League Two Table
Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
By: Andrew Doherty
WE already know from recent experience today's opponents how hard it is to break down Macclesfield, having spent 135 minutes failing to do so. They may have financial problems, which hopefully they'll recover from, but they know how to fight and defend.
We've shown fighting spirit too, coming back from a deficit on numerous occasions, including last week's two-goal recovery exercise at Oldham, but were unable to do it again in midweek in the 0-1 loss at Salford. A dour struggle beckoned.
In bright and breezy conditions, Town attacked the Osmond end for the first half. The line-up read: McKeown – Hewitt, Waterfall, Gibson, Hendrie – Cook, Hessenthaler, Robson – Green, Hanson, Rose. Little noise came from the 3794 spectators. The 69 Macclesfield fans were silent.
The first half was awful. As the game went on, the play became more long ball and vertical. As well as the aerial activity, this was a languid game with few and without exception wasted half chances. Neither side knew how to find their own players. Hessenthaler had a shot after about 15 minutes which went straight to the goalkeeper. Rose spent his time trying to deal with high balls and make something of them with his pacy runs. Hessenthaler, Town's best player, got round the defence on 41 minutes but Green headed well over. Macclesfield were reduced to long balls and snap shots. McKeown had to save a long-range shot from Harris on 18 minutes, but the game was more noteworthy for a lot of fouls, poor quality play and a fussy referee. On 44 minutes Archibald had a chance but predictably screwed it wide. The half was devoid of action or interest. If the poor quality of play and constant interruptions for fouls wasn't enough, both sides looked weary and lacking in energy.
"Expected goals are not real goals" (M. Jolley, 2019). Quite apart from being like a Theresa May election soundbite, this half had not led to any expectation of any goal, let alone a real one. "The only bit of excitement I've had is going for a wee", commented a spectator behind me.
Wright replaced Rose at half time. But the game continued to be played at a pedestrian pace. Macclesfield had a little spell without uplifting this flat fare. Then on 56 minutes Robson picked the ball up in space on the left, ran and ran before cutting inside and to everyone's amazement smashing the ball into the top of the net. Town 1, Macclesfield 0. The goal game right out of the blue. Gnahoua missed a chance for Macclesfield falling over his feet, but it was Town who took heart from the goal. A move between Wright and Hewitt on 61 minutes led to a cross from which Robson had a chance, but Town's goal scorer fired well over. Great defensive work by Gibson started a run from Cook. Town pressed and Hanson won a corner. Town were more in the game now, but it still hadn't livened up as Andy Humbo and I watched the game while discussing national flags. On 68 minutes Wright went on a run, refused to be thrown off and was eventually fouled on the edge of the box. Cook's free-kick went straight into the wall, but at least Wright was showing the energy which had been missing. The mistakes still flowed, however. Wright was fouled, and Hanson was unable to get on the end of Robson's free-kick. On 72 minutes Clifton replaced Cook. Nothing much happened as both sides floundered until 80 minutes when a long ball from the left fell to the impressive Wright who from inside the box volleyed his shot off the inside of the post. Whitehouse replaced Robson on 83 minutes. Town had the chance of a break on 87 minutes when Green could have set up the electric Wright but the pass was poor. Otherwise the last few minutes amounted to a lot of battling and struggling, and to defend their lead Town played out the game by holding the ball and keeping possession. Macclesfield had one last chance as Ironside looked to pounce but McKeown was there first and after a poor game Town deservedly hung on to the final whistle. So it ended: Town 1, Macclesfield 0.
Town improved after scoring as the introduction of Wright in the second half provided a spark, but this was a dull game where moments of quality were minimal. Macclesfield had nothing to offer, as both sides put on an equally tired performance. It's nice to win, and it could be said that we ground out a victory, which is real enough but when it comes to expectations, being part of the promotion picture would seem unrealistic.
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