Mossley 6 - 2 Ossett Albion

Your eyes do not deceive you. The scoreline that makes up the heading to this post is correct. It may have taken a month but Mossley have finally registered their first win of the season and did so in (what the unwritten law of UK football match reporting compels me to label as) emphatic fashion.

Just as one bad result isn't a portent for months of doom, gloom and despair, one good result isn't a sign of a renaissance. I've no doubt whatsoever that this is probably going to sound like I'm being picky or purposefully negative but all the good things about Mossley's performance in this game are balanced out by the poor quality of their opponents. And I'm being generous in labelling them poor.

In Ossett's defence (and the only defence that can be associated with Ossett in regards to this game) they are in the midst of an injury crisis which has left them without the services of nine regular starters. However, as the cliché goes you can only beat what's in front of you and the Lilywhites beat what was in front of them well, one or two scares aside.

I do have more thoughts about this game jotted down on a piece of paper but as the week has gone on the will to arrange them into a cohesive structure has been slowly sapped by other events. So instead of presenting you with some musings about formations, tactics and an elephant that has appeared in the room, I'm just going to finish with some video footage of all six of Mossley's goals; a change of plan which some of you will no doubt believe to be a bit of a blessing:

Runcorn Linnets 4 - 0 Mossley

To put it simply:
If there's a Mossley fan around who was surprised about this result then good luck in finding them. The 4-0 score line might have taken a few people aback but the defeat to a mid table NWCFL side was expected; it was as non-shocking as cup shocks are ever likely to get. There's a report on the Runcorn site here if you want the details on Mossley's capitulation to a side from a lower division but as you can imagine it doesn't make for anything other than grim reading.

Bottom of the league, out of the FA Cup, an increasing number regulars missing from the terraces and we're barely into the second week of September: can the season get any worse than this?

That was a rhetorical question by the way.

Mossley 0 - 0 Runcorn Linnets

If I was to write the report this match deserved you'd have finished reading it by now. In fact there'd have been nothing to read apart from the heading - just six or seven inches of white space. It started, it stopped and in the ninety minutes in between little of any consequence happened. The supposed magic of the FA Cup was certainly not with this game.

Runcorn had the better of the opening 22 and a half minutes, which included a couple of vociferous appeals for a penalty, while Mossley were on top for the remainder of the first period but only had a Cavell Coo shot directly at Linnet's keeper Richie Mottram to show for efforts. The teams then left the field for the break, came back on again and proceeded to cancel one another out for three quarters of an hour.

Oops! Sorry, there were a couple of moments worth mentioning. Kayde Coppin hit the post when one of his free-kicks took a huge deflection of a Runcorn defender and Martin Pearson produced a fantastic save that the referee did the huge disservice by failing to recognise it and awarding a goal kick instead. The less said about one incident in the second half though when a series of increasingly ridiculous passes across the Lilywhites back line allowed a Runcorn player clean through on goal, the better. Thankfully for Mossley the Linnets player who was the beneficiary of this generosity skewed his shot so far wide of the target that the goalkeeper didn't even have to attempt a save. And therein lies the reason why this game has gone to a replay: neither sides possession of an attack worthy of the noun.

In Mossley's case this didn't come as much of a surprise once the team line-ups were announced and it was revealed that we'd be starting the match with a centre half playing as a centre forward. The first week of September and we're already struggling to find round pegs to fit into round holes. Happily the visitors to Seel Park were just as woeful in front of goal and that's why there is at least some good news: we didn't lose! If that doesn't sate your appetite for reasons to be cheerful about, how about the fact we weren't overwhelmed and looked more than a match for an eighth placed team in the North West Counties League, which does bode well for next season.

Things You Thought You'd Never See Again

#1: Mossley topping a table

Okay, it's not the club and rather the town itself but in these thin times we can but dream. In case you're wondering the image is from the BBC quiz Pointless and yes, I'm well aware of the humour that can be had in the marrying of Mossley and the show's title.

Mossley 0 - 4 Curzon Ashton

I don't know about you but even though August isn't yet a footnote in the annals of history, I think it may already be time to write off Mossley's title chances for this season. And possibly our play-off hopes too.

I'm not going to go into any great detail about the mechanics of the match, primarily because I wasn't there. I had the option of attending the game or an early evening out with friends; it had to be one or the other. In times gone past I almost certainly would have opted for the football but in these days of financial austerity I don't want to use what painfully little disposable income I have on paying to watch something akin to a slow motion car crash, which is what Mossley's last home match was and what their latest one threatened to be. As the evening with friends had the promise of some enjoyment it was that I opted for as the 'e' word is something that hasn't been synonymous with the Lilywhites for a while now. Unless of course you're a supporter of the opposition. And lo and behold if it wasn't the visiting Curzon fans who got the most bang for their buck in the latest instalment of the Lilywhites 2011/12 relegation push. (Before anyone gets on their high horse, of course I'm being facetious when I say relegation push. For the time being at least anyway)

Curzon's 16 man squad contained 11 players who have worn the Lilywhites shirt, many of whom as recently as last season. The departure of these players to our near neighbours in the summer brought numerous jilted lover-esque cries from some supporters of "they weren't very good anyway" and that their replacements were so much better. It wasn't for as simple a reason as that they wanted to play for a manager who they'd enjoyed playing under before or that they wanted a change of scenery. Oh no, they were "mercenaries." Which begs the question as to whether the supporters who believe this think their replacements didn't have to leave a club to join us; that we're the only club who source our players from a pool of Corinthian spirited idealists. Anyhoo, the fixture meant it was an early chance to put those claims to the test: were the ex-Lilywhites rubbish and the new Lilywhites a lot better? A glimpse at the score line answers that question.

While I didn't watch the game in the flesh I did manage to watch it via Twitter for an hour via the various tweetings from the neutrals and not-so-neutrals in attendance and none of it made for happy reading. In the hour before kick-off I began to get this weird feeling that Mossley would upset the apple cart but when @aaronflan posted the team line-ups prior to the start of the match it disappeared. A whippet-like centre forward in the shape of Kristian Dennis up against the far from whippet-like central defensive pairing Mossley were starting with was only going to lead to one thing if the former was up for the match and sure enough, at four minutes past three the first of a succession of tweets popped up on my time line to say that Dennis had put Curzon a goal ahead having beaten his marker for speed. Eight minutes later news of his second strike of the afternoon came through along with some far from glowing appraisals of Mossley's performance.

Eventually it came time to head off to my preferred destination of the day and while stood at the bus stop I heard a cheer roll down from the hill which Seel Park sits atop of. In a rare outbreak of optimism I headed to Twitter on my phone to see if Mossley had embarked on a comeback. Nope. The noise I'd heard had been to greet Kristian Dennis's hat-trick. Seven minutes (and still no bus) later there was another eruption. That late on in the game it's unlikely a Mossley goal would have elicited such a reaction and sure enough it had heralded Curzon's fourth, scored by another ex-Lilywhite Michael Fish.

The 4-0 result (a second successive defeat at home by the same scoreline) meant that Curzon moved to the top of the table on goal difference and Mossley slipped, or rather fell with a bump, to the bottom of the Evo-Stik First Division North by virtue of having fewer points than everybody else. And so after six games of the new campaign the Lilywhites sit 21 places and 16 points below their Bank Holiday opponents who, lest we forget, comprise of players who aren't good enough for us according to some. Maybe it's just me but at the moment I'm not getting any sense of progress being made, especially as we look like heading into a risky FA Cup fixture against an unbeaten side from a lower division with only one centre forward at the club. Lengthy paragraphs about these issues though are for another, rainy day.

As for me I did have an enjoyable evening, not that any of you are asking. I ended up seeing the new Conan the Barbarian film and while it's not the greatest film ever made there are far worse ways of spending 90 minutes, naming no examples. There was plenty of killing in it too so I did eventually end up seeing one massacre on the day and paid less than £8 for the privilege too.

Skelmersdale United 3 - 1 Mossley

There's not really much to say about this game other than that we've managed to get our annual defeat at Skelmersdale out of the way much earlier in the season than we usually do. It's normally a cold night in March or April when we turn up at Stormy Corner and get a pasting but this year we got the opportunity to help Skem's goal difference while enjoying a bit of sun too.

Or at least I'm going to assume it was sunny. It could well have been bucketing it down and blowing a force ten gale for all I know. What I do know for a fact though is that for the first time since the home side moved to their new ground, Mossley managed to get through ninety minutes there without conceding four or more goals which makes it the first genuine positive of the season! Huzzah!

It's surprising just how much joy there is to be had in these infinitesimally small moments in football when your hopes for a season are virtually non-existent. All we have to do now is beat Curzon at home for once and the 2011/12 season, whether we're relegated or not, can be claimed a success on some level.

