Football: Joyful McIlroy back in the swing

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Macclesfield Town. . . .2

Hartlepool United. . . .0

HARTLEPOOL UNITED battled to the end but failed to match Macclesfield and took their leave from the the FA Cup. They were overcome, occasionally overwhelmed, by a classier, hungrier side to whose superior skill and confidence they had no effective answer.

League status was overturned as Macclesfield Town of the GM Vauxhall Conference moved and passed into space, their Second Division opponents content to take the ball up blind alleys from which there was no escape.

For Sammy McIlroy, the Macclesfield manager, it was almost like the old days. Three times a Wembley finalist with Manchester United, he knows that this year's competition is unlikely to provide a fourth trip.

'That's obviously not on the cards but this was still a great day,' he said. 'I'd like to get to the third round at least, and while it doesn't compare with playing, it's my best day as manager. I think we deserved it.' That was an understatement. It was his side's sixth successive victory and after the initial sparring it was accomplished with an imperious air.

The first goal came after 40 minutes when Neil Sorvel headed in a precise short cross. Five minutes later Martin Macdonald volleyed the second from the edge of the area, an inspired shot which would have merited the description stunning if we had not come to expect something in such a vein by then.

Macdonald was on the pitch only because of an injury to Steve Wood, who was injured in one of several crunching early tackles by Hartlepool, when they were busy mistaking their role as 'giants' with that of bullies. It was to Macclesfield's credit that they remained unrattled.

Which was more than could be said for Hartlepool. Four of the side were booked and Paul Olsson was sent off three minutes from time. Their fans ran on to the pitch to protest against the chairman Garry Gibson, who last week put nine players on the transfer list.

Gibson was philosophical. 'They used to call me a fat bastard, but since then I've lost weight which has fooled them,' he said. Things were probably on the slide again last night.

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