CURZON Ashton may be the favourites by virtue of playing at a higher level, but the scene could be set for Mossley to defy the odds in the Manchester Premier Cup final.
Blues boss John Flanagan readily admits that his priority is the Evo-stik NPL premier division play-offs.
To make sure of qualification, and possibly gain home advantage, Curzon have to win at Frickley on Saturday in their final league game of the season. Flanagan will need his strongest side and that means skipper Sam Walker may not play tomorrow (Wednesday).
“Sam has a hamstring problem and we took him off as a precaution against Halesowen because he felt it tighten a little. He’s a bit of a doubt but he’s Captain Fantastic and wants to play every game,” the Blues manager explained.
“Simon Woodford also has a damaged hamstring and we won’t be risking him because we may need him in the play-offs.
“I have to be honest and say promotion is my priority rather than the cup but that’s not to suggest we won’t be taking the final seriously or that we won’t be trying. We’ll be doing our utmost to win it and I’ll be fielding the strongest team I can. Anyone who’s fully fit will be up for consideration.
“I don’t mind Curzon being the favourites, in fact I prefer it, but where we play and where Mossley play doesn’t matter in a cup final. It’s all a question of motivation. If my lads aren’t motivated and Mossley’s are then they’ll win.
“I’m expecting a tough game. When all’s said and done it’s a Tameside derby and there’s a rivalry between the clubs.”
If cup pedigree rather than league pedigree is taken into account, the Lilywhites have the better record. They have won the Manchester Premier Cup twice in the last three years while the Blues have to go back to 1990 for their last success, when they beat Salford City after a replay.
Flanagan sees striker Mike Fish as possibly Mossley’s key player, describing him as very capable. He should figure in the Seel Park squad. The only absentee for co-bosses Peter Band and Lloyd Morrison is Matty Purcell who has flown out to the USA for a seven-month coaching stint.
Band views the final as the chance to chalk up his first trophy as a manager and to complete a personal treble.
“I’ve won the Manchester Premier Cup as a player and as an assistant and I’d now like to win it as a boss,” he explained.
“If we beat Curzon it would mean Lloyd and I had picked up a piece of silverware in only our second season and it would give the lads a high to finish on after just missing out on the play-offs.
“It won’t be easy. Curzon will be going into the final on the back of a 4-1 win over Halesowen. But I know John Flanagan will have his eye on their play-offs. They’ve got to win on Saturday to keep ahead of Blyth. We can play our usual game and play to our strengths.
“I don’t mind us being underdogs as I think our division is tougher than the premier. We’ll be giving 110 per cent and hopefully it’ll be enough.”
Band sees Curzon’s biggest threat coming from midfield where they have the highly-rated Walker, who the Mossley co-manager says should be playing at a higher level, and Alex Brown who was part of Gary Lowe’s Conference North championship team of 2012.
He added: “John Flanagan always gets an organised side. His players always work together and know their jobs.’
The final takes place at Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park home on Wednesday (April 22) kick-off 7.45pm. Tickets are £8 and £4 with under-16s getting in for free. Both clubs are running a fans’ coach.