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