Salford City 2 - 2 Mossley

Someone find the phone number of a company that hires out open-top buses because we've got ourselves a point to parade!

Yes, the six game losing streak we've all be enjoying so immensely over the past four weeks has been broken by Salford and Mossley battling to a stalemate at the former's Moor Lane ground.

Although looking at the form of both sides it's surprising that anyone thought there'd be a different outcome. Mossley went into the match with one win in ten matches while Salford had managed a victory in only one of their last nine outings. It's form that's not exactly a recipe for an exciting encounter but whether it confounded expectations or not can be deduced by reading the Mossley and Salford reports on the match.

Whilst you're reading those opinions I'm going to see if I can find a plinth we can attach the point to as we're in need of something to gather dust in the trophy cabinet.

Mossley 1 - 3 Chorley

Another day, another game, another defeat and another round of behind-the-scenes stories and incidents that elicit sighs of despair. On the upside though it is another game closer the end of the season and while it’s not heading towards a grand finale, it doesn’t stop it being any less eagerly anticipated by those of us of a Mossley persuasion.

How could it not be looked forward to in the same way that a child relishes Christmas Day when you’ve just watched the side you support fall to a sixth successive defeat? Or when your side is on a run that has seen them take an impressive total of 4 points out of the last 30 available?

The defeat which made up this latest instalment in the Lilywhite’s quest for the lowliest league position possible (who says we have nothing to play for?) didn’t turn out to be too much of a surprise. When you have one side who are pushing for promotion and another who are only pushing patience there’s only ever really going to be one winner.

Without an inform goalkeeper stationed between Mossley’s posts it’s likely that this game would have done been done and dusted as a contest by the time the opening period had reached its midway point. For all their possession and shots though Chorley only (only!) had two goals to show for their early match endeavours: a 7th minute shot from Tom Ince, which sprung from the season’s umpteenth ill-advised pass across the back four by a defender, and a nice chipped effort from Steve Foster quarter of an hour later.

Mossley’s solitary response during this time came when they tried something other than kicking the ball both high and long to the head of lone forward Chris Hall. By getting the ball out wide for once and attacking down the wing they stretched the Chorley backline and Hall came within a matter of centimetres of connecting with Mike Oates’s left wing cross. This glimmer of an opening should have provided a hint as to how to drag ourselves back into the match but it was an approach never tried again (at least not until it was far too late) and we were soon back to an approach that mostly consisted of firing balls at Hall’s head from 50 yards.

I say mostly because the second time they tried something different in the match it lead to the arrears being halved. Chris Rowney set off on a run towards goal from his own half and encountered no real resistance until keeper Aaron Grundy upended him in the Chorley penalty area. It was a moment that led to an enormous amount of invective being hurled towards the referee as he awarded the penalty and nothing else in the way of punishment.

Whilst the general consensus seemed to be that a dismissal was merited, I can sort of understand why the referee chose not show the goalkeeper a red card as Rowney wasn’t exactly clean through on goal. He had two defenders alongside him and was running parallel to the goal when the ‘tackle’ occurred. It was a deliberate foul though: the keeper completely missed the ball in his attempt to claim it and having done so shaped his body so that he took the Mossley player out of the game. At the very least it was a yellow card but the referee didn’t even believe that a lecture to Grundy about how lucky a keeper he’d been was warranted.

It wasn’t to be the officials last moment in the spotlight and, for me at least, not the biggest clanger he made on the day. What was came later on in the half after Mossley had successfully defended a Chorley corner. As play was making its way up the right side of the pitch, a visiting players who wasn’t rushing to get back into position appeared to swing an arm into the face of Peter Collinge.

I fully appreciate that the referee won’t have seen what happened as he didn’t have eyes in the back of his head but the assistant referee did and began to wave his flag to attract his colleague’s attention. After some considerable time and plenty of prompting from the Mossley fans and players the referee acknowledged his assistant, saw Collinge spark out on the floor and gave the home side a free-kick.

I don’t think he knew what he was giving a free-kick for but the linesman did and he continued to wave his flag around like a man trying rid a picnic of midges and make gestures that he wanted to speak to the referee. The man-in-the-middle didn’t want to know though and simply ignored the signals from the touchline. If he’d actually bothered to go across and find out what had got his assistant so agitated I’m reasonably certain that Chorley would have had to play out the match with only ten men.

