Wakefield 3 - 2 Mossley

The second half to Mossley's 2010/11 league campaign got off to the same start as the first half did way back in those dim and distant days of last August; a more innocent time when life seemed simpler and the temperature was roughly one degree warmer than it is now.

Defeat this time though came not at the hands of Bamber Bridge, or within the familiar confines of Seel Park, but across the Pennines in that strange land known as Yorkshire. Wakefield to be more exact: the home of a maximum security prison, a sizeable proportion of Britain's rhubarb supply and Wakefield F.C..

Things didn't start well for the Lilywhites with the visitors shipping three goals within the opening 30 minutes and while there was an improvement in the hour of the match that was left, it wasn't enough to rescue the game. It wasn't only the game Mossley lost either as defender Aaron Chalmers picked up an injury serious enough to necessitate a trip to the nearby hospital (a journey a Wakefield player had made not much earlier) and one which could see him miss a sizeable chunk of what's left of the season.

If I'd gone to College Grove I'd have been able to offer a few more details of what happened during the game (and should you want those blanks filled then I suggest going here or here) but I was a lot closer to home watching one Mossley side end the night as winners.

Mossley Reserves 2 - 0 AFC Fylde Reserves

And a thoroughly deserved victory it was too for the second string/youth team... when it belatedly got under way.

Why belatedly? Well see if you can spot the reason for yourself with the following picture that was taken at the scheduled kick-off time:

That's right - it's another chapter in the ongoing saga of Mossley's floodlights.
Following what seemed to be a bit of trouble getting them working during the first half of the Harrogate game a few days earlier, it took a good while longer to get all the floodlights up and running for this one.

Both sides did their warm-up under three lights and then two before a complete descent into darkness mere minutes before the match was due to start. 7:45pm came and went before there was a brief flicker and part of the pitch became illuminated...

...and be followed a short while later by the lights on the opposite side of the pitch finally stirring into action. By the time all six had got up to full beam it was 8 o'clock and the game could finally get started.

The visitors were the more impressive team during the initial exchanges - a couple of shots from distance flying narrowly wide of the Lilywhites goal - but the moment Mossley got to grips with game the home side never once looked like losing. In fact the only surprising thing on the night was that it took them until the 10th minutes of the second half to finally find the back of the net.

It was a goal worth waiting for though. Jordan Cuff cut in from the right wing and from 25 yards out let fly with an angled shot that looped over the goalkeeper dipped just under the crossbar; one of those rare efforts that you knew was going in the second it left his boot.

The result sealing second goal arrived quarter of an hour later and courtesy of the clubs England Schools Under 18 squad member, Fabio Abreu. Compared to the opening strike this one was merely a tap in but the move building up to it was impressive enough in itself.

There should have been more goals as Fylde slowly fell apart but there won't be too many amongst the smattering of people in attendance who'll be disappointed with what they saw. Actually I haven't seen many games with better, flowing football than this one at Seel Park this year and, considering it was free to watch, with a better value/money ratio too.

Mossley 3 - 0 Harrogate Railway Athletic

With the match against Warrington seven days earlier still fresh in my memory - or to be more exact given the abject nature of what transpired during it: keeping me awake at night, terrified of going to sleep in case the nightmares return (the looks of horror and cries of agony as the referee signalled a misery prolonging four minutes of injury time will probably haunt me for years to come) - it wasn't without a certain amount of trepidation that I set foot again inside Seel Park.

Thankfully however that apprehension turned out to be unwarranted as this proved to be a thoroughly more pleasant use of a Saturday afternoon in winter.

Supporters were still making their way to their favoured spots on the terraces when the first chance of the game presented itself. With barely thirty seconds on the clock Harrogate keeper Craig Parry was forced into a scrambling save to turn a low shot from Michael Oates behind for a corner. By the time Parry was called into action again though Mossley should really have been at least one goal up, possibly two.

The possible part of that equation comes from Harrogate’s first attack. Jon Maloney robbed Mossley captain Graham Kay of possession on the edge of the penalty area and while he didn’t have that much time to pick his spot as Peter Collinge charged off his line to narrow the options available to him, he should have done better than to curl an effort past the wrong side of the post. If that was a half chance then what followed on their second attack was as gilt edged as they come.

An inch perfect cross to Andrew Jackson, unmarked and stood in front of an open goal (well it wouldn’t be a proper Mossley match if this didn’t happen, would it?), was inexplicably sent careering wide of the target by the Harrogate winger. I’m not sure how he managed to miss, and I don’t think he does either, but there was a mass exhalation of relief - plus a fair amount of sniggering - to be heard from the stands as he lay on the floor with his head in his hands.

