Neither side are currently enjoying their finest days, but today marks a clash between two of football’s grand old clubs. Wrexham were formed in 1863, and Macclesfield Town in 1874, and for much of recent history, this fixture was a staple of the Football League calendar. That all changed in 2008, when Wrexham fell through the League Two trapdoor, with Macc following in 2012.
The aim for both clubs is a playoff spot, and it’s today’s visitors who will be feeling more confident about meeting that target. Macc have faltered recently, with three league defeats preceding this crucial clash, whilst Wrexham – with 1,089 traveling fans in tow – arrive at the Moss Rose on a run of six matches unbeaten. Could Welsh dominance be the order of the day?
I take the arduous 10 minute train journey into Macclesfield, and even under grey skies, the town retains a real charm. There are old cobbled streets, medieval churches and an abundance of charming little cafés. Originally a major player in the silk trade, Macc has more recently become renowned for the availability of some rather less wholesome substances. But on a Saturday afternoon, traversing the town centre’s cobbled steps, it’s undoubtedly scenic, pleasant and lively.
The great Irish playwright Brendan Behan claimed that “the most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you.” I set out to tick off the first two, starting at Volk Bar & Kitchen, a new Macclesfield eatery. Its walls are dotted with surrealist art, its menu with Americana eats (I opt for an excellent bacon cheeseburger with skinny fries) and the drinks offering is hip without being hipster. In short, I’m impressed. However, if you’re just after a light bite, the nearby Rustic Coffee Co. would be my recommendation.
There’s time to nip into The Bate Hall, a traditional pub dating back to the 16th century, and most notable for its historic timbered interior. Its old world charm makes it a nice place to stop off for a quick drink – which I do – and its large windows offer a view out onto the historic Chestergate, if you fancy watching the world go by. But I have somewhere to be, and off I head to the Moss Rose Ground, around 1.5 miles south of the town centre.
I arrive in time to enjoy the ground’s Corner Flag bar, which boasts an impressive selection of bottled beers, and an even larger collection of fans bemoaning Macclesfield Town’s recent form. I grab myself a Badger Hopping Hare ale and a match day program (well written) and chat with Allan, a lifelong Macc fan, to get the inside scoop on the team’s season.
“We played quite well at the start of the season, and were well into the groove by the beginning of October”, he tells me. However, Allan contends that there’s now “no chance of a play-off spot”, and that whilst “Kristian Dennis is a top player”, he contends that “if [Dennis] doesn’t score, there isn’t much else”. As for Jack Sampson, I am informed that “he’s 6’9” and looks 5’9” in the air”. I thank Allan for his time, and head to my seat in the Brewtique Stand, having dialled down my expectations of the home team by several notches.
The Brewtique Stand consists of some modest terracing, with several rows of seats in front – none of it remotely protected from an icy Cheshire wind. Its smart but varied appearance is representative of Moss Rose. Behind the opposite goal is the uncovered John Askey Terrace, with the raised Silk FM Main Stand – built in 1968 – on one side of the pitch, and the smart, modern Henshaws Stand running alongside the other touchline. Wrexham’s large away following – and their flags – cover the chilly terrace and a corner of the Henshaws Stand, as we get underway.
The early exchanges are a fairly tepid affair. Macclesfield’s Iraqi goalkeeper Shwan Jalal has one straightforward save to make in the early moments, but the game is short on goalmouth action. There is a strong wind howling across the Moss Rose, and both sides struggle to adapt their passing game, resulting in a series of throw-ins and groans from both sets of supporters.
As the half wears on, Macc begin to exert themselves on the game. Danny Whitaker’s looping header lands on the roof of the net before Danny Whitehead lashes a shot just past the post. But the visitors come even closer, shortly before the half-hour mark, when Kayden Jackson rushes down the wing with the ball, and fires a lovely curling effort which beats the helpless Jalal. It crashes agonisingly off the post, though, and the Wrexham fans stand head-in-hands, as a grateful Macc defence clear the danger.
The intensity – and the quality of play – drops a bit as we near half-time, and those sauntering out of the Brewtique Stand for a cuppa before the whistle blows miss very little action. But the second period is quickly lit up by a slick Macc move which culminates in a goal bound strike from Kristian Dennis, and only the quick reactions of Wrexham ‘keeper Rhys Taylor – who spent three seasons with the Silkmen – prevent an opening goal.