The sad thing is that even if they had been reduced in numbers I don’t think the result would have been any different, apart from it maybe not being as comfortable a victory as it was. Actually, scratch that thought: it probably would have been as comfortable as it turned out.

Anyhoo, back to the penalty.

After Matty Kay had converted it there was a hope that the sense of injustice (whether rightly or wrongly) filling the air about Grundy’s non-dismissal would put some fire in Mossley’s bellies. It didn’t. Between the spot-kick and the last 10 minutes when the decision to finally play someone up alongside Chris Hall gave the attacks a bit more purpose, the Lilywhites created nothing apart from a long range effort early in the second half by Kay that hit the crossbar. In that period of time Chorley had added another goal through John Cunliffe and were left to curse Collinge’s good form for them not having another two or three to their name.

The cherry on top of the sixth successive defeat cake was the story which broke during the second half about three Mossley players fighting amongst themselves in the tunnel during the interval. And that wasn’t the only tale – okay, “rumour” – doing the rounds on the day, none of which give the impression of everything being rosy. But then this is Mossley and tales of turmoil, whether real or apocryphal, have become such an intrinsic part of the clubs DNA over the past two decades that the time you really have to start worrying is when stories such as this don’t circulate. Besides, it gives supporters something to discuss on the terraces because there’s very little happening on the pitch for them to talk about.

Despite the negativity I’m sure we will another game soon, even if it’s only because the law of averages dictates it rather than the possibility of the team entering a brief spell of good form.

Garforth Town 2 - 1 Mossley

And it’s a fifth successive defeat for the Lilywhites. Who says we aren’t consistent?

If you want to know what happened at the Genix Healthcare Stadium on this particular evening then you have two options, or three if you’ve discovered a way to travel back in time. The first is to visit Mossleyweb and read the official Mossley version of things while, secondly, a Garforth Town fan site gives an alternative view of proceedings.

According to both reports Mossley played a lot better when red cards reduced them to 9 men so keep your fingers crossed for a couple of early dismissals against Chorley in the next match to give us a fighting chance. Or better yet let’s just start the match two men short. There’s a fairly obvious punch line to that last sentence I’m sure you’ve already supplied yourself so I won’t insult your intelligence by repeating it here.

Mossley 1 - 2 Prescot Cables

There’s a very famous proverb that says it’s always darkest before the dawn; that things always seem to be at their worst right at the point just before they get better. If this particular adage is indeed true then we’re in for quite a spectacular sunrise at Mossley because at the moment it is positively pitch black.

If it wasn’t already bad enough in recent weeks thanks to the reversals against Leigh and Cammel Laird, the tenebrous atmosphere that has settled over Seel Park was added to by this not-as-surprised-I-should-be defeat to Prescot Cables, making it an unholy trinity of three successive defeats to sides from the lower echelons of the Evo-Stik First Division; an area of the league Mossley will soon becoming accustomed to once more should they not rediscover even the most infinitesimal amount of form any time soon.

Despite going down at home to a team who were a) lying third from bottom of the table before the game and b) quite possibly the worst visiting side to have graced Seel Park this season, there are some who’ll raise an argument – albeit not one that many supporters would be prepared to back up – that this was an improved performance because we had the lion’s share of possession and it’s true: we did. The reason we did though is because after Prescot took an 11th minute lead they treated the ball like it was a hand grenade with the pin missing.

Never before have I seen whole a team so unwilling to keep hold of the ball. Every time they took possession it was launched anywhere at the first available opportunity. It was like those game periods at school when pupils who hated football were forced to take part in a match and on the occasions they couldn’t runaway from the ball, would close their eyes and wildly swing a leg at it.

Prescot’s panicky reaction naturally meant that Mossley got to see more of that little sphere of synthetic material encased air - or the ball - than they have done in a game for quite a while. Yet in spite of this the number of chances the Lilywhites created was in no way proportional to it. Part of the reason why is due to the number of bodies the visitors had loaded their defence with in an effort to hang to the lead but mostly it was down to Mossley showing the same amount of creativity that a lumpfish with a sprained fin would have if it had been tasked with unlocking the Cables back line.

