Mark Yates and his team made history at the Banks’ Stadium on Tuesday night, as The Silkmen heroes defied the odds to progress to the Third Round of the League Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
Player - Assistant Manager Danny Whitaker ripped up the Walsall script when his stoppage-time equaliser meant The Silkmen’s cup dream wasn’t overat the end of normal time as Yates’ side gave themselves one final shot at glory via another penalty competition.
Despite first-half goals from Jamie Grimes and Harry Smith to give The Silkmen total authority in the early stages, Walsall fought back when Kieron Morris salvaged hope for the hosts when his strike found the top-corner to spur The Saddlers onto another famous comeback.
It could have been another agonising fixture of two halves for Yates and his team when a second-half Andy Cook penalty levelled the tie, before seconds later debutant Josh Gordon struck home to complete an incredible comeback for The Saddlers.
However, it was The Silkmen who had the final say as Whitaker’s 92nd-minute leveller took the game to penalties and Manchester United loanee Kieran O’Hara became the hero as the Macclesfield goalkeeper magnificently saved three from the spot to send the away supporters into delirium.
The result means Macclesfield will be in the hat for Thursday’s Third Round draw- where they will be thrown amongst some of the country’s most illustrious teams.
It was a truly enthralling and pulsating game for all and one which will undoubtedly live long in the memory of all those who witnessed it.
The game started brightly for The Saddlers who came flying out the blocks forcing The Silkmen on the backfoot early on and skipper David Fitzpatrick was called into early heroics when he denied the hosts the lead with a goal-line clearance.
Despite being pegged back, Macclesfield opened the scoring when Grimes was on hand to tap in Malachi Napa’s deflected shot to give the visitor’s an early lead.
It got even better for The Silkmen when Smith drove home a ferocious 35-yard low drive to put Yates’ side into a dream position just after 25 minutes.
The Saddlers responded however, when Morris struck an incredible effort into the top right-hand corner to pull one back for the hosts ten minutes before the break.
In what has been a season of two halves for Macc so far, two goals in a matter of minutes looked to put the game out of reach for The Silkmen just after the hour mark.
Referee Darren Drysdale pointed to the spot when Cook was adjudged to have been brought down by Fiacre Kelleher. Cook stepped up to take the spot-kick - only to be denied by Silkmen keeper O’Hara before the striker pounced to slot home the rebound.
The leveller left The Silkmen shell-shocked and Macc weren’t given the opportunity to breathe following The Saddlers equaliser, as seconds later the visitors found themselves trailing as debutant Gordan slotted home as the Banks’ Stadium suddenly erupted.
With the clock running out a swarm of Silkmen attacks exemplified the fact that this squad never know when they are beaten.
Substitute Tyrone Marsh quickly made his impact on the game when his cross in the dying minutes of the match was met by Whitaker, whose delicate header left Walsall keeper Chris Dunn helpless to take one of this season's standout ties to penalties.
The visitors took great confidence from their impressive unbeaten penalty shoot-out record, and The Silkmen once again defended their perfect tally when O’Hara made it four penalty saves on the night to drag Macclesfield into the Third Round of the Carabao Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
The Third Round Draw will be held on Thursday evening and we will all be dreaming of pulling out one of the big boys ahead of it.
By Joshua Kerr