Wrexham’s first opening of the half is a dramatic and faintly ridiculous goalmouth scramble, which Macc just about survive. But again, this all-action burst quickly fizzles out into a game dominated by two well-organised defences and punctuated by a lack of cutting-edge in attack. It isn’t helped by some poor refereeing decisions, and whilst Macclesfield’s Chris Holroyd and Danny Whitehead continue to look lively, both struggle to provide Dennis with a gilt-edged chance. For their part, the Wrexham defence continues to outmuscle and outmanoeuvre the prolific Macc marksman.
He’s marked closely throughout the game, and his final real chance of the match is effectively (and bravely) blocked by Wrexham’s imposing centre-back Blain Hudson. Both sides look for a winner, though neither take the risk of throwing men forward in big numbers. Chris Holroyd’s insouciant lob shaves the crossbar for the hosts before the tireless Kayden Johnson has a decent strike saved by the solid Jalal in stoppage time.
A frustrated Sean Newton picks up a late yellow for the Dragons, with the game’s first reckless challenge, and referee Ollie Yates blows for full-time. It’s been a hard-fought and fair contest, but neither side has been close to their best. For Macclesfield Town, their last real chance of a playoff push appears to have gone
For Wrexham, it’s a solid away point, and 0-0 is a fair reflection of the game. But the huge travelling support may well be thinking of Kayden Jackson’s strike against the woodwork and wondering what might have been.
Macclesfield Town – 0
Wrexham – 0
3pm, 27th February 2016
Moss Rose Ground, Macclesfield (Att: 2,406)
Travel & Ticket Info:
Ticket Prices: Prices vary as to whether tickets are bought in advance or on the day. Advanced ticket prices– Silk FM Main Stand & Henshaw’s Stand (Adults – £17 / Concessions – £13 / Under-12s – £2). Brewtique Stand & John Askey Terrace (Adults – £13 / Concessions £9 / Under-12s – £2). NB: It was £15 on the gate for entry to the Brewtique Stand.
By Train: Macclesfield is well served by rail. The town’s station is on the London Euston-Manchester Piccadilly line, the Manchester Piccadilly-Oxford route, and the regional Manchester Piccadilly-Stoke on Trent service, all of which run frequently. The Moss Rose Ground is around 1.5 miles south of the train station.
By Car: If you’re coming from the South, leave the M6 at Junction 17 and go onto the A534 towards Congleton. Then follow signs for A54 Buxton, and remain on the A54 for 5 miles before taking the A523 towards Macclesfield. The ground will be on your left.
From the North, exit the M6 at Junction 18, taking the A54 towards Congleton. On reaching Congleton town centre follow the signs for A54 Buxton. Then it’s the same route as for the South. Postcode: SK11 7SP
National League side Macclesfield Town have hit the headlines by launching a slightly ambitious attempt to sign Liverpool’s want away forward Raheem Sterling! Read the rest of this entry
If there is one thing I have learned about football writing it’s that you should never be shy about highlighting just how right you are. No matter that the huge “Messi to Cowdenbeath Shockah!” article you wrote predictably came to nothing or that the team you finally decided would win the title after months of flip-flopping between six rivals (hello Robbie Savage!) actually ended up outside the top four.. what ‘s important is that one-out-of-thousands transfer rumour pulled out of your rear end that actually came true or the fact that back on October the 15th you correctly predicted who would emerge as champions before you stacked your chips firmly elsewhere. Football writing, essentially, is all about throwing as much stuff at the wall as possible and then having a self-congratulatory backpat when some finally sticks. This, here, is me doing the opposite. Read the rest of this entry
Just two Conference Premier clubs remain in this season’s FA Cup as we enter the fourth round stage, and by the time the ties get played, even they might not be left in the tournament.
Both Kidderminster Harriers and Macclesfield Town got excellent home draws to take their third round ties to replays, but in truth the draw for the fourth round hasn’t exactly given them reason to dream. In fairness to Kiddie, a potential trip to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light awaits should they be able to see off Peterborough at London Road after a goalless draw at Aggborough. While it is always better for the smaller side to get drawn away at a bigger club due to the 50-50 split in gate receipts, I’m sure Wearside probably wasn’t too high on the Harriers’ list of dream destinations.
