Written on March 7, 2017
ASSISTANT manager Steve Watson has urged MACCLESFIELD TOWN to put Saturday’s defeat behind them in time for tonight’s FA Trophy quarter-final replay.
The Silkmen welcome Dulwich Hamlet to the Moss Rose after the Isthmian League outfit came from 2-0 down in London 10 days ago to secure a 2-2 draw.
Macc were back in National League action on Saturday, losing 3-0 at promotion hopefuls Forest Green, but Watson has told the players to now focus on claiming a place in the last 4 of the FA Trophy.
If they prevail tonight, only a two-legged semi-final with league rivals Tranmere, who are joint-2nd with Forest Green, will stand between the Silkmen and a first trip to Wembley since they won the Trophy for a 2nd time in 1996.
Watson played for Newcastle in the 1998 FA Cup final, when his hometown club were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal, and the 42-year-old does not want the Macc players to miss out on the opportunity to play at the national stadium.
“We were all disappointed on Saturday,” said the former Everton and Aston Villa defender. “They’re an honest bunch of lads and they didn’t do themselves justice. We’d worked on playing with confidence and keeping the ball, but none of it transferred on Saturday so it was a bad day at the office.
“But the good thing about football, especially at this stage of the season, is you’ve got to dust yourselves down quickly and get going again because we’ve got a huge game against Dulwich and there’s plenty still to play for.
“We’ll be telling the lads to keep their chins up. Since the start of the year they’ve done as well as anybody. We’re still in the hunt for nicking a play-off place and we’re 3 games away from going to Wembley so we can’t spend too long hurting after Saturday’s performance. I’ve played in games like that and it does get to you, but it’s our job to get them lively again, to get them focused on Dulwich and to give them the confidence to go and play again.
“You don’t get many chances to get this close to playing at Wembley and in a final. There’s enough motivation on its own but the lads will be desperate to put Saturday right as well so we’re hoping for a really positive reaction.”
Despite playing 2 steps below Macc in the non-league ladder, Dulwich impressed in the first game at Champion Hill. Luke Summerfield put the Silkmen 2-0 up inside 18 minutes with 2 superb strikes from over 30 yards – the first direct from a free-kick and the second as he returned the keeper’s clearance with interest.
But the hosts pulled one back from a 25th-minute corner through defender Quade Taylor before Ashley Carew fired in a 20-yard strike on 87 minutes to force a replay. Hamlet then won 1-0 in the league on Saturday to go 11 unbeaten and remain 8th in the Isthmian Premier so Watson knows it will be no walkover at the Moss Rose.
He said: “They’ve got some good athletes, some technically good footballers and some power, and they caused us some problems. It is a game that we should have seen out but they’ve proved that they’ve got talent, in their number 10 (Carew) they’ve got a really good goalscorer and their left wing-back (Nathan Green) is powerful, so we certainly won’t be taking them lightly.”
Connor Jennings has returned to Tranmere at the end of his one-month loan spell but Macc hope the forward returns before the end of the season. In the meantime, it will give fellow loan signing James Thorne a chance to get some game-time.
Watson added: “I’d like to think that Mickey Mellon has a change of heart and loans Connor back to us for the rest of the season. Tranmere have probably got 4 fit strikers at the moment, without Connor, so we’ll maybe try to convince him that it’ll be in his interests to give us a player that might help us beat the teams around them!”
If Macc get through tonight they will host Tranmere this Saturday in the first leg of their semi-final. If not then they’ll host Maidstone United in the National League.