Back to this game though and for a short period of time the unlikely looked achievable: a win at Skelmersdale. A goal from Tom Ingham on the cusp of the break gave the Lilywhites the lead at the half way point but the hopes of gaining three points at one of our bogey grounds started to slip away early in the second period. Rob McIntosh and Paul Woolcott put the home side ahead within five minutes of the restart and Shaun Tuck administered the match winning blow 13 minutes from time. From the few accounts of the supporters who went to Skelmersdale, Mossley didn't play that badly but as crumbs of comfort go (even taking into account our opponents and that it's still August) it's still the tiniest of tiny morsels.

Speaking of Curzon, as I was some paragraphs ago, they're up next for Mossley. We're only two weeks into a new season and they're already 13 points ahead of us. Not bad for a team consisting in the main of last seasons Lilywhites squad; players whom some of our supporters said weren't any good when they left the club in the summer. Unfortunately I'm not going to be at Seel Park to see if the players we have now are (as claimed by some) better than those they replaced so I'm afraid there's going to be an in-depth review of our Bank Holiday game on here. I'm sure there will however be something to write about it, even if it's only "Yay!" or "Oh no!" Not sure what to do if it ends up a draw though.

AFC Fylde 2 - 2 Mossley

It was from the ridiculous to the almost-but-not-quite sublime for Mossley as they followed up their weak surrender to a slightly better than average Woodley side with a point at one of the title favourites, AFC Fylde.

Not that anyone should really be surprised that we managed to avoid defeat against The Coasters as that's what we've done in every match we've ever played against them. For want of a better term we are their bogey side and despite our less than auspicious start to the season that will continue to be the case until March at the earliest. If you want to be amazed about something to do with this result then its that after managing only one half decent shot on target in the previous 180 minutes of football, the visitors actually held a two goal lead just after the midway point of the game.

What followed the second goal has been described as the Alamo as Fylde laid siege to the Lilywhites net but that's the wrong analogy seeing as the defending side in that particular historical instance lost. This was a score draw so Rourke's Drift is probably a more fitting parallel. Or at least it is if equating important historical events, in which countless lives were lost, to ultimately meaningless sporting contests can in any way ever be described as fitting. I digress though so to get back to the topic in hand I'll point you towards the Mossley report on proceedings and Fylde's take on what happened.

So after being the bogey side we're off to Skelmersdale to face one of the many, many teams who hold a similar hoodoo over us. On our past four visits to Stormy Corner we've conceded a total of 18 goals and received a string of red cards so the chances of this being a dull 0-0 are pretty much slim to non-existent.

Cue the dull, goalless draw.

Mossley 1 - 4 Woodley Sports

I really don't know where to start or what to do with this blog entry. Actually the start is easy: this was one of the most abject Mossley performances I've seen for a good number of years. It's what to follow it with that's the problem.

On the one hand I don't want to be overly critical, especially after my last posting in which I said it was too early in the season to do such a thing. On the other though it's impossible not to be when you've just witnessed a display that doesn't scream off day but that we have a huge bleeping problems. However, if I was to do the latter and go through all the things that were wrong, or even if I just listed half of the problems that were in evidence over the course of this spell of ninety minutes, I'd be writing practically non-stop for a week. It was that bad. Or it was if you were a Mossley fan. If you were a Woodley supporter then you'd probably just seen your side pick up the easiest three points they'll get all season.

With the employment of some more composed finishing prior to it, Woodley's opener could easily have been the goal that put the seal on the win for the visitors. Of course it's not unusual for a side to have missed enough chances to have won a game before they finally find the back of the net for the first time but I doubt there are many who've done this with only eight minutes of a game having elapsed. The term one-sided was invented for matches like this and how Woodley failed to capitalise on their dominance is beyond me. Actually it isn't; they didn't get the goals they deserved because their forwards were next to useless in front of the net. It meant that for the majority of the match the simple pass-and-go move up the pitch which ripped through Mossley's paper thin resistance, and finished off by Jordan Stepien, was the only thing that separated the two sides. Well that and the the visitors superior level of fitness, their work rate and their decision to field a midfield to name but three of many other things.

Against any other team they'd have probably been made to pay for their wastefulness but happily for them they were facing Mossley. In the seven minutes prior to Stepien's strike and for a significant time after it the only time the Lilywhites entered their opponents half was to chase down the mortar-like passes from the back that formed the majority of their attacking tactics. It took a while but the home side did eventually realise that kicking the ball along the ground to a team mate was slightly more beneficial than lumping it in the general direction of their head. Alas, while it saw them enjoy a bit more possession, it didn't lead to a solitary shot in anger that forced visiting keeper Liam Higginbotham into taking action to preserve his sides lead.

With time in the game running out a shift in formation saw Mossley move to a three man back line. I assume this was to enable more men to move forward in search of a late equaliser but the difference it made to Mossley's attacking fortunes was the square root of zero. Woodley's attacking fortunes however benefited enormously. With even more gaps at the back to exploit they finally started to give the match a more realistic looking scoreline. In the space of five minutes a one goal lead became four and could easily have been six if the post and a terrible finish hadn't come to the home sides rescue.

If the score had stayed 1-0 to Woodley it would have flattered us immensely and I'm sure that in some quarters it would have been seen and spun as a half decent result too. However, while you can pull the wool over the eyes of people who didn't see what happened and have them believe late goals skewed the scoreline or whatever, the reality is that those who saw the game know that even with a 4-0 defeat the home team got off lightly and that against a good side, rather than a half-decent one, it could have been a massacre.

I did say though that I wasn't going to go into full-on critical mode this early into the campaign so instead of picking at the bones (the bare, meat free bones) of this performance just end with this: Three games, one point, one meaningful shot on target in 180 minutes of football at Seel Park, a lack of shape and ideas and the body language of some players already suggests they want to be anywhere else but here. Oh yes, Mossley's season is well underway.

Mossley 1 - 1 Witton Albion

After four months of waiting (not a second of which, personally speaking, was in eager anticipation) the new football season arrived at Seel Park and it came and went with little in the way of occurence for the match to take up anything more than a fleeting residence in the memories of those who saw it. It was, for want of a better description, an atypical end of season match, only eight months too soon.

That's not to say there weren't some things worthy of commenting on amongst the vast tracts of incident free stretches the game mostly consisted of. Mossley themselves diplayed a high level of energy but much of it was expelled in a wasteful manner as runs went unseen, passes went astray and promising situations came to a sudden halt; problems which meant that the high percentage share of possession the home side enjoyed throughout the match was largely uncapitalised on. Take the first half for example, all the Lilywhites had to show for their efforts was a high and wide shot from Joe Heap, and that only came after the youngster had been put clean through on the Witton goal by a spectacularly ill-advised backpass from the halfway line by an Albion midfielder.

The visitors themselves had hardly set the game alight but they went in at the break with a one goal lead which could possibly have been two if the referee hadn't waved away their appeals for what looked like a nailed-on penalty late on in the half. The one goal they had to their name came in the 25th minute and was the first (and as it turned out, only) shot on target in the opening forty five minutes. For Mossley supporters the manner in which it came had a horrible familiarity to it: a cross to an unmarked player at the far post, a pull back to an equally unattended team mate and shot placed beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. Albion's Danny Andrews applying the finishing touch on this particular occasion.

Without word of a lie, so little of interest was happening on the pitch midway
through the second half that the clouds above Seel Park instigated more
conversation on the terraces around me than the match did.

The second half began with the hope of a more dangerous looking home side on the pitch as substitute Tom Murray stabbed a good cross wide from close range but it soon dissipated as Mossley struggled once more to make a presence felt in the attacking third of the pitch. Not that the visitors were troubling the scoreline either. With the amount of time wasting going on, especially by goalkeeper Matthew Cooper, it looked like Witton had settled for a win by a solitary goal but for one brief moment they sprang into a modicum of life and came close to putting the game beyond Mossley's reach. Lilywhites centre half Peter Band was forced into making a goal line clearance to stop Alex Titchiner from doubling the visitors lead and a minute later the home defence could only watch as Liam Newman hammered a shot off the Mossley crossbar.

It took until the 70th minute for Mossley to manage their first shot on target, another three minutes for them to manage their second and a further nine for them to register an effort that could be termed meaningful. And it's this one which drew them level. A mazy run down the right wing by Kayde Coppin looked to have reached a conclusion as defenders converged around him but the former Flixton player somehow dug out an inch perfect cross that found the head of Harry Noon who in turn found the back of the net. As well as rescuing a point for Mossley it gave the match a scoreline which reflected it better. Not because both sides had cancelled one another out but because neither had done enough to win a game that was hardly going to entice any first time terrace occupiers in to making a return visit.

You can't be critical of a new team playing only their second competitive match (not even I'm that much of a grouchy curmudgeon) so I'm not going to detail the numerous 'facepalm' moments which were repeated throughout the course of the game. They are things which can be eradicated with time and hopefully the ironing out of these kinks will mean I never ever get round to mentioning them on here. I know, at times I'm just too optimistic.