Meanwhile, Macclesfield have a potentially winnable game if they can somehow find a way past Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in their third round replay. Steve Williams’ well taken goal late on in the first match rescued a 1-1 draw for the cash strapped Silkmen. Manager John Askey even admitted to not going all out for the win towards the end of the game, stating that the club were desperate for the potential earnings from a replay. Assistant manager Efe Sodje has since said that the money generated will only keep the club going for the next couple of months. A trip to Rochdale in the fourth round would seem to vindicate the manager’s decision. A winnable tie? Absolutely, but would have been near the bottom of their wishlist in terms of paydays.
Here’s hoping that one or both of our nonleague sides can get through not only their replays, but also the fourth round too. It would be a shame for our presence in the cup to end with a whimper.
The wait is over. Sixty two days after sacking Steve King the Macclesfield Town board have finally confirmed his replacement, with the announcement that club legends John Askey and Efe Sodje will take over the roles of manager and assistant manager respectively. It truly is a managerial “dream team” presuming your slumber is met with visions of a rather underwhelming job appointment.
In fairness it could have been worse. At the start of last month the media was convinced that Robbie Fowler would be the next boss at the Moss Rose – a gamble that seemed positively demented given that the last risk taken on putting someone unsuited in charge had failed and a calm hand to steady the ship seemed like the smart option. Fowler would have been anything but given his lack of experience and lack of knowledge of the English lower leagues. Indeed it was hard to see the interest in the former Liverpool striker as anything other than a way of drumming up some publicity and getting the Macclesfield Town name in the papers rather than being what was best for a club desperate to avoid a fate similar to neighbours Stockport (and we all know what a sterling success their appointment of a former Liverpool superstar was).
That’s not to say Askey is an entirely popular choice with all supporters or that the Macc board haven’t done damage in the way they have handled this scenario. It is clear from the amount of time it took to announce the appointment that John and Efe were not the first choice, especially so given the earlier flirting Jon Harris publicly did with Fowler.
Askey’s previous experience at the helm hardly does him many favours too – his original time in charge in 2003 saw him removed a little over five months later and with the Silkmen facing a relegation battle that subsequent boss Brian Horton managed to steer them clear of. His more recent spell as caretaker boss following the sacking of King saw him earn three points from a possible fifteen whilst conceding fourteen goals along the way. The sort of stats that hardly fill you with confidence.
In his favour he truly is a legend at Macclesfield due to a playing career than spanned three decades and saw him make almost seven hundred appearances. That alone will buy him time and hopefully keep even the most disgruntled fans from voicing their displeasure too loudly in what is likely to be a difficult season for the Cheshire side.
Also he knows the club inside out and his experience with the first team last season and subsequent relationship with them will be of benefit too. Despite the loss of certain players (the excellent midfield duo Wedgebury and Murtagh have departed for Football League clubs whilst striker Fairhurst has joined Lincoln) he still has the crux of a decent team here which, if he can keep it together and add a few faces along the way, should be able to hold their own in the Conference next season.
As for Efe Sodje, the cynical might think his inclusion is just a sweetener because the announcement of Askey alone wouldn’t have been exciting enough for fans who have waited impatiently for months for managerial news. That would be to do him a disservice. Sodje has been involved in the coaching side of the game since 2008 when he took on a player-coach role at Bury and his vast experience (including a World Cup appearance, lest we forget), combined with an affinity for a club who took him to their hearts following his role in their first experiences of the Football League back in 1997, could see him play an important role in how the Silkmen go forward from here.
What is clear is that stability is key to the future of Macclesfield Town football club and John Askey seems the man best suited to that task. No other manager would be tolerated by the supporters in delivering a mid-table position but, considering the tough job in escaping the division and the loss of parachute payments this year, that very well may be the best they can expect. I just hope they can accept that because otherwise another boss forced out could lead to the Conference North, the club going part time, and even possible extinction.