The way the home side were lined-up wasn’t exactly aiding matters. That’s not say that the 4-5-1 formation they employed for a sizeable proportion of the game was to blame as isn’t necessarily a negative formation. If the lone striker is well supported from both the flanks and the midfield it can be a formidable set-up for a defending team to have to counter. Against Prescot however the problem was that lone striker was not well supported. The use of the phrase ‘ploughing a lone furrow’ couldn’t be more apt to describe Chris Hall’s efforts on the night.

Outside of the now all-to-familiar long, long pass his supply line was next to non-existent. Like the last match the five players strung across the midfield provided little in the way of width. You knew that if you began to count every time the ball made its way to a wide position that by the time you got to 3 it would be being played or carried back towards the crowded middle again. Then again, in employing a centre half/sometime right back as a right sided midfielder and two right footed players on the left side, there was hardly going to be much chance of them haring towards the corners and pinging over a cross.

Cables keeper Michael Langley didn’t have to make a save until midway through the second half when he had to quickly back peddle to tip a looping effort from Mike Oates over the bar. He then made a superb point blank stop to deny Matty Kay not long after but there was little he could do to stop Mossley finally pulling level in the 77th minute when a shot from distance by right back Ryan Barrow took a slight deflection that left him wrong footed.

It should have been the moment that saw Mossley find a higher gear but instead it was the visitors who responded. After spending the majority of the game looking like panic crazed amateurs they suddenly began to pass the ball around with an unerring degree of accuracy that split the Lilywhites wide open. Collinge did well to prevent Prescot’s second shot of the match from entering the net with a scrambled save on the goal line but he was powerless to stop their third effort as Joe Gibiliru Jr , son of the former ex-Mossley player of the same name, waltzed through the at sixes and sevens defence to pick up a loose ball and score. There’s a question to be asked as to why Prescot didn’t play the whole match like this but from a Mossley perspective I’m rather thankful they didn’t or else this result might have been even more depressing than it actually was.

To no one’s real surprise Mossley couldn’t respond to going behind for a second time in the match and the game petered out to growing acrimony for the disgruntled still left inhabiting the terraces at the final whistle. On this evidence I think it’s going to be a good while yet before the sun starts peeking over the horizon and dissipates the gloom enveloping us at the moment.

Mossley 1 - 2 Cammell Laird

It’s very, very rare that you get to experience a new feeling when you get to my age but I was introduced to one in the build-up to this match; one which has passed me by in all my years making the regular trip to Seel Park: positivity.

I wasn’t merely hopeful that we were going to see a improved performance over our previous outing, I was as confident as it’s possible to be that we’d not only see a display from the Lilywhites that was a 100 times better than what we saw against Leigh but that we’d win too. Or at the very least manage a draw.

I know that such an optimistic outlook from me of all people will probably come as a surprise to most of you (it did to me!) but I can’t explain why I thought we’d see an improvement. And I think we would have too if someone hadn’t uttered that immortal phrase before kick-off; the one which makes Fate raise its eyebrow and smirk, as if to say “you really want to tempt me, eh?”

Ten minutes before the match was due to start the following words in the following order floated across the Seel Park terraces: “It can’t be as bad as the last match.” Now I’m not a superstitious person but even I at times think there may be something to the term ‘jinxing things’. But then I come to my senses and realise that it’s not some mystical unseen force that’s responsible for Mossley playing badly, it’s Mossley themselves.

And badly is what they played on this very afternoon. I don’t wish to take anything away from Cammell Laird as they did what they had to do very well but their task was made significantly easier by another Mossley display which left the majority of spectators perplexed and peeved.

The only visible silver lining on the afternoon.

One of the most annoying things about the game from a Lilywhites perspective is that, unlike the Leigh match, it didn’t start too badly. It must be said that it wasn’t brilliant either but Mossley just about edged the cagey opening in terms of possession and looked half decent while doing so.

If this ‘golden’ period of stringing three passes together a couple of times had lasted more than 15 minutes we might even have eventually managed to get close enough to our opponents goal to have had a shot (I know – I’m such a dreamer) but it didn’t. Instead it came to a premature end with an unnecessary and errant pass that allowed the visitors a free shot on goal and while it didn’t go in it was the jolt that started to swing the match in Lairds favour.

