Macclesfield Town – 2
Swindon Town – 0
Football League 2 – 30th October 2011
It was during a remarkable Indian summer that I attended my first league game of the season. I was out with a friend the Tuesday before the League Two encounter described in this blog post when he said that he was off with his friend – a staunch Swindon Town fan – to watch them play Macclesfield, a not-to-tricky journey from Manchester. He invited me, or rather I invited myself, but shared a warning that we were in the away end at Moss Lane.
Moss Lane’s away end – the Silkman Stand – is old school terracing with crash barriers and no roof. Mysupporting mate warned me about the game, saying that as an away day Moss Lane is depressing. With that said, he went during February. I had the pleasure of going in the middle of an epic heatwave, which meant that the uncharacteristic shorts and a t-shirt were the order of the day in Macclesfield.
I met my comrades (a die hard Swindon Town fan and a die-even-harder Northern Ireland fan) in the bar above Manchester Picadilly where we shared our hopes for the game. Of course, one third of us was hoping for a Swindon win, but we (stupidly) put money on improbable results, my friend bet on a Swindon Town win, and I did my Groundhoppers Insurance bet of £3 on a 0-0 draw. We also were keen to try out the “new and improved” menu that was heralded on The Silkmen’s website to make a debut at the upcoming fixture.
Just before 7 we arrived at Macclesfield Station. We asked which way it was to Moss Rose, where a copper told us it was quite a walk of a mile or so. This was made into quite more of a walk due to me foolishly misreading Google Maps and sending us not only the wrong way, but up an annoyingly steep hill. After being redirected the right way, we arrived still 10 minutes before kick off.
Macclesfield Town – in a bid to increase attendance, moved a number of home fixtures to Friday night. This, along with the fact that the ground is rather small – holding no more than 8,000 people - lead to a cauldron of noise from The Silkmen fans. We rocked up to the now famous food stand for some of the new found food to be told that there was no hot food until half time. Dejected, we took our place on the stand with Swindon Town fans, who unlike their rivals for the game sat in silence.
Swindon are famous for a couple of things. Firstly, they were one of the first teams in the Premier League, lasting one season before being relegated rather unceremoniously (although they hold the honour of taking the most points off Champions Manchester United that season), the second is that they are managed by controversial figure Paolo Di Canio. Having such a high profile manager hasn’t really helped the Robins, as they’ve been distinctly average, finding themselves in 10th place in the league.
The teams were lead out and I saw an odd occurrence. The Macclesfield Town Mascot – took part in the team handshake, shaking hands with all the officials and opposition players, before resuming his usual duties of geeing up the crowd. It worked, as the game got even more noisy when it kicked off. Though not admittedly from Swindon’s point of view.
The game kicked off and the first half was a bit dull. Few chances were had by both sides and much of the game was played in the middle third. In fact I can’t remember much of what went on, so we’ll just leave the match report at that. Now to try the new food menu.
Unfortunately, the food wasn’t particularly great. I don’t know whether the new food menu was for the home end or there were issues but the burger I received was decidedly stodgy and unappetising. Still, it filled me up for what hopefully should be a better second half.
It was, the game screamed into life when George Donnelly collected a 40 yard cross, beat a defender and then scored into the bottom left hand corner on the 70th minute. It was no more than Macclesfield deserved after a strong start, but with 20 minutes left the game the reserved Swindon fans became a cauldron of activity following a flashpoint which should’ve lead to a chance for an equaliser.
Matt Ritchie of the Swindon Town midfield danced his way into the box, taking the ball around the keeper only for Jose Veiga (Macclesfield’s keeper) to clip Ritchie’s ankles. Ritchie kept his footing, but let a weak shot go. This was deemed to be an advantage and as such there was no comeback for the earlier foul. The Swindon fans were incensed, storming the pitch, and almost storming onto the pitch. It didn’t help that a few minutes later, Ross Draper scored an amazing strike from just outside the box to put the game beyond Swindon.
Me and my neutral mate were cursing the fact we were in the Swindon end, which was dull and lifeless for most of the game, compared with the Macclesfield end, which was full of life. One reason can probably be attributed to it.
Macclesfield struggled with attendances for many years, often scraping above 1,000 a few times, and one such initiative that Macclesfield have employed (I wouldn’t say lead, I think Accrington Stanley did it first) was to play on a Friday night. This saw attendances go up by at least a thousand. With less competition for games, Macclesfield now get the crowds in. I’m unsure how it’d work in lower leagues such aswhen players could miss games due to work commitments, but it may be worthwhile testing.