Macclesfield 1-1 Tranmere: Report

Tranmere’s FA Trophy tie against Macclesfield is only at half-time ahead of next week’s second leg, but Rovers will feel like they have the slight advantage after a 1-1 draw at Moss Rose.

Micky Mellon’s side flew into an early lead through a Jeff Hughes penalty, but they were not able to hold on against a side who have proved a bit of a bogey team over the last 18-months.

It means that the two teams head to Prenton Park on Saturday with a place at Wembley still up for grabs, and the double-legged affair still very much open.

But Rovers’ home form has been strong of late, and they will hope that this result is a platform to build on as they hope for a first appearance at the national stadium since 2000.

Given what was at stake, this was perhaps the first time Tranmere have gone into a game since slipping into the National League where winning was not a necessity.

A draw would be a good result for the visitors, if they can build on it in seven days time.

That was perhaps reflected in Micky Mellon’s team selection as Steven Jennings came into the side for his first start in over a month at the expense of Adam Mekki, whilst Adam Buxton, available again after suspension and injury, replaced Lee Vaughan.

It did not take long for Tranmere to make their mark on the game, as James Norwood was bundled over in the box with only 58 seconds on the clock.

Referee Peter Wright immediately pointed to the spot, giving Jeff Hughes the chance to put Rovers 1-0 up.

The midfielder duly obliged, although Scott Flinders got a big hand to his spot-kick, only for the ball to deflect into the other corner.

The decision left the Macclesfield fans riled, with dozens rushing to hurl abuse at the official when he came near the home dugout moments later.

But their boos almost turned to cheers when Chris Holroyd thrashed a shot just wide from 25-yards as the hosts looked to hit back.

They thought they had equalised on ten minutes when Steve McNulty rattled his own cross bar with a header from David Fitzpatrick’s cross on ten minutes.

Fortunately for Tranmere though the ball bounced out to safety after going perilously close to the goal-line.

Kingsley James was next to have a go with a diving header that went wide from a deep cross at the back post as the Silkmen started to dominate.

They were passing the ball around much better than Rovers, who were struggling to get out of their own half at times.

Indeed, too often their get out was to hoof clear to Andy Cook, but he was winning very little against the experienced George Pilkington.

Liam Ridehalgh created one chance, a cross that was met at the back post by James Norwood, but he could only head wide from a tough position.

Towards the end of the half, the full-back had a chance of his own, but his 25-yard effort was easily beaten away by Flinders.

But it was a frustrating half for both teams as they each conceded needless and cheap fouls that prevented either side from finding any flow.

Having soaked up so much pressure in the opening 45-minutes, Micky Mellon made a change at half-time, with Connor Jennings replacing Steven Jennings.

The forward has only just returned from a month long loan spell at Moss Rose as he looked to get match fit after a serious knee injury.

He was not afforded a warm welcome from the home crowd though, who jeered his appeals for a free-kick minutes after coming on.

At the other end, Ollie Norburn hit a timid shot straight at Scott Davies at his near post before Mitch Hancox could not quite get enough bend on a 22-yard effort that drifted past the post.

Jennings then had a go himself, firing wide with a low shot that never looked like troubling the goal.

And then, as they had threatened to do in the first half, Macclesfield got the equaliser they probably deserved.

Rovers struggled to deal with a long ball into the box, and as Davies came out to meet it, a pass sideways took him out of the game and allowed Norburn to slide home into an empty net.

Norwood had a chance to restore the lead almost immediately as he was played in by Connor Jennings, but a heavy touch narrowed the angle and the ‘keeper blocked his effort.

Davies was called into action again with 15 minutes left, springing to his left to deny a fierce shot from Hancox.

But that was another long-range drive, showing the strength of the two defences as neither strike force was afforded much space or time.

Indeed, each team probably settled for the draw in the end.

They know how important it is to still be in with a chance of reaching Wembley next week, and most likely see a stalemate as a decent result.


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