Thursday, 3 November 2016

01/11/16 Review: Winsford United vs Macclesfield Town

Winsford United 3-4 Macclesfield Town [After Extra Time] (Cheshire Cup, Preliminary Round)
The Barton Stadium

For the fifth and final time in as many days, Pint of Football was out and about seeking out some football. Tonight's match was in some ways the one I was looking forward to most, mainly because it would be a chance to catch my beloved Silkmen in action and although I suspected that they would be fielding an inexperienced line-up I was still there in attendance, in single-figure temperatures, to take a look at the home of North West Counties Premier Division side Winsford United.
Tonight's ground, The Barton Stadium
Known as The Blues, tonight's part-time opponents of the Silkmen were 4 Leagues below the National League and this fixture comes sandwiched in-between last Saturday's defeat to Maidstone United and the FA Cup clash away at Walsall at the weekend, so needless to say that the weakened-side we would see was full of lads who wanted to be on that sub's bench for the trip to The Bescot on Saturday. For the home team, who sit mid-table in the NWC Premier, this would be a chance to replicate last season's victors over the Silkmen in this cup, Cammell Laird 1907, and the original winners of the cup back in 1979-80 would be well up for a fight against their professional opponents.
Can Macc do the job on a cold Tuesday night in Winsford?
When I walked through the turnstiles I entered a large bowl-shaped Stadium which formed an oval. From the sides, there is a short distance between the stands and the pitch, and from the goals there is a large area of grass before you hit the rails at what would usually be the area that the "behind the goal" fans (which is where I took the above photo from). The ground had a seated section to the left and a non-seating stand on the right, with the clubhouse, bar and on-sight Cafe housed behind the seating. As I was here a good 30 minutes before kick-off, I took time to walk around and as I approached the clubhouse I started to smell the distinct whiff of chips being fried. Although most grounds have catering facilities within, this was something else! A full-scale greasy spoon opened out amongst a plethora of hand-crafted tinpot shedding, and to sum up this area of the ground I would describe it as being like the outhouse my Grandad once built.

They don't build em like this anymore
Walking into "Deb's Cafe" I was greeted by a couple of friendly smiles and I made my way around to the bar, and there was already a good couple of dozen folk slurping on their pints and enjoying some Sky Sports News in the back room. Included within this company, minus the pint, was Silkmen Manager John Askey. With this being a regional cup, Askey was no doubt putting his faith in his coaching staff to do the job so that he could watch the game from the touchline and take mental notes of how his young lads get on. Within the Starting XI tonight there were five Silkmen first team players: Ritchie Branagan, Chris Sutherland, John Roberts, new-boy Sam Madeley and the captain for the day Dan Cowan. The rest of the squad was made up of non-contract players who were signed after impressing at a trial match last week. Branagan and Cowan have been with Macc for a while, Sutherland was picked up on a free last December and Madeley was a recent signing who has experience with FC United and Salford City. Roberts had also signed after a trial match back in the Summer.
There's the man they've got to impress
With the temperature hitting a mere 6 degrees just before kick-off, I decided I'd keep on my feet and do a bit more walking around the oval to see if many Macc fans had made the short trip across to their Cheshire neighbours. From noting club merchandise, it looked like the crowd was about 60/40 in favour of the hosts, but a few familiar faces from Macc were in attendance which was nice to see. By the time I'd done a lap of the ground back to the seating area it was 19:45, aka game time. The two sets of players promptly entered the field and the announcer began proceedings by reading the teams out. With more than a couple of newbies for the Silkmen, the announcer can be forgiven on this case as he hilarious bumbled through a few tricky names. Olalekan Radiu must've had a chuckle to himself from the bench as the announcement ended with "apologies if I said anyone's name wrong".

Come on Silkmen!

Knowing that Macc's Cheshire Cup matches tend to bring goals aplenty, I decided to make a pre-match prediction tonight for 3-2 to the visiting side. Over the past 4 days prior to this one, I had visited 4 games in which the hosts won by 3 goals each time, but I expected that the Silkmen would be able to break that run and record a win. The game started in an end-to-end fashion and the first chances came within the opening 15 minutes, firstly from the Silkmen's Cody Roberto. The lad burst through the Blues defence but his struggling shot failed to test Will Jones in the home goal. This let-off surged the hosts on to create a chance of their own. With 12 minutes on the clock, some suspect defending left Macc in trouble and when the ball eventually made it's way to Scott Taylor who struck a deflected strike into Branagan's net. Winsford 1-0 Macc. Not the ideal start for the young Silkmen and it was made all the more frustrating as it was a goal that came from a result of failing to clear the danger. With the early setback, Macc started to push up the field a bit more and I was actually quite impressed with the playing-style of John Roberts who I had not really seen much of in my previous outings to Moss Rose. The youngster looked like he could dictate the tempo in the early exchanges and made some bursting runs where necessary- dare I say it, he looked like a young Stevie G! But whilst I was admiring his play, the Silkmen defence could not be held in the same regard as a second Winsford goal almost came about. This time the Blues attacker was denied by Branagan and the home side could not double the lead. Almost half an hour had passed by the time Macc created the next noteworthy chance, and it was through a clever combination between Roberto and Madeley. A defender missed his header for Winsford and after good work from the front two, eventually a shot from Navid Nasseri was well saved. This was followed up seconds later as it was this time Madeley himself getting a chance to score. He rounded the keeper well but his placed strike was superbly cleared from the line to keep Macc goalless. The Silkmen's pressing was proving to be ineffective against a strong Winsford defence and as they stood strong, the away side's own back-four almost allowed another goal. Richard Ainscough ran into trouble near his own area and on another day I would've backed Jordan Johnson to plant his header into the net. Not today, Half-time.
Get those pies out Deb, it's bloody freezing

