Mossley 1 - 1 Radcliffe Borough

Hold on to your hats readers because I'm about to drop a bombshell. This posting will not contain second hand information of what transpired in a Mossley game but an authentic eye-witness account because I actually attended a game.

You’ve had to pull yourself up off the floor with that little revelation haven’t you?

Yes, for only the second time since April I decided to take up a spot on the terraces at a fixture involving the Lilywhites and for a considerable amount (okay, almost all) of the time I spent standing on those concrete steps I was rueing the wisdom of choosing to do so.

If that last sentence doesn’t provide you with a clue as to what the general tone of the following report may be, it’s at this point, before I get into the meat and bones of this post, that I should perhaps proffer a word of warning. If you're one of those supporters who gets upset at the merest hint of a criticism aimed anywhere within the vicinity of Mossley or annoyed that someone has a view that's not coloured by some rose tinted eye furniture then stop reading now.

Seriously, do something else. Follow this link and watch some cutesy-wutesy kittens because you're not going to like what follows.

I'll wait while you go...




Okay, if you're still here don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm unimpressed. Utterly so. And not just about the football either but it's that which I'll start with.

As Smiffy says in his excellent and much more succinct take on the game on Six Tame Sides, the reports of an improved Mossley performance at Warrington three days earlier weren’t exactly being backed up by everyone who attended that game. However, whether that performance had been given a sugar coating or not, it was still enough to induce a bit of hope in those of us who’d given Cantilever Park a wide berth that we were about to see a better display from the men in white shirts than what we previously may have witnessed; a bit of promise that suggested our league campaign and rise up the table was about to begin.


If you were a Radcliffe fan the game got off to a fantastic start. Not so much if you were watching from a Mossley perspective and watching is the operative word when it comes to describing the Lilywhites part in Borough's third minute opener.

While I admit that I can occasionally be prone to the odd touch of exaggeration, I can say here without a word of a lie that not one player in a white shirt moved as a free-kick was swung into the Mossley box. And motionless they remained as Shaun Connor ran through a crowded area to volley the dropping ball past Peter Collinge; the sound of the small cluster of visiting supporters celebrating drowned out by the noise made by a 100+ pairs of eyes blinking in disbelief at what they’d witnessed.

With their defence and midfield dropping deeper towards their own penalty area after the goal, Radcliffe possibly thought that Mossley were going to come at them all guns blazing in response to the early bruising they’d been dealt. Instead we came at them with a water pistol containing no water.

Mossley’s answer to going behind was non-existent. Barring the occasional glimpse of some nice passing in and around the vicinity of the halfway line, the home team were no threat at all. As a supporter there aren’t many sights in a football match more dispiriting than seeing your team losing and relying on some insanely hopeful pot shots, from a distance no less than 30 yards from goal, to rescue the situation.

Credit is due in part to some impressive work in midfield and defence from the visitors but the home team were hardly helping themselves by showing nothing in the way of invention or nous. With no width at all to the side everything was being channelled down the middle of the pitch to where a lone forward was being marked out of the game by two centre halves. That’s right: at home to a lower table side and needing a win, we were playing with one man upfront. Actually scratch that because there were times we had a no man attack; the designated forward having drifted back past the midfielders in search of a ball he was seeing precious little of.

To be fair I’m sure that the actual formation we were using was 4-3-3 (or a 4-3-2-1) but for the most part it was 4-5 players in the centre circle-1 and the game became stuck in a loop: (1) A nice passing triangle from Mossley on the halfway line, (2) possession surrendered cheaply, (3) Radcliffe clear the danger easily, (4) Go to (1).

And it continued like that well into the second period. Even the introduction of another forward couldn’t instil a bit of variety to Mossley’s approach play, although Radcliffe’s keeper Nick Culkin was finally called on to make a save. It may have been from one of his defenders mishit clearances but we're going to count it as a shot on target for Mossley. Then out of nothing the home side were level with a goal richly deserving of being scored in a better game. Substitute Mike Fish received the ball on the corner of the Radcliffe box and on let fly on the half-volley with a looping effort which dropped over Culkin and into the net.

If Michael Oates hadn't scooped the ball over the crossbar moments later, after the Borough keeper had spilled a speculative effort from distance directly into his path, then there'd have been a goodly number of delightfully flabbergasted and happy people within Seel Park. Instead they just became frustrated as the promise of a great comeback was derailed by going back again to funnelling every attack we had down the middle of the pitch.

This was good news for Radcliffe who were starting to look a little ragged for the first time, but now they could get back to doing what they’d done so well for the first hour and a bit of the game: stifling Mossley and forcing them into errors before attempting to launch a counter attack. And with this approach they nearly snatched a victory in the dying embers of the game; Peter Collinge doing extremely well to tip a swerving, dipping, something else ending in -ing shot from a Borough substitute to safety.

Even though we probably had the lion’s share of possession over the course of the ninety minutes, it definitely feels like that it was a fortunate point won rather than two lost thanks to one moment of individual brilliance.

As my attendance at games has been sparse this season, the only frame of reference I have to judge this Mossley performance against is their display at home to Bamber Bridge last month and it’s a tad concerning because I couldn’t see any improvement whatsoever. If anything there were a few more causes for alarm to add to the list. Being determined though to live up to my promise not to be too critical so early into the new campaign, I shall forego expanding on that inventory of worries for now in the hope that what’s happening is still nothing more than teething trouble for a new team and management.

Having a winger on the pitch could improve things immeasurably. Although to be fair we might be using them now – it’s just that nobody can pick them out at night, which leads me on to something else I wasn’t overly enamoured with: the new floodlights.

I don't know what it was like on the Main Stand side of the ground but from the Hanover Street side it was difficult at times to make out who the players were on the opposite side of the pitch. Not only because of the dark patches in various areas but because of the shadows the lighting caused – leaving players on occasions looking like silhouettes (at some point over the next few days there'll hopefully be a few photos to illustrate some of these points).

I’ve no doubt that this is due to the way each of the individual lights has been angled (a number of them seem to be positioned almost directly downwards rather than out across the playing surface) and if this is indeed the case it should be an easy enough problem to rectify. If it isn’t the case then… well, it doesn’t really bear thinking about.

Finally (there is actually a finally), music was played over the PA system when Mossley scored. To borrow some internet terminology all the kids seem to be using: WTF?

Goal music is a tacky and embarrassing intrusion on the game and there’s a reason why we’ve ridiculed its use at Curzon Ashton for years: because it’s pitiable and not because we were trying to disguise feelings of jealousy at not having it ourselves. Hopefully it’s just a one-off. If it isn’t then our lack of an effective attack could have a silver lining after all.

Fingers crossed for better (and brighter) things soon or else more postings like this are going to make people think of me as the quite the grumpy pants.