At the end of the 1940’s the acclaimed novelist/poet Samuel Beckett wrote what many people believe to be his finest work – Waiting For God – a play centered around a couple of Macclesfield Town FC supporters who pass their time on an internet message-board patiently awaiting the news that former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler has, as widely tipped, been named the clubs new manager. It was once famously voted “the most significant English language play about a mid tier Conference side from the North West of England of the 20th century.”
The plot revolves around the two aforementioned fans of the Silkmen who, with nothing better to do with their lives, choose to while away the hours online (especially impressive given that at the time it was written the internet as widely now known was roughly fifty years from coming to fruition) pontificating on the scouse striker’s possible merits, whether given his millions made in property he was considering buying the club outright, and jokily mulling over which of Fowler’s former Liverpool team mates would be suited to roles within the backroom staff (in an example of Beckett’s famous gallows humour the job of ‘tactical intelligence’ was given to Jason “I’m not that hungry” McAteer).
A lot has been made of the absurdist nature of the play – much of which stems from the idea of a football club with nobody at the helm continuing its business of retaining players and selling others on to rivals whilst potentially placing its hopes of promotion and long term survival in the lap of a man whose only previous experience of management was at Muangthong United in Thailand. Indeed throughout there is the suggestion that perhaps Fowler is more reputation than actual substance – his rejection of a penalty he had falsely won, his ‘Spice Boy’ image complete with cream F.A. cup final suit, drug taking goal celebration, and online beefing with ex-pros all stand out clearer in the mind than anything he has actually achieved in the game beyond a fast hattrick against a pre-Arsene Arsenal. This idea is neatly summed up during the first act when one of the two supporters asks what exactly ‘God’ will do for them when he is appointed. “Oh… nothing very definite.” is the rather desperate reply.
Then there are the existential elements to consider. How does a supporter of a club like Macclesfield continue to function whilst in possession of the knowledge they will likely never achieve anything of real note? A common recent criticism of the monied clubs is they lack ‘history’ which seems to mean that within the Premier League era they had previously failed to win a major trophy. Where does this leave a club like Macclesfield with not even a hint of a major trophy in their past and no realistic chance of attaining one anytime soon? Do they have no history? No future? Are they merely a ghost fart of a club lingering only ever in the now?
Perhaps the managerial merry-go-round is one of the places they find help in dealing with this crisis of existence. The discussions and arguments created by a managerial vacuum are a way of convincing themselves that there is a point – that the next person to take possession of the job could just be the one who completely turns it around regardless of what obstacles he would face in the process. The ‘what-if’ is a far preferable scenario to be faced with than the ‘what-now’ that follows when whoever takes the hot seat inevitably fails to live up to the task.
The two characters spend the majority of the play pondering over the possible scenarios that might play out when God arrives because the reality – that the club, having already failed in an expensive gamble on a dodgy manager unproven at that level, are now planning to gamble on a well known former player unproven at that level – is too much to bare.
At the end of the play someone purporting to be Macclesfield Town chief executive/laughing stock Jon Harris arrives to post an announcement that no decision is due upon the naming of a new manager due to indecision over the transfer budget or some such nonsense but that there would definitely be exciting news the next day. In response the two disappointed fans angrily announce their decision to stop supporting the club in favour of a more worthwhile pursuit.
Everyone in the audience watching, however, knows that the two fans will remain. Refreshing over and over the news page of the clubs official website. Still yet waiting for news. Still yet waiting for God.
After the F.A. cup victory against Cardiff on the 6th of January this year a question was put to manager Steve King regarding the size of the achievement. During his answer he tellingly noted that “they’ve never been into the 4th round before” – oddly distancing himself from the club at a time when he had just made history for us and was entitled to truly feel part of Macclesfield Town. Was it an indication that he didn’t feel welcome or perhaps a sign that he wasn’t really committed to the club? If it was the former he could hardly be blamed. Since his shock arrival back in May of last year the supporters became split into two camps – those that begrudgingly accepted he was here now so we may as well get behind him and those who couldn’t wait for him to slip up so they could start the “King Out” chants. If it was the latter, however, then that would just confirm the suspicions that most fans already had about him.
