Conference National – 6th April 2015
- Entrance: £14.00; Programme: £3.00
- Hotdog & Bottle of Water: £3.50
- Mug: £5.00; Fridge Magnet: £2.00
Easter Monday would be the day where I undertook the second match of my Easter weekend, after I watched a Welsh Cup semi-final on the Saturday. For this match, I would venture over the border into En-ger-land for the first time since I started this blogsite way back in October 2014. In keeping with the Welsh football theme of this blogsite however, it would be trip into deepest Cheshire to see a Welsh team play away from home as Wrexham took on Macclesfield Town in the Conference National.
I will be honest, this was not the game I was initially planning on viewing for my Easter Monday entertainment as the original plan was to travel to Edgeley Park to see Stockport County take on Oxford City in the Conference North. This was because my groundhopping companion Greg was driving and he wanted to go and see Stockport, and considering I have not been to Edgeley Park, I was more than happy with his choice of game. However on the morning of the match, he changed his mind on the game he wanted to see after having a good look at the Easter Monday fixtures, and wanted to watch Wrexham at Macclesfield. It’s not the first time he has seen Wrexham as he went down to Wembley to watch them a couple of seasons ago and he was keen to watch them once again. As the Moss Rose is yet another ground I had not visited at that point (and most importantly that he was driving ha), plus I was keen to see Wrexham play away from home, I was more than happy to accept the change of fixture. Therefore off to the Moss Rose!!
Macclesfield Town are former members of the Football League who were founded 1874 and spent the vast majority of their history in the regional non-league pyramid until they gained promotion to the Conference in 1987. They eventually won the Conference under Sammy McIlroy in the 1994-95 season but were refused promotion into Division 3 as Moss Rose did not meet the league requirements. They would win the Conference again in the 1996-97, and this time with the ground upgraded to the correct league standards, they gained promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history. They would spend the majority of their Football League tenure in Division 3/League 2 until their relegation back to the Conference at the end of the 2011-12 season. Their time back in the Conference has been a difficult one finishing 11th in 2012-13 and 15th last season.
Macclesfield is a market town located in the east of Cheshire, on the River Bollin, which is a tributary of the River Mersey. It is close to the county borders of Greater Manchester to the north, Derbyshire to the east and Staffordshire to the south. It is near the towns of Stockport to the north, Buxton to the east, and Congleton to the south. It is 38 miles (60 km) to the east of Chester, the county town of Cheshire. To the west of the town lies the Cheshire Plain and to the east lie the hills of the Peak District. [Thank you Wikipedia for that information]
The town is famous for its once thriving silk industry, and was once the world’s biggest producer of finished silk, hence the nickname of the club “The Silkmen”. In 1832 there was a many as 71 silk mills operating in the town!
FACT: A person from Macclesfield is sometimes referred to as a “Maxonian”.
The journey to Macclesfield took a lot long than I had envisaged as we drove for about 90 minutes before we reached the town. Through a combination of Greg’s incredible knowledge for routes and Google Maps on the phone, we managed to find Moss Rose (which is located in the south of the town) with plenty of time to spare.
Greg decided to park his car on London/Silk Road, the main road running through the town which the ground is located on, as a number of supporters were already parking or had parked up along the road. Plus the parking location was only a 5 minute walk from the stadium which was another benefit. There is a car park at the stadium although I think there is a cost of about £4 for the privilege to park there, plus there’s the inevitable traffic jams that occur at full time. At least parking where we did meant we wouldn’t have to pay, and we could get away a lot quicker as we were already on the main road!
The walk up to the ground isn’t the most picturesque I have walked although it did have that old school feel walking up the main road with other supporters, through residential areas to the ground in the middle of town. Having got to the ground, we headed towards the away ticket office which was directly in front of us on our way up the road. At the ticket office, we had a choice of either seating in the stand or standing on the terrace. As the terrace was the cheaper and most popular option amongst the Wrexham fans, we decided to go for that to be amongst the visiting fans and a ticket cost us £14. I’m not aware of entrance prices in the whole Conference system so I don’t know whether that is a good deal or not, but it seemed reasonable to me and my experiences in the Welsh Premier League.
