THE LATE 1990s have not been kind to Manchester City. After their ignominious relegation to the old "third division" for the first time in their history last season, a trip to Macclesfield Town opened fresh avenues of previously unexplored humiliation against a team who were playing non-league football just two seasons ago. In a week when Manchester United became even richer, to lose against "the likes of" Macclesfield - the accepted prefix for smaller clubs nowadays - would have been too much to bear for City fans.
The last time Manchester City finished above Manchester United was in 1991. The following season, United won the inaugural Premiership title and a graph of the teams' subsequent fortunes would resemble the comparative value of the dollar and the rouble. Consequently, Manchester's under-achievers have to travel that bit further afield for their newest local derby.
"There won't be many teams who come here and win," Joe Royle said. His team were lucky to be one of them. Defensively, Macclesfield were well- organised and competitive, with their captain Steve Payne and his fellow central defender Efetobar Sodje solid in defence. The former brought Lee Bradbury's dangerous run to a painful conclusion with a crunching tackle just before half-time.
Macclesfield's deficiency seems to be at the other end of the pitch as they have yet to score at home this season but, with Sammy McIlroy as manager and Peter Davenport as coach - both former Manchester United players, they have a canny management team with good local contacts. Steve Wood, a sprightly 35-year-old who had only played non-league football until Macclesfield's promotion, was their leading scorer last season and he thrived again in a free midfield role. However, a dedicated striker of note would make his job easier.
Manchester City had the same problem and the fact they did not score until the 86th minute was due to the wasteful finishing of Bradbury, Paul Dickov and Shaun Goater, all of whom missed clear chances. The substitute Jim Whitley continued the theme, almost passing back to Ryan Price, the Macclesfield goalkeeper, after 80 minutes in an effort to register a shot on target.
But, with four minutes left, came undeserved salvation. Whitley lifted a pass over the tiring Macclesfield backline and Goater fired a bobbling left-footed shot across Price.
"The pitch here is excellent, but it's a strange environment for league players," Joe Royle noted absent-mindedly, forgetting, perhaps, that his team had just played a league fixture.
If his side are to win promotion, it's games like this, they have to win, and for the sake of their fans, one hopes that they can do so with more style than they showed on Saturday.
Goal: Goater (86), 0-1.
Macclesfield Town (4-4-2): Price; Tinson, Payne, Sodje, Ingram (Howarth, 55); Wood, Sorvel (Sedgemore, 68), McDonald, Durkan (Whittaker, 72); Askey, Barclay.
Manchester City (5-2-3) Weaver; Edghill, Tiatto, Vaughan, Wiekens, Fenton; Mason (Whitley, 31), Horlock; Goater, Dickov (Allsop, 67), Bradbury. Substitute not used: Crooks.
Bookings: Macclesfield: Payne, Sodje. Manchester City: Horlock.
Referee: K Leach (Codsall).
Man of the match: Wood.Reuse content