The buzz word in football lately seems to be ‘project’. Every ambitious club must have a ‘project’. Zlatan Ibrahimovic recently attempted to seduce Wayne Rooney into getting on-board the PSG ‘project’ (the plan seemingly to throw lots of money at absolutely everything). Manchester City are living proof of how much success that sort of ‘project’ can be. Even Liverpool has one (with less money being balanced out with some “philosophies” and a series on Channel Five).
If Macclesfield Town decided on pursuing a ‘project’ following their relegation last year then it seemed to involve the following –
- Employ a manager nobody really wants with a rather dubious background
- Give him carte blanche in the transfer market to do pretty much as he chooses
- Sit back and pray he can somehow get us promoted
In my debut piece for this site last year I spoke about the worries regarding the appointment of King and how events in his past made it justifiable to be wary of exactly what would happen. These worries were hardly assuaged when he underwent a major rebuilding process that involved dismantling almost the entire first team squad and rebuilding a new one from scratch (in the hours following his dismissal spurned players took to twitter with Ben Tomlinson announcing “..can’t really say I’m shocked” and Ross Draper ranting “Any1 who comes to a club and disregards all players out of contract through stubbornness, deserves what they get!”)Regardless of that, the season somehow started well for Macclesfield. While the manager the majority of fans had clamored for – former Silkmen legend Steve Burr – hung around the relegation places with Kidderminster, this new look Macc side stormed up the table whilst playing the brand of easy-on-the-eye football we had been promised. By September we were top of the league. After years and years lumbering around the bottom of league tables it felt like we’d never had it so good.
We wouldn’t for the rest of the season.
It may have been a case of too much too soon but the moment we hit the top spot we started to stutter. King struggled to attain a consistent spell of form from the team that would see us as serious automatic promotion challengers and gradually we fell away back down the league. A good run in the F.A. cup papered over some of the cracks and the attractive style of play made it difficult for dissenters to truly voice their opinions (“Sure we lost due to some cheap defensive errors but at least we are losing now with the ball on the deck rather than in the stands!”). The fans seemed divided and amidst this cauldron of discontent rumours began to take hold – about how much money the club had, about whether this season was promotion or bust, about whether King even bothered to show up to training and how late he arrived on match days.
The manager himself continued to tinker with his side in a way that suggested he didn’t have confidence in the very people he had signed. Players recently purchased were sent straight out elsewhere on loan (the sort of thing Chelsea or Manchester United do.. clubs who can afford that kind of thing). Players came in on loan. More players went out on loan (not just fringe players – former captain Nat Brown and first team player Tony Diagne were both sent to Lincoln earlier this year just prior to a crucial part of the campaign). Some came and left without even making a meaningful appearance. Even as late as March he was bringing new faces into the club as if still in search of that perfect combination that would somehow leapfrog all those sides who had since passed us by on their way up the league. The not-so-subtle message being sent out was that he didn’t know what he was doing. With the end of the season in sight we were still somehow within reach of the play-off places. Time for the manager to come into his own. Time to start grinding out some results.
A disappointing draw at home to Stockport last Saturday was followed by a further point gained away at Wrexham. It set up a must-win match at the Moss Rose against Grimsby – the side holding the final play-off position. The result at the final whistle was a 3-1 loss and realistically an end to any chance we had of returning to the football league at first ask. Shortly afterward it was announced Steve King had been terminated from his role as manager.
Two questions spring to mind – why and what now?
Why? Was King appointed under the condition that he simply had to achieve promotion? That nothing else was acceptable? If so then why remove him when, although entirely unlikely beyond any reasonable stretch of the imagination, Macclesfield still mathematically have a chance of getting into the play-offs? Why not wait until the hope of that being achieved is completely gone? More likely it is something behind the scenes that, along with a poor run of form, has triggered his sacking. Indeed a statement from chief executive Jon Harris that “..while I appreciate supporters are looking for answers we are unable to comment further at this time.” suggests something a little more sinister is afoot. If neither was an issue then the sacking seems harsh. Why appoint a man and allow him the chance to rebuild a side from the bottom up and then get rid of him before a single season has passed? Surely that sort of club regeneration needs time to reach fruition? What hope of ending a transitional period if constantly putting yourself in a state of transition?
As for the question of what now? In the short term club legend John Askey will take charge but his previous spell in the hot seat proved he is not a realistic long term solution.
