Another cup competition, another cup exit for the Lilywhites and another result that Mossley can have no cause to complain about. Especially as the final result was more flattering than it could have been.
The home side were the first out of the blocks and but for some sloppy finishing they could have had the game done and dusted before Mossley had managed to mount any attack of note. Ward's shot straight into the arms of Ashley Connor was the prelude for a passage of play that saw the Steels twice hit the left hand post within the space of a minute; the first to hit the woodwork was Ring after Connor had done well to palm away a close range effort following a corner and then Ward was denied by the upright as his pace took him clear of the Mossley defence.
The spell of pressure ended with Telling shooting wide before Mossley finally managed a couple of efforts from distance, none though coming close to troubling Siddall in the Stocksbridge goal. Just after the half hour point of the game however, the Lilywhites' first good spell of play gave them the lead. It was, it has to be said, entirely against the run of play but no-one who'd made the short trip across the Pennines was complaining.
Gareth Hamlet's cross was helped on to Aaron Kirk by the head of Kitson Gayle and he beat one challenge before firing in a low cross to the near post. The ball disappeared into a mass of players and Kitson Gayle got a touch that sent it rolling slowly towards the net, eventually crossing the line as defenders desperately attempted to clear.
There was a great deal of hope that having now taken the lead Mossley would settle and rediscover their recent form but it wasn't to be as Stocksbridge piled on even more pressure and got their reward ten minutes into the second period. Picking up a loose ball in midfield they advanced up the pitch and Beggs moved into the area unmarked to volley home Vardy's cross from close range.
What followed can be best summed up as 'The Ashley Connor Show' as the Mossley keeper produced a series of saves that, not having a thesaurus to hand, outnumber the superlatives I can think of to describe them. Time and again he kept Stocksbridge at bay but his pièce de résistance came in the 63rd minute with a phenomenal double save to twice deny Vardy.
It certainly seemed like it was going to take something special to beat Connor and that's what Stocksbridge produced with twenty minutes left. Yet again the home sides movement up the pitch was far easier than it should have been but Ring's shot from the edge of the penalty area was a blistering drive into the top left hand corner of the net that gave the Mossley custodian no chance. Whether he'd actually have been able to have done that if he'd been marked or closed down is something we'll never know but there's no denying the quality of the strike.
Connor then produced a superb one handed save to once again deny Vardy before a couple of substitutions gave the away side a bit more impetus. Gareth Hamlet beat the Steel's back line and took the ball past the keeper but with the angle now too acute for a shot he played the ball back to Paul Quinn who in turn hit the side netting with a looping effort. Five minutes later he landed the ball on the roof of the net after his cross-cum-shot almost caught out a furiously back peddling Siddall.
Stocksbridge should have put the result beyond doubt with four minutes left when for the second time in the match Ring hit the post, only this around time the cries of “Unlucky!” from the home support were missing as he was stood slap bang in front of an open goal. And it was a miss he was almost made to rue as in injury time Kitson Gayle forced Siddall into making his first save of the game.
Overall a disappointing and deflating performance and result following the Rossendale and Ossett games. Hopefully we'll be firing on all cylinders once again come the visit of Newcastle this Saturday and, in doing so, give Ashley Connor a far more relaxing time!
report by SJNR