There have been many entertaining matches against Hartlepool United over the years, but arguably the most memorable took place at the Moss Rose nearly twenty four years ago.
Macc were under the new leadership of Sammy McIlroy and Gil Prescott, and had qualified for the FA Cup First Round with a 5 – 3 victory over Southport. Carl Alford took the match ball home with him that day after he struck a hat-trick, together with goals from Steve Wood and Chris Sharratt.
The First Round draw had paired us with League side Hartlepool United, who at the time were struggling towards the bottom end of Division Two (the current League One).
Confidence was high going in to the game, and Macc warmed up for the clash the previous Saturday with a tremendous 6 – 1 victory over fellow North East side, Gateshead. The hat-trick hero for this match was John Askey, with Wood, Sharratt and Phil Power weighing in with a goal each.
The day of the match saw awful weather – it never stopped raining all day, and at one point there were some concerns amongst the Silkmen faithful whether or not the match would go ahead.
But as the hoards of blue and white clad supporters filtered in to the ground, it was clear that the match would go ahead – and also that our illustrious visitors would not be facing an easy afternoon.
Both sides had experienced degrees of FA Cup success the previous season, Macc had become the first ever non-league side to dispose of a League side on penalties when Chesterfield were put to the sword, and Hartlepool had managed to knock out top flight opposition, in the form of Crystal Palace.
So it was all set up for a great game of FA Cup football – despite the atrocious weather!
Macc started the brighter, and looked to assert their authority on the match right from the off. Steve Wood and Carl Alford both let good chances slip for the home side, whilst the visitors looked particularly menacing on the break.
With just over five minutes left until half time, John Askey broke free down the right hand side, before holding off two defenders and executing a pinpoint cross right on to the head of the incoming Neil Sorvel to give the ‘keeper no chance.
Macc led one nil and most fans would have taken that, but more was to follow before the interval. Steve Wood picked up a knock and was replaced by debutant Martin McDonald, and before anybody really knew who he was, he had etched his name in to the history books by doubling our lead.
A corner from the left was glanced in by Steve Adams, and when the defending header fell to McDonald on the edge of the box, he announced his arrival in the best possible manner by smashing the ball home.
As you would expect, the Division Two side dominated possession in the second half, but Paul Kendall and Mark Lillis proved to be a rock in the centre of the Silkmen’s defence and limited the visitors to largely speculative efforts on Steve Farrelly’s goal.
Macc could have extended the lead even further in the dying minutes when John Askey blazed over from close range, but as the final whistle went, the ecstatic Silkmen faithful were literally singing in the rain.
Speaking to Match of the Day after the game, Sammy stated –
That was tremendous, I am proud of the boys tonight.
They gave me their all, and I thought that we thoroughly deserved the game.
Two goals, it could have been a little bit more but I am delighted”
Sammy McIlroy. Speaking to Match of the Day 13.11.93
Goalscorer Martin McDonald added –
It certainly proves a few people wrong at Stockport County as they never gave me a chance really.
So I am very happy that I took my chance today and scored the goal”
Martin McDonald. Speaking to Match of the Day 13.11.93
We caught up with Martin yesterday, and he still has a great love of the club as well as fond memories of this particular match –
I was supposed to be playing for Bramhall FC, but I got a call from Sammy asking me to come down to Macc as he wanted me to sit on the bench for the Hartlepool FA Cup game.
It was a no brainer really.
Then when Woody got injured, Sammy just said go out and enjoy yourself – so I scored just before half time and picked up the Man of the Match Award too!
It was a great day, and a brilliant night celebrating in Bamboo too!
Martin would go on to make well over 150 appearances for Macc during two spells at the club, and I can’t help but think that this game helped to galvanise the squad together and catalyse the unshakeable levels of belief which would take them on such a fairy tale journey over the following four years.