Pasties, penalties and . . . Plymouth (take two)

Jen Kelly – a.k.a. Cheshire’s Revenge / The Word Nerd – brings ilovemacc her own take on the highs and lows of The Silkmen

A total of 60 days had passed since the original home fixture against the Pilgrims of Plymouth was supposed to take place.

A lot could’ve happened during that time but, as seems to have become standard issue in the world of MTFC, it feels like we’ve not moved forward an inch. A few players have come and gone in that time, granted. We’ve had a change of management too. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t feel like we’ve moved a muscle.

A solid start

Kennedy made a few changes from the 11 that started against Exeter. Tracey rightly made the cut after impressing from the bench, with Archibald and Arthur Gnahoua both welcomed back into the fold. We also managed to name six subs encouragingly, although can anyone tell me where our second goal keeper has gone? Injured perhaps, or out of favour? Maybe he’s just had enough of the nonsense?

If found please return to Moss Rose, London Road, Macclesfield…

Ahead of the game everything suggested we’d be in for a proper, old fashioned drubbing. Plymouth have been flying high and pushing for auto-promotion. We’ve had a number of changes across the team and have definitely struggled to find our groove. The weather was shocking and the pitch has been looking more bog-like each game. So the fact that Macc were the quickest out of the blocks was a surprise to all.

The first 10 minutes saw the home side get the best of the ball. Kirby, Tracey and Gnahoua all had a decent go, with only their own composure getting in the way of finding the net first. As Gnahoua lined up another shot it was certainly not looking like we’d be sobbing in Plymouth’s wake. 

Archibald was showing his speed down the left and launched a pelting run down the line, crossing beautifully into the path of the advancing Silkmen. Hell, even Cameron had a shot that was held by the Plymouth keeper. It looked as though Macc were well aware that they had to gain the advantage as soon as possible, before the visitors had a chance to regroup.

Frustratingly the early chances came to nothing. We were doing everything right but lacking the clinical element in front of goal. Plymouth were actually the first to get the ball in the net, albeit from a ridiculously offside position. Whether the almost-goal for the Pilgrims shit us up a bit I don’t know, but after that we slipped into the ‘hoof it and see’ game plan that we are all so horrendously familiar with. Hoofball is fine – not pretty or entertaining – but fine as long as you’ve got a big lump up front to aim at. And you can hardly describe Gnahoua as a big lump, can you?

The pastry outshines the pasties

As the half hour struck it was still all looking pretty positive for the Silkmen on balance. Plymouth were defending well but we were stopping them overrunning us and managing to get the odd attack in for good measure. The hoofball seems to have faded away thankfully, and we were putting some decent moves together, shaped mainly by Whitehead and Tracey.

I can’t quite put in to words how much I rate Whitehead. He’s my absolute favourite type of footballer; an intelligent, forward thinking midfielder that isn’t afraid to crunch in with a well timed tackle when needed. He almost seems to relish playing in the type of weather we’ve had recently and can still execute a perfect pass through a swamp. But he’s not the only one of our current players that I’ve been excited to watch. Kirby definitely has the makings of a top-draw player; if he could find his scoring boots I genuinely think he could be up there with my all-time Silkmen favourite Chris Byrne in terms of talent (but hopefully not in terms of skallying about!). The little I’ve seen of Shilow “Filo Pastry” Tracey has been enough to see his obvious assets and Gnahoua has come on leaps and bounds over the past few months.

Yooouu fooking what…?!!

It was a combination of two of these players that opened the scoring up on Saturday afternoon. After a Plymouth attack that had forced Kelleher to head just wide, Mitchell held the ball while Fiacre dusted himself off. The resulting pass fell to a Plymouth player but Whitehead was awake and picked his pocket. He set off at a gallop down the centre of the pitch, Tracey and Gnahoua with him. As he skipped past Plymouth player and pothole alike, Danny had the choice of passes. He chose Tracey who was advancing on the left of goal. Our flaky Filo friend took a couple of touches and looked like he’d gone too far, putting himself at a tight angle. The shot was perfect and pinged into the net off the far post.

More of that please . . . PLEASE!!