The miss appeared to kick the Lilywhites out of their post-first minute lethargy and they responded with a few chances of their own that came close to breaking the deadlock. The best ones fell to Kristian Dennis who was twice put clean through on goal and denied on both occasions by some hesitant finishing and some brave goalkeeping by Parry; the bravery not coming from the danger he put himself into in order to make the save but from his decision to wear a luminous yellow shirt that was, at best, a size too small. Not the most flattering of looks for a semi-professional footballer.

Play then swung from end-to-end until the final fifteen minutes of the half when it became more and more confined to the end Harrogate were defending. I could at this point spend the next hour or two describing the chances that fell Mossley’s way during this passage of play but it’s easier to let you watch them for yourself. I know it’s lazy but if a picture paints a thousand words just think how long this report would be without the video!

Also included in the above footage (along with a very brief cameo by one of the assistant referees) are the goals Mossley eventually ended up scoring.

The first goal turned out to be the last act of the opening period and another to add to the already lengthy list of goals Mossley have scored from outside the box this season. Harrogate failed to clear a corner properly and after Matty Kay looped the ball into the net from the edge of the ‘D’. The second came after the Lilywhites had weathered their now customary post half-time sluggishness; Kristian Dennis finally coming out on top in a one-on-one battle with Parry after Mike Fish had opened up the visitors defence for him with a smart pass.

Chances continued to come and go at both ends of the pitch before the home side finally put the result to bed with the final whistle looming. Like the second goal, the third came through a nice piece of play around the Harrogate box and finished with Matty Kay stepping inside a challenge from a defender and curling a shot beyond the dive of Parry.

It would be nice to say that this moment was the end to the day’s events but this being Mossley there’s always a cloud to accompany every silver lining. The cloud in this case was Ben Richardson receiving his second yellow card of the game for debating his first yellow card - given a few minutes earlier for timewasting – with the referee.

Despite the numerical disadvantage the home side went close to adding a fourth goal during the lengthy amount of time added on after the ninetieth minute, most of it due in part to the thankfully not as bad as it first seemed collision between the concrete pitch surround and the back of Harrogate centre half Wayne Harratt’s head. His replacement must have undergone a similar experience at some point too as a bump on the noggin can be the only reason for his on-field reference to a side from the outskirts of north east Manchester as being scousers.

Besides signalling the end of the match, the last sound to emerge from the referee’s whistle also marked the halfway point of Mossley’s league campaign: twenty two games played with another twenty two more to come in the next thirteen weeks. Although that may rise to twenty four in fourteen weeks should Mossley reach the play-offs and have a successful campaign – a situation that doesn’t sound quite as far-fetched as it once did now that the Lilywhites sit five points off a top side position.

There’s no point in getting carried away with what might be just yet however. As tantalisingly close to a play-off spot as the club is, a heck of a lot can happen between now and the end of April to de-rail everything. Actually there are enough games left to be played for a heck of a lot to happen three or four times over and this being Mossley it’s hardly likely that it’ll be the ‘good times’ which will be stuck on repeat. We live to be pleasantly surprised though.

Trafford 1 - 4 Mossley

When a football club is over a hundred years old you find that there aren't many situations that present themselves which require the use of a sentence that includes the phrase 'for the first time ever.'

By this stage of a club's lifespan new experiences are usually limited to cup finals, promotions, relegations and going a full twelve months without the sudden discovery of financial black hole which threatens to drag it into oblivion. This week however Mossley managed a first that occupies the middle ground between success and outright failure: a league game victory at Trafford's Shawe View ground. I know it doesn't have the same glow as a trophy win or the rubbernecking appeal of a club blinking out of existence but you have to take time out once in a while to appreciate these smaller moments of history too.

Details of how this Mossley side (2011 vintage) finally laid the ghost of so many win-free years to rest can be found elsewhere. If you prefer just a précis though Oates, Dennis, Egan and Fish (the club's four forwards and not a firm of solicitors) all scored one goal each while Trafford offered very little in return - their goal coming when an attempted clearance ricocheted off ex-Lilywhite Joe Shaw and into the net.

The added bonus of returning victorious from the little corner of Flixton that Trafford inhabit are the three points that put Mossley into a top ten position in the league for the first time this season: a first that is in some ways equally as impressive considering that not so long ago the prospect of a relegation battle looked a very real possibility.

This being football though, and more specifically Mossley, it's still too early to totally discount the possibility of spending April in a dogfight at the foot of the table. After all it wouldn't be the first time.

