Matthew Barnes-Homer’s late brace earned Macclesfield a spot in the FA Cup Fourth Round for the first time, coming from behind to beat Championship leaders Cardiff City at the Moss Rose.
A much changed Bluebirds side created little throughout, but went in front through Nat Jarvis before Barnes-Homer forced home Jack Mackreth’s cross five minutes from time and then three minutes later slammed in a penalty to send the home fans wild.
Malky Mackay’s Cardiff came into the game seven points clear at the top of the Championship but with numerous first teamers rested, offered little.
The visitors had the ball in the net in just the second minute when Slovenian forward Etien Velikonja nodded down a high ball for Jarvis to finish but the flag was already up for offside.
The Silkmen forced the first corner of the game in the seventh minute when full-back Kevin McNaughton nodded behind, however Charlie Henry’s flag kick failed to beat the first man. The ball was only cleared to Keiran Murtagh and his miss-hit shot scuffed wide and just out of the reach of Carl Martin sliding in.
Murtagh was the first man in the referee’s book when he brought down Filip Kiss 25 yards out and Stephen McPhail’s free kick was deflected off the top of the wall and into the grateful arms of Lance Cronin.
Henry tested Joe Lewis on 20 minutes with a well hit drive which could have caused more problems if it wasn’t straight at the keeper and then a few minutes later Murtagh’s first time effort flew just wide from 25 yards.
Macc looked hungrier than their lofty opponents and on many occasions the Cardiff backline were caught in possession in their own half with Macc dominating territory without creating many clear-cut opportunities.
An ambitious long range curler from Joe Ralls drifted a few yards wide and Declan John whipped in a teasing cross from the left in the 28th minute which fortunately failed to find a team mate in the centre.
Adedeji Oshilaja made a tremendous saving challenge to deny Barnes-Homer after he was played in by John Paul Kissock who reacted quickest to the loose ball when Amari Morgan-Smith was tackled.
Centre back Ben Hugent’s downward header was well held by Cronin when he got on the end of a Jarvis cross from the right but Macc continued to look the better side with neat build up play outside the box.
By far the best chance of the half fell to Henry in the 35th minute when Pablo Mills’ long free kick from halfway was flicked on by Nat Brown and fell to the midfielder, who failed to make proper contact from the corner of the six yard box and scuffed into the side netting.
Cardiff’s best attacks were coming down their left side and in the 42nd minute John got goal-side of the defence and evaded Henry’s risky sliding challenge on the edge of the box, before his blast towards the near post was well parried behind by Cronin.
The Bluebirds continued to live dangerously at the back and in first half stoppage time two loose passes in their own box almost cost them dearly. Sam Wedgbury charged onto the ball before going down under pressure, but nothing was given and the referee went off the field to boos from the crowd who felt a number of decisions had gone against the Silkmen later in the period.
Four minutes into the second half Henry’s cross from the right was poorly cleared straight to Morgan-Smith, who after a touch to control saw his shot deflected up and over t he bar by Nugent.
Expensive signing Velikonja looked to be in behind the Macc defence in the 52nd minute before a brilliant challenge from Mills regained possession and allowed him to clear the danger.
The Silkmen continued to play their football but also caused problems from set pieces and looked to put the ball into dangerous areas whenever they could from free kicks around half way.
From one of these on 55 minutes Murtagh swung it in from the touchline and after keeper Lewis punched the initial cross clear, the ball was put back in by Mills and Morgan-Smith fouled the keeper as he jumped for the high ball.
The deadlock was broken against the run of play in the 57th minute and came from the dangerous left flank. A good ball infield from the touchline allowed John to get to the by-line and his low ball across was forced in under Cronin at the near post by Jarvis.
Macc looked briefly deflated after going behind and Cronin made a tremendous one handed save to palm away skipper McPhail’s 20 yard volley as the visitors threatened a second.
In the 69th minute Jarvis’ good run down the left channel was picked out and his cross-shot was hacked clear by substitute Peter Winn six yards out.
Moments later Brown bravely blocked a thundering drive from Filip Kiss and when the ball dropped to McPhail, his side footed effort was placed straight at Cronin.
In the 73rd minute Barnes-Homer beat Lewis to a high ball, but frustratingly the ball wouldn’t drop to a blue shirt. The Macc hitman was found by Winn’s ball angled in behind the defence a minute later but his first time effort over his shoulder flew over.
Cronin was caught out of position at the other end when he came out to meet a long ball bouncing out towards the corner flag but was beaten to it as he failed to let it run out for a goal kick. The ball fell for Velikonja who ambitiously volleyed goalwards from an incredibly tight angle and went very close but the ball bounced across the six yards box and behind for a goal kick.
On 77 minutes Murtagh stormed forwards with the ball at his feet and slipped the ball through to Barnes-Homer, who blasted into the side netting from a tight angle.
With the game ticking into the final ten minutes, Steve King had used all of his subs with Winn, Jack Mackreth and Waide Fairhurst coming on for Henry, Morgan-Smith and Martin.
Fairhurst’s fabulous cross-field pass found Craig Braham-Barrett in space on the right and as he dribbled into the area at speed he went between two defenders and went down, but the penalty claims were waved away.
Just as it seemed that Macc’s good play and quality performance would see them tagged as plucky losers, the tie was turned on its head in the final five minutes.
Brilliant play down the right found Mackreth who burst past his man using his raw pace, before checking back onto his left foot and delivering a perfect inswinging cross over the head of Lewis for Barnes-Homer to slide the ball in under pressure at the back post.
With fans then dreaming of a replay, things got even better for the Silkmen with just two minutes left on the clock. Barnes-Homer was pushed in the back, giving Macc a free kick 30 yards out and when Winn’s cross came in Mills managed to get his head on the ball, but fell under pressure and the referee pointed to the spot to the visitors’ disbelief. Leading scorer Barnes-Homer stepped up and coolly thumped his spot kick into the bottom corner for his 20th of the season.
Groans were heard all around the ground when five minutes of time added on were indicated, but Macc defended soundly and managed to keep the ball in the corner for a large amount of the time to hold on for a famous victory and a first ever shot at Round Four.