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.