Guest blogger and Macclesfield Town fan Scott Knowles returns to write for Under The League.
The last time I watched Macclesfield Town play an evening match was back in April against Shrewsbury on the sort of dismal, drizzly evening whose conditions were more suited as the setting for a murder scene in a grizzly ITV crime drama than an early Spring football match.
That night had absolutely nothing to recommend it – a Macc side free-falling down the table dawdled their way through the ninety minutes and came out rewarded with a barely deserved goal in reply to the three that Shrewbury scored to set us well and truly on the path towards relegation that we later gleefully skipped down. Afterwards Brian Horton did his ‘Comical Ali’ act by insisting that he had been in worse situations before with clubs and turned them into World Cup winners within two weeks and blah blah nonsense. I walked home that evening feeling utterly disillusioned with what was happening at the club – bemused by the lack of fight or hunger or.. well, anything really. Losing football games can be tolerated to a point as long as what you are trying on the pitch is forward-thinking and exciting and bound to reap rewards before long. What is far less forgivable is losing games where your only plan is kicking the ball as long and hard as you can up field and praying some sort of horrible mix up happens up there that leads to you scoring a fluky goal. We seemed lacking in any sort of direction or desire and the disinterest on the pitch seemed to echo out into the stands. At the end of last season Macclesfield Town as a whole was a great yawning chasm of football inertia. A resigned sigh. A pathetic deflating balloon of a club that withered slowly to its inevitable relegation from the football league.
Fast forward four months and I was back at the Moss Rose for an evening kick-off, this time for our first home game of the new season against Wrexham. The amount of changes the club had undertaken between the two games could only have been more severe if we had followed Cardiff’s lead and changed our club colours and badge or maybe relocated the team somewhere else ala MK Dons. Happily the only connection between the Shrewsbury and Wrexham games was that Macc’s Arnauld Mendy scored in both of them.
After the 2-1 defeat to Hereford a week ago I remarked on my shamblingly amateurish blog that it would be harsh to judge the side on an opening day away performance against a club who had been relegated alongside us and that the game against Wrexham would be a far better indication for whereabouts the current side are in terms of progress and, with that in mind, things are certainly looking healthy.
Our performance on the Tuesday evening was, at times, magnificent and I couldn’t help thinking that if we had been blessed with this squad last season we might well have finished higher up the League Two table. Certainly midfield new boys John Paul Kissock, dubbed ‘the Macclesfield Messi’ by some fans, and Keiran Murtagh looked impressive – the former displaying a touch of class that suggests he is playing well below his level, the latter bounding around the middle of the park, winning balls and setting off attacks. Those pessimistic few looking for a downside could well point out that Kissock is only on loan for now and that each impressive performance he puts in makes it less and less likely that Luton will allow him to make the move permanent.
It would appear that Macclesfield wins are, as the cliché goes, like buses, as four days later the same side that defeated Wrexham beat Dartford by the same scoreline and with a similarly calm, easy-on-the-eye approach. The live wire performance of Charlie Henry marauding down the wing in the latest game suggesting that we have one of the most impressive midfield line-ups in the division at the moment.
That’s not to say that our performances have been without fault. In both home games so far we have managed to gift the opposition a number of seemingly unmissable opportunities. That we haven’t been punished is more down to the finishing deficiencies of Wrexham and Dartford rather than any defensive brilliance on our part. Nat Brown remains a solid presence but with three new faces alongside him it is all too obvious at times that our back four are relative strangers to each other and we can only hope that the sloppy errors that are for now forgiveably understandable will soon be erradicated.
If beating the Welsh promotion contenders fairly comfortably was pleasing then it could also be argued that relying on an own goal and a dubious penalty (our second dubious penalty of the season.. we should bear this in mind when we inevitably get turned down for some stonewall penalty opportunities later on) for victory against BSBP newcomers Dartford is nothing to crow about. That would be to ignore our dominance for large portions of the match and the fact we twice struck the bar though. Six points from our first three games is perhaps more than we could have expected from a side that, as Steve King correctly and repeatedly tells us, is still very much a work in progress. What is more pleasing than seeing us currently sitting 6 th in a league table is the knowledge that with each game that passes our squad is becoming more familiar with each other and the way the new boss wants us to play.
It is not for us to get carried away though. A similarly bright start to last season brought optimistic murmurs of a push for the play-offs. All that was undone after the Christmas period and it doesn’t need repeating how that season turned out. For now Macclesfield Town fans should just be happy with the unusual sensation of winning games again. That we are winning them with some degree of style is a bonus. Steve King has brought the feel good factor back to the town and long may that continue.
Cheers for listening!
Thanks to Scott for this latest article. You can follow him on twitter: @FragileGang