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.