Mossley 1 - 1 Warrington Town

If what follows this paragraph seems dull, lacking points of interest, causes your eyelids to feel heavy and/or appears to be interminable, I will have for the first time successfully captured the true essence of a match that the report is pertaining to.

If you wanted to go the whole hog and have the full Mossley vs Warrington experience then I suggest reading what comes next standing fully clothed in a running shower while one person (having taken sensible precautions to avoid either of you getting electrocuted) blasts a hairdryer in your face. Actually that seems infinitely more fun than what the 156 hardy (or mad - the words are interchangeable in this instance) souls stood on the wind and rain swept terraces of Seel Park at the weekend had.

Things didn't get off to a great start for Mossley as it was the visitors who were the side to find the back of the net first and no-one would argue that it wasn’t deserved on the balance of play; Warrington having dominated all of the sixty seconds of the game that had elapsed since it kicked off. They’d already spurned one golden opportunity to put themselves in front before a cross from the right was met by former Mossley forward Gavin Salmon and he did something he had an awful lot of trouble doing at Seel Park while wearing a white shirt: score.

Why an opposing centre forward was stood unmarked on the edge of the six yard box wouldn’t be too pressing a question if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s becoming one of the motifs of the season. If I had the time (or to be more accurate, if I could be bothered) I’d go back through the reports I’ve written this season and count the number of times we’ve conceded a goal through an opposing player loitering around in the goalmouth on his lonesome. I do know it’s enough times to consider assigning a sentence describing such an incident its own keyboard short cut on my laptop.

Despite there still being the best part of another hour and half of the match to go Warrington seemed to decide that scoring once was more than enough attacking effort exerted for the day and proceeded to defend their lead. Just how determined they were to head back home with a victory obtained through solitary goal was made evident when – and this is not an exaggeration or a little white lie for comedic effect (as if this blog does funnies!) – Town’s snood adorned keeper received his final warning from the referee for time wasting in only the fifth minute of the match.

It meant the onus was on the home team to break down the extremely well organised Town defence and the way the Lilywhites have been playing recently it should have been a challenge they were more than capable of rising to. Unfortunately it turned out that it was the Mossley side from the opening months of the season that was on show instead: the one lacking spark, creativity and, most importantly of all, width. Every attacking move was funnelled down the centre of the pitch and broken up with ease by the wall of red shirts it constantly running into. On the few occasions the ball wasn’t being worked laboriously down the middle it was flying above every body’s heads and into the arms of the keeper – the folly of trying to play the long ball when you’ve got a gale force wind at your back.

In the 27th minute however there was a brief flicker of inspiration during a Mossley attack. A pass went ‘outside’ rather than ‘inside’ and led to a cross from the left that was met by the head of Chris Rowney and directed into the net via the right hand upright. An effective yet simple passage of play that should have set a precedent for the Lilywhites approach to the remainder of the game. It should have but it didn’t. It proved to be an aberration as despite the success in doing something a bit different the home side returned to ploughing a furrow between the centre spot and the ‘D’ on the edge of the Town; a ploy which resulted in Mossley not having another shot either on or off target for the remainder of the game. In fact you’d be hard pressed to call any of their further adventures into the Warrington half of the pitch attacks.

That’s not to say the visitors were doing any better. Forced out of their defensive posture by the need to find another goal to retake the lead, they struggled to find their first minute form. That said they should have retaken the lead just before the interval when Chris Gahgan was put through on goal but the left winger chipped the ball over both Peter Collinge and the crossbar when finding the back of the net looked a whole lot easier. This turned out to be their last effort aimed towards the Mossley goal so you can imagine what the second half was like with neither side mustering up a shot in anger or even mild vexation.

Actually don’t imagine it because not even a collective of the most pessimistic and gloomiest of minds could conceive a period of football as bad as the one that passed for the second half of this match. It was atrocious and grimmer than the wind and rain filled skies it was being played under. The tedium induced daze the supporters were in broken only by the occasional moment of self-awareness when the realisation of better things they could be doing with forty five minutes of their short lives slowly dawned.

If the second half had one highlight (other than the whistle that mercifully signalled its end) then it was this:
Smiffy gets a four legged apprentice.

To give the visitors some credit they did provide the lion’s share of what little football there was in the second period; a couple of dangerous crosses and two moments when a shot at goal instead of an extra pass would have been more beneficial to their cause, but apart from that there was little to dissuade anyone watching that both sides had subconsciously decided to settle for a point: Mossley happy for a draw against a very good side and Warrington equally pleased with a non-negative result at what was until the midweek games one of the form teams in the division. It’s just a pity they couldn’t agree on the result at half-time, informed the crowd and let us go home early in the knowledge that we weren’t going to miss anything.

