Sunday, 3 April 2016

02/04/16 Review: Macclesfield Town vs Braintree Town

Macclesfield Town 3-1 Braintree Town (National League)
Moss Rose

Another day, another game at Moss Rose and thanks to my friend Will, we were high-rolling at the game today as Match Day diners for my Birthday. Very fancy! Waking up to the sound of rain, our first fear was that the game would be called off and our VIP experience would be drowned out. As well as it being my Birthday, it was also Macclesfield Town's official "Ladies Day" which meant the added excitement of free Prosecco and even the opportunity to have our nails done!

Putting the "Lad" in Ladies Day
We arrived at the ground at half 12 and took our seat with the other Match Day diners. After the delights of tomato soup and a beef dinner, I took a look through the programme as I waited for the majority to arrive for today's game. Facing up to Essex's finest in Braintree Town, sitting 6th in the League before the game, it was likely to be a tough game for the Silkmen who were themselves 10th. Nicknamed the Iron, the club have been in the top-flight of non-league football since winning the Conference South in the 2010-11 season and have spent one year longer than Macc at this level. Not for the lack of trying though, having finished mid-table season after season and just missing out on a play-off push two seasons ago after reaching a record high finish of 6th. Macclesfield Town of course suffered the same fate last season of the dreaded 6th place finish, just one spot outside the play-offs. Despite two great victories over Easter for the Silkmen, it seemed too little too late after a disappointing January and February had seen Macc fall into mid-table oblivion.

Roary is still working off his pre-match carvery
As kick-off drew closer we took our seats, the best in the house, and prepared to hopefully see the Silkmen grab another three points and look to derail Braintree's promotion bid. I had spoken to a couple of away fans at the bar, who had set off at 8:30am to be here today, and they were telling me that they would be going even further north on Tuesday as they head back up for an away game at Barrow. Fair play to them, two trips to the North-West in 4 days certainly wouldn't be top of the list for travelling fans. My pre-match prediction was for Macc to continue their form and secure a 2-1 victory for me on my Birthday. With Gibraltar international striker Reece Styche having banged in a hat-trick at Gateshead on Good Friday and a further winning goal on Easter Monday against Grimsby, I was confident that we could get one over another top National League side.

The best seats in the house
The first few minutes were tense for the home side, as they came under almost instant pressure from the attacking Iron side. Thankfully, Pilkington and McCombe were able to ride out the early threats and within ten minutes the tide started to turn. Macc started to build up a bit of pressure themselves and with big Jack Sampson proving to be a good target man there was always an emphasis on keeping the ball within the Braintree half and pressing high with Styche, Rowe and Whitehead all chasing down the opposition well. Danny Rowe looked particularly menacing on the left wing and harassed the Braintree defence all day, and just after 20 minutes the first big moment of the game arose. Within a crowded box a Silkmen player was brought down (Styche, I think!) and the ref instantly pointed towards the spot. Macc had been awarded a penalty and it was down to today's captain, Danny Whittaker, to slot home the opening goal. Macc 1-0 Braintree. From then on Macc began to play with the confidence and style which had been evident within the last couple of games. Going forward, the whole team were playing slick football which was greeted with applause from the crowd and at the other end Shwan Jalal made a full-stretch fine save to deny the travelling fans a chance to cheer before half-time. Macc were unlucky not to add a second before the whistle, as Andy Halls swung in a cross which was almost met by a solid finish. Pilkington also had a diving header which was unfortunate not to go in, meaning that when the whistle came we were just hoping the lads could keep it up.

So far so good for the Silkmen, bring on the second half
At half-time we went back to our reserved table to enjoy the half-time refreshments. I also used this time to look at my favourite feature in the Macc Town programme. Entitled "10 things you didn't know about..." and today's section on Braintree wasn't one of the finer readings. In an attempt to find the most interesting thing that I didn't know about Braintree, I ended up being mildly interested by point number 8. "The town of Braintree was recorded in the Domesday Book, it was then known as Branchetreu." Who knew?

Back on the pitch, the second half kicked off
The second-half started in the same way that the first finished, with Macc on top. Danny Rowe ran on to a through ball and broke away down the right-hand side. He lured the defender in before cutting inside him and curling home a smashing second goal for the Silkmen. From within the clubhouse, I was lucky enough to see the goal as most of the others inside missed it! Macc 2-0 Braintree. Following this, we quickly supped up and headed back out to see the remains of the game. Macc continued to dominate and looked likely to add to their lead. When Braintree attacked, they often failed to supply top-scorer Michael Cheek with the quality and often they were hit hard on the counter by the skillful Chris Holroyd, who was having a great game. As we came into the final half an hour of the match, the killer third goal was added by the solid centre-back John McCombe. A header into the top corner of the net was his first for the Silkmen and it sent the home fans into jubilant cheer. Macc 3-0 Braintree. 

3-0 up and loving Ladies Day
At this point things started to get more desperate for the Braintree fans. Having already had Akinola booked for diving, the 40 or so travelling fans could only resort to chants against Macc. "You're not famous any more!" was chorused repeatedly by the away few and if anything it just left everybody looking confused. One fan shouted back "we were never famous!" and in reaction to this chant another fan kept shouting "Ey up, diver!" every time Akinola got the ball. In the end though, he had the last laugh as he powered through the Macc back four to hit home a consolation goal. A rare moment of happiness for the away fans and a goal to remember at least for the long journey home. Macc 3-1 Braintree. The final 10 minutes offered little more- another fine save from Jalal, a debut run out for Macc's new loanee Matty Templeton and a few minutes off the bench for Kristian Dennis, currently having to make do with being in the shadow of Styche and Sampson, were the only other things to note. But as it came to the end the match sponsors for today's game, who were sat behind us and actually came out with the statement of "Aston Villa, doesn't that sound like a place in Spain?" , picked out Danny Rowe as their player of the match. Amazing.

3 points for the Silkmen, happy days
Having looked forward to the VIP weekend at Moss Rose it still has to be said that the highlight was the great performance and result from the boys today. No matter how good the meal, or how nice of a job they did on my nails, it was all about the football today and a 3-1 win over a team doing well was a perfect Birthday present. Cheers again to Will for treating us to the Matchday experience, roll on the next one!

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