I should probably end on a positive so I'll say that the Lilywhites second half performance was a bit better than the one in the preceding period. It wasn't the massive improvement as some have claimed elsewhere on the internet (unless the first half was even worse than I recall) but being slightly more impressive is better than nothing. The question is will it continue? As ever time will tell, even if history isn't exactly on Mossley's side.

Osset Town 2 - 1 Mossley

You should always start as you mean to go on which is why coverage of the 2011/12 season on this blog begins with a badly written and uninteresting report on a match I didn't and had no inclination to witness. In other words it is business as usual on Mossley80.

And not only am I starting the new season in the manner in which I finished the last one, so are the team as, just as they did at the end of April, they conceded two goals on their travels and failed to score an equal or greater amount in response. Or to put it more succinctly: they lost. Rather than coming off second best in Lancaster as they did three and a half months ago the new look Lilywhites fell to a defeat at the equally new look (and newly relegated) Osset Town.

This time around though the visitors did manage to score and that goal came courtesy of Scott Hogan, a last minute loan signing brought in from FC Halifax Town to beef up the threat posed by our attack; the lack of which in pre-season being something a number of people have commented on so it's good to see that has been addressed, albeit temporarily while a more permanent solution to the problem is sought.

A fuller report on what happened at Ingfield is available here but various comments made by those who travelled eastwards to Osset suggest that it wasn't a game to whet the appetite for what's to come over the ensuing months. You can't however predict the outcome of a season on the basis of one match so there's no point in being anything other than ambivalent about the possible fortunes of the team for a while yet. Well, at least up until the second game anyway.

Pre-Season 2011/12: Week Three & Four

As the new Evo-Stik League season is, at the time of writing, only a matter of a few hours away I should probably get round to bringing this blog up to speed with what happened in the summer's four 'pretend' games that haven't previously had a mention. Don't worry! It's not going to be as long as you think.

The first half of the second half of Mossley's pre-season kickabouts turned out to be what we can classify as a good week as the Lilywhites hit a vein of consistency, following up their one goal victory over Cheadle Town by registering similarly margined wins over opposition from both higher and lower levels in the pyramid.

The midweek game saw Mossley continue their impressive run of results against Hyde in pre-season matches and register their first victory at Seel Park against a side managed by Gary Lowe for eight years. By all accounts this was the Lilywhites best performance of the friendlies so far which, meaningless game or not, is heart cockle warming. Only one report on the match exists so head to Mossleyweb to read it.

Three days later Mossley ventured to the land of the pie eaters for their first ever game against North West Counties League Division One team Wigan Robin Park. It needed a late goal 18 minutes from time to give the visitors the win but a win none the less. Again Mossleyweb has details on what transpired while the official Robins' site has photographs.

If that week was good the fourth and final one of Mossley's pre-season campaign wasn't quite so much, getting under way as it did with a strong Mossley side coming off second best in a 1-0 defeat at Abbey Hey, another NWCFL Division One side. From the numerous comments made on various parts of the internet it was a thoroughly deserved win for the team from two leagues below but instead of providing you with a lengthy list of links to where those musings on the game are, I'm just going to point you towards the match report that's here, the photo's that are here and embed the video that the home side produced on the match... here:

The build-up to the new season concluded with a trip to Leicestershire to face Shepshed Dynamo, the only one of our opponents in the friendlies to play at the same level as Mossley. For the second game running (and the fourth time in pre-season) Mossley couldn't find the back of the net but happily for the day-trippers to Butthole Lane neither could Shepshed. If you want more information than that on what happened then you're bang out of luck I'm afraid as nothing more about exists about it on the internet than a scoreline and a team sheet.

So when everything is tallied up it's four wins, four defeats and one draw from the Lilywhites summer fixture list. There have been reasons to be optimistic about the forthcoming campaign and some to make you feel the opposite way. Which of the two ends up having been the correct barometer of what's to come will be known over the course of the next eight and a bit months.

Pre-Season 2011/12: Week Two

The opening week of Mossley's pre-season campaign was something of a mixed bag results wise (a big defeat, a big win and a narrow defeat to a big team) and it's a theme that carried over to the matches played in the seven days that followed.

For the week's first game our near neighbours from the division above, Ashton United, made the short journey over the hill to compete for the Willow Wood Hospice Cup; a competition that we have a pretty decent record in. Or we used to until this match.

Not having seen the game I can't pretend to offer some kind of insight into why the Lilywhites lost 4-0 at home to a side playing their first game since April. The general consensus of those who did see it though is that we played some nice stuff up until we reached the final third of the pitch. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that old Mossley favourite of struggling to get a sighting of an opponents goal, never mind a shot at one, could be back for it's umpteenth consecutive season. Still, it's nothing that can't be rectified and maybe this is the year which it will be. History dictates however that it probably wouldn't be wise to hold one's breath in anticipation unless a purple/blue skin complexion is the 'in' thing this year.

Could we be in for a promising season though if this perennial Mossley problem is finally solved? Possibly. But looking at it from another angle, the fact we conceded four goals while fielding what on paper appears to be our strongest possible line-up at the moment (especially in terms of the defence) suggests that there may be an entirely different elephant in the room too. There's no point in worrying just yet though as this is the part of the year set aside for ironing out such wrinkles. As the mantra goes, results don't mean a thing in friendlies, it's all about improving fitness and performance. Hopefully we're getting fit.

Should you wish to read better accounts of this game then I'd visit Mossleyweb, SixTameSides and the Ashton United website. Although in which order you choose to do so is entirely up to you.

Four days after relinquishing their grip on the Willow Wood Hospice Cup, Mossley found themselves in the suburbs of Stockport to take on NWCFL Division One side Cheadle Town. And it was back to winning ways too as a late goal from Danny Egan was enough to see the visitors claim a 2-1 victory at the Park Road Stadium. It seems to have been a close game as well judging by the reports on Mossleyweb, the Cheadle Town fanzine and the latter's Twitter feed as the match progressed.

I can't really add anything more to that other than to emit a small 'yay!' at the victory. Not that I'd normally cheer wins in such meaningless matches, it's just that I haven't had chance to do it much since January and I need to get some practice in. You know, just in case come August.

Pre-Season 2011/12: Week One

Covering last years pre-season games on the very blog you're reading now was a bit of a problem. With choosing to give the matches a very wide berth, finding something to write about them other than to just provide links to the views of those who did was a touch on the difficult side. For this reason I decided that things had to change this year and they have.

No, I haven't done the obvious thing and decided to grace any of the matches with my presence. I've found a much easier (and cheaper) way to do things. Rather than reporting on the friendlies on a game-by-game basis I've decided to do it week-by-week. The content will be the same, i.e. not worth reading, but it will hopefully take up far less of your valuable time to look at before you realise that it really wasn't worth reading.

And now that the preamble is out of the way it's on to the meat of the post or rather the tofu given that what follows is a poor substitute for the real thing you'll find on other sites.

The phoney war got under way with Blue Square North new boys FC Halifax Town making the short trip down the A672 to take on Gareth McClelland's new look Lilywhites side (or last seasons New Mills team if you take in to account the number of signings we've made from them over the course of the summer). When you factor in that the match involved what's basically still a team of strangers facing off against a relatively settled championship winning side from two divisions higher there was really only ever going to be one outcome and so it proved; the visitors making the trip back across the Pennines with a 5-1 victory to show for their afternoon's efforts. The plus for Mossley is that their solitary goal courtesy of Joe Heap was according to reports the best of the six scored during the game.

Ah yes, the reports. They're here and here for the Mossley point of view and here and here for the oppositions take on matters. The last one takes time out to impart some very kind and much appreciated words about this blog and in doing so provides me with a tag line for it when I finally get round to finishing re-jigging it. Current E.T.A. of Mossley80 v3.0? Goodness knows! It has already been 13 months in the making and still not even halfway done. But little do you care about my lethargic attempts to apply the heart paddles to this site. What you want are more links to far better reads than this and the second friendly game will provide these.

After Halifax the next club to take up a presence in the away changing rooms was Oldham Athletic who, in something of a novelty for a Football League team playing a friendly at Seel Park, sent a reasonably strong side containing a fair old smattering of first team players. The reason for them doing so was in honour of Mossley's residence at their current home reaching the 100 year mark. I was going to say playing instead of residence but there are a number of years in the mid-80's and early 90's where they didn't do much of that. Hopefully Oldham will be able to send their first team again in a few years time when we celebrate two decades of the pitch at Seel Park actually being the right size to hold a game of association football on.

Anyway, the match. Far from the being the walkover you may have expected (a professional side playing against a team of amateurs from five levels lower that have barely just met one another) the game finished with the visitors claiming a narrow 1-0 victory. The report in the Oldham Advertiser claims that it was a comfortable victory for the full-timers but that's a conclusion not borne out by the official Oldham website's match updates which suggests that Mossley could have registered a slightly more positive result in the last ten minutes. It's also a summation that's at odds with the report on Mossleyweb and the opinions of supporters who saw the game. But then the Advertiser is from the MEN stable of newspapers and one thing we've learnt in recent years about reports in the MEN involving Mossley (who can forget their hysterically bad Stalin-like airbrushing of events after our win over their then pet favourites FCUB) is that they may not bear a resemblance to what actually happened.

