It is one of the unfortunate things about football, that every now and then a referee takes centre stage to such a degree that they decide the outcome of the game. Such was the case on Tuesday night at Shawbridge as the man in charge Mr B. Cropp made a string of bizarre decisions, brandishing a total of twelve cards, including three highly contentious red cards for Mossley players.
Mr Cropp set his stall out early by awarding Clitheroe a succession of free kicks in the opening period. Decisions that saw Mossley struggle to get into the game as any attempt the orange clad Lilywhites made to challenge for the ball was thwarted by the referee's whistle whilst when in possession Mossley were not afforded the same luxury.
Clitheroe took the lead on seven minutes when Scott Bakkor forced the ball home following an erroneously awarded Clitheoe set piece.
The referee first produced his note book when he bizarrely yellow carded Louis Horne and Andy Keogh for arguing with each other as Clitheroe prepared to take a set piece. Bizarre!
Mossley had a great chance to equalise when Dougie Carroll burst through a gap but home keeper Dawber blocked his shot and the chance was gone. They were then made to pay for the miss when Ben Cartwright scored from outside the box after Mossley failed to clear a right wing corner on 27 minutes.
Mossley lost Charlie Anderson to injury shortly after that with new signing Liam Boswell coming in on the left of midfield which saw the industrious John Bennett switching to a more central midfield role.
Mossley went in search of a goal but were hampered on more than one occasion by Clitheroe left back Warren Bellew who repeatedly fouled Tom Pratt just about every time he tried to take him on. Bellew eventually receiving a caution three fouls after he perhaps should have done.
Mossley halved the arrears to give themselves a lifeline on 41 minutes when Andy Keogh flicked home a header from Dougie Carroll's left wing free kick and it was 'game on'. However, Mr Cropp had other ideas and when Louis Horne made the slightest of contact with a Clitheroe player inside the home side's half he brandished Horne a second yellow card followed red to reduce the Lilywhites to ten men on the stroke of half time. Harsh in the extreme!
Mossley, began the second half still believing that a positive result was a possibility and created a couple of half chances with the Lilywhites looking the side most likely to score the next goal. All that changed though ten minutes into the half. A Clitheroe player burst through a gap, Russ Saunders came racing from his line and blocked the shot with his chest just outside the box. No appeals came from Clitheroe players or fans, but the referee blew his whistle and gave the massively unfortunate Saunders a straight red card. You just couldn't make it up!
Dougie Carroll was sacrificed as substitute Kyle McGonigle took over the gloves and did well to save the ensuing free kick. Unfortunately for the Lilywhites, Mr Cropp had not yet finished his one man demolition of Mossley's chances. A Boswell cross from the left clearly struck the arm of a Clitheroe defender in the box but with no reward.
Clitheroe, rather surprisingly against nine men, defended deep and played on the counter attack, electing to shoot from some ridiculous positions that failed to trouble Mossley's 'stand in' keeper.
Mossley were making a seriously brave fist of it despite the numerical disadvantage, with the nine remaining players all putting in a great shift. However, it came to naught as in the final minute a misplaced defensive header saw Lloyd Dean brought down by covering defender Phil Drummond. The Mossley left back becoming the third Mossley player to receive a red card. Salt was well and truly rubbed in Mossley's wounds as home substitute Danny Smith then curled the resultant free kick beyond McGonigle's reach to give the home side a rather flattering 3-1 victory over Mossley's eight men.
As a footnote and in attempting to put Mr Cropp's performance into perspective. This was certainly not a dirty game. It was not a dirty performance by Mossley and in this writer's humble opinion, only three cards brandished by Mr Cropp were necessary in the entire game. Bellew for persistent fouling on Tom Pratt, Pratt himself for a late challenge and Drummond's red card at the end. Nuff said!
Report by Wizard