 - 2 Mossley

Because of a lack of time and anything interesting to say I’ll keep this short: we won and a report on the game can be found here.

Mossley’s reward for overcoming their Northern League opponents, besides the rather handy £4000 in prize money, is yet another away fixture in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup - a trip eastwards to face NCEL side Lincoln Moorlands Railway who sound more like a heritage train line than a football team. Despite being one of the lowest ranked teams left in the competition they aren’t to be taken too lightly having already dispatched a side of equal standing to Mossley in the pyramid to in an earlier round.

Not that we’d ever under estimate them given Mossley’s long and often miserable history in supposed ‘easier’ ties. As always it will be eyes closed, fingers crossed and hope for the best. On the terraces at least... all being well eyes will be open out on the pitch during the match.

Mossley 1 - 2 Trafford

One of the best things about no longer doing the official reports is that I can take my time to compose my thoughts about a game; I'm able to (as Lloyd Grossman used to say) deliberate, cogitate and digest what transpired before offering my considered, if unwanted, opinion. However, as I write, five days after this particular match, I can't come to any conclusion other than that we really were quite a bit poor.

I'll begin though with the positive points that Mossley can take from the game which rather conveniently leads us to the start of the match. With just over ten minutes gone a punched clearance from Trafford keeper Tom Read made its way towards Sam Hare. Following a nice piece of ball control the former Stockport County player... well, you can see for yourself:

Actually, I don't think I should have pluralised the word point in the previous paragraph because after Hare's 25-yard strike it was pretty much downhill for the Lilywhites. Nine minutes and one good save from Jon McIlwaine later, Trafford were level. Mossley's aeons old problem of not being able to defend corners properly allowing centre half Nia Bayunu the time and space just outside the six yard to turn and fire the loose ball into the net.

The closest the Lilywhites came to taking the lead (or even looking like scoring) again came in the 35th minute when Danny Egan headed a Ben Richardson cross against the outside of a post. At the time it looked like a sitter had been missed and there was much muted grumbling, but on second viewing it wasn't the easy chance it had initially appeared due to both the angle and a defender positioned between him and the goal.

There's no question that Mossley should have had a penalty in the opening minute of the second period after Read rugby tackled Mike Fish but, for reasons unknown to everyone other than himself, the referee thought otherwise. And waved away along with the penalty was Mossley's hopes of a place in the next round of the competition. There was the odd bit of pressure on the visitors goal but nothing that raised the expectation levels of the home supporters on the terraces. The report on the Trafford website says that Read performed heroics to keep Mossley at bay but other than a few weak attempts that he didn't even have to dive for (they were more back passes than shots) it's a description that defies some logic.

And if we're going to call bending over occasionally to deal with a bobbling ball heroic, then it's leaves us without a suitable noun to describe his opposite numbers performance at the other end of the pitch because if it hadn't been for some very, very good saves by McIlwaine then the margin of defeat could have been embarrassing.

He didn't have much chance with the goal that put Trafford ahead - a penalty from Scott Barlow after Mossley had decided to end Callum Byrne's lengthy and disturbingly easy run into the penalty area by sending him illegally crashing to the floor. After that though he was the only person who seemed to stand between a one goal defeat and one that made the score Skelmersdale reached in the previous game look narrow.

Over the course of the match, there was some debate as to what the excuse would be if when we lost. In the end it was narrowed down to three possibilities:

  1. "It was an experimental side..." In some respect this is true but in another respect it isn't. The non-experimental side we've employed in league games, with the continual changes of personnel and formation, still resembles a work-in-progress so there isn't much difference between the two. Other than that they both show we're still a long way from turning base metal into something yellow and

  2. "Saving players for Saturday's game in case they get injured..." Which is an idea I can along with. At least I could if it wasn't for the fact that our more consistent and senior players (the ones you'd most expect to be missing for this very reason) were out on the pitch for the entire 90 minutes. The persons rested in case of knocks and niggles were the ones who've been in and out of the side and ones in need of finding some form.

  3. "It's a meaningless cup..." It isn't a meaningless cup. It's the League Cup - the biggest competition we have a reasonably realistic chance of doing well in. Okay, there's not much in it for us financially but a win in any competition breeds confidence and that's something that seems to be in short supply. Of course there's a more important game coming up next in terms of money but we now go into it on the back of two straight defeats and with morale not exactly high. And what if we lose that? Suddenly the League Cup doesn't look quite as meaningless.

Finally, the floodlights. I know I've mentioned them before but they are a problem that requires sorting out. Seriously, something needs doing because there shouldn't be so many dark patches all over the pitch. All it needs is one assistant referee to say that he's having trouble seeing events close to the opposite touchline (and that's not as far fetched as you might think because it's already difficult to make out faces and the numbers on shirts at that distance) and whole can of worms is likely to be opened, starting with a failure to fulfil a fixture. Something is wrong when you can't see who's about to come on as a substitute but you can see the supporter on the terraces behind exploring the contents of his nose with a finger.

Then again, if this performance and the others I've seen this season are what the home fans can expect at Seel Park over the course of the next seven months I'd have no complaints if the dark patches got a lot bigger.

Hopefully though we can bounce back from this defeat and return from our trip to the north east with a place in the next round of the FA Cup secured and a couple of thousand pounds worth of prize money ready to be banked.