The third and final game of the opening week of friendly matches saw a Macclesfield Town XI make the trip to Seel Park; 'XI' as we all know being football code for a team comprising of players who should probably be revising for exams or finishing off homework instead of kicking a ball around on the edges of the Pennines. Young or experienced players though, and as much as I'd like to avoid using this particular football cliché, you can only beat what's in front of you and Mossley did so by six unanswered goals, and not without a fair old smattering of young people in their own line-up. I believe 'emphatic' is the adjective of choice for a victory like this one which you can read about on the official Mossley site.

So after a less than auspicious start against Halifax Mossley appear to be finding their feet a little which, while good, still means nought at this stage of the year. Friendlies may be necessary but they are ultimately pointless as anything other than a slightly more intensive fitness workout; they are as a guide to an upcoming season what horoscopes are to accurately predicting the future. Except with slightly fewer gullible followers.

Next up on the site: Pre-season friendlies 2011/10 - Week 2. I bet you can wait. Which sadly, going off my current blog work rate, is something you'll almost certainly have to do.

Mossley Youth 2 - 1 New Mills Youth

The one out and out success that Mossley can rightly point to over the past twelve months of humdrum-ity was the club's first ever youth team. Formed last summer along with a reserve side who weren't too shabby either (probably because it consisted mostly of youth team players), it was the one thing as a supporter that gave you a glimmer of hope for the future.

Watching the first XI put in one turgid performance after another, taking in one of the youth team's matches became something akin to a football palette cleanser. The bitter taste left by the route one style, balsa wood battering ram approach that our senior side's tactics seemed to consist of for spells during our Evo-Stik First Division campaign was washed away by the genuinely rare sight of a team in white shirts playing extremely good football at Seel Park. They had more focus, a seemingly better spirit and... did I mention, they played better football too? I did? Well it is an important point worth repeating.

While they didn't win the league they were playing in - the North West Youth Alliance - a fact that may have ultimately been down to the number of games they were being forced to play every week as the season neared its climax, they did reach three cup finals and won two of them: the Manchester FA Youth Cup and the NWYA Open Cup. A feat which saw the club then embark on an Indiana Jones style hunt for the Lilywhites, some say mythical, trophy cabinet.

What follows is the first of those two final victories (the Manchester FA Youth Cup) which took place back in April at Salford's Moor Lane ground. It's a win that was sadly overshadowed by the big news which broke just before kick-off on the night that Shaun Higgins had vacated the Lilywhites managerial swivel chair and as such the victory probably didn't get the attention it deserved amongst the Mossley supporters. Hopefully though the video will address the balance, even if it only by some imperceptibly minuscule extent.

So, 3 (T-H-R-E-E) whole months after the game took place, here's some video footage of Mossley's goals in the 2-1 win over New Mills along the cup presentation:

Mossley80: it may be slow but it gets there in the end. Eventually. Sometimes.

Lancaster City 2 - 0 Mossley

Are you familiar with the saying, "better late than never"? Well, if so, I'm about to prove that isn't necessarily the case. Yes dear readers (although I do think I've reached the stage where the pluralisation of that word isn't needed) it's time to finally bring the reporting on Mossley's first team escapades for the 2010/11 to a close.

Reporting probably isn't the best term to use seeing as I don't go to away games any more, so prepare yourself for a bit of waffling before I post a couple of links to the thoughts of people who did travel.

It's actually somewhat fitting that the few words you're looking at now in regards to this game have appeared on the blog over two months late given that the result passed me by for the best part of a week. After posting a link to the live commentary Lancaster University provide on City's home matches on Twitter in the hours before kick-off I completely forgot about the match until I next looked on the club forum four days later. Before you fully form the thought that that's a total exaggeration, let me assure you that it isn't; the complete lack of care I had about the outcome of the match turned into forgetting it took place at all. And judging by some of the comments that have appeared about the game it would seem that forgetting about it is the best thing anybody could do.

Which with a little bit of a clunk segue ways into pointing you in the direction of some actual eyewitness accounts of what transpired at the Giant Axe on that warm Friday afternoon, two and a bit months ago: Smiffy's blog and Mossleyweb. I'd like to link to a Lancaster take on proceedings but none seem to exist. A quick look at the reports on their official website (none since the start of April and only two since mid-March) makes the updates on here look like they're surfing the zeitgeist.

That's it in terms of reporting for this season on the blog, at least for the first XI anyway as there's still one more thing to come. As for what it is I'm not prepared to comment but its arrival will make this two month in the making posting look like up-to-minute reportage.

Curzon Ashton 1 - 0 Mossley

If for some highly unlikely reason you've been waiting patiently for a report on Mossley's derby game at the Tameside Stadium to appear here then I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. Not that disappointment is a rare emotion for visitors to this tumbleweed strewn outpost of the internet.

And the reason for this is that I didn't go to the game. I know regular readers will be rolling their eyes and possibly issuing a sarcasm laced "Quelle surprise!" at this not entirely unexpected revelation, but not having seen an away game all season it seemed a shame to break that run with just two matches of the campaign left. So instead of negotiating my way to Ashton Moss via what passes for the Bank Holiday public transport system round these parts, I remained at home with the numerous pennies I would have spent saved for better and more important things. I know that that's not the mark of a 'true fan' but... actually, I don't much care.

Some people did make the effort though to see Gareth McLelland's five match unbeaten start as Lilywhites manager come to an end and you can read one take on proceedings here courtesy of the offical Mossley website.

Next up is the final game of the season at Lancaster City and if I couldn't travel three miles to watch Mossley at Curzon I think you already know what the report for that match will entail.

Mossley 2 - 0 AFC Fylde

In the month or so that has passed between this match ending and me finally getting around to writing about it, you'd have thought that I'd have been able to come up with something interesting to say about Mossley's final home fixture of the 2010/11 season than what follows. The truth is however that, two brief moments aside, this was a match that defies an entertaining description.

Despite my best intentions not to use a phrase that's regularly heard at this point in the football calendar, I'm afraid I'm going to have to as nothing else suffices in the summing up of this game: it was a typical end of season encounter, short on drama, flowing football and anything else that was noteworthy. At least that was for 77.7% of its running time.

It was only after the introduction of substitute Fabio Abreu in the 70th minute that the game became something more than one to be instantly forgotten the moment the final whistle blew. Less than a minute into his début the England Schools' international delicately placed Mike Fish's through ball past the onrushing Fylde keeper to score with his first touch. Twenty minutes later Abreu played a roll in bringing what has been a less than fantastic season at Seel Park to a close on a highish note. His pass found fellow substitute Sam Hare exploiting a huge gap in the Fylde back line and after taking one touch to get it under control the former Stockport player looped the ball over a stranded goalkeeper to secure the win for the home side.

But why read about the goals when you can watch them instead?

As I've pointed out more than once already in this brief report, it was a less than brilliant game. We've seen plenty of them this year from the terraces but thankfully for once we've ended up being the winning side in one; a rare occurrence that will hopefully become a regular one next season, should of course a similar number of less than brilliant matches take place over those eight and a bit months.

In an ideal world though we'll be winning brilliant matches regularly but as this is Mossley I'm more than happy just to see us win - no matter how high or low the entertainment value is - because it's not something you can become blasé about, especially being a Lilywhites fan.

Leigh Genesis 1 - 3 Mossley

No wins for two months then two turn up one after the other.

Resisting any urge to make the expected reference to buses I'm instead going to direct you towards a couple of reports that detail the latest chapter of Mossley's incredible turnaround in form since the temporary appointment of Gareth McClelland. The first is the official Lilywhites one while the other is the match as seen from a Leigh perspective.

The victory means it's now four games unbeaten for the Lilywhites since McClelland took charge. While it's not uncommon for teams to undergo an upturn in fortunes when a new manager comes in you have to wonder, especially as a Mossley supporter, what McCLelland is doing so differently to get improved performances out of the same players who, less than a month ago, couldn't make five yard passes to one another without having to have a small group of fluorescent bib wearing boys racing out of the ground to retrieve the ball.

Even if this turnaround in Mossley's form turns out only to be fleeting it has at the very least given us something to be reasonably cheerful about before we head off in to summer and that doesn't happen too often at Seel Park.

Prescot Cables 1 - 5 Mossley

Mossley's record sixteen game run without a win in 1992/93 that I mentioned in the last report came to an end in a spectacular fashion with the Lilywhites notching up a quite staggering 5-0 victory against Whitley Bay at Seel park. I mean, if you're going to end a barren spell then what better way to do it than by scoring five?

Eighteen long, long, long years on and with 2010/11 version of the Lilywhites edging ever closer to matching the win-free sequence set by their early 90's alumni, they echoed their predecessors by surprising everyone with a five goal dismantling of a hapless set of opponents. Or Prescot Cables as they were known on this day. I'd write more about this momentous event but as a) I wasn't at the game and b) I'm still in a state of shock I shall instead point you in the direction of the official match report.

