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.