Any hopes of snaring Steve Burr – the man supporters were desperate for at the end of last season – seem pretty much in vain with his current side top of the league and with a great chance of gaining promotion to the football league. Elsewhere the former Tranmere coach Eric Nixon used Twitter to garner support for his bid for the job (“Would love to manage that club! Great people, great fans, great history.” he tweeted, before spoiling it a little by claiming we have “still got a great chance of the playoffs” which suggests either his maths aren’t up to scratch or he is optimistic to the point of being delusional).
What is undeniable is that the next appointment is crucial. Whoever does come in will inherit a decent group of players but one that is very much in Steve King’s image (how many of those will actually want to stay now remains to be seen). We have to try to keep the core of this squad together. We can’t afford to gamble everything again. Not like last time. We need stability and someone who can put together a side that is capable of eventually leading us back into the football league. We need somebody with a long term plan and a desire to do well at the club. Betting everything on red is not the answer.
Let’s hope those in charge have learned from the lessons of this season. If not the result for Macclesfield Town could be disastrous.
Follow me on twitter: @FragileGang
It has to go down as one of the most bizarre managerial sackings of the season. With just 5 games to go of the Blue Square Premier season, Macclesfield Town FC have sacked boss Steve King following their 3-1 loss to Grimsby Town FC.
Steve King came in at Moss Lane in May 2012 following the departure of previous boss Brian Horton and the club falling out of the Football League. But despite not setting the league on fire, they have had a decent season and were topping the league at one point and even now they currently sit 8th in the table.
They are just twelve points behind 5th place Forest Green and could theoretically make the playoffs still, which makes this sacking even more bizarre. It would take some major luck for them to make it, but as we know in football stranger things have happened.
As Non-league Paper editor Sam Elliot pointed out on twitter that ‘he (Steve King) may not have been everybody’s cup of tea, but he was building a squad for the new season to have a go at promotion to the Football League.’
That squad included Matthew Barnes-Homer, Lance Cronin and John-Paul Kissock. Three highly profiled names that will be key to any club in the BSP.
Matthew Barnes-Homer scored the goals to beat Cardiff City 2-1 in the FA Cup as they reached the 4th round of the competition for the first time in their history (which was under King) and currently sits among the leading scorers of the league with 18 but Matthew is unfortunately ruled out for the rest of the season.
Lance is an established goalkeeper in the Conference Premier having played nearly 200 games at Ebbsfleet United before moving onto league sides Gillingham and Bristol Rovers before signing for the Moss Rose club. Lance is a key figure at the club.
While JP Kissock is the playmaker of the team, and was a big coup from Luton Town in the summer. The former Everton youngster joined Macc originally on loan from Luton before getting a permanent deal in the New Year. The press at Luton called him the non-league version of Lionel Messi due to his looks and his skills that are similar to the Barcelona player.
King (as mentioned above) took Macclesfield to the 4th round of the FA Cup where they were unlucky to bow out to Premier League side Wigan Athletic 1-0. But it seems that results and times like that do not really count for anything in the world of football and that a manager’s position is reviewed game by game, month by month.
Owners do not seem to have a look at the bigger picture and how the season has really gone for the club.
I am not a Macc fan, I have no connection to the club or know personally of any of their fans but I really do think that this season could be deemed a fairly successful season even if it doesn’t mean that ‘The Silkmen’ are going up.
But the main question for me that needs asking is why NOW?
With the season just a matter of weeks from completion why sack your manager now instead of waiting just a few weeks to end of the season. Ok so Macc haven’t won their last 4 games and could partly be the reason but changing now will not solve anything in all fairness.
Youth team boss John Askey will take charge till the end of the season he is unlikely to shove Macclesfield into the top 5 position that they need to enter the play offs. I don’t think that even someone with the skills of Sir Alex Ferguson will be able to produce a turn around like that so drastically.
Obviously we have got to wait until the dust settles where maybe something comes out before we can draw definitive answers to the sacking, but for me this has to be the most bizarre sacking.
