Saturday, 26 January 2013

Macclesfield Town 0 Wigan Athletic 1

FA Cup, fourth round
Attendance: 5,849

A ‘non-league home to Premiership’ fourth round tie in the north of England, that kicks off at 3pm on a Saturday and for which tickets are readily available online at a mere £15. That sounds too good to be true – but wasn’t in the case of this match. It was also the first time Macclesfield had made it through to the fourth round in their 139-year history.

Macclesfield and Wigan were rivals in the Northern Premier League as recently as 1977-78 after which Wigan were admitted to the Football League. In football terms that’s all light years ago. You can ring the changes since by ringing the different types of name on the team sheet. Three of Macclesfield’s squad have in vogue double-barrelled surnames while Wigan’s squad included lots of players with z or a vowel at the end of their name. They hail from Oman, Ivory Coast, Argentina, Chile, Barbados, Honduras, Holland, Netherlands, France, Japan, Slovakia, Paraguay and Spain. That’s practically a World Cup draw. Of course, every Premier League team has loads of foreigners these days but such cosmopolitanism associated with such a quintessential northern town as Wigan still seems a bit strange to me.

Doing his best to uphold tradition was Macclesfield manager and Harry Enfield look-a-like Steve King. He has a fine short back and sides in the best of 1950s footballer traditions – and what parting to boot. “What a nice suit, What a nice suit, Steven King, What a nice suit!” a group of drunken lads right next to me opioned on his tweedy threads to the tune to Sloop John B. Their bawdiness got the stewards  (some bussed in from Wrexham) twitching. Subsequent verses remarked on how “he’s got lovely hair” and “lovely brogues”. Indeed.

We were stood in the London Road paddock which sadly meant I wasn’t in a position to admire the roof above with MTFC  on the fascia which is the Moss Rose’s only remarkable feature if you exclude the disused look-out box in the corner. Nice, though, at this advanced stage in the competition to be in a ground partially overlooked by houses. These – and the brass band playing on the pitch at half-time – were the last vestiges of non-leagueism I will encounter in the Cup this season. In one corner was a giant 12ft pile of snow which had been cleared from the pitch by volunteers at 7am. Full marks to the ground staff for getting this one on, by the way, and to the M62 gritters for making my long journey over hills a doddle.

Wigan took  the lead on six minutes with a penalty which rather put a dampener on proceedings. The Silkmen (one of those rare nicknames used more than the actual name of the club) later had a strong claim of their own when Fairhurst was clearly shoved in the back by Golobart. Steve King wasn’t happy. “It was a stonewall penalty, as blatant as you are going to see and I have left the referee my number so he can ring me and apologise,” he said. “That's killed our game and killed our FA Cup dream. Stevie Wonder could see we were worth a replay, at least.” Have to say that I didn’t realise Stevie was in the ground.

The game lacked ebb and flow and followed the same pattern throughout: even stevens with few clear cut chances. Macclesfield had three times as many shots and corners – but usually from range or rather wayward without really threatening the Wigan goal although Audel did have a free header from five yards out. The visitors – who made eight changes to their side from their previous Premier League match – looked a little sharper without often testing the emergency loanee Silkmen goalie. Sadly, not a classic, then. The real excitement and upset we craved was happening elsewhere …

Programme notes: The edition included a brilliantly researched and illustrated feature about past programmes of matches between today’s two sides. I particularly like the graphic for the front cover of this 1961/62 issue.

Shocks? What shocks?: OK: so Luton beat Norwich to become the first non-league team to defeat a top flight team since 1989 when Sutton knocked out Coventry. Well, yes, but that’s where the comparison ends. Luton are in truth a league team that accidentally find themselves in the Conference while Norwich – who fielded only five of the previous week’s line-up – have only been back in the Premier League for 18 months. Until or unless an out and out non-League side beats a full strength, established Premier League side (and I don’t think that will ever happen again) Sutton’s achievement remains unmatched in my view.

A load of old balls: No orange – or even yellow – ball needed today after all. But for that retro touch you only had to watch The Big Match Revisited the following day for a re-run of Man City v. Chelsea from 1979. The ball is more of a beacon than Rudolph’s nose in a snow storm. Pitiful coverage of the two non-league ties by ITV today, incidentally. Neither match was broadcast live and the highlights of the games lasted for just 2:04  (Macclesfield) and 5:34 (Luton).

Keep your knickers on: I’m not in the habit of searching online for images of girls taking each others shorts off – but did, nevertheless, recently stumble (honest) across this shot of a women’s international between Scotland and England from 1969. Girls: pur-lease!


Dave said...

I enjoyed that read, but what next in this years FA Cup travelouge??

Most of all thanks for visiting Moss Rose.

Paul Kirkwood said...

I've hung up my rattle for another season. My interest in the Cup runs out when the northern non-leaguers have been knocked out.

The Onion Bag said...

Paul, as usual a very enjoyable read.
I always look forward to your 'publications' - great stuff.

Paul Kirkwood said...

Thanks for the compliment. I enjoy your blog too - and I have just added a link to it from my blog. I think we watch football with the same eyes. Love the pic of the "drive through" stand, by the way.