Mossley 0 - 4 Curzon Ashton

I don't know about you but even though August isn't yet a footnote in the annals of history, I think it may already be time to write off Mossley's title chances for this season. And possibly our play-off hopes too.

I'm not going to go into any great detail about the mechanics of the match, primarily because I wasn't there. I had the option of attending the game or an early evening out with friends; it had to be one or the other. In times gone past I almost certainly would have opted for the football but in these days of financial austerity I don't want to use what painfully little disposable income I have on paying to watch something akin to a slow motion car crash, which is what Mossley's last home match was and what their latest one threatened to be. As the evening with friends had the promise of some enjoyment it was that I opted for as the 'e' word is something that hasn't been synonymous with the Lilywhites for a while now. Unless of course you're a supporter of the opposition. And lo and behold if it wasn't the visiting Curzon fans who got the most bang for their buck in the latest instalment of the Lilywhites 2011/12 relegation push. (Before anyone gets on their high horse, of course I'm being facetious when I say relegation push. For the time being at least anyway)

Curzon's 16 man squad contained 11 players who have worn the Lilywhites shirt, many of whom as recently as last season. The departure of these players to our near neighbours in the summer brought numerous jilted lover-esque cries from some supporters of "they weren't very good anyway" and that their replacements were so much better. It wasn't for as simple a reason as that they wanted to play for a manager who they'd enjoyed playing under before or that they wanted a change of scenery. Oh no, they were "mercenaries." Which begs the question as to whether the supporters who believe this think their replacements didn't have to leave a club to join us; that we're the only club who source our players from a pool of Corinthian spirited idealists. Anyhoo, the fixture meant it was an early chance to put those claims to the test: were the ex-Lilywhites rubbish and the new Lilywhites a lot better? A glimpse at the score line answers that question.

While I didn't watch the game in the flesh I did manage to watch it via Twitter for an hour via the various tweetings from the neutrals and not-so-neutrals in attendance and none of it made for happy reading. In the hour before kick-off I began to get this weird feeling that Mossley would upset the apple cart but when @aaronflan posted the team line-ups prior to the start of the match it disappeared. A whippet-like centre forward in the shape of Kristian Dennis up against the far from whippet-like central defensive pairing Mossley were starting with was only going to lead to one thing if the former was up for the match and sure enough, at four minutes past three the first of a succession of tweets popped up on my time line to say that Dennis had put Curzon a goal ahead having beaten his marker for speed. Eight minutes later news of his second strike of the afternoon came through along with some far from glowing appraisals of Mossley's performance.

Eventually it came time to head off to my preferred destination of the day and while stood at the bus stop I heard a cheer roll down from the hill which Seel Park sits atop of. In a rare outbreak of optimism I headed to Twitter on my phone to see if Mossley had embarked on a comeback. Nope. The noise I'd heard had been to greet Kristian Dennis's hat-trick. Seven minutes (and still no bus) later there was another eruption. That late on in the game it's unlikely a Mossley goal would have elicited such a reaction and sure enough it had heralded Curzon's fourth, scored by another ex-Lilywhite Michael Fish.

The 4-0 result (a second successive defeat at home by the same scoreline) meant that Curzon moved to the top of the table on goal difference and Mossley slipped, or rather fell with a bump, to the bottom of the Evo-Stik First Division North by virtue of having fewer points than everybody else. And so after six games of the new campaign the Lilywhites sit 21 places and 16 points below their Bank Holiday opponents who, lest we forget, comprise of players who aren't good enough for us according to some. Maybe it's just me but at the moment I'm not getting any sense of progress being made, especially as we look like heading into a risky FA Cup fixture against an unbeaten side from a lower division with only one centre forward at the club. Lengthy paragraphs about these issues though are for another, rainy day.

As for me I did have an enjoyable evening, not that any of you are asking. I ended up seeing the new Conan the Barbarian film and while it's not the greatest film ever made there are far worse ways of spending 90 minutes, naming no examples. There was plenty of killing in it too so I did eventually end up seeing one massacre on the day and paid less than £8 for the privilege too.

Skelmersdale United 3 - 1 Mossley

There's not really much to say about this game other than that we've managed to get our annual defeat at Skelmersdale out of the way much earlier in the season than we usually do. It's normally a cold night in March or April when we turn up at Stormy Corner and get a pasting but this year we got the opportunity to help Skem's goal difference while enjoying a bit of sun too.