Once the tickets were purchased, I decided to take a brief look at the club’s official shop which was located a short walk around the corner to the right-hand side of the ground. On the walls outside of the away end, there are a number of mosaics detailing the history of both the town and club. I thought they were a really nice touch and added an uniqueness to the ground. Naturally I wanted to head towards the club shop to discover if they sold any official mugs (to add to the ever increasing football mug collection) and how long the shop would be open for after full time. When I got there, it was already bustling with Silkmen supporters looking to buy a scarf or replica shirts and so there wasn’t a great amount of area to move about in as it’s only a modest size shop. Anyway to my delight, they did have mugs available and would be open for half an hour after the match’s conclusion = brilliant! I would return to the club shop after the game as it avoided the awkwardness of both carrying a mug around all afternoon and having Macclesfield merchandise in the Wrexham end!
Anyway back to the turnstiles we had passed on our way to the club shop looking for entry into the ground. The steward on the turnstile entrance was having friendly “banter” (for want of a better word) with the Wrexham fans by saying “sorry lads, the ground is full”, “you’re too tall for this ride” and “can I see your ID please as you look under 18!” to middle-aged men. Through the turnstile and the stand is directly in front of you, with a snack bar to the left and toilets to the right. As we didn’t want to use either of the facilities at that moment, it was up the steps and onto the terracing!
Macclesfield Town have been playing at Moss Rose since 1891 and it is an impressive little stadium and unlike many stadiums I have been used to in the Welsh pyramid system, this was most clearly a four-sided stadium with a stand for each side. The two side stands (the Main Stand and Henshaw’s Stand) and the home end (Star Lane End) were all covered by cantilever roofs although the away end terracing (Silkmen Terrace) which we were on was open to the elements, and on this day, the blazing April sunshine. The other three stands had seating with the Star Lane End stand and the Henshaw’s Stand to the right of our position looking more modern built than the main stand. It would be the Henshaw’s Stand where the corporate boxes were located, as well as the Wrexham fans occupying a quarter of the seats on the end. Those Robins fans who had spent that bit extra for that bit more comfort of a seat and importantly some shade from the sun!
After finding an ideal spot on the terracing amongst my fellow North Walians, I spotted a programme seller at the front of the terrace. A programme for the match, which would also double up as a crude sunshade later on in the match, cost me £3. A little bit more expensive that I am used to but it had plenty of pages full of information concerning both teams and it was well produced, plus it’s ‘conference prices’ I guess ha!
I had a quick browse through the programme despite the sunlight causing discomfort for me (I should have worn a peaked cap/hat for the day and was annoyed that I didn’t!) before the ground announcer started whipping up the crowd ahead of the teams walking out. All three seated stands looked fairly full with home support and there was about 450 Wrexham fans who had made the eastern journey into Cheshire ensuring the ground had a decent attendance of 2,050 paying punters. With the announcer doing this job more than adequately, the teams walked out to loud welcome with the crowd more than looking forward to the upcoming match in near perfect conditions.
This match would see fourth take on fourteenth with the home side looking to consolidate their position in the playoffs, having a four point gap over 6th placed team Woking. However their form in the past six games has suffered a bit of a wobble earning just one win in that period, and two in the last nine games. Their previous game on Good Friday saw them draw 2-2 away at Halifax, despite having lead the game for the majority of the match. Therefore they were eager for the victory to kickstart their playoff push which was faltering.
Their opponents haven’t had the best of times either as Wrexham have had a pretty miserable season in their 150th anniversary season. Not only have they underachieved yet again this season under Kevin Wilkin despite being considered one of the “bigger” teams in the league, they were still suffering the effects of the FA Trophy shock defeat to North Ferriby United on penalties after being 2-0 up against a team in a league below. The defeat would cost Wilkin his job and former TNS coach Carl Darlington would be put in temporary command until a permanent manager was found. Despite the flux in the management structure and the hangover of the Wembley collapse, they managed to hammer Alfreton Town 4-0 at the Racecourse Ground and would be going into this game with a bit of new found determination.