The uphill task began with a free kick in the 22nd minute. The angle it was at made an attempt at goal look impossible and wasteful but Paul Wheeler curled an incredibly impressive shot round the wall. Peter Collinge did very well to block it but he was unable to prevent Chris Adamson from prodding the loose ball into the net. It would have been nice if someone from the home side other than the prone goalkeeper had reacted to this situation besides the visiting number 5 but it appears you can’t have everything. Not long after Wheeler hit the foot of the post again with another free-kick and the number of chances the visitors were both creating and wasting began to grow at a disturbingly alarming rate.

Mossley weren’t exactly helping their cause by reverting back to the keep sending it down the middle approach which had proved so 'successful' against Leigh four days earlier. It was a decision made all the more inexplicable by the fact that for the first time in a while they had Steve Settle - a bona fide winger - on the pitch and someone who’d made inroads into Lairds back line on the few occasions he’d been presented with the ball in the opening quarter of an hour.

Another goal for the visitors looked only a matter of time in coming and that time was the 34th minute. Its genesis came when Lairds keeper Phil Palethorpe brought a halt to a Mossley attack (a word I use in its loosest, most wishy-washiest sense of the term) by clearing the ball both high and long down the pitch. As it arced its way through the air, over the halfway and deep into the Lilywhites half not one person in a white shirt thought that it might be an idea to perhaps go and get it. Maybe they assumed that as it was heading towards where the left back should be that he would have dealt with it.

Alas the left back wasn’t there as thanks to the unique way we were set out to play he was still our most advanced player due to being required to act as a left sided midfielder and attacker on top of his duties as a defender.

One player did finally decide to go and collect the ball and rather sadly from a Mossley perspective, primarily because he doesn’t play for them, it was Jordan Evason. As you’d expect from a footballer given all the time in the world by the people who were supposed to be tackling him he was able to re-distribute the ball with some precision, in this case straight into the path of Aaron Bowen who with one touch hammered the ball past Collinge from close range. A moment soundtracked by the faint thwack of just under a 100 faces being put into just under a 100 palms.

The immediate aftermath of the goal saw captain Graham Kay substituted, a curious decision given that he was performing no worse than his fellow defenders but a decision that probably had a deeper undercurrent; a thought given extra credence by the exchange of shirt and words that took place while the player and manager were momentarily within the vicinity of one another.

The official report says that the introduction of Aaron Chalmers in his place steadied the ship but it didn’t. Laird might not have scored another goal but that was down to some truly hopeless finishing and incredible goalkeeping rather than any of the holes being filled in the all too porous home defence. If their strikers had been on form – and Collinge off his – then matters could have got a whole lot more embarrassing for the Lilywhites than they already were.

As well as the substitution the second goal also instigated another round of swapping players between positions. Settle, an attacking right winger, was moved to left back while Cavell Coo was moved from that position to fill Settle’s vacated role. I’m sure there was some logic behind the change but what it was seemed to be lost on most people judging by the number of slowly shaking heads on the terraces.

It was all change again after the break as Mossley re-took to the pitch with a 3-5-2 formation. Quite remarkably for such a line-up there was no width to the Lilywhites play at all with Settle becoming an increasingly marginalised figure out by the touchline until he was replaced by Chris Hall on the hour mark.

The alterations to both the formation and personnel had no impact in improving Mossley’s chances and it was the visitors who continued to create and miss chances. However, the more opportunities Cammell Laird spurned the more I began to think - with the strange football logic a lot of supporters have - that Mossley were playing bad enough to get something out of the game and that at least of part of my pre-game prediction would come true. I’ve seen it happen before and I was almost right.

There was 7 minutes left when Mossley scored a goal out of nothing and in a manner that if it had taken place at the top level of the game would have kept Sky Sports News going for days. An all too rare attempt at trying something other than hitting the ball as hard as possible at the forwards saw a through pass finally open the Lairds defence. Kristian Dennis timed his run to perfection and struck the ball past Palethorpe to give Mossley a lifeline they didn’t really deserve.

