Macclesfield Town took a step closer to the Football League yesterday, with a scintillating comeback against Barrow at the Moss Rose.
Sir John’s side retained their two point advantage at the National League summit, with yet another performance which oozed tenacity, defiance and belief.
With just ten games to go, the title race remains in our hands and after launching a pulsating comeback against The Bluebirds, it would take a brave man to bet against Jared Hodgkiss lifting the coveted trophy aloft on 28th April.
The Silkmen started the game in the ascendancy and looked to stamp their authority on the match in the early exchanges.
With barely a minute on the clock David Fitzpatrick surged down the left wing, before his pinpoint cross found Nathan Blissett who could only direct a tame header into the arms of Steve Arnold.
With the Star Lane End in fine voice, the hosts continued to dominate proceedings and on six minutes Elliott Durrell’s measured cross from the right was latched on to by Scott Wilson – although he could only send the ball over the bar as he stretched to connect with it.
Despite Macc’s undoubted dominance, the visitors would take the lead after 11 minutes, with what represented their first real period of concerted possession.
Luke James created space twenty yards from goal, before he surged into the penalty area and slid the ball past the advancing Shwan Jalal.
Two minutes later Barrow could well have doubled their lead, in what would have been a carbon copy of the opener.
This time Jalal was able to make a fine stop to deny James, with Macc looking temporarily stunned by what they saw before them.
Barrow started to dominate possession whilst Macc took stock of proceedings and it was clear for all to see that Ady Pennock’s side really were busting a gut to keep the league leaders at bay.
Former Premier League star Grant Holt began to orchestrate matters in the middle of the park and on 14 minutes he was agonisingly close to sending Luke James through on goal – only some quick reactions from Jalal prevented that from happening.
Two minutes later Macc began their assault on Steve Arnold’s goal with renewed vigour, as Durrell burst down the right and his cross found the head of Mitch Hancox six yards out.
With the Macc fans already on their tiptoes ready to celebrate, Arnold produced a simply world class save to tip the ball over the bar to safety.
No matter how many games you watch this season, you will not see a better save than that I assure you.
Despite the fact that Sir John’s side were creeping into the ascendancy by this point, The Bluebirds were literally giving everything in a bid to preserve their lead.
In many ways they belittled their lowly league status, as a war of attrition ensued with much at stake for both clubs.
On 22 minutes our wizard on the wing was performing tricks once more, as Durrell made space on the right hand side of the penalty area before firing a low drive across the face of goal which was cleared off the line by Holt.
Three minutes later the visiting ‘keeper was performing miracles once more – this time to deny teammate Ollie Cook.
Mitch Hancox had left his marker for dead down the left, before his tantalising cross was sliced towards goal by Cook – forcing Arnold into another fabulous reaction save to preserve his side’s lead.
The visitors were far from being a spent force at this point, despite the fact that Macc were undoubtedly turning the screw on them.
On 26 minutes they could well have extended their lead, when Holt’s devious cross from the right somehow evaded Luke James and was tipped around the far post by Jalal.
As Barrow continued to run through walls to keep The Silkmen at bay, it was clear for all to see that despite their tenacity it would be almost impossible for them to keep it up – especially as Sir John’s side are renowned for finishing games strongly.
As it was, parity was restored on 32 minutes when Mitch Hancox picked up the ball on the edge of the area and fired across the face of goal into the far corner of the net.
It was no more than our heroes deserved, as they had undoubtedly warranted the equaliser as they then went on to set their sights on completing their comeback.
Orchestrated by the two Danny’s in midfield, the siege began, as Barrow tried to repel the inevitable for as long as they could.
Despite this, Macc could not carve out any further chances during the remaining minutes of the first half and as they went in for the interval everybody was convinced that the second period would produce the goals which would seal victory.
Unsurprisingly, the hosts came out looking to end the game as a contest in the quickest time possible and less than a minute into the half had a raucous penalty appeal turned down by Referee Dicicco.
Danny Whitaker swung a corner in from the right and as the ball approached the penalty area, Nathan Blissett was seemingly hauled down by Holt.
Players and fans united in their protestations, yet the Referee waved play on with a cheery smile.
If nothing else, that cheery smile galvanised everyone further as Macc peppered the visitors goal looking for the lead.
Sixty seconds later Scott Wilson broke free down the right and hit a tantalising cross along the six yard line, yet the ball agonisingly evaded the advancing cavalry.
Danny Whitehead then created space on the edge of the area, before firing a ferocious drive just wide of Arnold’s near post as Macc’s relentless pressure continued.
On 57 minutes Durrell was making a nuisance of himself once again, this time he effortlessly beat his marker before sending in another pinpoint cross and just as Scott Wilson looked set to head home, Moussa Diarra somehow managed to deflect the ball away at the last second.
Luke James could well have stunned the home contingent for the second time in the game a minute later, as he burst through the Macc defence before hammering a low drive past Jalal – but thankfully wide of the far post.
David Fitzpatrick then saw two attempts blocked in quick succession, before Blissett fired wide of the right hand post on the hour mark as the hosts upped the pressure.
Two minutes later Danny Whitaker’s corner from the right broke to Durrell, who smashed a fierce drive towards goal which brought another spectacular save from Arnold to tip it over the bar.
On 70 minutes the players got their reward as Mitch Hancox brilliantly beat his man down the left hand flank, before he was pulled down in the box to give the Referee no option but to point to the penalty spot.
Up stepped the legend that is Danny Whitaker, who smashed the ball past Arnold to send everyone into delirium.
Sir John’s side were never going to settle for a 2 – 1 victory though and after the restart the siege continued to devastating effect.
Within a minute, a goalmouth scramble ensured within the Barrow six yard area which was desperately cleared by the visitors as they hung on for dear life.
Sixteen minutes time the ever dependable George Pilkington played Scott Wilson through on goal, yet Arnold somehow managed to make another smart save at his near post.
Two minutes later the contest was over however, as Elliott Durrell majestically took the ball in his stride before hammering home our third.
As he raced off to celebrate, he emotionally slapped the Macclesfield Town badge on his shirt to symbolise the amazing unity this unbelievable set of players have with those who adoringly follow them.
It was more than a celebration – it was a statement to the doubters that we are here to stay.
Despite the fact that Macc retained their possessional advantage in the closing exchanges, the game petered out with Sir John’s side clearly happy with the devastating show which they had already put on.
As the final whistle went every one of the players came over to salute the fans and with ten games to go the unbreakable bond between us all is only getting stronger.
Speaking exclusively to The Star Lane End, here is what Elliott Durrell made of the game –
Macclesfield Town: Jalal, Hodgkiss, Fitzpatrick, Lowe, Pilkington, Durrell (Richards 87’), Wilson, Blissett, Hancox (Burgess 84’), Whitehead, Whitaker
Subs not used: Ramsbottom, Marsh, Kennedy
Barrow: Arnold, Jones, James, Diarra, White (Waterson 77’), Hall, Holt (Walters 58), Barthram, Gomis (Panayiotou 66’), James, Cook
Subs not used: Macdonald, Bauress