Hopefully that's where the similarities between the Mossley side of now and the one of almost two decades past will end because that win against Whitley Bay turned out to be the last highpoint for... oh, for the sake of brevity, let's just say years.

Bamber Bridge 2 - 2 Mossley

A point at Irongate means that Mossley's unbeaten run now stretches to an almost reality defying two games; a simple feat that looked ridiculously unlikely as recently as a fortnight ago. On the downside though a draw means the Lilywhites current sequence of games without a victory now stands just three short of the record set in the 1992/93 season when they went through sixteen matches and three managers without winning.

Back on the upside of things however there's a good reason to be positive as this was a point that not even the most optimistic of Mossley supporters would have expected. It appears to have had some fortuity about it as accounts on the game paint Mossley's goal as having lead a charmed life, especially in the opening period. Still it's nice to be able to say that a draw was lucky rather than thanking good fortune for only losing by two or three goals as we have been doing in recent weeks.

If you wish to peruse a more detailed record of what went on during this game then I have no hesitancy in pointing you towards Bridge's rather splendid Brigcast service which not only provides live match updates but allows those not at the game to feel part of proceedings. So click here to read a minute-by-minute account of the near misses, the goals and the messages of increasing disbelief from Mossley fans as the Lilywhites raced into a two goal lead.

Mossley 0 - 0 Woodley Sports

Before I got round to writing about this match I was intending to impart with some words on the recent departure of manager Shaun Higgins, his role being filled in caretaker capacity by Gareth McClelland and the youth team's victory in the Manchester FA Youth Cup final. All of which seemed to have happened in the space of six hours on the 7th of this month.

Time and other more important matters however dictate that there's not going to be a lengthy essay on the latest spin of the revolving door that constitutes the entrance to the manager's office at Seel Park. What I will say though is that no matter what the mitigating circumstances may be - financial restrictions, personality clashes, the learning process, etc. - you'd be hard pushed to find a club at a level above park football who would still employ a manager whose picked up only one point in eleven games. A quarter of a season's worth of league fixtures in which the only bright spot was a solitary draw. No manager goes out to deliberately lose games though (at least not until they put me in charge at Manchester United) so commiserations to Mr Higgins on his spell in charge not working out. Thank you but it wasn't meant to be.

The king is dead, long live the new king who turns out to be Gareth McClelland, latterly scout at Chester and someone who has already appeared unnamed on this blog very recently. His instalation in the Mossley managerial ejector seat is only temporary but if he does well over the seven remaining games this season then there's little chance that the job won't be his on a more permanent basis. Well, the Mossley definition of permanent anyway which is between eight to fourteen months.

The new man's only previous experience in a managerial capacity at a non-league club was a few months spent at Woodley Sports last season and it was against his ex-charges that he took up the reins at Seel Park. To add an even keener edge to the game his opposite number in the away dugout was former Mossley manager Chris Willcock, facing his old club for the first time since resigning a year earlier to take up what turned out to be a very short lived spell as assistant manager at Stalybridge Celtic. Coupled with the large number of players in both sides who were facing a team they'd once turned out for, the game had the makings of being a potential humdinger; a blood and guts thriller of a derby with all but a handful of the people on show with points to prove. Potential however eventually gives way to reality and as always it can never match up.

The match was awful. Indescribably so.

Woodley had a shot in the 1st minute, Mossley had one in the 70th and nothing of any note happened on the pitch in-between or after. And boy, do I wish that I was exaggerating for comedic effect.

It was the football equivalent of the test card. Ninety minutes of pure beige. A glance around the terraces at the 80 minute mark (a time during a 0-0 game when tensions should be in the process of being stretched to a highly pitched twanging point) saw people just sat on the terraces chatting, reading the programme, playing with their phones... anything but watch the match and you really couldn't blame them.

It means that the sole positive to come out of the afternoon is that Mossley arrested their losing streak, which as consolations go isn't such a bad one but it would have been nice to have done it in a slightly more interesting fashion. Still, from such tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow and who knows where this match of mind-numbing, string-of-defeat ending banality will eventually lead us? And yes, I'm well aware of how thin that straw is I'm clutching at.

Oh, I almost forgot the Youth Cup final that I mentioned in the opening paragraph. I don't have the time at the moment but there'll be more on that, even if it's only a video, at a later - probably a much, much later - date.

Mossley 1 - 3 Salford City

We lost. Again.

I'd like to bring you details on the game but... actually, I don't. The truth is that other than the names of the goalscorers there's nothing I could write that wouldn't be a repetition of something that appeared any of the other reports I've done this season: lousy defending, no creativity, an under worked opposition goalkeeper and an overworked chap between our posts were all in evidence again. There's no fresh angle at all to approach this game from in order to produce a few paragraphs that are both informative and worth reading. I've said this before too but it is like Groundhog Day. Except rather than focus on the film's theme of learning from mistakes it's almost as if the Lilywhites have not watched beyond the sequence where Bill Murray's character uses a number of different ways to commit suicide.

To put it simply the football being produced at Seel Park by the home team is enthusiasm sapping stuff. It's crowd sapping stuff too as without the attendance of numerous neutrals, players from other local clubs and a hardy band of Salford followers the gate for this game would have been well, well below the three figure mark. And that more than anything at a club which has retained a reasonable level of support through some incredibly thin times over the last two decades, is the biggest indictment of the current situation. If it has reached a stage where supporter's who've tolerated some spectacularly awful crap down the years have had enough then you have to do something before you lose them forever to Saturday afternoon trips to Tesco.

I don't usually do this for home games but seeing as I don't have the brio to provide you with a narrative of this games events I'll point you in the direction of a few people who do. If you want the official Mossley version then click here or if you fancy an opposing view proceedings you can visit this or that.

As for me, I'm off to lie in a darkened room and think of a reason why I should attend the weekend's game with Woodley other than misplaced sense of loyalty and even more wildly misplaced sense of hope.

Mossley 0 - 1 Chester

In an attempt to provide a positive spin on this latest instalment of the Mossley's Wile E. Coyote-esque plummet down the Evo-Stik First Division North table, I'm going to quote a posting made by 'Pirate' on the unofficial club forum: "At least it wasn't a total embarrassment." It's a comment which also shows you just how bad things are when simply being just common or garden embarrassing is considered an improvement.

With my tongue so firmly lodged in my cheek that it almost pierced the flesh, I said in the report for the recent home game against Durham that Chester could beat us with five men. It turns out however that reality is closer to some facetious fiction than I imagined as the Cestrians didn't need a full compliment of players to beat us. Okay, it was with one less player rather than six but you couldn't escape the feeling that the visitors could have afforded to lose one or two more bodies before the disparity in numbers started to become a problem for them.

Chester spent the best part of 70 minutes at a numerical disadvantage - the result of an instant red card for a two-footed lunge by Iain Howard - and the amount of times they looked troubled or stretched can be counted on the digits of a hand containing one finger. That solitary occasion of mild worry for the visitors came in the closing stages of the game when substitute Chris Hall had a header from a corner cleared nonchalantly off the line by a defender stood by the post.

That we were still in a position to have grabbed an equaliser was mostly down to goalkeeper Peter Collinge who kept up his late season push for the Player of the Year award by once again being the only barrier between the opposition and a ridiculously heavy defeat. He was beaten once though in the 56th minute, let down by some customary static defending by his team mates after making a good save and you can see it for yourself here:

Chester weren't brilliant but then they didn't have to be. I know some home fans were so nonplussed by their performance, especially before the sending off, that they couldn't believe they were favourites for the league title but to those people I say two things. Firstly, you can't judge a side off one isolated game; it took us at least three to realise that we were this bad and not just experiencing a blip. Secondly, do you not remember how bad we were in the second half of that season five years ago when we won this league?

And while we're on the subject of Chester, compared to the fans of the last club who'd been sent to the lower reaches of the football pyramid that last visited us: a class above. With one exception, maybe.

I've a feeling I may have mentioned this before in a recent report (so apologies if I have) but it's something that does bear worth repeating: the only ray of light poking through the gathering storm clouds with the current Mossley games is that each one is match closer to the welcoming embrace of the end of the season.

At the same time though it's also worryingly one match closer to the foot of the table. While the chances of us finishing in the bottom two are near non-existent barring the sudden discovery that we've fielded half a dozen ineligible players in a few games, the likelihood that we could occupy 21st place in the division come the end of the season is a very real one. We now only sit four points above the current occupiers of that spot, when not so many weeks ago there were eleven points between us.

And that's would be a grim note to end on if I hadn't just thought of one genuine positive that pokes through the ashes of this the game and that's... nope, it's gone. Oh well.

Durham City 3 - 2 Mossley

A week may have passed, the location may be different but the outcome has a depressingly familiar ring to it.

