Macclesfield dreaming of title

Non-League notebook
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The Independent Online
Non-League notebook


Macclesfield Town are back where they finished last season - on top of the GM Vauxhall Conference. Tuesday's 2-1 win at their local rivals, Stalybridge Celtic, took them three points clear of both the pre-season title favourites, Woking, and the 1994 champions, Kidderminster Harriers.

It is a commendable achievement by the Silkmen, who have had to cope with a serious injury crisis this season. Seven first-team players are currently out of action with long-term ailments as Macclesfield's manager, Sammy McIlroy, has needed every one of his 22-man squad to mount another title challenge.

"We're not playing the sort of football that we produced last season," McIlroy said last night, "but we're giving 100 per cent in every game and getting the results."

Macclesfield have not yet needed to call on two veterans who have turned out for their reserve side this term: McIlroy himself, the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland midfielder, and his one-time Old Trafford colleague and England winger, Gordon Hill.

Instead, McIlroy has been recruiting some experienced non-League men, including two England semi-professional internationals: Paul Cavell, the former Redbridge Forest striker who arrived in the summer from Gateshead, and Tony Hemmings, the former Northwich Victoria winger signed this week on a free transfer from Wycombe Wanderers.

Macclesfield are also making progress off the pitch: they have received a grant of pounds 250,000 from the Sports Grounds Initiative which will enable them to increase the seating capacity at their Moss Rose ground to 2,050. Having been denied promotion to the Football League in the summer because stadium improvements had not been completed in time, the Silkmen are making sure they will not miss out again should they stay on top of the table and retain their title.

"The ground won't be a problem, but the hardest thing will be winning the league again," McIlroy said. Tomorrow, his side will be seeking another away win at the early-season leaders, Hednesford Town.