Football: Macclesfield get taste of the Blues

Macclesfield 0 Manchester City 1 Goater 86 Attendance: 6,381
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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED were not the only football club in the North- west of England to have sold out this week. The full-house signs appeared at 10 o'clock Monday morning at the Moss Rose ground in Macclesfield but, unlike their multi-millionaire neighbours, that particular announcement was referring to a football match.

That the game in question was against Manchester City provided a welcome shot of irony in a week whose dominant themes have been greed and ambition. To rework an old football cliche this was the smallest match in Manchester City's history. Last season was Macclesfield Town's first ever in the Football League. Having been promoted from the Vauxhall Conference in 1997 they were promoted again the following season after finishing as runners-up.

In contrast, Manchester City were a Premiership team as recently as 1996 before being relegated to the old Division Three last year for the first time in their history. Sammy McIlroy's Macclesfield were unbeaten at home last season - the only team in all four divisions to boast that record - but as yesterday's match showed this season will not be quite as straightforward. Macclesfield were runners-up to champions Notts County last year and the fact that Manchester City have already beaten the Nottingham team 7-1 in the Worthington Bitter Cup may have been the factor behind Macclesfield's hesitant first half. They opened brightly, however, with the excellent Steve Wood side-footing wide in the first minute, but they were prone to giving the ball away in midfield. When City recovered it Macclesfield looked uncomfortable with their opponent's pace and sharp passing game. They were equally ill-at-ease with Danny Tiatto, an overlapping left-back in the Terry Phelan mould, who skipped forward and shot from distance almost at will.

McIlroy's post-match assessment was short if not sweet. "They've got the most potent strikeforce in the country and they hardly got a sniff." From a spectator's point of view, they seemed to have sniffs aplenty. What Manchester City were really missing was a nose for goal. Their finishing was frankly weak, with Goater and especially Dickov the guilty men in the first half.

The second half started in much the same vein. Striker Lee Bradbury played a decent ball behind the Macclesfield defence to Dickov, who unwisely attempted an extravagant finish, instead of the composed strike the chance demanded. After Dickov's substitution, matters didn't improve much, Bradbury showing he could miss chances as well supply them with a limp, scuffed shot from only eight yards out.

After a period of Macclesfield pressure Manchester City eventually took an undeserved lead when Goater scored with a left-foot shot from just inside the area. It was a messy goal which won an untidy match, one which Macclesfield, in truth, didn't deserve to lose. For City to have survived the proverbial wet Saturday afternoon in Macclesfield bodes well for their strength of character. It was wet, it was cold, it was Macclesfield, but Manchester City survived with their ego intact.