Seven days after they'd journeyed to Seel Park and picked up a comfortable 2-0 win, Durham claimed another three points off the Lilywhites on their own home soil. Or rather the rubber bits that pass for earth on their artificial playing surface.

It might have been a closer game than the one that transpired the previous weekend (as the Durham match report intimates) but that provides surprisingly little in the way of consolation when it's your eighth defeat in nine games. I'm sure that someone can find a positive spin to put on this wretched run, you'll just have to look elsewhere for it because I'm not very good at writing fantasy fiction.

Mossley 0 - 2 Durham City

At some point over the course of the next few weeks Chester FC manager Neil Young, sat in his office with a mug containing his hot beverage of choice on the desk in front of him, will turn his attentions to the upcoming game against Mossley.

He’ll find the report sent to him by the club scout who was dispatched to watch the Lilywhites match with Durham and read what it has to say. After he’s finished it he’ll read it again. And again for a third time before reaching for the phone and contacting the scout, at which point the following conversation will take place*:

“Mr Scout. Hello,” says Mr Young. After his salutation is acknowledged by his spy-in-chief, the current incumbent of The Blues’ managerial office swivel chair will continue, “I’ve just been reading the scouting report you’ve sent in regards to Mossley and I was wondering whether it was accurate or not.”

“It is,” comes the reply. “Why do you ask?”

“Well it says that we only need to send five players and that the other members of the squad can be given the weekend off as rest. That’s not right, surely?”

“It’s what I wrote and what I believe. The way Mossley are playing - the lack of any threat upfront, a disorganised midfield, a defence that comes nowhere near close to living up to that particular soubriquet and the absence of any kind of game plan other than to hope that the opposition gets bored and falls asleep at the monotonous use of the long ball or lone charge up the centre of the pitch – five players are all we need to beat them.”

“Don’t you think we should be a little less gung-ho though?. What would you advise if I wanted to show a more cautious approach?” enquires Mr Young.

“Make one of the five a goalkeeper.”

* I do of course use “will take place” in the no-it-won’t-as-it’s-completely-made-up sense of the phrase.

Salford City 2 - 2 Mossley

Someone find the phone number of a company that hires out open-top buses because we've got ourselves a point to parade!

Yes, the six game losing streak we've all be enjoying so immensely over the past four weeks has been broken by Salford and Mossley battling to a stalemate at the former's Moor Lane ground.

Although looking at the form of both sides it's surprising that anyone thought there'd be a different outcome. Mossley went into the match with one win in ten matches while Salford had managed a victory in only one of their last nine outings. It's form that's not exactly a recipe for an exciting encounter but whether it confounded expectations or not can be deduced by reading the Mossley and Salford reports on the match.

Whilst you're reading those opinions I'm going to see if I can find a plinth we can attach the point to as we're in need of something to gather dust in the trophy cabinet.

Mossley 1 - 3 Chorley

Another day, another game, another defeat and another round of behind-the-scenes stories and incidents that elicit sighs of despair. On the upside though it is another game closer the end of the season and while it’s not heading towards a grand finale, it doesn’t stop it being any less eagerly anticipated by those of us of a Mossley persuasion.

How could it not be looked forward to in the same way that a child relishes Christmas Day when you’ve just watched the side you support fall to a sixth successive defeat? Or when your side is on a run that has seen them take an impressive total of 4 points out of the last 30 available?

The defeat which made up this latest instalment in the Lilywhite’s quest for the lowliest league position possible (who says we have nothing to play for?) didn’t turn out to be too much of a surprise. When you have one side who are pushing for promotion and another who are only pushing patience there’s only ever really going to be one winner.

Without an inform goalkeeper stationed between Mossley’s posts it’s likely that this game would have done been done and dusted as a contest by the time the opening period had reached its midway point. For all their possession and shots though Chorley only (only!) had two goals to show for their early match endeavours: a 7th minute shot from Tom Ince, which sprung from the season’s umpteenth ill-advised pass across the back four by a defender, and a nice chipped effort from Steve Foster quarter of an hour later.

Mossley’s solitary response during this time came when they tried something other than kicking the ball both high and long to the head of lone forward Chris Hall. By getting the ball out wide for once and attacking down the wing they stretched the Chorley backline and Hall came within a matter of centimetres of connecting with Mike Oates’s left wing cross. This glimmer of an opening should have provided a hint as to how to drag ourselves back into the match but it was an approach never tried again (at least not until it was far too late) and we were soon back to an approach that mostly consisted of firing balls at Hall’s head from 50 yards.

I say mostly because the second time they tried something different in the match it lead to the arrears being halved. Chris Rowney set off on a run towards goal from his own half and encountered no real resistance until keeper Aaron Grundy upended him in the Chorley penalty area. It was a moment that led to an enormous amount of invective being hurled towards the referee as he awarded the penalty and nothing else in the way of punishment.

Whilst the general consensus seemed to be that a dismissal was merited, I can sort of understand why the referee chose not show the goalkeeper a red card as Rowney wasn’t exactly clean through on goal. He had two defenders alongside him and was running parallel to the goal when the ‘tackle’ occurred. It was a deliberate foul though: the keeper completely missed the ball in his attempt to claim it and having done so shaped his body so that he took the Mossley player out of the game. At the very least it was a yellow card but the referee didn’t even believe that a lecture to Grundy about how lucky a keeper he’d been was warranted.

It wasn’t to be the officials last moment in the spotlight and, for me at least, not the biggest clanger he made on the day. What was came later on in the half after Mossley had successfully defended a Chorley corner. As play was making its way up the right side of the pitch, a visiting players who wasn’t rushing to get back into position appeared to swing an arm into the face of Peter Collinge.

I fully appreciate that the referee won’t have seen what happened as he didn’t have eyes in the back of his head but the assistant referee did and began to wave his flag to attract his colleague’s attention. After some considerable time and plenty of prompting from the Mossley fans and players the referee acknowledged his assistant, saw Collinge spark out on the floor and gave the home side a free-kick.

I don’t think he knew what he was giving a free-kick for but the linesman did and he continued to wave his flag around like a man trying rid a picnic of midges and make gestures that he wanted to speak to the referee. The man-in-the-middle didn’t want to know though and simply ignored the signals from the touchline. If he’d actually bothered to go across and find out what had got his assistant so agitated I’m reasonably certain that Chorley would have had to play out the match with only ten men.

The sad thing is that even if they had been reduced in numbers I don’t think the result would have been any different, apart from it maybe not being as comfortable a victory as it was. Actually, scratch that thought: it probably would have been as comfortable as it turned out.

Anyhoo, back to the penalty.

After Matty Kay had converted it there was a hope that the sense of injustice (whether rightly or wrongly) filling the air about Grundy’s non-dismissal would put some fire in Mossley’s bellies. It didn’t. Between the spot-kick and the last 10 minutes when the decision to finally play someone up alongside Chris Hall gave the attacks a bit more purpose, the Lilywhites created nothing apart from a long range effort early in the second half by Kay that hit the crossbar. In that period of time Chorley had added another goal through John Cunliffe and were left to curse Collinge’s good form for them not having another two or three to their name.

The cherry on top of the sixth successive defeat cake was the story which broke during the second half about three Mossley players fighting amongst themselves in the tunnel during the interval. And that wasn’t the only tale – okay, “rumour” – doing the rounds on the day, none of which give the impression of everything being rosy. But then this is Mossley and tales of turmoil, whether real or apocryphal, have become such an intrinsic part of the clubs DNA over the past two decades that the time you really have to start worrying is when stories such as this don’t circulate. Besides, it gives supporters something to discuss on the terraces because there’s very little happening on the pitch for them to talk about.

Despite the negativity I’m sure we will another game soon, even if it’s only because the law of averages dictates it rather than the possibility of the team entering a brief spell of good form.

Garforth Town 2 - 1 Mossley

And it’s a fifth successive defeat for the Lilywhites. Who says we aren’t consistent?

If you want to know what happened at the Genix Healthcare Stadium on this particular evening then you have two options, or three if you’ve discovered a way to travel back in time. The first is to visit Mossleyweb and read the official Mossley version of things while, secondly, a Garforth Town fan site gives an alternative view of proceedings.

According to both reports Mossley played a lot better when red cards reduced them to 9 men so keep your fingers crossed for a couple of early dismissals against Chorley in the next match to give us a fighting chance. Or better yet let’s just start the match two men short. There’s a fairly obvious punch line to that last sentence I’m sure you’ve already supplied yourself so I won’t insult your intelligence by repeating it here.

Mossley 1 - 2 Prescot Cables

There’s a very famous proverb that says it’s always darkest before the dawn; that things always seem to be at their worst right at the point just before they get better. If this particular adage is indeed true then we’re in for quite a spectacular sunrise at Mossley because at the moment it is positively pitch black.

If it wasn’t already bad enough in recent weeks thanks to the reversals against Leigh and Cammel Laird, the tenebrous atmosphere that has settled over Seel Park was added to by this not-as-surprised-I-should-be defeat to Prescot Cables, making it an unholy trinity of three successive defeats to sides from the lower echelons of the Evo-Stik First Division; an area of the league Mossley will soon becoming accustomed to once more should they not rediscover even the most infinitesimal amount of form any time soon.

