Football: Macclesfield's rush

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The Independent Online
Stevenage 2

Crawshaw 29, Catlin 52

Macclesfield 3

Wood 59, 90, Williams pen 75

Attendance: 5,760

Non-league football rarely comes bigger or more passion fuelled than this. No side has been promoted from the Conference for four years but Stevenage and Macclesfield have won the title in the last two seasons, and both have now brought their grounds up to League standards.

A capacity 6,500 squeezed into the newly refurbished Broadhall Way and watched Macclesfield, depleted by the 54th-minute sending off of John Askey, battle and scrap their way to a victory which could secure the ultimate prize. Their revival from 2-1 down seemed to rely more on adrenalin than measured football and they reduced the arrears on the hour with a Steve Wood strike. The scores were level from a penalty by the substitute Carwyn Williams 10 minutes later and then, with only injury time remaining, Wood curled a delightful free-kick over the wall.

Macclesfield could have felt aggrieved at being a goal down at half-time. They created the clearer chances, with their 21-year-old midfielder Chris Byrne making a series of darting runs into the area but just failing to provide a telling final ball. Byrne, whose arrival at Macclesfield in February coincided with the start of their impressive run of 13 wins out of 14 league games, packs considerable pace into his spare frame and boasts a touch which would not be out of place in League football.

Stevenage's first-half goal was the result of goalkeeping excellence and error. Borough's Des Gallagher made a great save from John Sorvel, while at the other end Ryan Price flapped horribly at Stuart Beevor's cross, which fell to Borough's prolific striker Gary Crawshaw.

Macclesfield did have a 37th minute Paul Power effort ruled out for offside but Stevenage were two up seven minutes after the break, when Price again baulked at claiming the ball allowing the busy Neil Catlin to tuck away Crawshaw's cross. Stevenage looked home and dry but they reckoned without half and hour of Cheshire passion.