Maybe it was a hangover from the midweek game at Clitheroe, where two late goals had seen the home side claim what had for long periods looked like a highly unlikely win, but Mossley looked jaded as the game got under way; only fleetingly showing glimpses of what they're capable of in a first period that Bridge dominated for long stretches.
During that opening forty five minutes it was hard to see how the Preston based side had managed just ten goals in the league all season. Employing what appeared to be a 'shoot on sight' policy they peppered shots at Ashley Connor's goal from all angles and distances to varying degrees of accuracy. To be honest, and as much as it hurts to say a Mossley fan, that it took them as long as the 34th minute to grab their opening goal was something of a surprise. As was the ease in which they scored it.
A series of short passes completely opened up Mossley's left hand side, giving Steve Brown the opportunity to advance up the pitch unchallenged. Approaching the byline he whipped in a low cross and Ryan Salmon, completely unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, dispatched the ball past Ashley Connor with a diving header.
Soon after that the lead was doubled in an identical manner: ball easily worked down Mossley's left - Brown cross - Bamber Bridge forward unmarked in front of net - goal. In fact if it wasn't for Adam Tong putting the ball past Connor instead of Salmon, you'd have sworn that you were experiencing the most intense feeling of deja vu ever. Not so much Groundhog Day but Groundhog Four Minutes.
Half time talk amongst the away support was centred around a “What if?” moment 20 minutes into the game. Prior to Bridge taking the lead the best opportunity of the game had fallen to the visitors in one of their few attacks of note. A perfectly weighted through ball caught the home defence square leaving Gareth Hamlet with a clear run on goal. As he approached the box there were two options available: a lob over the onrushing goalie or a quick shot. Which decision he came to will forever remain unclear as he scuffed his attempt and sent the ball bobbling into the arms of Bridge keeper Terry McCormick.
There was a noticeable improvement in Mossley following the interval, working a few half chances in the moments immediately following the restart, but it was their opponents who were again creating the openings that were most likely to be scored from and that they did in the 55th minute. Mahoney, Tong and Porter (sporting a ridiculous leopard print hairstyle) combining in a move that ended with Salmon rolling the ball under Connor. Mossley claimed offside and in the ensuing protests manager Gerry Quinn was, in that most pointless of actions at the lower reaches of non-league, sent from the touchline to the other side of the pitch perimeter.
The host's wrapped up their scoring for the afternoon in the 69th minute when Mossley conceded a cheap free-kick 10 yards inside their own half and about half that distance from the touchline. The resultant ball forward was met by Tong as it dropped six yards out and he stabbed it past Connor as the orange shirts of Mossley remained disturbingly statuesque.
With 17 minutes left the travelling support were finally given something to cheer when Gareth Hamlet headed home Richard Conway's free-kick. Nine minutes later that goal was looking less like a consolation effort but the beginning of an amazing comeback when substitute Michael Fish started and finished a move with Paul Garvey by arcing the shot around a stunned looking McCormick from the right hand side of Bridge's penalty area.
Suddenly Mossley found a belief that had been absent for most of the match and under their first significant spell of pressure in the game, cracks began to show in the bridge defence. McCormick had to be alert to stop a Garvey effort from sneaking in at his near post before Daryl Weston's 'daisy cutter' from 30 yards not only beat the Bridge keeper's desperate dive but the post as well by a matter of what could only have been inches.
It was all too little too late though and begs the question of what might have been had the form Mossley rediscovered in the latter stages of the game been in evidence much sooner.
Report by Stephen Rigby