Despite going down at home to a team who were a) lying third from bottom of the table before the game and b) quite possibly the worst visiting side to have graced Seel Park this season, there are some who’ll raise an argument – albeit not one that many supporters would be prepared to back up – that this was an improved performance because we had the lion’s share of possession and it’s true: we did. The reason we did though is because after Prescot took an 11th minute lead they treated the ball like it was a hand grenade with the pin missing.

Never before have I seen whole a team so unwilling to keep hold of the ball. Every time they took possession it was launched anywhere at the first available opportunity. It was like those game periods at school when pupils who hated football were forced to take part in a match and on the occasions they couldn’t runaway from the ball, would close their eyes and wildly swing a leg at it.

Prescot’s panicky reaction naturally meant that Mossley got to see more of that little sphere of synthetic material encased air - or the ball - than they have done in a game for quite a while. Yet in spite of this the number of chances the Lilywhites created was in no way proportional to it. Part of the reason why is due to the number of bodies the visitors had loaded their defence with in an effort to hang to the lead but mostly it was down to Mossley showing the same amount of creativity that a lumpfish with a sprained fin would have if it had been tasked with unlocking the Cables back line.

The way the home side were lined-up wasn’t exactly aiding matters. That’s not say that the 4-5-1 formation they employed for a sizeable proportion of the game was to blame as isn’t necessarily a negative formation. If the lone striker is well supported from both the flanks and the midfield it can be a formidable set-up for a defending team to have to counter. Against Prescot however the problem was that lone striker was not well supported. The use of the phrase ‘ploughing a lone furrow’ couldn’t be more apt to describe Chris Hall’s efforts on the night.

Outside of the now all-to-familiar long, long pass his supply line was next to non-existent. Like the last match the five players strung across the midfield provided little in the way of width. You knew that if you began to count every time the ball made its way to a wide position that by the time you got to 3 it would be being played or carried back towards the crowded middle again. Then again, in employing a centre half/sometime right back as a right sided midfielder and two right footed players on the left side, there was hardly going to be much chance of them haring towards the corners and pinging over a cross.

Cables keeper Michael Langley didn’t have to make a save until midway through the second half when he had to quickly back peddle to tip a looping effort from Mike Oates over the bar. He then made a superb point blank stop to deny Matty Kay not long after but there was little he could do to stop Mossley finally pulling level in the 77th minute when a shot from distance by right back Ryan Barrow took a slight deflection that left him wrong footed.

It should have been the moment that saw Mossley find a higher gear but instead it was the visitors who responded. After spending the majority of the game looking like panic crazed amateurs they suddenly began to pass the ball around with an unerring degree of accuracy that split the Lilywhites wide open. Collinge did well to prevent Prescot’s second shot of the match from entering the net with a scrambled save on the goal line but he was powerless to stop their third effort as Joe Gibiliru Jr , son of the former ex-Mossley player of the same name, waltzed through the at sixes and sevens defence to pick up a loose ball and score. There’s a question to be asked as to why Prescot didn’t play the whole match like this but from a Mossley perspective I’m rather thankful they didn’t or else this result might have been even more depressing than it actually was.

To no one’s real surprise Mossley couldn’t respond to going behind for a second time in the match and the game petered out to growing acrimony for the disgruntled still left inhabiting the terraces at the final whistle. On this evidence I think it’s going to be a good while yet before the sun starts peeking over the horizon and dissipates the gloom enveloping us at the moment.

Mossley 1 - 2 Cammell Laird

It’s very, very rare that you get to experience a new feeling when you get to my age but I was introduced to one in the build-up to this match; one which has passed me by in all my years making the regular trip to Seel Park: positivity.

I wasn’t merely hopeful that we were going to see a improved performance over our previous outing, I was as confident as it’s possible to be that we’d not only see a display from the Lilywhites that was a 100 times better than what we saw against Leigh but that we’d win too. Or at the very least manage a draw.

I know that such an optimistic outlook from me of all people will probably come as a surprise to most of you (it did to me!) but I can’t explain why I thought we’d see an improvement. And I think we would have too if someone hadn’t uttered that immortal phrase before kick-off; the one which makes Fate raise its eyebrow and smirk, as if to say “you really want to tempt me, eh?”

Ten minutes before the match was due to start the following words in the following order floated across the Seel Park terraces: “It can’t be as bad as the last match.” Now I’m not a superstitious person but even I at times think there may be something to the term ‘jinxing things’. But then I come to my senses and realise that it’s not some mystical unseen force that’s responsible for Mossley playing badly, it’s Mossley themselves.

And badly is what they played on this very afternoon. I don’t wish to take anything away from Cammell Laird as they did what they had to do very well but their task was made significantly easier by another Mossley display which left the majority of spectators perplexed and peeved.

The only visible silver lining on the afternoon.

One of the most annoying things about the game from a Lilywhites perspective is that, unlike the Leigh match, it didn’t start too badly. It must be said that it wasn’t brilliant either but Mossley just about edged the cagey opening in terms of possession and looked half decent while doing so.

If this ‘golden’ period of stringing three passes together a couple of times had lasted more than 15 minutes we might even have eventually managed to get close enough to our opponents goal to have had a shot (I know – I’m such a dreamer) but it didn’t. Instead it came to a premature end with an unnecessary and errant pass that allowed the visitors a free shot on goal and while it didn’t go in it was the jolt that started to swing the match in Lairds favour.

The uphill task began with a free kick in the 22nd minute. The angle it was at made an attempt at goal look impossible and wasteful but Paul Wheeler curled an incredibly impressive shot round the wall. Peter Collinge did very well to block it but he was unable to prevent Chris Adamson from prodding the loose ball into the net. It would have been nice if someone from the home side other than the prone goalkeeper had reacted to this situation besides the visiting number 5 but it appears you can’t have everything. Not long after Wheeler hit the foot of the post again with another free-kick and the number of chances the visitors were both creating and wasting began to grow at a disturbingly alarming rate.

Mossley weren’t exactly helping their cause by reverting back to the keep sending it down the middle approach which had proved so 'successful' against Leigh four days earlier. It was a decision made all the more inexplicable by the fact that for the first time in a while they had Steve Settle - a bona fide winger - on the pitch and someone who’d made inroads into Lairds back line on the few occasions he’d been presented with the ball in the opening quarter of an hour.

Another goal for the visitors looked only a matter of time in coming and that time was the 34th minute. Its genesis came when Lairds keeper Phil Palethorpe brought a halt to a Mossley attack (a word I use in its loosest, most wishy-washiest sense of the term) by clearing the ball both high and long down the pitch. As it arced its way through the air, over the halfway and deep into the Lilywhites half not one person in a white shirt thought that it might be an idea to perhaps go and get it. Maybe they assumed that as it was heading towards where the left back should be that he would have dealt with it.

Alas the left back wasn’t there as thanks to the unique way we were set out to play he was still our most advanced player due to being required to act as a left sided midfielder and attacker on top of his duties as a defender.

One player did finally decide to go and collect the ball and rather sadly from a Mossley perspective, primarily because he doesn’t play for them, it was Jordan Evason. As you’d expect from a footballer given all the time in the world by the people who were supposed to be tackling him he was able to re-distribute the ball with some precision, in this case straight into the path of Aaron Bowen who with one touch hammered the ball past Collinge from close range. A moment soundtracked by the faint thwack of just under a 100 faces being put into just under a 100 palms.

The immediate aftermath of the goal saw captain Graham Kay substituted, a curious decision given that he was performing no worse than his fellow defenders but a decision that probably had a deeper undercurrent; a thought given extra credence by the exchange of shirt and words that took place while the player and manager were momentarily within the vicinity of one another.

The official report says that the introduction of Aaron Chalmers in his place steadied the ship but it didn’t. Laird might not have scored another goal but that was down to some truly hopeless finishing and incredible goalkeeping rather than any of the holes being filled in the all too porous home defence. If their strikers had been on form – and Collinge off his – then matters could have got a whole lot more embarrassing for the Lilywhites than they already were.

As well as the substitution the second goal also instigated another round of swapping players between positions. Settle, an attacking right winger, was moved to left back while Cavell Coo was moved from that position to fill Settle’s vacated role. I’m sure there was some logic behind the change but what it was seemed to be lost on most people judging by the number of slowly shaking heads on the terraces.

It was all change again after the break as Mossley re-took to the pitch with a 3-5-2 formation. Quite remarkably for such a line-up there was no width to the Lilywhites play at all with Settle becoming an increasingly marginalised figure out by the touchline until he was replaced by Chris Hall on the hour mark.

The alterations to both the formation and personnel had no impact in improving Mossley’s chances and it was the visitors who continued to create and miss chances. However, the more opportunities Cammell Laird spurned the more I began to think - with the strange football logic a lot of supporters have - that Mossley were playing bad enough to get something out of the game and that at least of part of my pre-game prediction would come true. I’ve seen it happen before and I was almost right.

