Game 50 of the 14/15 season
A relatively short trip over to Alfreton as Macclesfield looked to get a point or better, to return to second place in the conference table going into Christmas. The hosts had seen a recent upturn in form, with 9 points from their last 3 games, having beaten Eastleigh 3-2 during the week; doing Macc a huge favour in the process. The Silkmen were looking to bounce back from a lacklustre defeat at Altrincham in the FA trophy, and were boosted by the FA overturning Danny Whitaker’s red card.
Alfreton is always an interesting place to go, a typical old school non league ground at its best and one that allows the majority of visiting fans to appreciate their own home ground! I can sympathize with Alfreton as they are constantly fighting to bring in funding, but it is still what you would call a ‘very non league ground’. On on the side opposite the dugout, there is a mixture of covered and uncovered seating, with nothing to separate the fans from the playing surface. Looking around, it is also plain to see that seats have been added in unusual places to allow them to climb through the leagues and adhere to ground grading. The whole place is slightly disheveled and makes for an odd atmosphere, where to me it always seems that the game being played is a friendly or a dead rubber.
Despite the surroundings, Alfreton are generally a well drilled and powerful side, which despite our lofty league position made me conclude that a point would be acceptable. In our first meeting they acquitted themselves well and proved stiff opposition, with a wonder goal from Scott Barrow breaking the deadlock on that occasion. This pessimism seemed to well founded as Macclesfield were pegged back by an early penalty. An innocuous surge forward was tracked by Halls, who inexplicably chose to make a challenge from behind with Hogan blocking the route to goal; 0-1 with barely 5 minutes gone. With a pitch that was cutting up from a very early stage making passing football difficult, Macclesfield aimed to play balls into feet of their front men, a tactic which was to pay dividends.
The Silkmen responded positively and found themselves in a commanding 3-1 lead by half time. It was Barnes-Homer that dragged Macc back level as he latched on to an accurate through ball from Barrow to cleverly slot home when one-on-one with the ‘keeper. With Macc now well on top he was able to add a second, sweeping home after Fairhurst unselfishly squared across the area to leave a tap in. Alfreton were unable to cope with the movement of the play-off chasers and fell further behind when Whitaker crashed home from 22 yards, despite the close attention of a couple of defenders.
With a two goal lead going into the break it looked good for Macc in their quest to reclaim second place, however the nature of the playing surface meant that mistakes were likely. One quirk of Alfreton that I can appreciate is the lack of segregation, which means fans can change ends at half-time. Trudging round, I was hoping for a solid performance in the second half, as Alfreton were sure to go more direct and threaten Taylor in goal.
Thankfully, the remainder of the game saw Macclesfield retain a firm grip over proceedings, with a pleasing level of focus and no little skill. Moke and Holroyd were causing all sorts of problems in wide areas, with Barnes-Homer lurking with the intent of a striker on a hattrick. This looked likely on 55 minutes, with the Alfreton defence all over the place Barnes-Homer was poised 6 yards out, only for Holroyd to nip in and poke home the fourth.
This killed off any lingering resistance from Alfreton, and the visitors coasted home to record a comfortable victory. The icing on the cake came with a fifth strike, as Birmingham loanee Johnstone ghosted in to slot past a stranded Willis, his first goal for the Silkmen, and the third stiker to register in the game.
An excellent three points, going into three tough games over Christmas and New Year, with a double against 4th placed Grimsby and a trip to Bristol Rovers (3rd). It was also refreshing to see Macc play well, with recent weeks results having been somewhat ground out rather than being pleasing on the eye.
Entertainment = 8/10