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Macclesfield experience the magic of the FA Cup

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Chris Bevan | 18:30 UK time, Saturday, 7 January 2012

At Moss Rose.

Everyone loves a good old-fashioned FA Cup giant-killing - unless, of course, it is your club on the receiving end.

With this in mind, Bolton fans travelled in trepidation to Macclesfield's cramped Moss Rose ground on Saturday for a third-round tie with the League Two side which - to use accepted parlance - had been earmarked as 'a potential banana-skin' for the Premier League outfit, and turned out that way too.

Wanderers survived, and probably should have won - they had enough chances late on.

But Macclesfield's gutsy display more than justified my journey, and everyone else's too, and they deserved the plaudits they will get for their 2-2 draw plus any extra cash that comes their way from the replay at the Reebok Stadium.

The chance of a shock was, I must confess, the reason I was there. It was the same for the army of television cameras, BBC Radio 5 live's main commentary team and most of the other inhabitants of the packed press box and media overflow area too.

The ingredients for an upset were all there beforehand. Are the higher division side struggling? Check. Will they make several changes to their team? Yes, six actually. Will they be playing in a tiny and unfashionable stadium outside of their usual comfort zone? Er, that too. Oh, and do the minnows have decent home form? Definitely.

Macclesfield celebrate

Macclesfield celebrate taking the lead against Bolton. Photo: Press Association

On the day, even the conditions appeared to favour the Silkmen, or at least they did if you believe that, if they are bad, they help the lower-ranked team. Days of rain before kick-off had left the pitch soggy, and there was also an arctic blast blowing through this leafy part of Cheshire. It didn't matter that you often get that sort of weather in Bolton - today, it would be a leveller.

There was more. Throw in a vociferous and capacity crowd of just under 6,000 and that FA Cup staple of a wonder goal for Macclesfield, by a hitherto unheralded and exotic-sounding player in French-born Guinea-Bissau international Arnaud Mendy, and you might be wondering how Bolton made it into the hat for the fourth-round draw instead of joining Wigan Athletic on the back page of Sunday's newspapers.

Indeed, when Mendy turned to smash a spectacular dipping 25-yard shot into the top corner of the net to put Macclesfield 2-1 up with 22 minutes left, Bolton boss Owen Coyle admitted he feared the worst.

"At the time you think that this is a typical FA Cup moment," Coyle said afterwards, ironically while taking part in one himself - in the absence of a press room at Moss Rose he was speaking to the media while crammed into a corner of a shabby stand, with a half-naked and freshly-showered Macclesfield player repeatedly and unwittingly opening the door into his back behind him. Wembley this was not.

"But then it was a typical FA Cup game," Coyle added. "You've seen the pitch - it's not a pitch we are used to because we are spoiled at Premier League level, and the wind was swirling about.

"I think we had the better clear-cut chances and should have buried the game but I don't think people will begrudge Macclesfield having another go - I certainly don't . As you all know, in the jobs you do, it gives you a great FA Cup story, and I have no problems with that."

In fact, David Wheater's 77th-minute equaliser for Bolton meant Saturday's real Cup story was elsewhere, although myself and most of the residents of Macclesfield's press box only learned about it later.

Around the same time as Wheater ended the Silkmen's hopes of a fairytale, for now at least, Matt Ritchie scored the winner for Swindon that made Wigan the biggest scalp of the day.

While Macclesfield's draw was not the result their fans or the media wanted, it was still no mean feat.

Swindon, also of League Two, were the only one of 13 lower-league sides to take on a top-flight team and win this weekend and only two others earned draws - MK Dons, unlucky to concede so late against QPR, and Birmingham, who played out a forgettable bore draw with Wolves.

Add up the goals in those ties and the Premier League teams scored 32 while conceding 13. Not much magic for the underdog there. Seismic shocks have been thin on the ground so far in the third round, although upsets have not.

