Month: September 2014

Manchester City 7-0 Sheffield Wednesday (Capital One Cup 3rd Round) 24-9-14

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Game 25 of the 2014/15

In years gone by this could have been considered a potential banana skin for City; but such are the resources at their disposal that most fans and pundits expected a comfortable victory despite Wednesday flying high in the Championship.

Pellegrini continued to respect the competition by naming a very strong side, with Toure as captain for the evening. However, the first half was extremely subdued from the home side’s perspective, as they were forced to tamely retain possession in their own half for long spells. Wednesday also saw a couple of half chances fall to Madine and May, with poor first touches on both occasions saving City. Mangala came closest for the citizens as he crashed a volley off the face of the post from a left wing corner.

Fortunately for a subdued Etihad crowd, there was an exciting clash at half time. A host of young fans from each side played on a pitch far too small, with the game resembling a swarm of bees around some honey. All this activity added to the drama, as Wednesday triumphed 2-1 with the last kick of the game.

The second half saw a more purposeful start from City. Wednesday could not press them as effectively due to the increased tempo and things went sour pretty quickly, with seven unanswered goals in 43 minutes. The red card for Maghoma was bit unnecessary and took the contest out of the game.

Although Wednesday were soundly thrashed in the end, their fans were exceptional throughout.  It is normal for the underdog’s fans to be particularly vocal whilst their side are in the game, but to hear the boom of ‘high ho Sheffield Wednesday’ at 0-7 was very impressive.

So eventually the holders secured a safe passage through to the fourth round, with a home draw against Newcastle the next barrier as they aim to retain English football’s third trophy.

Entertainment = 6/10

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Stoke 1 -2 Reading (Premier League U21s) 12-9-14

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Game Number 21 of the 2014/15 season

The first game of the season for Stoke City U21’s at the Moss Rose, as part of an agreement between the two clubs which will see a further six games played away from the Britannia.

It is fair to say that this one didn’t catch the imagination of the Macclesfield public either, with just a handful of paying spectators in attendance. Scouts were certainly in the majority, with a host of names from Arsenal to the Irish FA having sent their notepad carrying representatives along. I’ve always wondered why scouts get free passes to football though; yes please come and take our best player for a minimal fee, it doesn’t matter that you are a Premier League scout at a conference ground, please come in for nowt!

The game itself was a bit of a let down, with a pre-season pace and tackling style on show, certainly not what I would have expected from Stoke. The passing of the players was noticeably more crisp than I am used to in non league, but there was little cutting edge on show here.

Reading were sharper for most of this encounter and found themselves 2-0 up thanks to some precise finishing and well timed blocks at the other end. Stoke seemed to liven up with twenty minutes to go, but as is often the case it was too little too late and they were only able to notch a single goal in reply.

Was expecting a bit more from this one, and now have a long wait until mid December for the next game.

Entertainment = 5/10

Congleton 3 – 1 Macclesfield XI (Friendly) 23-9-14

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Game number 24 of the 2014/15 season

A hastily arranged friendly game this time up, as Macclesfield boss John Askey looked to take advantage of a free midweek to have a look at a thrown together mixture of trialists, loanees and fringe players. It was also the first evening where a waterproof and hot drink were a must, with squally wind and rain persisting for virtually the entire 90 minutes.

All the signs were that this might well be a bit of a disappointment, and so it proved as both sides struggled to get any sort of passing football going. The much changed nature of both teams starting line-ups certainly didn’t help, as players from both sides were clearly unsure of where their team mates were moving to next.

Macc started the brighter side and went ahead after around half an hour, as a trialist centre forward (rumoured to be from Wigan) thumped home after being teed up by Dunfield. However the goal belied a strange performance, punctuated by poor first touches and an ability to find himself marked and thus unavailable for a pass for most of the first half. With his 45 minutes ‘work’ done, Lavelle-Moore assumed the role of striker in the second half. Worryingly, his performance was sloppy and disinterested, not something you want to see from a player that now has a contract with the club.

Macc deteriorated badly after the break and Congleton turned the match on its head with three unanswered strikes. The first saw the Silkmen defence part invitingly for the Bear’s centre forward to stroll through and slot past Branigan. The keeper then made a hash of a routine backpass to allow Congleton a free shot from 12 yards, and the third was a twice taken penalty after a ridiculous handball from Cowan.

One positive for Macc was the sight of former player Terry Dunfield in a dark blue shirt, albeit it on trial. The passage of time and a history of knee injuries has restricted his pace and does make for a very distinctive running style. Experience and ability was on show though, as he managed to negotiate a packed midfield and greasy surface to knit together the away side’s play in the first half. A lack of sharpness was to tell and his evening was over after an hour.

Overall a bit of a drab game and one tat will pose more questions than it answers for Askey. What is clear is that many of the players he has accumulated in a bloated MTFC squad appear to be well short of fitness and lacking confidence.

Good work from Congleton as well, who are soon opening a small covered terrace behind the goal, a move which will see cover on all four sides of the Booth Street ground by the end of the season.

Entertainment = 4/10

Macclesfield 1 – 1 Halifax – Tuesday 9th September 2014 – Vanarama Premier Division

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Game number 19 of the 2014/15 season

With Halifax battling away with Barnet as early pace setters in the division, and Macclesfield looking to bounce back from a dreadful showing away at Chester, this always had potential to be a keenly contested game. Definitely one where I would have snapped your hand off for a point.