Macclesfield would be playing in their home strip of blue shirt with white trim, white shorts and blue socks, whilst Wrexham were playing in their unique 150th anniversary kit that would be worn just for this season of red and black hooped shirts, black shorts and red socks.
There was little between the sides in the opening salvos of the first half but it would be the home side who would take the lead in the first clear chance of the game, and it came through a huge Wrexham mistake. Blaine Hudson failed to control a neat back pass from Sam Finley about 40 yards away from goal, which bounced free and into Danny Whitaker’s path who picked up the loose ball and was able to have a clear attacking run at goal. Whitaker with plenty of time and space successfully converted the chance when he slotted the ball past the exposed keeper Andy Coughlin to give the home side an early lead. A terrible start for Wrexham!
Macclesfield Town 1 – 0 Wrexham
Wrexham reaction to conceding was positive as they forced a series of corners and caused problems for the Silkman. However the nearest they came to an equaliser came when Andy Bishop connected onto Sam Finley’s fine delivery but the big man could only head his effort wide of the far post. Finley was involved in Wrexham next chance when his low 20-yard drive flashed wide of the right hand post. Wrexham continued to get into some promising positions to level things up but Macclesfield were also looking a threat as the game flowed from end to end.
Finley would be involved in yet another chance when he showed great awareness to try and lob the Silkmen’s keeper Rhys Taylor with a long range effort after he caught the Welsh keeper off his line. Alas for Finley his well-crafted effort only just cleared the crossbar and the home side breathed a sigh of relief.
As the first half progressed, I would say the Silkmen probably enjoyed the majority of the possession by winning the battle in midfield and started to threaten Wrexham’s defence looking for the crucial second goal before the break. The home side had chances to double their lead through Turnbull and Whitaker, but Coughlin in the Wrexham goal made comfortable saves to keep his side in the game.
The game could have completely changed in the 42nd minute when Jay Harris and Lee Ball came together in some kind of confrontation where it was claimed on the Macclesfield website that Harris seemed to put his hand up to Lee Bell’s face. Harris certainly reacted to something but I don’t think Bell was completely innocent in the whole incident. The referee talked to both players but decided that no foul had been committed and didn’t even caution either player. Either he didn’t see the incident or he thought it was a little bit of “handbags” with the blame being six of one and half a dozen of the other. Had Harris raised his hand to Ball’s face and the official had seen it, it is very likely the midfielder would have been dismissed!
Prior to the break, the game was starting to open up and it was becoming a more even game. Macclesfield scorer Whitaker almost doubled his tally for the afternoon when he found space again to get a shot on goal, but this time he only managed to fire narrowly wide. Wrexham would punish the forward for his miss as the Red Dragons hit a hammerblow to their opponents on the counter attack and equalised just one minute before the interval. The target man Andy Bishop flicked the forward ball on for Joe Clarke, who beat his marker and crossed from the left by-line towards the unmarked Connor Jennings in the box. The former Silkman managed to get on the wrong side of Daniel Cowan and planted his powerful header past Rhys Taylor to level things up.
Macclesfield Town 1 – 1 Wrexham
Going into the half time break, the scoreline was probably a fair reflection on how the game had progressed in the opening 45 minutes overall. Both teams had periods of dominance during the half, with the home side perhaps edging it on possession percentages but neither side could take complete control despite taking their goal well. It would be interesting to see how the game would develop in the next 45 minutes.
HALF TIME: MACCLESFIELD TOWN 1 – 1 WREXHAM
With the sun beating down on us for the whole of the first half and in the midst of a headache from the constant squinting (I knew I should have worn a peaked hat or cap), it was welcome relief to get back into the shade of the area behind the stand where the toilets and snack bar was located. After a quick comfort break, it was time to queue up for the snack bar and some well needed refreshments!
