Mossley 4 - 2 Clitheroe

When your interest in the game of football is waning it takes something special to stoke the dying embers of the passion you once had. And this match provided a spark that lit that fire, if only briefly, once more.

Then again there's nothing like a match against an old enemy to get the blood pumping.

Ever since Mossley and Clitheroe faced one another for the first time in the North West Counties League in 1995, meetings between the two sides have always been, to use a hoary old football cliché, 'full-blooded affairs' and ones not generally lacking in incident and this latest encounter proved to be no exception.

Even though the latest spell of bad weather had visibly taken its toll on the pitch, the game got off to a blistering start as both teams traded a succession of chances in the opening ten minutes. Ex-Clitheroe keeper Peter Collinge was called into action twice to deny Alan Coar from putting the visitors in front while at the other end of the pitch it took a last ditch tackle from Liam McManus to stop Chris McDonagh from giving Mossley an early lead.

Steve Settle was the next player to try to break the deadlock and he came agonisingly close to doing so after the current Clitheroe keeper, Danny Hanford, fumbled his first attempt to save the wingers long range effort before finally stopping it on the line with his second. Hanford's shakiness at high balls into the box was highlighted again when he missed a catch at a corner kick and was rescued by a defender hacking the ball away to safety from underneath the cross bar.

Why am I mentioning a missed catch and a fumbled one - something that happens relatively often in a game of football? Well in drama this is what they call foreshadowing.

Just before the half hour Zach Clark spurned a gilt edged chance to put his name on the score sheet by dallying too long with the ball while the goal was at his mercy, giving Collinge time to get in position to make a good save when the shot finally was taken. The ball did actually hit the back of the net twice in the first half but on both occasions the raised flag of the assistant referee ruled Steve Moore's efforts to edge the Lilywhites ahead to be offside; the first decision, it must be said, being slightly more dubious than the second.

To be truthful they were just two decisions in a string of many that were... well, as this isn't the official report and what's said here in no way represents the views of Mossley AFC, just plain old wrong. This isn't a 'hard done to us' moan as Clitheroe can quite rightly have grievances about some of the decisions. I'm no longer one for verbally making my feelings known towards officials at games but even I couldn't bite my tongue at some conclusions the men in black came to. I doubt anyone could when they see a linesman inexplicably flag for offside when a goalkeeper, with only team mates round him, almost spills a shot from 25 yards into his own net.

Officials have a tough enough job to do as it is without them making it harder for themselves by getting the crowd on their backs with unfathomable interpretations of events.


After all that had happened it was a surprise that the interval arrived with the game still 0-0 but that soon changed as within five minutes of the restart Clitheroe had raced into a two goal lead. The first came after Nathan Taylor beat Mossley's offside trap to race on to a through ball but the second was a stunning strike – a turn and volley from 25 yards which left Collinge completely wrong-footed. McManus should have sealed the win the visitors not long after Taylor's double but his failure to find the net from the two yards out (somehow blazing the ball high over the bar) seemed to shake Mossley out of their post-interval stupor and they began to claw their way back into the game.

Shortly after the hour mark in the match Andy Watson headed a right wing corner into the path of Andy Russell who poked the ball over the line from close range. Five minutes of constant pressure later the comeback was completed. Substitute Lee Blackshaw effortlessly slipped his marker and played an inch perfect ball across the face of the goal which gave McDonagh the simplest of tap-ins to draw Mossley level.

The game then swung from end to end as both teams went in search of a winner. Konstantin Televinov and Clark, for the second time in the afternoon, fluffed great opportunities that would have given Clitheroe victory more while Nathan Neequaye and Matty Kay went close for the hosts. As the match passed its 90th minute it looked as though both sides would have to settle for a point but there was to be one late twist.

Almost a year to the day after scoring an injury time winner in the corresponding fixture last season, Lee Blackshaw repeated the feat by stroking the loose ball into an empty net after Hanford had once again failed miserably to deal with a straight forward cross. See! All that that stuff many paragraphs ago about missed catches and the like was pertinent.

The visitors piled men forward in an attempt to salvage an equaliser but in leaving gaps at the back they were caught on the break and Matty Kay cemented the win for the Lilywhites with his 20th goal of the campaign. Salt was then almost rubbed into Clitheroe's wounds when Moore nearly added a fifth with the final kick of the match.

Flattering or not, it's a victory which sees Mossley climb another place in the table and Clitheroe head back to central Lancashire from Seel Park for the second year running in a state of shock at the late, late turn of events. Both of which bring about an enormous warm glow inside of me.

Both sides deserve an enormous amount of credit for trying and successfully managing to play passing football on a surface that was more suited to potato picking than the finer arts of the beautiful game. But then the state of the pitch cannot be helped given the pounding it has received off the weather over the past three months and it certainly wasn't the reason for why the result of this match ended up the way it did.

Why it finished 4-2 is down to Mossley's refusal to roll over and lick their wounds when it looked like defeat was inevitable. Not for the first time this season - in fact I really should count just how many times its happened since August – the teams spirit in plugging away for the entire ninety minutes (plus that little bit extra) was handsomely rewarded.

Not only is it hard to pick out the star performer in a white shirt difficult, it would be grossly unfair too as this was a team effort in which all the players executed their roles to such a high standard that no-one stood out. And how often can you say that about any team, let alone Mossley?