The hangover from Mossley's midweek League Cup defeat to Salford continued into their league programme as the Lilywhites missed out on the chance to move clear at the top of the First Division North table.
Normally a match in which one side wins by the odd goal in seven would be classed as a “thriller” but despite the presence of some exceptionally well taken goals, to label this game in such a manner would be bestowing it with a status it didn't deserve. That's not to say that it didn't have its moments of high drama, it's just that there was an awful lot of nothingness that filled the space between them.
Although Garforth almost opened the scoring in the seventh minute through a Duncan Williams shot that was turned expertly over the crossbar by Mossley keeper Liam Higginbotham, the majority of the early chances fell to the home side. An in swinging corner from Nick Boshell forced Garforth into hurriedly clearing the ball off the line and ex-Lilywhites captain Lee Connor was forced to do the same to stop a Michael Fish shot from entering the net.
The longer the game went on though the more Mossley began to struggle to break down an increasingly crowded visitors defence and just before the half hour point they were hit with a sucker punch. A swift counter attack, assisted in no small part by Leon Henry being manhandled off the ball by two of the visiting players, saw Garforth quickly outnumber the few men in Mossley shirts that hadn't gone up for a corner and Nathan Kamara supplied the finish that put 'The Miners' ahead.
Mossley certainly didn't deserve to be behind at the break and it looked like they wouldn't be when with a minute of the half remaining, Michael Fish capitalised on a mix-up between Ben Small and Garforth keeper Gavin Phillips to steal between them and lob the ball into an unguarded net from twenty five yards.
However another Garforth goal deep into added time at the end of the opening period ensured that Mossley would indeed be starting the second half in arrears. This time it was Brett Renshaw who did the damage by hitting a superb volley into the Park End net, although it has to be said that the lack of anyone marking him undoubtedly made his task that tiny bit easier.
And that deficit worse only four minutes into the restart. Once again Mossley's defence was caught and sixes and sevens, this time by nothing more than a long punt up the pitch, and substitute Andrew Rowan produced a finish that surpassed Renshaw's in terms of execution to fire the ball across Higginbotham and into the bottom corner of the goal.
At this point it looked as though the game was beyond Mossley's reach as the invention they'd shown in previous matches this season to unlock packed defences was sadly AWOL. Out of nothing though they were given a foothold back in the game six minutes later when Ryan Cook struck a wonderful 30 yard shot that bounced into the net off the crossbar as Phillips stood waving the ball out for a goal kick.
A renewed belief that they could salvage the game now surged through Mossley but it was to be all too brief. Not only were they thwarted by some poor decision making in the final third of the pitch but also by Town adding another goal to their total. This time it was Greg Kelly who benefited from the Lilywhites cheaply surrendering possession in a good position, and after riding one challenge on the halfway line, there was little to stop him adding a fourth.
With the outcome now looking beyond doubt the game devolved into a series of petty fouls interspersed with large amounts of time-wasting and poor gamesmanship from the visitors. At least that was until the ninetieth minute when Nick Boothby scrambled a third goal for Mossley over the line, setting in motion a frantic four minutes of added on time which culminated with the referee somehow managing to miss Graham Kay being taken clean out by a Town defender as he charged into the box with the ball.
Whether Mossley deserved a point out of the game is a debate too lengthy to go into here but they certainly paid the price for not taking their chances when they were on top and also by allowing themselves to be 'bullied' by a far more physical team.
Thankfully results elsewhere meant that Mossley lost no real ground in the race for the title but if they want to be challenging for honours come April, this result may be just the reality check that's needed after what has been an otherwise impressive start to the season
report by SJNR
pics by Garry Hadfield
pics by Aaron Flanagan