Macclesfield Town slumped to a rare defeat yesterday, despite the fact that Sir John’s side produced another tenacious and hard working performance that we are now all accustomed to.
There had been some degree of worry amongst the Silkmen faithful that the match may not go ahead, as the “Beast from the East” returned in force to create blizzard conditions in Kent.
It is testament to the ground staff at Crabble that the match did go ahead as planned and they were rewarded for their efforts with barely a minute on the clock.
New signing Keanu Marsh-Brown picked up the ball on the left, before cutting inside and firing a ferocious drive across goal into the far corner of the net.
It would have been understandable if the visitors had taken some time to take stock of the situation, yet they looked to restore parity straight from the restart as they attempted to cause a storm of their own.
On 3 minutes Danny Whitehead created space in the box and he was unlucky to see his shot on goal blocked at the last minute by Connor Essam.Macc began to dominate play and two minutes later had a fairly cast iron penalty appeal waved away by Referee Purkiss. David Fitzpatrick had done well to surge into the box, following neat interplay with Mitch Hancox, yet when he was cynically brought down by Manny Parry no reward was to be forthcoming. Sixty seconds later Macc were back in the ascendancy as Danny Whitehead’s cross from the right was beautifully struck towards goal by Mitch Hancox – only a superb one handed save from Mitch Walker denying him the equaliser.
Elliott Durrell then warmed Walker’s gloves once more by fizzing a twenty yard strike at goal, but the visitors had Shwan Jalal to thank on 11 minutes when he quickly came out of his area to deny Azeez Adebayo a free run at goal.
On thirteen minutes Durrell drifted in yet another of his tantalising free kicks from the right – the ball eventually broke to Keith Lowe who was unlucky to see his spectacular half volley fly over the bar from fifteen yards out.
Macc created another guilt edged chance just two minutes later, as Scott Wilson latched onto a through ball to see him bearing down on Walker’s goal. Our leading scorer pulled the trigger, yet a miraculous last second block by Parry deflected the ball out for a corner.The pressure being imposed on the Dover rearguard was relentless at this point and on 19 minutes the hosts had Kevin Lokko to thank as he desperately intercepted Nathan Blissett’s cutting cross from the right, with Wilson ready to pounce at the far post.
Danny Whitehead then launched a pinpoint cross from the right which found Durrell in space on the edge of the area. The former Chester midfielder brilliantly volleyed the ball towards the top left hand corner of the goal, yet Walker was on hand to make another fine stop to preserve his side’s lead.
Durrell fired a stinging shot at Walker from twenty five yards shortly after, before Nathan Blissett cut inside from the right and was unlucky to see his low drive cleared off the line by Giancarlo Gallifuoco, with Walker well beaten.
Despite the barrage of pressure which was being unleashed on the home side, they would double their lead firmly against the run of play on 36 minutes.
A long ball upfield was seized on by Marsh-Brown, who confidently rounded Jalal and fired into an empty net to give the scoreline a rather unrepresentative look.
Understandably, Macc looked shell shocked following the second goal and Femi Ilesanmi could well have made matters worse when he fired a twenty five yard drive fractionally wide of the near post five minutes later.
The remaining minutes of the first half saw both sides dig in, which resulted in no real clear cut chances for either side and as the Referee signalled for the interval it was clear that Macc needed to regroup before relaunching another onslaught.
Sir John did a fine job of galvanising the players during the half time break, so much so that the visitors dominated the second period right from the off.
Three minutes in Mitch Hancox smashed an eighteen yard attempt at Walker, who could only parry the ball at first but managed to recover to claim at the second attempt.
Two minutes later Scott Wilson’s devastating turn of pace took him past his marker down the right, before he pulled the ball back to Danny Whitehead who fired a first time shot inches past Walker’s far post.
On 56 minutes the influential Marsh-Brown went down under an innocuous challenge, yet as the hosts launched a rare counter attack he sprung to his feet and forced Jalal into a world class save following his fierce attempt from twenty yards out.
Just after the hour mark Danny Whittaker sent a dangerous in swinging corner into the box from the right hand side and when the ball eventually broke to Durrell he hit a venomous drive towards goal which was bravely blocked by Mitch Brundle.Mitch Pinnock then fired a speculative effort wide of Jalal’s far post, before Sir John’s side began to throw everything at Dover as they looked to launch another dramatic comeback.
Mitch Hancox then skilfully created space on the edge of the area, before hitting a powerful drive which Walker brilliantly tipped around the post to preserve his clean sheet.
From the resultant corner Durrell found Danny Whitaker on the edge of the area, yet he could only fire over Walker’s crossbar with time running out.
With seven minutes left substitute Tyrone Marsh broke free down the right, yet his defence splitting cross agonisingly evaded Blissett at the far post.
Three minutes later, Keith Lowe surged forward and hit a twenty five yard effort wide of Walker’s near post.
As the Fourth Official signalled there was to be a minimum of five minutes injury time to be played, the vociferous Silkmen faithful got behind their side for one last time – knowing that if any team could get something from this position then it would be ours.
Tyrone Marsh forced Walker into yet another fine save as his half volley was blocked by the ‘keeper’s feet, yet as the final whistle blew the away contingent clapped their heroes off the field – knowing that a win at Maidstone on Wednesday would see us open up a five point gap at the National League summit.Macclesfield Town: Jalal; Hodgkiss (Evans 82’), Lowe, Pilkington, Fitzpatrick, Durrell, Whitehead, Whitaker, Hancox (Burgess 82’), Wilson (Marsh 60’), Blissett
Subs not used: Ramsbottom, Kennedy
Dover Athletic: Walker, Gallifuoco, Parry, Essam, Lokko, Ilesanmi, Bellamy, Brundle, Pinnock (Daniel 69’), Azeez (Bird 89’), Marsh-Brown (Jeffrey 64’)
Subs not used: Nortey, Passley