"Moo when you're winning…You only moo when you're winning…Moo when you're wiiiiiinnning…You only moo when you're winning…"
This game was only ten minutes old when Ossett Albion, already a goal in front from a dodgy penalty, were handed a second goal after everyone on the pitch had stopped playing.
A punt up front from the Ossett midfield had seen their striker galloping away down the right, only for the linesman's flag to be raised for offside. With everyone stopped, the Ossett attacker hit a hopeful shot, almost as an afterthought, and the ball sailed over the half hearted hands of Salford keeper Andy Roberston, hit the far post and nestled in the net. The referee gave the goal.
The linesman, it seems, had changed his mind, and wasn't flagging for offside any more but flagging for a free kick to Ossett which was played on. This was rubbish. No-one in the ground believed that. But the goal stood and Salford's manager and chairman, Darren Quick, gave a well deserved gobful to the crap officials. He was sent off, banished to the non-existent stands, and had to spend the rest of the game leaning against a brick wall about a yard from the dugout.
As the game progressed some Salford fans on the touchline were, er, `ticking off' the officials for such an awful decision and by all accounts, the linesman turned around and told them to `fuck off'. Surely you can't have the officials swearing at the crowd? This isn't some Sunday park game with dads running the line, this is the Evo-Stik First Division North!
Shocking! And what if there had been children within earshot? What would they have thought - having been told by those in authority that they shouldn't use bad language, only to go to an innocent game of football on a Saturday afternoon and have the `referee's assistant' tell them to `fuck off'? Their poor, innocent ears would have been violated – by someone in a uniform, with a flag and a badge and everything.
Fortunately the Salford City kids were far away from the abominable language, tucked away behind the goal listening to their dads doing the swearing – phew! It's ok when your dad does it at footy matches – it's like car language isn't it?
The injustice and anger running through the Ammies team seemed to galvanise them into a fightback. First Ben Beresford hit the post after being set up by Rhodri Giggs, and minutes later the roles were reversed as Beresford layed the ball off to Giggs who hooked a lob over the Ossett defence to bring the score back to 2-1.
All this in the first 15 minutes. The game settled down a bit but Ossett scored a third after half an hour to make it 3-1 by half time. Salford City had a mountain to climb in the second half. Literally.
Having moved to the other side of the ground for the second half the true gradient of the pitch could be experienced. The pitch isn't just sloped, it's straight from the crazy house at the local fairground. The Salford City players almost needed suckers on their boots to run up the wing. Never mind playing on this pitch, it makes you dizzy just looking at it.
Welcome to Ossett. It's a small Yorkshire village, somewhere near Wakefield, in a football land that time has forgot. With a pitch cut out of the hillside (someone forgot the spirit level) and with the sound of cows moo-ing constantly, the game had a surreal atmosphere even before the kick off.
You drive up to the ground and there's loads of cars and people – but they're here for the women's rounders game on the cricket pitch outside. There's hardly anyone actually in the ground at all. They announce the teams and all the Ossett players are sponsored by everyone in the village it seems - from the local photographer to the Ossett Girls Under 11 Team… Yet no-one actually bothers to come and watch them. Which isn't surprising because they haven't won in the league all season – until today.
With the cows in the next field moo-ing their encouragement, Ossett kick on in the second half and score a fourth from a flowing passing move through the Salford defence. The Ammies pull one back when sub Dean Cooper heads into the centre for Darren Hockenhull to nod in to make it 4-2. Ossett get a fifth via deflected shot, and a sixth from another penalty when Andy Robertson hauls down an Albion attacker. So 6-2 to Ossett. And not a good performance from Salford – in truth they could have played til the cows came home (er, they did) and not won this game.
At the end Darren Quick, Salford City chairman/manager came over to the Salford supporters behind the goal and apologised for the team's display. It was bad, but the referee and linesman started off the rot by giving Albion a two goal lead.
Indeed the standard of refereeing in the Evo-Stik league this season has been shocking. For at least four matches Salford have had just cause to criticise the officials. Betting on the game. Or just incompetent fools? It doesn't mater. The point is that Salford are sinking down the league – with Chester and Skelmersdale next up, before another trip to Ossett in the FA Trophy – oh joy. Bring your cow bells and dizzy pills.
Salford City's game against Chester at Moor Lane on 28th September 3pm is all ticket. See the club's website for further info www.salfordcityfc.co.uk
Photos by Andrew Goudie