The goal was no more than we deserved. We’d had the best of the play, although perhaps not the best of the possession, and were worth our lead. But as every fan of a struggling team knows, a one goal lead is a precarious place to be. After a terrace discussion we all agreed that we needed at least one more goal to really start believing we could win this game. Plymouth were not letting up and had a great chance just after the restart, with a floating cross from the left sailing over the head of their forward. If he’d have had slightly bigger hair, it would’ve gone in.

The name’s Pastry. Filo Pastry….

Plymouth regrouped and started to turn their screw. They slowly started to push us back, deeper and deeper with every attack. We were defending with every body part but every clearance fell to a green shirt. Kennedy, who seems to chatter from kick off to full time, was screaming random words from the bench. A shout of ‘ARROW!’ floated through the air towards Kirby, who looked just as confused as we must’ve done at the random instructions. 

As we held out for half time, Plymouth had a free kick hit the side netting and for a split second we thought they’d equalised, as did their fans. But as the whistle went for the end of the half, we all agreed that it had been a decent half for us. Messy and certainly not perfect, but decent all the same.

Same shit, different day . . .

As an excellent chorus of “how shit must YOU be, you’re losing to Macc!” rang out from the SLE, we debated what the second half would bring. Another goal was needed, that much was certain, but there was some disagreement as to when would be the best time to score. Too early and you run the risk of a Plymouth second wind. Too late and we would have to suffer through most of the half nervously checking our watches. 

Straight from kick off Gnahoua raced off down the left and played a great ball in to Kirby. The shot was on target this time but was expertly blocked and bounced out of danger. Plymouth countered with a couple of oh-so-close crosses whipped in and a similar free kick shortly after that was whiskers away. Again we were playing into their hands, being forced to sit deep and defend. As yet another free kick was given away, it felt almost inevitable that there would be an equaliser.

It seemed Kennedy agreed and had decided to hand it to them on a silver platter. After more last ditch defending the only player that seemed to be pushing forward and gaining ground was Tracey. So it seemed bizarre that the man in charge chose to take him off for Fitz after 70 minutes. I can only think that the plan was for Archibald to push forward with Fitz behind him. Archibald is not a defender, that’s for sure, so maybe we were looking to defend our lead into the final quarter. But removing our most likely looking scorer seemed insane.

As my fingers lost all feeling in the icy air, we saw another snippet of what our team could be. Whitehead stole the play in midfield, ran into space on the left and found a perfect pass through the Archibald. Theo played a lovely ball over to Kirby, who shot straight at the keeper. It was almost perfect but no cigar. Not even a roll up. 

Plymouth won the ball back and advanced on goal. After some pin-balling around the box the ball ended up on the shoulders of two players for a split second. It all seemed fairly chaotic and so when Antoni Sarcevic face-planted into the mud we knew what was coming. The ref pointed confidently to the spot and, apart from a wide-eyed looking Whitehead who had inadvertently tripped the Mancunian midfielder, there was no real argument.

Another point in the bag . . .

The penalty was a poor one, and for a brief moment we thought our luck was on the up. Mitchell palmed the shot away and we all held our breath. Unfortunately he palmed it directly at the feet of Sarcevic, who sealed the deal at the second attempt. The frustration and sadness felt throughout the home support was personified in Andy Worth’s utterly depressed sounding announcement of the equaliser. Yet again, it was the last 10 minutes where we had come unstuck.

The whole team looked knackered. Legs were heavy and heads were hanging low. The game petered out with a few more halfhearted efforts from both sides before the whistle went for full time. 

It was hard to know how to feel as we huddled out of the ground in search of a warm cup of tea. Given the offer of a draw ahead of the game, we would’ve taken it with no questions asked. But having led for 50 minutes we should’ve, and could’ve, held on for the win. You certainly can’t fault the team for lack of effort but the lack of fitness and stamina is costing us every week. But that’s what you get when you’ve spent a lot of the season with no gym, no training ground and no rehab facilities. And there is only one person to blame for all that, isn’t there?

Saturday at Gresty Road will be another tough test against another team on the up. Right now I’d take a draw for sure. With Stevenage seemingly imploding in on themselves, we have to keep pace with Morecambe to avoid any gaps opening up. Crewe could go top if other results go their way so will not be taking any prisoners.

There’s still 65 days to go until we host Swindon on the last day of the season. Is anyone else already exhausted?


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Jen Kelly, aka The Word Nerd

“The Word Nerd: For everything you wanted to know about MTFC, and some things you didn’t…”

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