Or at least I'm going to assume it was sunny. It could well have been bucketing it down and blowing a force ten gale for all I know. What I do know for a fact though is that for the first time since the home side moved to their new ground, Mossley managed to get through ninety minutes there without conceding four or more goals which makes it the first genuine positive of the season! Huzzah!

It's surprising just how much joy there is to be had in these infinitesimally small moments in football when your hopes for a season are virtually non-existent. All we have to do now is beat Curzon at home for once and the 2011/12 season, whether we're relegated or not, can be claimed a success on some level.

Back to this game though and for a short period of time the unlikely looked achievable: a win at Skelmersdale. A goal from Tom Ingham on the cusp of the break gave the Lilywhites the lead at the half way point but the hopes of gaining three points at one of our bogey grounds started to slip away early in the second period. Rob McIntosh and Paul Woolcott put the home side ahead within five minutes of the restart and Shaun Tuck administered the match winning blow 13 minutes from time. From the few accounts of the supporters who went to Skelmersdale, Mossley didn't play that badly but as crumbs of comfort go (even taking into account our opponents and that it's still August) it's still the tiniest of tiny morsels.

Speaking of Curzon, as I was some paragraphs ago, they're up next for Mossley. We're only two weeks into a new season and they're already 13 points ahead of us. Not bad for a team consisting in the main of last seasons Lilywhites squad; players whom some of our supporters said weren't any good when they left the club in the summer. Unfortunately I'm not going to be at Seel Park to see if the players we have now are (as claimed by some) better than those they replaced so I'm afraid there's going to be an in-depth review of our Bank Holiday game on here. I'm sure there will however be something to write about it, even if it's only "Yay!" or "Oh no!" Not sure what to do if it ends up a draw though.

AFC Fylde 2 - 2 Mossley

It was from the ridiculous to the almost-but-not-quite sublime for Mossley as they followed up their weak surrender to a slightly better than average Woodley side with a point at one of the title favourites, AFC Fylde.

Not that anyone should really be surprised that we managed to avoid defeat against The Coasters as that's what we've done in every match we've ever played against them. For want of a better term we are their bogey side and despite our less than auspicious start to the season that will continue to be the case until March at the earliest. If you want to be amazed about something to do with this result then its that after managing only one half decent shot on target in the previous 180 minutes of football, the visitors actually held a two goal lead just after the midway point of the game.

What followed the second goal has been described as the Alamo as Fylde laid siege to the Lilywhites net but that's the wrong analogy seeing as the defending side in that particular historical instance lost. This was a score draw so Rourke's Drift is probably a more fitting parallel. Or at least it is if equating important historical events, in which countless lives were lost, to ultimately meaningless sporting contests can in any way ever be described as fitting. I digress though so to get back to the topic in hand I'll point you towards the Mossley report on proceedings and Fylde's take on what happened.

So after being the bogey side we're off to Skelmersdale to face one of the many, many teams who hold a similar hoodoo over us. On our past four visits to Stormy Corner we've conceded a total of 18 goals and received a string of red cards so the chances of this being a dull 0-0 are pretty much slim to non-existent.

Cue the dull, goalless draw.

Mossley 1 - 4 Woodley Sports

I really don't know where to start or what to do with this blog entry. Actually the start is easy: this was one of the most abject Mossley performances I've seen for a good number of years. It's what to follow it with that's the problem.

On the one hand I don't want to be overly critical, especially after my last posting in which I said it was too early in the season to do such a thing. On the other though it's impossible not to be when you've just witnessed a display that doesn't scream off day but that we have a huge bleeping problems. However, if I was to do the latter and go through all the things that were wrong, or even if I just listed half of the problems that were in evidence over the course of this spell of ninety minutes, I'd be writing practically non-stop for a week. It was that bad. Or it was if you were a Mossley fan. If you were a Woodley supporter then you'd probably just seen your side pick up the easiest three points they'll get all season.

With the employment of some more composed finishing prior to it, Woodley's opener could easily have been the goal that put the seal on the win for the visitors. Of course it's not unusual for a side to have missed enough chances to have won a game before they finally find the back of the net for the first time but I doubt there are many who've done this with only eight minutes of a game having elapsed. The term one-sided was invented for matches like this and how Woodley failed to capitalise on their dominance is beyond me. Actually it isn't; they didn't get the goals they deserved because their forwards were next to useless in front of the net. It meant that for the majority of the match the simple pass-and-go move up the pitch which ripped through Mossley's paper thin resistance, and finished off by Jordan Stepien, was the only thing that separated the two sides. Well that and the the visitors superior level of fitness, their work rate and their decision to field a midfield to name but three of many other things.