Match fixing may be wrong on many levels but being able to agree on an result so the supporters can go home early and dry their wet pants (because of the wind and rain!) is one aspect to it that's cruelly overlooked by the do-gooders.

Chorley 2 - 1 Mossley

It was going to happen sooner or later but Mossley's unbeaten streak turned into a losing run, albeit a run that currently stands as one game, at (deep breath) The Chorley Nissan Victory Park Stadium.

For someone who didn't go, what went on during the match besides the number of goals scored is hard to fathom out due to the acute disparity of opinions between both fan bases. The official Mossley match report and comments from attendees on the club forum insinuate that Mossley were paragons of the beautiful game; misunderstood angels denied a point through shadowy machinations.

The Chorley take on proceedings though tells a tale of the extreme opposite, one which makes the Lilywhites out to be unpunished thugs and the kind of team that no-one wants to see the club they support labelled as.

The truth about what actually happened - as is often the case when there are two differing points of rose tinted views - probably lies somewhere in between. There are however two indisputable facts. The first is that Mossley lost to a penalty awarded to their hosts in the 94th minute of the match and the second is that given the animosity which has sprung up, the return fixture at Seel Park in March is going to be very interesting to say the least.

Radcliffe Borough 0 - 4 Mossley

Here we are, eight days and three games into 2011 and Mossley are still yet to drop a point.

It may be a statistic that possibly won’t have a shelf life beyond the impending midweek trip to title chasing Chorley but it’s impressive all the same considering it’s not something the Lilywhites have a habit of doing at the start of a new calendar year. 2005 being the last time in case you were wondering, which you probably weren’t.

After confining their goal scoring in the previous game against Clitheroe to the first half, the Lilywhites had a bit of change and ran in all four goals scored in this match during the second period. Michael Fish opened the day’s account with a penalty, Matty Kay added a second and in the final minute both Danny Egan (for once shaking off the ‘unlucky’ tag that usually prefixes his name during matches) and Kristian Dennis grabbed a goal apiece; the latter with another strike from long range which is fast becoming his trademark. So much so that his goals against Clitheroe from around the penalty spot are looking like his equivalent of a tap in.

As you’ve probably guessed by now I wasn’t at the match so if you wish to read a fuller account of what went on at Stainton Park on Saturday then I suggest clicking here or here if you want a view from the other side. If you don’t then you could always click somewhere else. Here’s as good a place as any.

Mossley 3 - 2 Clitheroe

If for some reason you’d chosen this first home match of 2011 to introduce either yourself or someone you know to watching Mossley then you couldn’t have picked a better one to do it as it contained everything good, bad and infuriating there is about following the Lilywhites.

Absolute highs and lows of the opposite extreme contained separately in two easily digestible chunks of forty five minutes. Although the three quarters of an hour containing the low points seemed an awful lot longer.

It’s the highs we start with though and Mossley’s perfect opening to the match. Only five minutes had elapsed when Andy Watson got just enough of a touch on the ball to turn Ben Richardson’s scuffed free-kick past Danny McDonald in the Clitheroe goal.

Eight minutes and another free-kick later it was two. On this occasion however the goal sprung from a poorly executed set-piece by the opposition on the edge of the home side’s penalty area. Mossley broke forward quickly and despite a Clitheroe player stopping an initial attempt to send Kristian Dennis clear with one of the most deliberate handballs I’ve seen for a while, a pass was eventually put through that sent the forward scurrying towards the visitor’s box where he made slipping the ball under McDonald and into the net look surprisingly easy.

Dennis’s second goal (and Mossley’s third) in the 32nd minute was a near carbon copy his first; the only difference being that he decided to take the ball around McDonald before sliding it between the posts. And if it hadn’t been for the referee refusing to play the advantage as he galloped through the Clitheroe defence just before the interval it’s possible he could have finished the period with a hat-trick of virtually identical goals.

Three goals isn’t a bad return for one half of football against a side in third spot in the table but if there’s one possible teensy-weensy bit of criticism (heck, it wouldn’t be a proper report on this blog if there wasn’t) it’s that it was only three as it doesn’t do justice to just how dominant Mossley were. There was an abundance of extremely good play from the men in white shirts but not a lot of it resulted in shots on goal or to be more specific, shots on target. Looking back through the video footage of that opening period the goals (clips of which to come at a later date) were the only shots that the keeper actually had to try and stop. His failure to do so was much appreciated though by the majority of people watching him.

