Macclesfield manager John Askey

Midweek league game is as big as FA Trophy semi-final for Macclesfield Town

MACCLESFIELD TOWN are hoping to put the disappointment of Saturday’s FA Trophy semi-final behind them as they return to league action on Tuesday night.

The Silkmen are looking to get to Wembley as well as the National League play-offs, and they hosted league rivals Tranmere in the 1st leg of their semi-final last Saturday.

The visitors took a 2nd-minute lead after a controversial penalty decision against Macc defender Neill Byrne. Keeper Scott Flinders got a hand to Jeff Hughes’ tame spot-kick but the ball still crept over the line.

The Silkmen were then denied an equaliser from David Fitzpatrick’s left-wing cross. Rovers defender Steve McNulty got his head to it and the ball crashed down off his own crossbar, and although the hosts thought it had crossed the line, a goal wasn’t given.

James Norwood then headed over for Tranmere before Chris Holroyd’s goalbound effort was blocked by McNulty. Macc drew level on 54 minutes as Mitch Hancox laid off for Ollie Norburn to slot home from 12 yards but manager John Askey felt a 1-1 draw was the least his side deserved.

“I’m really pleased with how we played,” he said. “To respond how we did after such a shocking decision is full credit to the team. I don’t think anybody knows what the referee saw, it beggared belief.

“You could use it as an excuse, but the lads didn’t. Over the 90 minutes I thought we played the better football. We were unlucky when the ball hit the bar and, again, we think it was over the line but the linesman’s on the 18-yard box so he can’t give it. He hasn’t kept up with play.

“It sets it up nicely for the next game. It’s all to play for,” Askey added. “I thought we deserved to win on Saturday. We’ve just got to go and do it again. When we got to Tranmere (this Saturday) we’ve just got to hope the officials are better and we play that well again.”

The FA Trophy and FA Vase
The FA Trophy and FA Vase

Askey was disappointed with Saturday’s crowd. Although it was almost double what it had been for Macc’s previous Saturday home game (1,267 compared to 2,358) 901 of those were Tranmere fans.

But the Silkmen have another big home game on Tuesday night as they host another side hoping to clinch a play-off place – Gateshead. Macc go into the game in 9th, 8 points behind the Heed, who won 2-0 at Wrexham last Saturday to go 5th in the National League. There’s only 4 games on tonight but with 5 of the top 9 in action, there is plenty to play for in the promotion race.

“It’s probably more important than last Saturday,” said Askey. “We need to win it. It’s the same for every game we play now.

“Tranmere have got a next trip down to Torquay so I think they’ve got more complaints than us! But we know that when we play well can we compete with anybody in the league so we’ve got every chance (of winning the 2nd leg). We’ve just got to roll our sleeves and, no matter what’s thrown at us, have a go and see where it takes us.”

Anthony Dudley’s loan from League One Bury has been hindered by injury but the 20-year-old striker returned off the bench last Saturday. And his presence is valuable as Macc now have midweek games every week between now and the end of the season – and that’s before a potential trip to Wembley for the FA Trophy final.

“Anthony’s come back in from Bury,” said Askey. “It helps us, especially with the amount of games that are coming up. We still need more, but we’re probably in a better position squad-wise than what we’ve been in previous years.”

After visiting Tranmere on Saturday, Macc make the short trip to Chester next Tuesday before having back-to-back home games against Aldershot and York City.