That doesn’t sound controversial but the goal was initially ruled out by the linesman because Michael Fish was stood in an offside position as the ball was played through. After a prolonged discussion with the referee the assistant conceded that Fish wasn’t interfering with play and withdrew his objection to the goal. What raises the controversy up to a level that would get the media into a frenzied state if it had happened at The Emirates or that place in Trafford is that the referee had acknowledged his assistant’s original decision with the whistle before Kristian Dennis took his shot: the goal was scored when play had been stopped by the official. In the grand scheme of things justice was done in the end in awarding Mossley what was a perfectly legitimate goal but it was one heck of a cock-up on an officiating level.

In the end it turned out to be a cruel goal as it gave a glimmer of hope when there truly was none: a rubber bone thrown to a starving dog. It didn’t lead to an all-out attack in search of an equaliser or even a tiny of spell of pressure which produced something that could be considered a half chance. It merely served to give the score line a more flattering look and make it seem like it was closer than it was.

After choosing the pages of the Oldham Evening Chronicle to lay the blame for the Leigh Genesis defeat firmly at the feet of the players he’d picked, rather than take his share of the blame too for the equally responsible formation and tactics he’d chosen, Mossley’s manager didn’t get quite the reaction he was probably expecting in this game. Everyone else was not quite so surprised (such interviews given to the local media at this level rarely ever have the kind of positive effect you desire) but it was something we can probably put down to being part of the learning curve for a new manager.

What can’t be dismissed quite so easily as part of the learning process though are the tactics, formation and team selections. The obsession with keeping play confined to a narrow corridor down the centre of the pitch has gone from puzzling to infuriating in a very short space of time. There’s so little variation it’s almost as if we’re taking the same approach to tactics as Field Marshal Haig had in Blackadder Goes Forth: “Doing precisely what we have done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time.”

The job swap scheme in regards to players being used in unfamiliar positions for short periods of time continues to baffle but not as much as the decision to drop most people’s man of the match for the Leigh game (and one of the few players to emerge from the debacle with any credit at all), Aaron Chalmers, to the bench. Other changes were made to the side but the faces which came in were the ones who went out the last time the side needed freshening up after a poor defeat.

It begs the question as to the point of having a reserve side when there’s no movement between it and the first team, barring the odd exception when Joe Heap gets a few minutes every other month. What incentive is there for the second eleven (who are currently joint top of their division) if they can’t even get a sniff of first team action when the seniors are struggling as badly as they are?

To an outsider it must seem strange to see someone being so frustrated and annoyed at a team that currently sits at a spot no lower than 12th in the league table but compared to some of my fellow supporters I’m positively mellow about the whole thing. The problem is that all we can see at the moment is regression and not progression. We began the season badly yet following a brief spell in December and early January when we had some success while playing good football, it’s to those grim days of August and September we’ve returned to once more. It’s almost as if nothing has been learnt over the past 6 months.

Football being what it is though the next match could see Mossley once produce the impressive style of football we know they're fully capable of having witnessed it 3 months ago. On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, you can't rule their propensity at times for scraping away at the bottom of the barrel. All I know is that I'll be there to see what happens and bring you a much, much, much shorter report on it. Promise.

Mossley 0 - 2 Leigh Genesis

During a quiet period at work (we have rather a lot of them at the moment) a conversation about football turned into how we’d describe the teams we support to someone who wasn’t particularly au fait with the sport or additionally in my case, someone for whom the non-league aspect of the game is an unknown quantity.

After giving it plenty of thought (like I said, time for such things is very much in abundance at work these days) I realised that there wasn’t a suitable frame of reference for Mossley in not only football but other sports as well. It was only much later that it dawned on me that the perfect comparison was not another team - football or otherwise - but a figure from literature.

What best embodies Mossley AFC to the layman more than anything else is a small piece of 19th Century prose by Henry Longfellow. We are his little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead because when we are good we are very good indeed, but when we are bad we are horrid.

And horrid is what we were against Leigh.

There would be some debate amongst Mossley supporters as to which was the last truly dreadful performance by the men in white shirts. Some would argue that it was the 5-0 defeat at Clitheroe in August, others would point to the slightly more recent game against Darlington and a few may even go back a season or two. After this game though I think all disagreements will be put aside and a unanimous decision made on this being the latest absolute stinker of a performance from the Lilywhites.

