In football journalism there's a stock phrase that's used when teams taste defeat in a cup competition: they 'crash' out. Unfortunately I can't use it in this instance as Mossley exited this season's FA Cup at the hands of Woodley with all the bang of a wet firework.
I think the two big hopes harboured for this replay by those who witnessed the initial meeting between the two sides in Cheadle were for i) better weather and ii) a better game. Well, one out of two wasn't bad.
After 27 minutes with nothing more than the occasional half chance for either side, the first bit of real football on the night gave Mossley the lead. Some quick thinking by Paul Garvey allowed the Lilywhites' number seven to beat Woodley's offside trap and after powering down the right hand side of the pitch his cross was turned in from close range by Kitson Gayle.
Eight minutes later the scores were once again at a deadlock when the visitors capitalised on a series of Mossley errors. Sloppy passing, some ineffectual tackling and the failure to pick up players making attacking runs all combined to give a Woodley player as much time as he wanted to deliver a ball from the right wing, level with the edge of the Mossley penalty area.
Despite being afforded all the time in the world in which to produce a killer final ball, the eventual cross appeared to carry no threat at all. But as it bounced across the face of the Mossley goal James Riordan fluffed a clearance and Hanlon was given the opportunity to tap the ball into the net from a matter of yards at the back post.
Following a couple of early scares immediately after half-time (Watson in particular should have done better than screw his shot wide after being given time to turn on the corner of the six yard box), Mossley produced what was, in footballing terms, their best spell of the game. For the first time in the match there appeared to be a concerted effort to keep the ball on the grass and the passing and movement off the ball started to cause some noticeable fluster in the Woodley defence.
The highlight was a flowing move involving Farrand, Butters and Hamlet which gave Gayle an opening that saw Higginbotham tested for the first time since the opening goal. Sadly it was to be the last time as well; the mini-period of good football disappearing almost as quickly as it had arrived to allow the 'long ball' to reign supreme once again. The problem for Mossley though was that the visitors were much more adept at it.
The final third of the match was spent almost exclusively in the Mossley half as the Lambeth Grove side started to exploit the gaps appearing in Mossley's back line and their hosts match long inability to close down the man on the ball. It wasn't until the introduction of Mario Daniel and his pace though that the visitors really began to threaten.
With eight minutes left the former Mossley player should have given his side the lead but like Watson at the start of the half his shot resulted in a goal kick despite being unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. Three minutes later he was given an even better chance to bring Mossley's FA Cup adventure to a disappointingly early finish.
Once again Mossley's inability to clear the ball gave Hanlon a run on goal that was only halted by an 'illegal' challenge in the box. Matthew Butters did appear to get a touch on the ball as he slid in but what you couldn't tell from the distance I saw the incident at was how much of the man he got as well. Besides, coming in from behind, especially in the penalty area, is always risky option and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.
Daniel struck his penalty well but the save Ashley Connor produced to prevent it from hitting the back of the net was surpassed a second later by his stop from the shot that resulted from rebound; two outstanding saves that kept the next round and the much needed prize money within reach. They should have also shaken Mossley out of their torpor but Connor's heroics were ultimately to have been in vain.
There's a saying that those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them and so it proved as the match entered stoppage time. Another failure to deal properly with a ball in defence and another poor challenge allowed Mario Daniel to cut into the box from the left and power a shot that flew past Connor and in off the post. Even if Mossley had got lucky and the ball had rebounded out off the upright, Hanlon was unmarked in the middle of the area, anticipating such an occurrence.
The final whistle that soon followed dashed what little hope there was of Mossley forcing an extra thirty minutes, though to be fair I don't think there was any stomach on the terraces to sit through another half hour of similar fare – prize money at stake or not.
Report by SJNR
Kitson Gayle forces home the opening goal
Ashley Connor saves Mario Daniel's spot kick
pics by Garry Hadfield