Against any other team they'd have probably been made to pay for their wastefulness but happily for them they were facing Mossley. In the seven minutes prior to Stepien's strike and for a significant time after it the only time the Lilywhites entered their opponents half was to chase down the mortar-like passes from the back that formed the majority of their attacking tactics. It took a while but the home side did eventually realise that kicking the ball along the ground to a team mate was slightly more beneficial than lumping it in the general direction of their head. Alas, while it saw them enjoy a bit more possession, it didn't lead to a solitary shot in anger that forced visiting keeper Liam Higginbotham into taking action to preserve his sides lead.

With time in the game running out a shift in formation saw Mossley move to a three man back line. I assume this was to enable more men to move forward in search of a late equaliser but the difference it made to Mossley's attacking fortunes was the square root of zero. Woodley's attacking fortunes however benefited enormously. With even more gaps at the back to exploit they finally started to give the match a more realistic looking scoreline. In the space of five minutes a one goal lead became four and could easily have been six if the post and a terrible finish hadn't come to the home sides rescue.

If the score had stayed 1-0 to Woodley it would have flattered us immensely and I'm sure that in some quarters it would have been seen and spun as a half decent result too. However, while you can pull the wool over the eyes of people who didn't see what happened and have them believe late goals skewed the scoreline or whatever, the reality is that those who saw the game know that even with a 4-0 defeat the home team got off lightly and that against a good side, rather than a half-decent one, it could have been a massacre.

I did say though that I wasn't going to go into full-on critical mode this early into the campaign so instead of picking at the bones (the bare, meat free bones) of this performance just end with this: Three games, one point, one meaningful shot on target in 180 minutes of football at Seel Park, a lack of shape and ideas and the body language of some players already suggests they want to be anywhere else but here. Oh yes, Mossley's season is well underway.

Mossley 1 - 1 Witton Albion

After four months of waiting (not a second of which, personally speaking, was in eager anticipation) the new football season arrived at Seel Park and it came and went with little in the way of occurence for the match to take up anything more than a fleeting residence in the memories of those who saw it. It was, for want of a better description, an atypical end of season match, only eight months too soon.

That's not to say there weren't some things worthy of commenting on amongst the vast tracts of incident free stretches the game mostly consisted of. Mossley themselves diplayed a high level of energy but much of it was expelled in a wasteful manner as runs went unseen, passes went astray and promising situations came to a sudden halt; problems which meant that the high percentage share of possession the home side enjoyed throughout the match was largely uncapitalised on. Take the first half for example, all the Lilywhites had to show for their efforts was a high and wide shot from Joe Heap, and that only came after the youngster had been put clean through on the Witton goal by a spectacularly ill-advised backpass from the halfway line by an Albion midfielder.

The visitors themselves had hardly set the game alight but they went in at the break with a one goal lead which could possibly have been two if the referee hadn't waved away their appeals for what looked like a nailed-on penalty late on in the half. The one goal they had to their name came in the 25th minute and was the first (and as it turned out, only) shot on target in the opening forty five minutes. For Mossley supporters the manner in which it came had a horrible familiarity to it: a cross to an unmarked player at the far post, a pull back to an equally unattended team mate and shot placed beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. Albion's Danny Andrews applying the finishing touch on this particular occasion.

Without word of a lie, so little of interest was happening on the pitch midway
through the second half that the clouds above Seel Park instigated more
conversation on the terraces around me than the match did.

The second half began with the hope of a more dangerous looking home side on the pitch as substitute Tom Murray stabbed a good cross wide from close range but it soon dissipated as Mossley struggled once more to make a presence felt in the attacking third of the pitch. Not that the visitors were troubling the scoreline either. With the amount of time wasting going on, especially by goalkeeper Matthew Cooper, it looked like Witton had settled for a win by a solitary goal but for one brief moment they sprang into a modicum of life and came close to putting the game beyond Mossley's reach. Lilywhites centre half Peter Band was forced into making a goal line clearance to stop Alex Titchiner from doubling the visitors lead and a minute later the home defence could only watch as Liam Newman hammered a shot off the Mossley crossbar.

It took until the 70th minute for Mossley to manage their first shot on target, another three minutes for them to manage their second and a further nine for them to register an effort that could be termed meaningful. And it's this one which drew them level. A mazy run down the right wing by Kayde Coppin looked to have reached a conclusion as defenders converged around him but the former Flixton player somehow dug out an inch perfect cross that found the head of Harry Noon who in turn found the back of the net. As well as rescuing a point for Mossley it gave the match a scoreline which reflected it better. Not because both sides had cancelled one another out but because neither had done enough to win a game that was hardly going to entice any first time terrace occupiers in to making a return visit.