It was also nice to see a sizable following from an away team at the Moss Rose, after so far hosting Eastleigh and Braintree’s mini bus loads. Around 360 made the short journey over, which helped swell what would have otherwise been an embarrassing crowd. For some reason though there were several away fans who seemed to take it upon themselves to cause an issue by refusing to take a seat, this was exacerbated as over half of the away fans then refused to sit down. It was a completely unnecessary situation as over 40 seats lay unoccupied, one which was never resolved, and after a couple of idiots decided to jump on the pitch and make there own way to the terrace, it had to opened to all.

Seeing this unfold did create some ill feeling towards Halifax, and on the field their pretty basic style was also far from endearing. Despite a gulf in finance and some good players at his disposal, it seems that Neil Aspin has gone for a safety first, direct approach. It was pleasing to see that this didn’t fluster Macc, who battled well all over the park. They even survived the half-time Loss of skipper Paul Turnbull and a late injury to fellow centre midfielder Paul Lewis.

This character was emphasized further after Halifax had bundled in the opening goal; Boden reacting fastest after Taylor could only parry a cross come shot straight into his path a matter of four yards out. Macc came alive after this set back and through everything into a spirited and almost instantaneous leveler. Arthur Gnahoua, who caused the Shaymen all sorts of problems in the second half, cut across the box from a left-wing position to drill home a superb goal.

Halifax did look difficult to break down despite being on the back foot, and they absorbed a lot of Macclesfield pressure in the last 25 minutes. They could have headed back to Yorkshire will all three points, as Marc Roberts crashed in a header in the 92nd minute; only for the referees whistle to intervene. It looked pretty clear cut to most in the ground, as first Waterfall and then ‘keeper Taylor were clattered in to prior to the ball hitting the net. But this didn’t stop a furious reaction from Aspin, who berated all who listen until the final whistle.

Entertainment = 7/10
Again this may well have been one where my blue tinted glasses affected the enjoyment of the game. It is always nice to get something from teams that rile you up somewhat!

Chester 1 – 0 Macclesfield – Saturday 6th August 2014 – Vanarama Premier Division

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Game Number 18 of the 2014/15 season

A Cheshire derby to mark non-league day, with the home side on a bad run and the Silkmen unbeaten in six games so far, an excellent recipe for the bubble to burst. A thoroughly miserable game, the sort that make £18 an even more unreasonable ticket price. Even more annoying was the absence of Iwelumo and Winn from the Chester line-up. Still, at least the programme was only £2.50.

Arrived nice and early, which allows for a good choice of seat, except when your friend’s son has free choice. The result of which was the back row, very far left, and to top it off just in the firing line as the players were doing a shooting drill. I’ve not looked forward to a kick so much for a long time.

Maccesfield made a fair start to the game and enjoyed some decent possession in the opening exchanges, however this was in contrast to the remaining 85 minutes. Chester were first to every ball and their solid defense were aerially dominant, meaning Macc were often straight on the back-foot from their own set pieces.

Despite this Chester may consider themselves fortunate to have opened the scoring. A soft foul on Hobson (who was arguably offside in the build up) was rewarded with a free-kick; superbly dispatched by Rooney into the far corner from 25 yards. Had this not been given, it is conceivable that Macc would have escaped with a point, despite their ineptitude.

In a game of few chances it was Gnahoua who spurned the away side’s best chance; clean through on goal he inexplicably chose to round the keeper instead of choosing a side and getting a shot away. Holroyd did better with a half chance in the second half, with a sharp turn thwarted by an excellent charge down and save from the Chester stopper.

Chester saw the game out in very comfortable fashion to claim a deserved three points. The Silkmen were unable to get a hold on midfield all game, and boss Askey was too late in matching Chester’s three man approach. Both sides may well be in the lower reaches of the table come the end of the season on this showing, fifty points can’t come soon enough.

An excellent idea is the naming of man of the match for each team, not that the selection of this for Macc was a difficult task for today. Similarly refreshingly, it was not the goalscorer named man of the match for the home side; proof that some match sponsors do watch a game.

Nice easy game on Tuesday, Halifax…..

Entertainment = 4/10

Curzon Ashton 0 – 0 Workington – Evo Stick Premier Division – Tuesday 2nd September 2014

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Game 17 of the 2014/15 season

A late decision (again) to go to this one, ahead of Atherton Colls in the FA Cup or New Mills in the League Cup, wrong choice! Curzon are usually a pretty safe bet to produce a decent game of passing football, but they failed to serve up anything here. Both sides will be disappointed with their performances, although the point will come in handy for the pair.

Although I am reluctant to criticize referees, tonight’s man in black lost control of the game very early on and struggled to maintain order throughout. There were several tackles put it after the ball had gone, and the niggly tactic of leaving a foot in at any opportunity. Instead of making a statement and making an early booking, he allowed things to deteriorate, and as a result the game lacked flow.

The closest we came to a breakthrough, saw a Workington player stationed on the post struck by a close range volley; block would be giving him too much credit, but still job done I suppose. Other than that the game seemed to be a mix of 2-3 pass moves, petty fouls and players mouthing off at the officials.

One redeeming feature that always helps improve the appreciation of a Curzon game is their excellent programme shop. There is an excellent selection of league and non-league issues which are steadily getting more organized over the seasons. Well worth a look if you ever go to a game, be sure to give yourself 45 minutes before the game for a proper browse.

There was also an interesting example of gamesmanship, which was remarkable considering the level. At half-time Curzon seemed keen to show off their integrated sprinkler system, fair enough. What did seem a bit rich to me was that they ignored the end they were defending and gave the end they were attacking a nice soaking, obviously aiming to make life difficult for the Workington custodian. I think justice was done with the clean sheet for the away side.

Entertainment = 4/10