A youthful Macclesfield Town U21s side succumbed 3-0 against a clinical Barnton Town U21’s team this afternoon at Platt Lane.
The opening 15 minutes of the game saw neither side able to get a strong grasp on the game. Macclesfield Town claimed the first shot on target 20 minutes in from a Callum Evans free kick. However, his effort was saved with ease by Jack Reynolds.
A flurry of chances ensued for Macc. The first chance came 23 minutes in after Kyah Cahill met a Dan Dolling free kick from seven yards out. His header was turned behind by Jack Reynolds in superb fashion to keep the score level.
Amin Ahmed forced another save just a minute later with a right-footed shot from just outside the box.
Macc continued to apply the pressure well in the opening third of the game. Zak Butterworth was played down the right flank and teed up Cavan Holford, but his shot whistled just wide of the near post for a goal kick.
Despite some good early pressure from the Silkmen, their inability to carve out a clear-cut chance proved costly. Josh Rigby met a cross 32 minutes in with a powerful header to make it 1-0 to the visitors. Riccardo Longato was able to get his fingertips onto the ball and tip it against the post, but the pace on the header made it a near impossible save.
The rest of the half saw Barnton Town assert themselves onto the game more convincingly. However, neither side was able to create much in terms of chances in the final third.
The second half saw Paul McGuire swap one 16-year-old for another. Liam Logan replaced Kyah Cahill at half time to provide some fresh legs up front for Macclesfield Town U21s.
Macc were punished within 15 seconds of the second half starting. A precise 30-yard through ball was picked up on left wing and squared across to Essa for the simple tap in to make it 2-0.
Macc pressed on in the hope of a quick reply, Liam Logan held the ball up nicely and played the ball into the path of Amin Ahmed, but his curling effort went narrowly wide 50 minutes in.
The game gradually started to open up and become more end-to-end. Josh Rigby, who scored the first goal, saw his effort from 25 yards out curl just wide for a goal kick 58 minutes in.
Just two minutes later, Liam Logan got his first chance of the game, but saw his tame header saved by Jack Reynolds. The resulting counter-attack saw Barnton Town U21s come close to scoring a third, however, the ever-present Riccardo Longato saved well to give Macc some hope of a potential comeback.
Barnton Town U21s continued to test Longato with another two shots in quick succession 63 minutes in.
With 67 minutes on the clock, Paul McGuire gave two more 16-year olds a chance to shine. Fabio Outtara and Connor Austin came off the bench to replace Rocco Fragapane and Cavan Holford for the closing stages of the game.
Riche Makelele provided the next chance for Macclesfield Town. Some neat interplay 76 minutes in saw him wide on the edge of the box, but his inviting cross was just centimetres from the on-rushing Connor Austin.
Amin Ahmed, who had been causing Barnton’s defence problems all afternoon, was unlucky not to score 78 minutes in. His 25-yard free kick looked bound for the top corner, but Jack Reynolds was able to keep his clean sheet intact with a brilliant outstretching save.
The final ten minutes saw Macc unable to penetrate a solid Barnton Town defence. The final nail in the coffin came 89 minutes in. A deflection landed at the feet of Byrne whose shot was cleared off the line, but referee Andy Ollerenshaw judged it to be over-the-line and awarded the goal.
The game ended 3-0 to Barnton Town U21s. Despite many positive periods in the game, Macclesfield Town were unable to make their chances count and were punished by a clinical Barnton side. Paul McGuire gave chances to seven academy players, with four of the starting eleven only 16 years old and all three substitutes involved also 16 years old.
Macclesfield Town Under 21s: Longato, Butterworth, Fregapane, Dolling (C), Mealing, Holland, Ahmed, Evans, Cahill, Holford, Makelele.
Substitutes: Austin, Whiting, Outtara, Logan, Orlando.