Follow Richard on twitter: @nonleaguerich
In 1895 the American philosopher William James first used the word Multiverse – based on the idea that there could be multiple universes within which exists everything that possibly can exist. It’s not so difficult to imagine that within one of these universes Stockport County are the Premier League’s token unfashionable northern side and Edgeley Park has replaced The Brittania Stadium in that oft-repeated “but could player X perform on a wet Tuesday night at…” phrase.
They came close during the late 90’s when Gary Megson (no, really) almost guided them into the Championship (at the time sensibly named ‘Division One’) play-offs with a chance at cracking the big time before the 21st century rolled around and they gradually clambered down the football ladder like a particularly rubbish window cleaner. They now find themselves flirting with relegation once more and the unthinkable prospect of starting next season in the Conference North.
It’s harder to imagine a universe where Macclesfield Town are anything other than what they are now – a small non-league club not quite good enough to seriously harbor any thoughts of promotion but not anywhere near bad enough to be peering worriedly over their shoulder.
Sure there were those 15 years spent as a league club but aside from one freak promotion to the giddy heights of the third tier of English football most of that period was spent looking like a team punching above their weight and somehow getting away with it. They went into the latest game against near neighbours Stockport County with one eye still on the play-offs despite form that can be at best described as erratic.
Barely a year passes without one of the glossy football magazines producing something about ‘The World’s Worst Footballing Rivalries’ where their reporter gets the chance to go a bit Danny Dyer and get excited by the thought of angry foreign people waving flares around and stabbing each other. Macclesfield Town vs Stockport County would never feature in such an article and not just because nobody would be at all interested.
Despite the close proximity of the two towns it has never really been considered a proper ‘derby’ match because neither side can really muster up the required emotion to care about the other enough for it to matter. Fans of Macclesfield have traditionally reserved their hatred for Altrincham whilst for a long time Stockport fans probably considered Macclesfield as a tiny irrelevance and are most likely still struggling to come to terms with the fact they are (for now) at the same standard.
Going into the game both sides were desperate for the three points for different reasons. For the Silkmen it would be a step towards closing down the gap on Grimsby and making a go of sneaking into the last of the play-off spots. For Stockport it would be three points closer to safety and a second win for new boss Ian Bogie after the impressive victory over Newport. All the ingredients were there for a classic encounter. Sadly it didn’t quite work out that way.
Maybe the reverse fixture back in September is partially to blame? That night both teams served up a classic advertisement for football with a 3-4 scoreline during a breathlessly exciting game and so anything less of a repeat of that would surely be a disappointment.
Played under a crisp blue sky the first forty-five bumbled along without either side making much of a positive impression. Indeed the most interesting aspect of the half appeared to be that Macc boss Steve King was prowling his technical area in a pair of expensive looking shoes but with no socks. A fashion faux-pas for sure.
On the pitch it was Stockport, if anyone, who looked more likely to draw first blood whilst Macclesfield appeared toothless and lacking ideas in the final third. Mid-way through the half Amari Morgan-Smith, who had made his debut in the game at Edgeley Park, had the best chance for the Silkmen but fired straight at O’Donnell in the County goal. Elsewhere Jack Mackreth looked lively for the home side, as did full-backs Jackson and Braham-Barrett. For County the gumshoe-detective faced Jon Macken and partner Danny Whitehead went about their business in a quietly efficient manner.
In the second half Macclesfield seemed perkier and a flurry of decent chances eventually led to a deserved goal from Barnes-Homer. The otherwise disappointing Keiran Murtagh whipped in a free kick that was powerfully headed home by the Macc number nine for his 18th league strike of the campaign. With tails firmly up Macc could have extended their lead but failed to take advantage of their dominance and gradually County got back into the game culminating with an equaliser from Macken when the home defence fluffed their opportunities to clear the ball and allowed the former Manchester City man to fire home from inside the box. In the final twenty minutes the result could have swung either way with both sides spurning good chances to claim the local bragging rights and the final whistle was met with more a resigned murmur of discontent rather than any sort of venom or vitriol.
For both sides the solitary point is of little help. Macclesfield must now view their mid-week clash with Grimsby as a must-win fixture if their outside chance of promotion via the play-offs has any chance of becoming a reality. Stockport, on the other hand, will hope that Ebsfleet fail to pick up anything from their three games in hand with which they could considerably close the gap on the hatters and drag them right back into the relegation mire.