There was 7 minutes left when Mossley scored a goal out of nothing and in a manner that if it had taken place at the top level of the game would have kept Sky Sports News going for days. An all too rare attempt at trying something other than hitting the ball as hard as possible at the forwards saw a through pass finally open the Lairds defence. Kristian Dennis timed his run to perfection and struck the ball past Palethorpe to give Mossley a lifeline they didn’t really deserve.

That doesn’t sound controversial but the goal was initially ruled out by the linesman because Michael Fish was stood in an offside position as the ball was played through. After a prolonged discussion with the referee the assistant conceded that Fish wasn’t interfering with play and withdrew his objection to the goal. What raises the controversy up to a level that would get the media into a frenzied state if it had happened at The Emirates or that place in Trafford is that the referee had acknowledged his assistant’s original decision with the whistle before Kristian Dennis took his shot: the goal was scored when play had been stopped by the official. In the grand scheme of things justice was done in the end in awarding Mossley what was a perfectly legitimate goal but it was one heck of a cock-up on an officiating level.

In the end it turned out to be a cruel goal as it gave a glimmer of hope when there truly was none: a rubber bone thrown to a starving dog. It didn’t lead to an all-out attack in search of an equaliser or even a tiny of spell of pressure which produced something that could be considered a half chance. It merely served to give the score line a more flattering look and make it seem like it was closer than it was.

After choosing the pages of the Oldham Evening Chronicle to lay the blame for the Leigh Genesis defeat firmly at the feet of the players he’d picked, rather than take his share of the blame too for the equally responsible formation and tactics he’d chosen, Mossley’s manager didn’t get quite the reaction he was probably expecting in this game. Everyone else was not quite so surprised (such interviews given to the local media at this level rarely ever have the kind of positive effect you desire) but it was something we can probably put down to being part of the learning curve for a new manager.

What can’t be dismissed quite so easily as part of the learning process though are the tactics, formation and team selections. The obsession with keeping play confined to a narrow corridor down the centre of the pitch has gone from puzzling to infuriating in a very short space of time. There’s so little variation it’s almost as if we’re taking the same approach to tactics as Field Marshal Haig had in Blackadder Goes Forth: “Doing precisely what we have done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time.”

The job swap scheme in regards to players being used in unfamiliar positions for short periods of time continues to baffle but not as much as the decision to drop most people’s man of the match for the Leigh game (and one of the few players to emerge from the debacle with any credit at all), Aaron Chalmers, to the bench. Other changes were made to the side but the faces which came in were the ones who went out the last time the side needed freshening up after a poor defeat.

It begs the question as to the point of having a reserve side when there’s no movement between it and the first team, barring the odd exception when Joe Heap gets a few minutes every other month. What incentive is there for the second eleven (who are currently joint top of their division) if they can’t even get a sniff of first team action when the seniors are struggling as badly as they are?

To an outsider it must seem strange to see someone being so frustrated and annoyed at a team that currently sits at a spot no lower than 12th in the league table but compared to some of my fellow supporters I’m positively mellow about the whole thing. The problem is that all we can see at the moment is regression and not progression. We began the season badly yet following a brief spell in December and early January when we had some success while playing good football, it’s to those grim days of August and September we’ve returned to once more. It’s almost as if nothing has been learnt over the past 6 months.

Football being what it is though the next match could see Mossley once produce the impressive style of football we know they're fully capable of having witnessed it 3 months ago. On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, you can't rule their propensity at times for scraping away at the bottom of the barrel. All I know is that I'll be there to see what happens and bring you a much, much, much shorter report on it. Promise.

Mossley 0 - 2 Leigh Genesis

During a quiet period at work (we have rather a lot of them at the moment) a conversation about football turned into how we’d describe the teams we support to someone who wasn’t particularly au fait with the sport or additionally in my case, someone for whom the non-league aspect of the game is an unknown quantity.

After giving it plenty of thought (like I said, time for such things is very much in abundance at work these days) I realised that there wasn’t a suitable frame of reference for Mossley in not only football but other sports as well. It was only much later that it dawned on me that the perfect comparison was not another team - football or otherwise - but a figure from literature.

What best embodies Mossley AFC to the layman more than anything else is a small piece of 19th Century prose by Henry Longfellow. We are his little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead because when we are good we are very good indeed, but when we are bad we are horrid.

And horrid is what we were against Leigh.

There would be some debate amongst Mossley supporters as to which was the last truly dreadful performance by the men in white shirts. Some would argue that it was the 5-0 defeat at Clitheroe in August, others would point to the slightly more recent game against Darlington and a few may even go back a season or two. After this game though I think all disagreements will be put aside and a unanimous decision made on this being the latest absolute stinker of a performance from the Lilywhites.

It wasn’t a case of things starting well before gradually getting worse or even starting badly and deteriorating from there. From the first whistle to the last Mossley never rose above a level that was shambolic and inept; a performance during which even simply being mediocre was an aspiration beyond anything we could ever hope of achieving.

Straight from the outset it looked like they thought they only had to turn up to beat their bottom of the table opponents and not even going behind to a fifth minute goal from ex-Lilywhite Marvin McDonald (the latest in a long line of players who couldn’t hit the proverbial cow’s bum with a banjo while wearing a white shirt to score on their return in another club’s colours) could instil any urgency into the home side.

After it took some speedy backtracking by Peter Collinge to stop a wildly mis-hit 25 yard back pass doubling Leigh’s lead a few minutes later, the Mossley manager made the first of what turned out to be many positional changes on the night. Changes that the idiom ‘like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’ could have been invented for and ones which added to the ramshackle nature of the Lilywhites evening.

To give you an idea of how ridiculous the switching around got, the team line up after 70 minutes was as follows: at right back we had a player who began the match at centre half. The person he’d replaced was now playing left back after a brief spell in his favoured position in the centre of the defence. The third person to fill that gap in the back line was a central midfielder who in turn had his role in the middle of the park taken up by the starting left back. And to round things off a substitution saw an attacking role on the left wing filled by a right back.

I hope you managed to follow that but if you didn’t and it doesn’t make any sense then don’t worry: you’re not alone as there were quite a few people at the match who couldn’t figure out what was going on either. And not just on the terraces.

The ‘who’s doing what?’ conundrum wasn’t being helped as well by the decision to start the game with four central midfielders, all of whom seemed to be desperately trying to occupy the same small area in the middle of the pitch, unsure of the role they’d been asked to fulfil judging by the arguments about who should be where.

The lack of width in midfield meant that once again the onus was on the full backs to push forward and provide Mossley with an attacking option that wasn’t a direct ball to two forwards who, like the midfield, were making identical runs into identical positions. It’s not a role that full backs with no cover in a flat back four should be asked to play but Aaron Chalmers, much like Ben Richardson did to increasingly visible levels of frustration before his departure to Woodley, did his best to give Mossley an attacking edge and was one of only two players (Collinge being the other) to come out of the debacle with any credit, even after taking into account that it was his unforced error that led to the visitors opener.

It would be unfair to say that the Lilywhites didn’t create anything in terms of goal scoring opportunities but what they did fashion could hardly be classed as good or even half chances. There was a goalmouth scramble midway through the first half and a couple of shots from distance but nothing that caused a defence with the second worst record in the division any real trouble.

Conversely the attack with the worst record in the division by some considerable distance (a 0.77 goals per game average) were posing a constant threat and Mossley could count themselves fortunate that it took until the 79th minute for the game to be over as a contest, even if it effectively never was one. A mere four passes, starting from the edge of Leigh box, opened up what passed for Mossley’s defence and on this occasion they couldn’t rely on Collinge sparing their blushes; Connor Millington netting for the visitors and sending a sizeable chunk of the home crowd heading for the exit, a decision which many will wish they made much earlier.

I’ve no doubt that at this point anyone who’s reading this and never saw the game is probably thinking that I’m going overboard as to how bad things were but the sad truth is that I’m not. Actually I'm not entirely sure if I've really managed to convey just how poor it was from a Mossley perspective or even mentioned half of the other problems which conspired to make the night memorable for all the wrong reasons. If you don’t believe we were that bad I recommend check out the opinions of other Mossley supporters here and here (if you’re a member of the forum). Even the official match report which usually gives proceedings a rosy hue is pretty forthright in its condemnation of Mossley’s performance.

It was one of those games that you hope is a one off but my fear, and I know it’s shared by others, is that it isn’t. The problems which plagued us in this match (on pitch arguing, poor body language, strange team selections and formations) have been ones that have caused us trouble to varying degrees in other games and show no sign of being addressed.

The best we can wish for is that this game was not one suffered in vain and that it acts as the catalyst for some improvement because at the moment we don’t seem to be heading anywhere other than down. However if it’s an example of what we can expect over the remaining 16 games of the season then it’s going to get very lonely on the terraces come April.