After 5 minutes of queuing we arrived at the snack bar and rather disappointingly there wasn’t a great choice left available for us and the rest of the away fans who were still queuing. Despite the menu having a wide choice of hot foods, the only options left available to use were either a hotdog or cheese & onion pasty. I chose the hotdog although I had hoped for a pie and both myself and many other fans were not impressed with the lack of choice left available. It didn’t help that the ketchup had also ran out and we were just left with the brown sauce option (I quite like brown sauce but it’s the lack of option which is annoying). Despite of that, the hotdog was quite nice and a reasonable price considering it was an almost enforced choice although I never asked if they had the option of onions….they probably didn’t….
There were also only TWO bottles of water left in the fridge, and although other drinks were certainly available (although served in plastic cups for some safety reason I would presume) I was again not impressed especially considering the sweltering conditions on the terrace today. Anyway both myself and Greg took the final two water bottles on sale so I apologise to any Wrexham fans further down the queue who weren’t able to buy a bottle of water! However I feel that the club should have provided enough food and drink for the fans at the away end if they knew they were running short – talk about a hostile environment for away fans!! I would like to know if the home fans had the same problems in the snack bars at the other three stands or whether this issue just happened at the away end!
Once the hotdogs were consumed under the shade of the stand and some bottled water drank (and it was needed at this point), it was back up the steps and back into the Spring sunshine, ready for the second half action!
The second half began with Wrexham being the brighter of the two teams, no doubt buoyed by their late goal in the first half and full of confidence. Jennings would be heavily involved in the early pressure shown by the Robins and almost grabbed his second goal straight after the break. From defending an early corner, Wrexham quickly broke through Clarke who raced up the pitch before feeding Jennings on the right. Despite being in a good position, his angled shot was palmed away by Taylor for a corner. Jennings would have another half chance a few minutes later when he ran onto a bouncing ball, which was a free kick punched away by Taylor, and fired a heavy shot towards goal. Again he would be denied his second goal of the afternoon as the shot was block by a defender just eight yards out.
The Macclesfield manager, John Askey, made the first change of the game in the 55th minute when Scott Barrow replaced George Pilkington. This change was to pay dividends for the Silkmen when three minutes after the change in personnel, Barrow would be involved in the home side regaining the lead. A saved corner by Rhys Taylor resulted in quick break by Macclesfield as they streaked upfield hoping to catch their opponents off guard as they struggled to regain their defensive shape from the set piece. The substitute Barrow managed to fire a deep pinpoint cross from the right hand side for Lee Bell, who had peeled off his marker at the back post to head home and restore the Silkmen’s advantage against the run of play.
Macclesfield Town 2 – 1 Wrexham
Minutes after conceding a second goal, Wrexham thought they had level the score up once again and scored their second of the afternoon through Bishop as he got his head on the end of a cross from the left hand side, and nod it past Taylor from close range. However much to the annoyance of the Wrexham fans in the terracing, Bishop was denied a goal by the linesman’s flag, who claimed he had been offside. From where I was standing it looked a tight call but most probably the correct decision from the official.
The pressure continued to ratchet up from the away side and the Silkmen did well to cope as time ticked by, as they continued to deny Wrexham some good opportunities from set pieces. The Robins recording ten corners to Macclesfield’s none with Finley’s delivery was causing all sorts of issues for the home defence, yet they continued to hold onto their lead.
Frustration was getting the better of the visiting team, perfectly emphasized by returning player Jennings as he received the only yellow card of the game for clattering into the back of Barrow on the half way line.
With just two minutes remaining on the clock, and Macclesfield just about holding firm, it seemed as if Wrexham had missed their final chance to get something from the game. The ball was crossed towards Manny Smith who deft header in the box sent it towards Andy Bishop, but Bishop couldn’t get his close range effort on target as he headed just past the post. Amongst the away fans the feeling was that effort was THE change to grab the equaliser and they were just waiting for the full time whistle to be blown. I even thought that despite all the possession and chances in the second half, the luck just wasn’t on their side and it would be another disappoint defeat for the Red Dragons as that’s the way their season has gone.
