Skelmersdale United 4 - 0 Mossley

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”
Benjamin Franklin (1789)

“And heavy defeats at Skelmersdale United” 

Addendum by Mossley supporters (2009 - ?)

For the fourth season running Mossley returned home from the Lancashire new town with nothing to show for their troubles other than a defeat and a significant reduction in their goal difference.  By all accounts (by which I mean those
here and here) we didn't play too badly but that doesn't really offer much comfort when you've had four unanswered goals put past you.

To be truthful I (and I expect a good number of my fellow Mossley supporters) didn't really think that there'd be any other outcome to this match than the total in our league table's loss column rising by one.  Ever since Skelmersdale switched to their new home at Stormy Corner we've struggled to keep our encounters with them there to anything even approaching a narrow defeat.  Yet another location to add to the long list of bogey grounds Mossley currently have; a list that's getting so big that it probably won't be too long before Seel Park gets put on it as well... only joking! That's not likely to happen is it?

 Is it? (laughs nervously)

Mossley 3 - 0 Wakefield

If there’s one fixture in a season that I look forward to with the same anticipation a turkey has for the Christmas decorations going up it’s this one.

The reason as to why Wakefield’s annual visit to Seel Park fills me with dread is very straight forward: the matches are never anything other than dire. Even on the occasions when the games have managed to rouse the spectators from their tedium induced slumber with a goal or two, the uplifting effect has been only momentary and the terraces quickly enveloped once more by a wave of unqualified boredom.

By this point of the report, after describing the awfulness of the previous corresponding meetings, you’re probably expecting a ‘but’ or an ‘however’ to be followed by a sentence describing how this match confounded expectations and was a barnstormer of an hour and a half of football. If you are expecting it then I’m afraid you’re going to be very disappointed because while it did briefly rise to a level that could be termed entertaining, it was for the most part another dog of a game.

Its nadir was a first half that felt like it went on for 50 years longer than the 45 minutes it did. Watching the ball ping from one box to the other without bouncing at any of the points inbetween was a real chore to watch. The visitors employment of long ball tactics was understandable considering that no-one in their starting XI appeared to be of a height that didn’t begin with at least a 6. Why Mossley chose to use that exact same plan of attack though with a forward line consisting of two players that would have had trouble getting past the ‘You have to be as tall me to go on this ride’ sign at Alton Towers, let alone winning the ball in the air against Wakefield’s altitudinous defence, is a question we would have debated on the side lines if it wasn’t for the fact we were on the verge of falling asleep.

What made the home side’s strategy all the more peculiar was that the one bit of decent passing football they did produce in the opening period resulted in them taking the lead. Just after the midway point of the half Mike Oates latched onto Kristian Dennis’s prodded through ball following some patient build-up play and slipped a shot under Bear’s keeper Jan Zolna.

At the other end of the field the succession of balls sent flying into the box from all areas of the pitch were reaping no dividend for the visitors, mainly due in part to the most solid display I’ve seen by a Mossley defence for a fair old while. Every corner, free-kick, long throw or hopeful punt was dealt with in a sensible fashion; no attempted Cryuff turns, back heels or intricate passes of the kind we’ve seen (and winced at) in recent times – just a simple safety first approach that will hopefully now become the norm.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t a moment or two that momentarily raised the hair on the necks of Liliywhites supporters. An early corner forced Peter Collinge into making an extremely good reactionary stop and minutes before the interval Dean Kyriacu should have levelled the game but he a fired a shot so wide of the target from a good opening that even he had to let out a small laugh of incredulity.

That wayward effort from Kyriacu also turned out to be Wakefield’s last chance of the match. Even though the already meagre returns from their aerial bombardment policy were diminishing exponentially the longer the match wore on, they flogged their dead horse of a tactic till the 68th minute when they finally turned to Plan B. Plan B however turned out to be exactly the same as Plan A but with someone even ridiculously bigger playing upfront - someone so tall that he must have discovered 10 seconds before the rest of us that it was starting to rain. His impact on the game wasn’t enough to even be considered negligible and Oates’s first half strike increasingly looked like being enough to win the game.

