Moss FK 1 Tiller IL 0

Saturday 21st May 2011
Moss FK 1 Tiller IL 0
Fair Play Ligaen avdeling 1 (section 1)
At: Melløs Stadion, Moss, Norway
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: kr 100 (about £12); Programme: free (4 pages)
Attendance: 549
Weather: sunny, strong wind
Duration: first-half: 46:12; second-half: 48:06

This was my fifth trip to Norway. On previous trips, in addition to sightseeing, I’d seen football at Lillestrøm (1994), Sogndal (1996), Grorud, Stabaek and Manglerud Star Topf (all 2008) and Sandefjord (2009).

Back in 1994, I remember passing through (and probably stopping at) Moss station on the way from Oslo to Gothenburg, noticing the English-sounding place name. Then two years ago on a June Saturday, I met a group of Barnet supporters at Sandefjord who were heading for a game at Moss the following day. So, as I’d wanted to watch a Moss home game at some point, the Melløs Stadion just had to be on the itinerary especially with the town being so close to Rygge Airport. Today’s visitors were Tiller IL from just south of Trondeim making a round trip of some 680 miles!

My plane departed Stansted on time and arrived at Rygge early so there were no worries about remotely missing kick-off. A free hourly shuttle bus provided transport to Rygge station to catch an hourly Oslo-bound train. In no time at all I was alighting at the first stop which was Moss station, with the Melløs Stadion being around 1 mile away to the south-east. One hindrance – no left luggage lockers at Moss station.

The Melløs Stadion, grass pitch inside a six-lane athletics track, was dominated by a huge all-seated stand, holding I guess around 2300 red seats. Dugouts were positioned in front of the stand at pitchside and opposite were uncovered wooded terracing. Four solid new floodlight pylons have been installed in the recent past as Google Streetview images show an older set. Outside the stadium stood a rather rude statue titled ‘DISKOSKASTEREN’ and dated 1939 on a commemorative plaque. No cash at the turnstiles so tickets obtained from the kiosk beneath the yellow and black fabric roof in front of stand.

If relegation to the third tier of Norwegian football was bad enough, last Saturday’s ‘humiliating’ defeat at Kviv Halden was a real low point, Moss’s plight was described on their website as ‘darker than the darkest on the table’ – third from bottom in the 14-team division with 3 points (all draws) from 5 games. All this was a far cry from the halcyon days of 1980s when the club were Norwegian Champions in 1987 which resulted in a European Cup First Round tie against Real Madrid the following year (lost 4-0 on aggregate). Founded in 1906, Moss FK have had several spells in the top division (Tippeligaen), the last ending in 2002, and a eight-season spell in the second tier (Adeccoligaen) came to an end last November with relegation to the third tier and a place in Fair Play Ligaen Section 1 (there are four sections of 14 teams each with just the winner of each section gaining promotion to the Adeccoligaen). So far in 2011, things have not gone well. I was told by one supporter that the club had financial problems and in fact was now owned by the bank. The team were mostly young unpaid players aged under 23 years.

Visitors Tiller IL (in 9th position with 6 points from five games) gained promotion at the end of last season, winning a promotion play-off to return to the third tier for the first time in a while.

Programme and teamsheets were provided by a really helpful volunteer I got chatting to and he also told me a vital piece of information that had serious consequences for my plans for tomorrow. I’d noticed the comment on the Moss’s website that the breakdown in mediation between NISO and NHO would ‘not affect our struggle against Tiller IL [translated from ‘Moss Fotballklubb ønsker å informere om at meklingsbruddet mellom NISO og NHO ikke vil påvirke vår kamp mot Tiller IL’]. At time I didn’t know the significant until the said club official said that all top division games we off, including tomorrow’s Fredrikstad v Haugesund for which I had a ticket. Time to hatch Plan C or even D!

On to the match and it was nice to see that Norwegian football has embraced the fair play walk-on and handshakes, which I think are a nice formal practice prior to kick-off. I opted for a seat in the stand near the front.

Moss (wearing yellow shirts, black shorts and yellow socks) got the action underway attacking the south end (or left to right in relation to my vantage point). The home side enjoyed plenty of early possession without creating any serious changes but I did think that the strong wind was slightly ruining the game. In the 24th minute, Moss’s Anders Madsen picked up a booking for a foul on Rune Langørgen, which surprisingly was announced on the tannoy. Tiller (wearing all blue) got more into the game though the first half ended goalless with precious few scoring opportunities created.

That all changed within a minute of the restart. Moss keeper Kristian Bjerke did well to keep out a close range shot from Arnstein Buøy. At the other end Tiller’s keeper Ørjan Bøe Thygesen produced a fine double save to first deny Martin Holmen and then Håkon Evensen.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 64th minute as Moss scored the only goal of the game. Martin Reier delivered a deep cross from the left and Vegard Edelsteen headed home at the far post. Could they hang on for a morale-boosting first league win of the season? The Moss fans on the fans side found their voices.

It could have been two eight minutes later. Henning Johannessen fed goalscorer Edelsteen who hit a rising drive which Thygesen juggled and eventually held. Tiller weren’t finished and Arton Ademi forced Bjerke into a diving save at the expense of a corner.

I was grateful to the person sat next to me for providing the attendance of 549 and Man-of-the-Match Marius Henriksen – my Norwegian wasn’t to enough to know what was being announced on the tannoy.

Tiller finished the game with ten men. Ademi, as the last defender, was shown a straight red card by the Swedish referee in the second minute of stoppage time for bringing down Edelsteen 10 yards inside the Tiller half.

At full-time the Moss players celebrated in front of their fans on the far side and the three points took them out of the relegation zone.

1-0 Vegard Edelsteen (64)