It wasn’t a case of things starting well before gradually getting worse or even starting badly and deteriorating from there. From the first whistle to the last Mossley never rose above a level that was shambolic and inept; a performance during which even simply being mediocre was an aspiration beyond anything we could ever hope of achieving.

Straight from the outset it looked like they thought they only had to turn up to beat their bottom of the table opponents and not even going behind to a fifth minute goal from ex-Lilywhite Marvin McDonald (the latest in a long line of players who couldn’t hit the proverbial cow’s bum with a banjo while wearing a white shirt to score on their return in another club’s colours) could instil any urgency into the home side.

After it took some speedy backtracking by Peter Collinge to stop a wildly mis-hit 25 yard back pass doubling Leigh’s lead a few minutes later, the Mossley manager made the first of what turned out to be many positional changes on the night. Changes that the idiom ‘like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’ could have been invented for and ones which added to the ramshackle nature of the Lilywhites evening.

To give you an idea of how ridiculous the switching around got, the team line up after 70 minutes was as follows: at right back we had a player who began the match at centre half. The person he’d replaced was now playing left back after a brief spell in his favoured position in the centre of the defence. The third person to fill that gap in the back line was a central midfielder who in turn had his role in the middle of the park taken up by the starting left back. And to round things off a substitution saw an attacking role on the left wing filled by a right back.

I hope you managed to follow that but if you didn’t and it doesn’t make any sense then don’t worry: you’re not alone as there were quite a few people at the match who couldn’t figure out what was going on either. And not just on the terraces.

The ‘who’s doing what?’ conundrum wasn’t being helped as well by the decision to start the game with four central midfielders, all of whom seemed to be desperately trying to occupy the same small area in the middle of the pitch, unsure of the role they’d been asked to fulfil judging by the arguments about who should be where.

The lack of width in midfield meant that once again the onus was on the full backs to push forward and provide Mossley with an attacking option that wasn’t a direct ball to two forwards who, like the midfield, were making identical runs into identical positions. It’s not a role that full backs with no cover in a flat back four should be asked to play but Aaron Chalmers, much like Ben Richardson did to increasingly visible levels of frustration before his departure to Woodley, did his best to give Mossley an attacking edge and was one of only two players (Collinge being the other) to come out of the debacle with any credit, even after taking into account that it was his unforced error that led to the visitors opener.

It would be unfair to say that the Lilywhites didn’t create anything in terms of goal scoring opportunities but what they did fashion could hardly be classed as good or even half chances. There was a goalmouth scramble midway through the first half and a couple of shots from distance but nothing that caused a defence with the second worst record in the division any real trouble.

Conversely the attack with the worst record in the division by some considerable distance (a 0.77 goals per game average) were posing a constant threat and Mossley could count themselves fortunate that it took until the 79th minute for the game to be over as a contest, even if it effectively never was one. A mere four passes, starting from the edge of Leigh box, opened up what passed for Mossley’s defence and on this occasion they couldn’t rely on Collinge sparing their blushes; Connor Millington netting for the visitors and sending a sizeable chunk of the home crowd heading for the exit, a decision which many will wish they made much earlier.

I’ve no doubt that at this point anyone who’s reading this and never saw the game is probably thinking that I’m going overboard as to how bad things were but the sad truth is that I’m not. Actually I'm not entirely sure if I've really managed to convey just how poor it was from a Mossley perspective or even mentioned half of the other problems which conspired to make the night memorable for all the wrong reasons. If you don’t believe we were that bad I recommend check out the opinions of other Mossley supporters here and here (if you’re a member of the forum). Even the official match report which usually gives proceedings a rosy hue is pretty forthright in its condemnation of Mossley’s performance.

It was one of those games that you hope is a one off but my fear, and I know it’s shared by others, is that it isn’t. The problems which plagued us in this match (on pitch arguing, poor body language, strange team selections and formations) have been ones that have caused us trouble to varying degrees in other games and show no sign of being addressed.

The best we can wish for is that this game was not one suffered in vain and that it acts as the catalyst for some improvement because at the moment we don’t seem to be heading anywhere other than down. However if it’s an example of what we can expect over the remaining 16 games of the season then it’s going to get very lonely on the terraces come April.