Games can be won and lost in a second but Mossley's failure to emerge victorious from a game they were looking odds on to win can almost certainly be put down to a 22 minute spell in the second half were no football was played at all.
The visitors had just taken the lead when the referee declared himself unfit to carry on, necessitating a lengthy hold-up whilst appeals went out for any incognito officials amongst the crowd and calls were hurriedly made to F.A. headquarters about what should happen. Eventually Mossley press officer John Cawthorne was given the go ahead to step into the breech now left by one of the linesmen taking control of the whistle and the game resumed. Well Clitheroe did anyway.
Mossley on the other hand were a shadow of the side that had looked so comfortable before the stoppage and a result that previously didn't look in any doubt was suddenly in the balance. Gone was the flowing, attacking football that had put them in the lead and in its stead was a team who now looked a yard or so off the pace of their opponents. Mossley's goal, just as Clitheroe's had done previously, began to lead a charmed life.
Chances came and went for Clitheroe but the Lilywhites looked to have weathered the storm when a series of corners, around the 80 minute mark, saw Allison twice go close to getting the third goal that would have undoubtedly sealed the win. But a mere 60 seconds after the Mossley midfielder had screwed the ball wide from the edge of the six yard box, the scores were level.
Throwing an extra man into attack paid dividends for Clitheroe when a deep ball across the box found Will Exton completely unmarked. His initial shot forced Ashley Connor into making a tremendous save but the he was powerless to stop Exton from forcing home the loose ball from the rebound.
Mossley immediately, and somewhat understandably, developed a severe case of the wobbles and the question now was as to whether they could hang on for a point. The answer came in the 90 th minute and it was no. Lee Connor seemed to have saved the game when he headed off the line following a steady succession of corners but, as if to prove the old saying that it's not over till it's over, the ball was fired back into a crowded area and Paul Osbourne applied the touch that gave Clitheroe all three points.
It brought a weird, and unwelcome, sense of symmetry to proceedings as Clitheroe had taken the lead for the first time in the opening moments of the match. Like the last match against Newcastle, Mossley were slow out of the blocks only this time they were punished for it; Sam Heep firing past Ashley Connor after the home side intercepted a pass played across the back four. Instead of it being a wake-up call, Mossley hit the snooze button and but for a couple of saves by Connor, and some wayward shooting, we could have been in real trouble.
Eventually Mossley cleared the Sandman's dust out of their eyes and they dominated the remainder of the half, only without getting the goals their control of the possession deserved. That's not to say that they didn't come close though. Lee Blackshaw, Paul Quinn, Martin Allison and Gareth Hamlet (who also hit the crossbar) all had shots saved by Clitheroe keeper, James Mann, whilst numerous other shots were either blocked or just wide.
The "How are we not level?" moment came two minutes before the end of the half when Hamlet was once again by Mann. The parried shot rolled into the path of Paul Quinn and, with the goal at his mercy, he placed the ball a good five to six yards over the bar.
The miss and the interval didn't upset Mossley's momentum and after five more minutes of pressing they were rewarded with the equaliser. Turning his marker in the corner of the box, Gareth Hamlet released a shot that got the slightest of deflections but it was just enough of a touch to take the ball past a wrong footed Mann.
Things got doubly better 10 minutes later though when the orange shirts of Mossley took the lead their play deserved. A corner from the right was headed towards goal and believing it to be going over, Mann had his mind on the goal kick he was expecting to be taking when the ball bounced back off the crossbar. His stunned look as Lee Connor headed the rebound past him was the perfect accompaniment to Mossley's celebrations. Then came the stoppage and the rest, as they say, is now history. Or the first part of the match report if, for some reason, you've just skipped to this bit.
Clitheroe will no doubt claim that this victory, their first of the season in the league, was the result of a battling performance but in truth it was Mossley that lost it. That said, for 54 minutes (the 9 th to the 63 rd ) we were simply outstanding to watch; arguably playing the best football we've seen this season. And after 18 months of primarily dull football prior to this season it's a genuine joy to see Mossley playing with such verve and invention – win or lose.
Report by SJNR