Lancaster City paid the perfect tribute to club legend Neil Marshall as they saw off Mossley in a seven-goal thriller at Giant Axe, winning 4-3.
The much-loved former club captain, who made more than 400 appearances across 10 years with his hometown club, died last week aged just 31 after a battle with cancer.
This NPL First Division North clash was the first game at Giant Axe since his passing with a bumper crowd of 531, more than double the Dolly Blues’ usual attendance, turning out to honour the whole-hearted central defender.
Club stalwart Eric Williams read out a touching tribute as the teams came out, City wearing special t-shirts in memory of their former skipper, with a minute’s applause then the precursor to kick-off.
The game was almost an afterthought on an emotional night but what followed was a crazy encounter that could have ended with far more than the seven goals that were scored.
Phil Brown’s Blues, who finished the night third in the table, dominated for large periods but saw chances come and go with plenty of familiar Giant Axe faces, including former managers Tony Hesketh, Barrie Stimpson and Michael Stringfellow, watching on.
Charlie Waters and Jacob Gregory both scored braces but despite being 4-1 up at one time Mossley hit back to make sure it was an interesting finale.
The impressive Waters got proceedings off to a flying start with the opener seven minutes in, the 18-year-old cutting in from the left and firing a low right-foot shot from 20 yards beyond Niki-Lee Bulmer in the Mossley goal.
The front man then saw an effort deflected over on 19 minutes before two glorious chances went begging.
Waters failed to make contact with Gregory’s cross from the right with Ryan Winder picking up the ball and sending over a centre that Waters could only poke straight at Bulmer.
The chances kept coming, Gregory denied when in on goal 10 minutes before the interval with there then a warning of what was to come at the other end as Billy Akrigg cleared Jason Hill’s effort off the line.
It was City who got the game’s next goal though on the stroke of half-time, Louis Mayers laying the ball off for Waters to fire home his and Lancaster’s second.
The hosts looked to make the game safe immediately after the break, Waters bringing a fine save from Bulmer after good work from Gregory and Winder before the latter could only head over after rising to meet Waters’ cross.
Out of the blue, Mossley had a goal back however six minutes into the second half, Andy Keogh heading home John Bennett’s corner to give the visitors some hope.
That was seemingly extinguished less than 60 seconds later though as Gregory’s deflected shot restored the two-goal advantage.
Waters then came agonisingly close to a hat-trick as he hit a post after a fine team move but after Gregory had seen a low shot go wide the Blues didn’t have to wait long for their fourth, the pair combining as Waters pulled the ball back for Gregory to hammer home on 57 minutes.
Mike Hale, largely a spectator in the Dolly Blues goal, then had to pull off a fine double save from Mike Fish and Dougie Carroll on the hour and the hosts didn’t heed the warning.
After Gregory had been denied in on goal at the other end Carroll floated over a ball for Fish who beat his man far too easily before confidently finishing past Hale to make it 4-2 on 64 minutes.
As the home fans continued to sing Marshall’s name, as they had done from the opening minute, the game then drifted until 10 minutes from time when the chances returned for the hosts.
First Waters saw a shot deflected agonisingly wide as he continued to hunt a hat-trick before Simon Wills burst forward only to see his effort cleared off the line.
It was Mossley who set up an nervous finish with Hale punching into the path of Matty Burke who arrowed home a fine volley from distance seven minutes from time.
City held on though and were denied themselves with time almost up with Waters’ search for a third in vain as he had a shot cleared off the line after Josh Westwood, wearing 12 with Marshall’s number five shirt not used, having flicked on Oliver Crolla’s chipped pass.
All that was left was for players and fans alike to join together at the final whistle to celebrate one of their finest ever servants in a fitting end to night where Lancaster City did Neil Marshall proud.
Lancaster City: Hale, Wills, Mercer (capt), Westwood, Sumner, Akrigg, Carney, Gregory (Crolla 78), Winder, Waters, Mayers (Hudson 74). Subs not used: Henry, Raybould.
Mossley: Bulmer, Haslam (Carroll 54), Bennett, Harper, Dean (Short 46), McGonigle (capt), Hill, Jennings (Keogh 46), Burke, Fish, Pratt. Subs not used: Duffy.