In a parallel universe somewhere County face Barcelona this week in an exciting Champions League semi-final (but can Messi perform on a wet Tuesday night in Stockport?). In reality they face Grimsby at home on Monday lunchtime when they could do the Silkmen a huge favour by taking points off the Mariners. Two days later Macc face Grimsby themselves at the Moss Rose. There are still a fair few twists and turns left in this season regardless of the quality of opposition. Stay tuned.
Follow Scott on twitter: @FragileGang
Conference Premier sides Luton Town and Macclesfield Town caused FA Cup upsets against Championship sides to progress to today’s Fourth Round Draw.
Luton beat Wolverhampton Wanderers by the only goal, in a defeat that caused Wolves to sack manager Stale Solbakken. Alex Lawless was the hero for the Hatters, netting in the first minute of the second half in front of a superb crowd of more than 9600. It is the first time that they have made the fourth round in six years.
As for Macclesfield Town, they produced a stunning late comeback to see off Cardiff City, some eighty one rungs above them on the ladder. Goals in the 85th and 88th minute from Matthew Barnes-Homer sent the majority of the 3165 crowd into ecstasy, and The Silkmen into the fourth round for the first time ever, where they will be hoping for a glamour tie with a Manchester United or City. Macc Town fan and regular guest blogger Scott Knowles (@FragileGang) gives us his “alternative” match report:
Macclesfield Town 2 Cardiff City 1
There is a school of thought developed particularly over recent years that the FA cup doesn’t really matter anymore. That it is of no importance in this age of scrambling madly for a position within the Premier League top four and the potential Champions League place that warrants. That it is little more than a glorified League Cup but one that occasionally involves some of those places with weird names that you’ve never heard of and so can’t possibly be any good.
Maybe that school of thought is correct. Maybe we cling to the FA cup (us loyal few) like the people who cling to vinyl records or ‘pillock’ as a satisfactory term of abuse – a sort of kitschy retro thing we can get all snobby about to maintain our football hipster credentials. Type “FA cup is irrelevant” into Google and you get 24,900 results. The evidence is damning. The FA cup is dead. Let’s move on.
Malky Mackay, a man second only to Sammy Ameobi in the ‘Football names that are fun to say out loud’ list is presumably a member of that school of thought. Such was his commitment to securing a place in the top flight of English football that he tinkered so much it was surprise not to see the Cardiff tea lady playing at left-back during the second half. The result of his tampering (for which he has “no regrets” btw) was his side being ejected from the oldest association football competition in the world. The outcome barely matters – in years to come historians will only see that a side destined to become a Premier League club were defeated by some non-league upstarts – nobody will care that Craig Bellamy and Peter Whittingham were presumably at home watching old episodes of Fun House together and farting into a pillow case.
You want details of the game? There are numerous other places to go for that. I can only speak of my own personal experience – crammed amongst a group of drunken EDL morons who would rather spend the majority of the game boasting about the location of the vagina they were ejected from than offer positive support towards their team (and.. seriously.. what is it about the EDL that they feel the only way they can be patriotic to their country is by abusing those from others?) – but that would be to criminally ignore a fantastic performance from a group of players that, on their day, seem more dynamic and exciting than any bunch Macclesfield have had in a long time. That would be to discount the achievement of reaching the fourth round of the FA cup for the first time in our entire history and by doing it as a non league side. And the latter part of that is important – A Non-League Side.
Relegation from the Football League is often treated like a disaster. Even today it seems the only way we can be relevant again in the eyes of some supporters is to rejoin League Two. But why? To be one step closer to the glitzy glamourpusses of the Premier League? Is that really our ambition? To be the ones at the party stuck hanging around the toilets with Burton Albion whilst your Manchester City or your Arsenal are cordoned off in the VIP section sipping champagne and getting tossed off by a pretty blonde?
As a fan of a side destined to be nowhere I’d much rather be in a nowhere we can be somebody than a nowhere where we just blend in to nothingness. Does that make me a terrible supporter? Yes? So be it. I never claimed to be otherwise.
Macclesfield Town beat Cardiff City 2-1 to reach the fourth round of the FA cup. It was a good day. That is my match report.
Here’s hoping both clubs get good draws in the next round!