The second half of this Cheshire Cup tie would begin at 4 degrees now and just before the game started I was listening in to a couple of fans who had just realised that the game could go to extra time if the scores were level. One lady said that she'd rather lose than have to stay for extra time, and I bet she wasn't the only one. Luckily the cold had not stiffened up the players though, and the second half started with a bang. With no more than a minute gone of the half, it would be Sam Madeley who grabbed himself a goal following his hard work in the opening 45. Winsford 1-1 Macc. Macc had made a change for the second half and this would prove to be the announcers worst nightmare if earlier indications are to go by. "Substitution for Macclesfield Town and coming on for number 10, Cody Roberto, is number 12...." this hilariously long pause before he tried to say Olalekan Radiu's name raised a smile on the lads face and caused many laughs amongst fans. Radiu was an unknown name to me, but he looked ready to make an impact with pace to burn from the bench. On 53 minutes Macc conceded a second goal as Jordan Johnson put the home team back in front. Winsford 2-1 Macc. But this didn't last long, less than a minute in fact, as Madeley slid in to show that he has the goal-scoring ability that Macc have often been missing this season. Winsford 2-2 Macc. After top scorer Kristian Dennis left the Silkmen for Chesterfield in the summer following a successful loan-spell from Stockport County, we could do with a lad who can poach a goal or two!

Cheers to that
But, there's no point having a goal-scorer doing his thing if you can't keep tight at the back. Yet again the defensive frailties of Macc were exploited as Branagan ran out of his net with confidence but was beaten to the ball by a Winsford attacker. His cross-cum-shot was goal-ward bound and eventually finished off by Kyle Riley on the line. Winsford 3-2 Macc. With less than 20 minutes of second-half action bringing 4 goals, this was turning into a real fight to the finish. Radiu continued to outpace the Winsford back-line at one end, meanwhile Scott Taylor was having a cracking game for the hosts and even pulled out a couple of moves that would not look out of place in the Champions League game up the road at the Etihad. I almost started to wonder for a moment whether Winsford had hijacked Leo Messi, stuck a couple of cushions up his top, popped a wig on him and sent him out for this Cheshire Cup classic. As the clock ran down, there would prove to be a couple more twists in the tale to come yet, believe it or not! On 85 minutes Robert Cooke, fresh off the bench, slotted in a perfect pass to Madeley who was able to complete a well-deserved hat-trick and surely take the tie to extra time. Time to get the gloves out. Winsford 3-3 Macc. With the temperature now hitting 3 degrees, Macc pushed for a winner in normal time and when Radiu latched on to a through-ball in the 90th minute it seemed likely. The Winsford defender had other plans though and he pulled the pacey-winger down and earned himself a Red Card. The game would now be even tougher for the Blues as they hoped to overcome the next 30 minutes with one less player.
Quick break for a brew, then back to it
The first 15 minutes of ET went by very quickly, as with the rest of the game. The player disadvantage didn't seem to worry the home side too much and they looked just as likely as Macc at certain times to get a goal. The Silkmen were largely on top though, and as they knocked on the door I would suspect that Winsford would be happy for penalties by now. The final section of the game kicked-off and the tired legs of both sides kept going in a tightly-contested final few moments. On 118 minutes though, there was to be a winner. With Macc winning a corner at the death, a crowded box all went in for the floated ball and after a shot seemed to rattle off the post it would be the captain Dan Cowan who would have the simple task of notching home a crucial winner for the Silkmen. Winsford 3-4 Macc. With a minute or so left, there was to be no more goals and the 2015 Champions were into the next round. What a classic.

Hopefully a win at Walsall at the weekend will follow
I'd expected goals at the start of the night, but this was a great game and I did not see it going to the wire. Winsford United must've been very happy to have tested this young Silkmen team, but I imagine that they will also be gutted to have come so close. As Macc head to an FA Cup tie on Saturday at the Bescot, Winsford United will also be on their travels as they go to the YESSS Electrical Arena to see if they can rally to beat Padiham in the League. As a Macc fan I would like to thank Winsford for a top night of football and I also wish them the best for the rest of the season. This will be my last game for a while, after 5 in 5 days, but look out for my next Blog entry in late November- early December. Cheers!

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