Championship sides proved far more vulnerable, with Crawley Town, Stevenage and Notts County seeing off Bristol City, Doncaster and Reading respectively, while Wrexham earned a repay with Brighton, and Dagenham & Redbridge with Millwall. Well done to all.

A replay is Macclesfield's reward too, and it may not be the end of their hopes either - they gave Bolton a scare at the Reebok in the Carling Cup earlier this season when they led at half-time before losing 2-1.

Silkmen boss Gary Simpson did not throw in the towel when asked about his side's chances of reaching the fourth round for the first time in their 138-year history, but he is realistic enough to know achieving that is now a lot harder.

"We have given them two good games and we have nothing to fear," Simpson said. "But I know that it was this bite of the cherry where we might have caused the upset."

Even with Bolton's poor home form this season, Wanderers fans - and anyone in search of a shock - will probably agree.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well done to all the minnows!

  • Comment number 2.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 3.

    Fantastic result for macclesfield, and on the anniversary of Richard butchers death as well. Fitting tribute to him and the late Keith alexander. Shame they couldn't hold on to their lead, but they'll give it a good go at the Reebok - just look how they did in the league cup.

    Being a Bristol city fan I was wary going into today right from when the draw was made. We've got a poor recent record in the cup and Crawley are a really strong side, could be meeting us in the championship in a couple of years. They're two leagues below us and still were the bookies favourites! And they were more up for it throughout and easily the better team. Deserved to win and good luck to them in the fourth round.

  • Comment number 4.

    I absolutely love the fa cup for all this giant killing. I am so pleased that Wigan lost because even though I like them, it is delightful to see the underdog win. Hopefully all of the lower ranked tea,s that got replays will win, even if that is unlikely.

    I'm trying to recreate the old 606 at

  • Comment number 5.

    Ah, the magic of the Cup, don't you just love it! Well done Macclesfield, just go and enjoy the replay, you never know, you might even win it.

  • Comment number 6.

    Instead of paying the salaries of hundreds of football correspondents, reporters, commentators, pundits or whatever they're called perhaps my licence fee should be spent on televising some 'live' football. What a joke when over a four day weekend of FA cup football there are two live games on ITV. The BBC provide mickey mouse football coverage. They can't even do comprehensive radio commentaries. If the BBC can't compete with Sky then pack it an all together instead of doing half a job. What the heck does that Dan Walker do.
    Maccy, Maccy, Maccy, Maccy Macclesfield........ Milkmen, Milkmen

  • Comment number 7.

    What magic? I've not followed the dudley fa cup for about ten years, ever since the big clubs started to prioritise the PL and Champions League. A lot of the big teams refuse to play their full strength teams. Its the ugly sister when it comes to club competitions. Replays should be scrapped, they just fill the calender with pointless games but greed will never allow it.

  • Comment number 8.


    All the big, "greedy" clubs would agree with you - they don't want extra fixtures clogging up their schedule. Replays really benefit the more cash-strapped smaller clubs. For example, Macclesfield earning a possibly televised trip to a big stadium like the reebok is huge for the finances of that club. Both exeter and burton Albion have earned replays at old Trafford in recent years. These moments will go down forever in the clubs history as well as providing a huge financial boost.

    There may be an argument for scrapping replays, but greed certainly isn't one.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nav Sandhu

    It's still a top notch competition, for many reasons. Apart from the fact that there is silverware to be won and a route into Europe.

    It's a great day out at Wembley for any club's fans, no matter which club it is.

    Perhaps the most important part it plays in football, it gives much needed revenue to the lower clubs fortunate enough to be in the draw, especially when drawing one of the bigger fish.

    The FA cup may not be looked upon with the same regard, for the bigger clubs, as it once was but that is life, Champions League qualification and what they gave them, saw to that. More fool them, it is also being disrespectful to the paying fans of those clubs.

    Getting fourth place in a league is classed as success, now that is a joke and many fans fall for it. Sport is about competing to win, not to be second third or fourth. Using that basis Arsenal have been successful every season [in terms of football on the pitch] because they won a spot in a European competition.

