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Classic Silkmen: Stevenage Borough (A) 29th March 1997

30 August 2019

Ahead of this Saturday's trip to Stevenage, we take a look back at the most famous encounter between the two sides - when Sammy McIlroy took his side down to Broadhall Way back on 29th March 1997.

The Silkmen were embroiled in a fierce promotion scrap with the Hertfordshire outfit and Kidderminster Harriers at the time and made the trip south knowing that Paul Fairclough's men would provide a stern test of our Championship credentials.

All three sides involved in the promotion race had experienced Football League heartache in the three years prior, with Kidderminster (1994), Macc (1995) and Stevenage (1996) all been denied their place in the promised land due to ground regulations.

With all three stadiums now meeting Football League criteria, Sammy's blue and white clad heroes walked out at Broadhall Way knowing that a win would unquestionably give us the upper hand in what was already a scintillating title race.

Neil Howarth led the team out to a cacophony of noise from the army of visiting supporters and it was the away side who started in the ascendancy.

Orchestrating proceedings was 21 year old Chris Byrne, whose arrival at the Moss Rose the previous February had coincided with a devastating run of thirteen victories in fourteen games.

Byrne's creativity and electric pace threatened to unlock the Stevenage defence on numerous occasions, yet it was the hosts who would break the deadlock just before the half hour mark.

Des Gallagher's agile save from Neil Sorvel's effort at one end allowed the home side to break to the other, where Stuart Beevor's pinpoint cross was steered home by prolific striker Gary Crawshaw.

Macc rallied following the goal and could well have equalised eight minutes before the break when Phil Power found the back of the Stevenage net - only to be marginally ruled offside.

The second half began in much the same vein as the first had ended - with The Silkmen dominating proceedings and Paul Fairclough's side looking a potent threat on the counter.

Seven minutes after the restart, goalscorer Crawshaw turned provider as his cross was calmly tucked away by Neil Catlin to double the host's lead.

For many, the tie was now over and this belief was exemplified when John Askey was sent-off just two minutes after Catlin's strike had sent the home contingent into raptures once more.

Yet Sammy's men were no strangers to adversity - the whole foundations of the club had been rocked the previous October when it was announced that Chairman Arthur Jones had tragically passed away.

Nobody can ever exaggerate how much that glorious side wanted to ascend into the Football League to honour Arthur's memory - it was something that he lived and ultimately died for and so, against all the odds the fight-back began.

Within five minutes of being reduced to ten men, the deficit was halved as Steve Wood tenaciously scrambled the ball over Gallagher's line as the Silkmen fans frantically willed their idols towards the most unlikeliest of comebacks.

With fifteen minutes left on the clock, the Referee pointed to the penalty spot and Carwyn Williams duly restored parity by confidently converting from twelve yards.

The hosts were clearly shell-shocked, yet Macc were in no way content with just claiming a share of the spoils as they defiantly sought a winner.

With the clock showing that the ninety minutes had been played, Macc were awarded an injury time free kick twenty yards from goal.

Up stepped Steve Wood, who confidently put the ball down and took a few steps back to assess his options.

Everyone held their breaths, the tension was tangible and as Woody connected with the ball, time stood still.

After clearing the Stevenage wall, the ball seemed to take an eternity to drop - but when nestled into the bottom left hand corner a state of pure delirium ensued.

The images of the team celebrating that majestic strike will be a poignant and emotional part of our history forevermore.

They symbolise belief, unity and passion - but most of all, they symbolise the proud defiance which characterises our Football Club when the odds are stacked firmly against us.

Macclesfield Town: Price, Tinson, Edey, Payne, Howarth, Sorvel, Askey, Wood, Ohandjanian (Williams), Power, Byrne

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