You can never be too sure though and thankfully Mossley managed a couple more to put the result beyond any doubt. To be honest the two further goals were no less than Mossley deserved for their second half display as unlike their opponents they left the long ball tactic in the dressing room at the break and spent the second period of forty five minutes trying to play some attractive football. Chances soon began to flow and Zolna finally had to do more than occasionally mop up the odd stray ball that his centre halves had missed in the air.

The second goal when it did arrive did so from the penalty spot. Chris Hall was upended by a combination of Zolna and Wes Milnes (the one time in the match the Wakefield keeper didn’t complain about a refereeing decision) and Matty Kay converted the kick by dispatching it down the centre of the net.

Chances continued to come and go for the Lilywhites but it wasn’t until the last minute that they completed the night’s scoring. Once again it was Matty Kay who found the back of the net, this time via the underside of the bar after sprinting clear of Wakefield’s increasingly bedraggled offside trap.

It might not have been enough to make me look forward to Wakefield’s visit next season but Mossley’s second half performance was encouraging in terms of what’s left of this campaign. At least that is if we play football to our strengths and not in a manner that highlights our shortcomings, no pun intended.

As I’ve said before I’m not someone with an ingrained hatred of the long ball game. It can be extremely effective at times if you have the right tools and with our only real height being in defence, we don’t. What we do have are some incredibly skilful and inventive players and these talents we should be utilising. Surely it’s better to try and open something with the precision of a surgical scalpel than attempting to bludgeon it apart with an orthopedic hammer made of bubble wrap?

Then again this is Mossley and doing the obvious thing is not something we’re exactly known for.

I do have footage of the goals lying around on a memory card somewhere and hopefully they’ll be online at some point within the next week or so. The operative word in that last sentence being hopefully.

Witton Albion 2 - 0 Mossley

The postponement of intervening games at Lancaster City and Leigh Genesis turned the home and away league meetings with Witton Albion into back-to-back fixtures for the Lilywhites and by all accounts that was the most interesting thing about Mossley’s venture to Wincham Park.

Yes, two goals were scored by the home side but the comments (or the lack of them in Mossley’s case) on club message boards and some of the opinions I’ve heard from supporters who went suggest that this was the first ‘end of season’ encounter of the campaign. If true it’s a trifle worrying in Mossley’s case given that they still have 17 games left to play before the actual end of the season is reached. Coupled with a spot in the play-offs not being beyond the realm of possibility (even if it’s a possibility where the use of the word faint to describe it would be an underexaggeration) it isn’t as though there’s nothing left to play for, even if it is only a top ten finish.

One game poor game however isn’t going to make too huge a dent in any promotion aspirations we may have left. It’s only when they turn into a string of them that you abandon all hope of entertainment and begin to daydream about how things will surely be better next season.

Idly speculating about likelihood of watching mid-table snoreathons at some point in the near future isn’t talking about this match though so if you want to know more (and it’s possible there maybe someone out there who does) then click here and for the official views from the Mossley and Witton camps respectively.

Maybe things will be better in the next match against... (checks fixtures) Wakefield. Ah. Not to worry, there's always the game after that.

Mossley 3 - 3 Witton Albion

One thing you've got to love about Mossley (because if you didn't as a supporter it’s likely you’d shed half of the fluid in your body through your tear ducts) is the sheer predictability of their unpredictableness. No matter what form you may think they're in they'll always endeavour to confound your expectations by being a) good, b) bad, c) good and bad or by d) staggering wildly between the two extremes like a drunk trying to walk in a straight line during a hurricane.

This game was one of those occasions where the latter happened. Ninety minutes during which the Jekyll and Hyde sides to the Lilywhites nature played peekaboo with one another. And unlike the film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel in which the metamorphosis between the two personalities is a notable process, Mossley’s transition was faster than a thought.