You can't be critical of a new team playing only their second competitive match (not even I'm that much of a grouchy curmudgeon) so I'm not going to detail the numerous 'facepalm' moments which were repeated throughout the course of the game. They are things which can be eradicated with time and hopefully the ironing out of these kinks will mean I never ever get round to mentioning them on here. I know, at times I'm just too optimistic.

I should probably end on a positive so I'll say that the Lilywhites second half performance was a bit better than the one in the preceding period. It wasn't the massive improvement as some have claimed elsewhere on the internet (unless the first half was even worse than I recall) but being slightly more impressive is better than nothing. The question is will it continue? As ever time will tell, even if history isn't exactly on Mossley's side.

Osset Town 2 - 1 Mossley

You should always start as you mean to go on which is why coverage of the 2011/12 season on this blog begins with a badly written and uninteresting report on a match I didn't and had no inclination to witness. In other words it is business as usual on Mossley80.

And not only am I starting the new season in the manner in which I finished the last one, so are the team as, just as they did at the end of April, they conceded two goals on their travels and failed to score an equal or greater amount in response. Or to put it more succinctly: they lost. Rather than coming off second best in Lancaster as they did three and a half months ago the new look Lilywhites fell to a defeat at the equally new look (and newly relegated) Osset Town.

This time around though the visitors did manage to score and that goal came courtesy of Scott Hogan, a last minute loan signing brought in from FC Halifax Town to beef up the threat posed by our attack; the lack of which in pre-season being something a number of people have commented on so it's good to see that has been addressed, albeit temporarily while a more permanent solution to the problem is sought.

A fuller report on what happened at Ingfield is available here but various comments made by those who travelled eastwards to Osset suggest that it wasn't a game to whet the appetite for what's to come over the ensuing months. You can't however predict the outcome of a season on the basis of one match so there's no point in being anything other than ambivalent about the possible fortunes of the team for a while yet. Well, at least up until the second game anyway.

Pre-Season 2011/12: Week Three & Four

As the new Evo-Stik League season is, at the time of writing, only a matter of a few hours away I should probably get round to bringing this blog up to speed with what happened in the summer's four 'pretend' games that haven't previously had a mention. Don't worry! It's not going to be as long as you think.

The first half of the second half of Mossley's pre-season kickabouts turned out to be what we can classify as a good week as the Lilywhites hit a vein of consistency, following up their one goal victory over Cheadle Town by registering similarly margined wins over opposition from both higher and lower levels in the pyramid.

The midweek game saw Mossley continue their impressive run of results against Hyde in pre-season matches and register their first victory at Seel Park against a side managed by Gary Lowe for eight years. By all accounts this was the Lilywhites best performance of the friendlies so far which, meaningless game or not, is heart cockle warming. Only one report on the match exists so head to Mossleyweb to read it.

Three days later Mossley ventured to the land of the pie eaters for their first ever game against North West Counties League Division One team Wigan Robin Park. It needed a late goal 18 minutes from time to give the visitors the win but a win none the less. Again Mossleyweb has details on what transpired while the official Robins' site has photographs.

If that week was good the fourth and final one of Mossley's pre-season campaign wasn't quite so much, getting under way as it did with a strong Mossley side coming off second best in a 1-0 defeat at Abbey Hey, another NWCFL Division One side. From the numerous comments made on various parts of the internet it was a thoroughly deserved win for the team from two leagues below but instead of providing you with a lengthy list of links to where those musings on the game are, I'm just going to point you towards the match report that's here, the photo's that are here and embed the video that the home side produced on the match... here:

The build-up to the new season concluded with a trip to Leicestershire to face Shepshed Dynamo, the only one of our opponents in the friendlies to play at the same level as Mossley. For the second game running (and the fourth time in pre-season) Mossley couldn't find the back of the net but happily for the day-trippers to Butthole Lane neither could Shepshed. If you want more information than that on what happened then you're bang out of luck I'm afraid as nothing more about exists about it on the internet than a scoreline and a team sheet.

So when everything is tallied up it's four wins, four defeats and one draw from the Lilywhites summer fixture list. There have been reasons to be optimistic about the forthcoming campaign and some to make you feel the opposite way. Which of the two ends up having been the correct barometer of what's to come will be known over the course of the next eight and a bit months.