So that was the good bit: one of the best halves of football I’ve seen Mossley play this season. What followed after the break though didn’t really quite come close to matching it. By some considerable distance.

To be fair to the Lilywhites they did begin pretty much from where they’d left off. Dennis was prevented from galloping off on another one-on-one with McDonald by an offside call which is now the new benchmark for all contentious decisions and Aaron Chalmers directed a free header over the bar from a corner kick. Then it all began to go a bit wrong.

The wobble started in the 50th minute when Matty Kay was forced to leave the field with an injury. The departure of Darryl Weston for the same reason seven minutes later however turned that wobble into the full blown shakes. With the home side’s experienced central midfield pairing gone Clitheroe (who’d come out after the break finally looking like a side pushing for promotion) began to run rampant. The movement, marking, smart passing and discipline which the Lilywhites first half performance had been built on was replaced by fear, desperation and ridiculously stupid challenges – one or two of which were lucky to escape being punished by a red card.

Fortunately there was one person who hadn’t succumbed to the blind panic affecting the rest of his team mates and that was Peter Collinge who kept his former team at bay single handed, literally at times. Such was the pressure though that even he couldn’t stop the inevitable as Clitheroe finally found the back of the net in the 65th minute. He had a good go mind you, pulling off a superb stop to deny the initial effort coming from a corner on the right. Unfortunately it was a save in vain as the ball rebounded out to Danny Williams and with no-one marking or closing him down he was afforded more time than he should have been to pull a goal back.

Mossley’s net then lead a charmed life as the ball bounced off bodies being thrown in its path or, as in the case of one particularly fraught spell of a few seconds, rolled slowly along the goal line as players from both sides swung legs at it in an attempt to divert it in one of two directions. The pressure was incessant and not helped by the Lilywhites constantly surrendering what little possession they had by continuously launching the ball down the middle of the pitch to Clitheroe’s centre halves, enabling them to start another attack in which they proceeded to run rings around us.

And that’s how the match played out, Mossley grimly hanging on to their two goal lead in the face of unrelenting pressure until it became a one goal lead four minutes from time; Danny Kinsey’s strike setting the stall out for a bum puckering end to the match.

Except it didn’t. With the result balancing on a knife edge and the nerves getting increasingly more strung out Mossley actually managed to put their opponents on the back foot for the first time since the opening stages of the half. They even fashioned a couple of chances too, one having a familiar look to it – Dennis breaking clear of the Clitheroe back line – but not a familiar ending as McDonald clawed away his shot.

Mossleys cause was helped as well by Clitheroe’s efforts to fashion an equaliser becoming a little more frantic as time wore on and rushed passes lead to mistakes and less time in front of the home goal. There was still time for a couple of heart in mouth moments but – and it may have been only by some badly chewed finger nails – Mossley hung on for the three points.

As well as the warm glow that comes with all wins the match provided another service in giving seasoned followers of the Lilywhites the knowledge that while the year may have changed some things remain stubbornly the same: that no matter how big a lead the side has built up, there’ll always be the thought in the back of your mind that says we might, just might, have done enough to hang on for a draw.

Woodley Sports 3 - 4 Mossley

For the first time in five years Mossley got a new calendar year off to a winning start in what match reports are apparently legally obliged to call 'a seven goal thriller'.

At least I assume it was a thriller. Reports I've heard on the game do suggest it wasn't without its moments of high excitement, particularly in the second half when 5 of the match's 7 goals were scored. The first half however apparently contained little in the way of drama until both sides found the back of the net in its final minute.

Three of Mossley's goals came from last season's leading scorer Matty Kay but the pick of the bunch, as I'm lead to believe, was yet another effort from long range by Kristian Dennis; up until a month and a half ago a former Woodley player and someone who it appears is at his most lethal in front of goal when it's a dot on the horizon.

The win puts the Lilywhites comfortably into mid-table and it's a position they'll remain in for a while even if they keep winning due to the points gap between them and the teams directly above - the ones fighting it out for a play-off spot. With 28 games left to play it's certainly not an insurmountable gap and the possibility of closing it and finishing in the top 5 (no matter how faint it may seem at the moment) will make the next four months a little more interesting than we expected.

However, if I've jinxed everything by sharing that little bit of optimism and we now go on one of our not-exactly-uncommon losing streaks, please feel free to ignore the last paragraph and create one of your own based around a theme of looking over our shoulders nervously at the foot of the table.