The first flip occurred immediately after the home side had capped an opening 21 minutes containing some staggeringly good football with a goal that was equal in quality. Breaking quickly from a poorly worked free kick conceded deep in their own half, Mossley moved up the pitch by spreading the ball from one wing to the other until it reached the feet of Kristian Dennis. Following a touch to control the pass and one to beat his marker he guided the ball almost effortlessly into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

The lead was no less than the home team deserved but they weren’t having it entirely all their own way as Albion had hit the woodwork themselves and flashed a shot narrowly wide on their rare ventures forward; attacks which quickly grew in number following the opening goal thanks to Mossley inexplicably changing the way they were playing. Gone was the expansive passing game that had seen them tear through their opponents with ease and in its place was the sadly not unfamiliar tactic of hoofing the ball up the pitch at every available opportunity; a change last seen when the Lilywhites were three up and coasting against Clitheroe and one which ultimately left us in that match hanging on to a narrow victory by some well bitten fingernails.

Considering the intense pressure they were under it was a minor miracle that the Lilywhites made it to the interval with their one goal lead intact. And having reached the break there was hope that the short rest period would give Mossley the chance to tackle some of the problems that Albion were exploiting. Like the tackling. Or to be more exact, the lack of it.

Sadly this and other issues such as the narrow midfield, Ben Richardson receiving no assistance in trying to deal with two opponents constantly bearing down on him and the resorting to tactics straight out of a Charles Hughes coaching manual (to name but three) went unaddressed and with all the inevitability of death, taxes and lousy Saturday night TV schedules Mossley’s resistance crumbled not once, but twice within the space of three second half minutes. Alex Titchiner and Ian Kerney netting a slightly scrappy goal apiece to edge their team ahead.

After Witton had gone narrowly close to adding a third – a spectacular save from Peter Collinge having prevented them from doing so – Mossley‘s character changed again. Passes returned to being from foot-to-foot instead of from foot-to-an-area-of-space-between-six-to-fifteen-feet-above-everybody’s-heads and the reward was near instantaneous. A through ball caught the Albion defence square and Kristian Dennis fired past the keeper from the edge of the area for both his and Mossley’s second of the night.

The visitor’s response was to crumble. Whether it was through tired legs or the panic Mossley were now creating with their passing and movement, Albion began to drop deeper and deeper until it reached a point where the goalkeeper appeared to be their furthest player forward. Therefore it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Mossley retook the lead. As with the preceding two it was scored by Dennis; the striker completing his hat-trick with a turn and shot that not only took the keeper by surprise but the crowd as well judging by the delayed reaction to the ball hitting the back of the net.

And then history repeated itself. The Lilywhites took going ahead as a cue to rest on their laurels and having looked dead and buried not a minute earlier, Witton were allowed to rediscover their earlier tempo and they began to swarm over a Mossley side that seemed more overly pre-occupied with giving the ball away in the cheapest and silliest manner possible. Once more a goal looked inevitable and it duly arrived with fifteen minutes of the match left when Andy Kinsey applied the final touch during a mad scramble in the Mossley goalmouth.

The impetus was now with the men from Cheshire and the home side had to endure a couple of scares before they were able to wrestle control of the game away from their opponents for the final five minutes and come close to winning the match themselves. The closest being an effort from Matty Kay that keeper Matt Cooper did extremely well to claw away for a corner.

Looking back at the game from a distance (and apologies for this distance being two full weeks – far more important things taking priority at the moment I’m afraid) it was probably one of the best ones this season in terms of twists and excitement.

That’s counterbalanced though by another display of Mossley at both their best and worst. When they’re the former they are an impressive team to watch in full flow: moving quickly from box to box and wing to wing with a fluidity that you don’t often see at this particular level of football. When they’re the latter though they’re… well, let’s just euphemistically say that they resemble a different kind of fluidity altogether.

The up and down nature of the side though seems so ingrained that it’s something we’ll probably never be able to shake off and we’ll spend the rest of whatever days we have left riding this little roller coaster. Actually it doesn’t sound quite so bad like that, does it?

Unless you really hate roller coasters of course.