  • Comment number 10.


    I totally agree with you, I could not believe a single FA Cup game was not on TV yesterday, its very very sad. Especially when there are certain places that have an Italian version of Sky and they have the games in the world! We just got ripped off in this country


    United played their strongest team today, City other than Hart had their strongest squad out. Liverpool played Oldham and had most of their top players out. It has nothing to do with the big teams not taking it seriously. Its not worth the money it once was compared to other trophies.

  • Comment number 11.

    As a Macclesfield fan I would say there was too much in this article about the size and condition of our stadium - but totally agree it was a great result and am (very) quietly optimistic about the replay. Looking forward to the draw too!

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm a Man United fan, but got hold of a season ticket for Macclesfield this season for a mere £50 (student price). I was at the game yesterday, in the Star Lane End, behind the goal where Mendy scored his wonder strike. What a moment, everyone went crazy, the opportunity to beat a Premier League side was a mere 20 minutes away. In the end it wasn't to be, but for the first time I truly understand the magic of the FA Cup 3rd round, how much it means to lower league clubs. Some of the football isn't great in a typical league game, but the players gave everything and more for the full 90, and for periods outplayed and outclassed a so called top flight team (by the way I don't agree that Bolton 'deserved to win', they had a few late chances but were awful throughout. Macc wasted some good early chances and if it wasn't for some nervy defending from an early corner would probably have grabbed a deserved victory). I can definitely see myself renewing me ticket for years to come, for days like yesterday. And I suggest to all proper football fans to give the lower leagues a go!

  • Comment number 13.

    Hey! sponsor me for The Mile for Sport Relief

  • Comment number 14.

    As a Bolton fan my greatest highlight nearly 20 years ago was going to Anfield as a third division side and playing them off the park (having drawn 2-2 at home at the first go, gulp!). I hope all the Macclesfield fans enjoyed yesterday and hope and pray that Bolton's players don't think all they have to do is turn up because watching yesterday's performances by both sides prove they'd be stupid to do so.

    BTW it was great to be able to stand on the terraces yesterday and I'm sure that helps create a great atomsphere with "only" 5,000 in the ground. Maybe one day I'll be able to watch my beloved Wanderers from the terraces at the Reebok.

  • Comment number 15.

    moz 1991

    good for you mate and from how you wrote and the 1991 reference, i guess [although I may be wrong] your one of the younger guys, watching footy.

    It's not all prem and at macc's level some of those matches can be dire as you wrote [some of the prem isn't great either] but there is a kind of magic at a lowel level. It's got to have something to do with striving to go forward.

    I always find the magic in seeing a player who shouldn't be there and a couple of years later seeing him playing at a much higher level. the cup can and has made many a career in football.

    Anyway i was at Tranmere watching my beloved Brentford surrender yet another lead and I can have have experienced that magic feeling that you speak of, when that strike went in. .

  • Comment number 16.

    I was delighted to hear that the average attendance of the third round games is going to be the highest in 30 years. Great to know so many people went to games this weekend. I'm a Leicester fan and we took 8000 to Forest and we enjoyed the day even though Forest fans didnt seem to have the same affection for the occasion with only 10000 home supporters. If we beat them then we are at home to Swindon in round 4. If we were away then I would be looking forward to the trip but it will probably feel like just another game at home.

    To me some things have to change to try and just give us a few better matches. How about the lower league club in a tie can choose which ground the match will be played at? They can go for the extra money or the extra chance of progress by being at home. Maybe there should be no replays in all premier league ties before the 5th or 6th round. This would save them the bother of an extra game and they may even try with a strong side instead of throwing out a few back ups.

  • Comment number 17.


    that is a way to go, with the lower side at home or dicatating the venue by choice, it's already used elsewhere and works well.

  • Comment number 18.

    @6 It's Silkmen not Milkmen (sorry to be a pedant).

  • Comment number 19.

    The FA Cup's lost all its appeal,it needs a change.


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