However as we all should know in football, you can never discount anything until the final whistle has been blown and Wrexham would indeed have one final chance to equalise in the third of the three allocated additional minutes (The 94th Minute reporting about the 93rd minute…lovely stuff), and this time they made no mistake even if they got a bit of luck with their second goal. Wrexham’s man of the match, Sam Finley, sent a long hopeful ball forward into the danger area of Macclesfield’s penalty box and Robbie Evans became the hero as he managed to squeeze in between Rhys Taylor and the Macclesfield defence to somehow deflect the ball goalwards and it trickled into the back of the net.
Macclesfield Town 2 – 2 Wrexham
I’m not quite sure how he managed to score it, but it was nothing short of what Wrexham deserved. Unsurprisingly the Wrexham fans in the away end were going bonkers – the release of emotion after the majority of fans believed they weren’t going to get anything from the game, especially considering the amount of chances that had been unsuccessful. Not long after the restart, the official blew for full time and the Wrexham fans were the most delighted, grabbing a point from the game at the absolute death! A resurrection worthy of Easter!!
FULL TIME: MACCLESFIELD TOWN 2 – 2 WREXHAM
After we had applauded both teams especially Wrexham who came over to the away end to applaud their supporters, we left the sweltering, sun-blazed terrace and headed for the exit and the welcome shade. Once we had left the ground, I headed back to the club shop to pick up the mug and fridge magnet as a memento of the visit. I bought a mug with “Silkmen” emblazoned around the side for £5 – it won’t win any awards for any unique design but its simplicity has its charm. It would have been nice if the mug had the club crest on it also but beggars can’t be choosers, plus the fridge magnet (bought for £2) had the club’s badge on it so that made up it. Once the new additions to the collection were acquired, we headed back down the Silk Road with other supporters making the walk down and made our way back to the car for the long journey back to Flintshire.
The match itself was a good match between two teams who on the whole are probably on equal terms. Even though Macclesfield are situated in the playoffs and Wrexham snatched a point right at the death, a point was the least the Red Dragons deserved after their second half display with many fans on the terrace saying they should have gotten even more from the game. I suppose that is the frustration with Wrexham this season – potentially they should be up there battling for the playoffs with Macclesfield, yet they continue to make silly defensive errors and are unable to covert the number of chances they create, and can be horrendously inconsistent (beating league leaders Barnet 1-0 away but losing 0-4 at home to bottom club AFC Telford United). I can see why the fans are so annoyed and it’s a shame considering it is such a historic season for them which should have brought so much celebration. Hopefully whoever the new permanent manager is and takes over this historic club in the future, they manage to unlock the potential of the Robins and give the supporters the success they crave.
As for Macclesfield, if you considering the overall performance of the team, they might be content with earning a point although if you take into account the position they were in with just seconds to go in the match, they will feel like two precious points have been dropped at home. Even more disappointing perhaps if you factor in the statistic that they now haven’t won a game in their last five league outtings, and that could be incredibly crucial in their playoff campaign come the end of the season. It’s not the best time to suffer a slump in form! However I saw enough quality in their squad to claim a playoff spot as their defence was impressive at times and they broke with speed which would trouble any team in the league. Do I think they will get promotion though?? On that performance, probably not, but I’m sure they’ll work their hardest to prove me wrong! All in all, I’m happy to see the team doing well again after the troubles they had with reported financial problems a couple of seasons ago.
Overall I enjoyed my trip to Moss Rose and it’s a decent little stadium with a great atmosphere generated by their passionate fans. It has the perfect blend of modern stands but with an old school feel, especially with the stands being so close to the action. Plus the stewards and volunteers who I encountered on the day were friendly and helpful, and added to the overall experience. My only real gripe with the whole day was the refreshments and food on offer for the away fans. I find it frustrating that the only snack bar in the away end had such a lack of choice for supporters come half time and should have been better stocked. Perhaps it’s a one off issue due to the number of matches over the Easter period, which has resulted in stock numbers being lower than expected. However I was still pretty disappointed as were other supporters with the food options available which is shame considering I otherwise enjoyed my visit to Moss Rose.
I wish Wrexham all the best for the rest of the season, and hope Macclesfield manage to claim a playoff spot and have a decent finish to their season!