Saturday 25th August 2012
FA Cup Preliminary Round
MOSSLEY 0 BOOTLE 3
Tea Hut Stuff: Steak Pie, Chips and Gravy £2
Weather: Cloud, rain, odd sunny spell, all sorts really
Parking: Opposite the Highland Laddie pub next to the ground
Some classic FA Cup ties involving North West Counties sides today. I reckoned the game featuring Bootle the NWCL Premier League early season leaders away at Northern Premier League Division 1 North club Mossley had the potential to be the pick of the bunch? I think I was right! Despite Mossley playing in a league at a higher level, Bootle did the NWCL proud with an excellent performance to cause one of the biggest upsets of this seasons FA Cup (so far). My pre match build up to the game hadn't seen me in prime condition, too much ale the night before followed up by a massive Corned Beef hash supper had provided me with a thick head and an even thicker waste line. It was all Anadin Extras and gentle sips of water as I boarded the Match Shed for the valleys east of Oldham. Dropping down from the hills the Match Shed quickly encountered some massive storms accompanied by thunder, lightening and 4 inches of rain. Thoughts turned to the fears of a waterlogged pitch, it looked even blacker where I was heading? Despite encountering some road closures for a washed out Rush Bearing Festival near Uppermill my eventual arrival at Mossley hadn't been quite as bad as I had earlier envisaged. Dark skies were starting to head further east and an odd glimpse of blue sky tempted me to leave the Match Shed and make my way down the lane to the ground. Seel Park is a great little place to watch football, full of character with sweeping views of the Pennine hills.
You can sit in the old stand or get just as good a view from the decent terracing which resides around the ground, if it rains (which it did again later today) there is a big covered end behind the nets and a nice little paddock down the opposite touchline. Tremendous venue for non league, if you haven't been yet, make sure you do, you won't regret it. Due to the self abuse of the previous evening I'd only managed half a bowl of cornflakes all day, now the Anadins had kicked in a bit I had started to feel a bit peckish. Time for the Tea Hut, I marched up the terrace to join the queue. I went for the pie, chips and gravy special offer, you got a big tray full of the stuff for only 2 quid, wonderful value and a very nice pie. I had scuttled away to a quite spot near the corner flag to greedily devour the proceeds. Enjoyed it at the time (immensely). Ten minutes later it was a different prognosis, I was packed out, good job I had the pants on with the elasticated waist. As the terraces filled up one couldn't help notice the antics of the Mossley raffle ticket seller. I'd been caught by him 3 times in 10 minutes already, he was now continually lapping the terraces around the pitch good humouredly pestering people to buy his tickets. He really did apply himself to the task and he did it such a comical way he didn't get on your nerves. On the fourth lap he swopped raffle tickets for drugs as he asked old timers and anyone in earshot if they wanted to buy any marijuana or cocaine. He seemed a great sport and was doing a fine job for the clubs coffers.
Bootle had brought some supporters on the big yellow coach parked down the road and they had placed a big blue banner up behind the away end. As the teams came out I couldn't help think that this would be a tough task for the Merseyside club today as the Mossley side seemed to ooze presence and confidence. The slightly sloping pitch was in excellent condition and both sides were soon zipping the passes around as the game ebbed and flowed from the start. Mossley almost scored but Bootle shot straight up the other end and Jak Gray slotted home a 7th minute goal after his first effort hit the bar, Bootle were in dreamland! Mossley players looked at each other in disbelief, this wasn't in the script, an old timer next to me muttered that classic matchday phrase...'bugger'.
The Mossley player manager Steve Halford was having another fine game as he pushed his side forwards from the rear, unfortunately their big name striker (Ex Salford City and lots of other clubs) Gavin Salmon was having trouble getting the radar to work. Halford hardly put a foot wrong, it says something that the Bootle player manager Neil Prince played even better! His quality and composure on the ball was faultless, he picked out the openings and wasn't afraid to carry the ball forward himself, something which brought fantastic reward in the 21st minute when he drove forwards unopposed before unleashing a long range missile into the top right hand corner of the net, 2-0 to Bootle!
Mossley tried to rally but Bootle more than matched them, they seemed so clinical and confident in their ability to play their football. The big Bootle centre forward Daniel O'Connor was proving to be a real handful, he held the ball up superbly and his off loads put the home side under an ever present threat. You could tell the Mossley defenders didn't fancy his gung-ho approach, only Halford managed to calm the storm. Mossley were late coming out for the second half, I could imagine a few choice words being expressed in the changing rooms. Surely Bootle would reap the whirlwind... not a bit of it, Bootle kept calm, played it tight, soaked up what little threat Mossley managed and hit them on the break. Prince played a deft free kick into an exposed wide channel and Jak Gray got his second goal as he smacked home Bootles third from a very tight angle. We still had over half an hour to play but Bootle simply out smarted the team from the higher league, Steve Halford did his utmost to get Mossley back in it but Bootle were too clever and too well organised.
The rains came down as that second half wore on, a dark cloud of despair gripped the home support, you can always tell when things have gone belly-up, the referee gets it in the neck, the flat cappers were giving Mr Hodgkinson a torrid time, personally I thought he had a bloody good game and kept the game flowing. 3-0 at the final whistle and what a fantastic result for Bootle Football Club, they were utter class for the whole 90 minutes. A tremendous advert for the North West Counties League. I bet it was a pleasant journey back down the M62 to Liverpool.