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On This Day: Cardiff City 1 v 2 Macclesfield Town

18 April 2020

Twenty-two years ago, Sammy McIlroy's heroic Macclesfield Town side moved within two points of back-to-back promotions, as we secured an inspiring victory over Cardiff City at Ninian Park.

Taking part in our first-ever season in the Football League, the prospect of a second promotion was deemed by many to be an "impossible" dream, yet slowly but surely that prospect turned into reality.

McIlroy's side unquestionably inspired a generation and the victory down in South Wales exemplified the fact that this side had no interest in reading the history books - they were content to write their own in dramatic style.

In truth, it was the hosts who started the game in the ascendancy, with The Bluebirds creating a plethora of chances in the opening exchanges as they sought to nullify the potent threat possessed by Sammy's stars.

Welsh midfielder David Penney may well have opened the scoring in the 12th minute, as he skipped through the heart of the Silkmen defence - yet he could only fire wide of Ryan Price's goal from the edge of the penalty area.

Striker Andy Saville then found himself in acres of space as he directed a free-header marginally off-target, yet Cardiff would deservedly break the deadlock in the 25th minute when Chris Robers cut in from the right and after taking the ball past Price, he slotted home from an acute angle.

But for Price's magisterial brilliance two minutes later, Macc would surely have been dead and buried as he launched a world-class save to deny Wayne O'Sullivan's venomous drive from the edge of the box - tipping the ball across the goal-line from which, Efe Sodje was able to clear the danger.

The visitors knew that they were on the ropes at that stage and they dealt with it in the only way they knew - to attack the opposition at every opportunity.

Phil Power almost restored parity with a nonchalant chip, yet 'keeper John Hallworth just about managed to get his fingertips to it and in doing so, prevented "The Maltese Falcon" from claiming another majestic strike to add to his tally.

John Askey then hooked the ball wide from the edge of the area after a neat assist from Sodje, yet as the half-time whistle blew Macc knew that they needed to rely on their second half prowess if victory was to be secured.

After the game, McIlroy admitted that some home-truths were imparted during the interval and as well as this and shorly after, the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland midfielder introduced winger Stuart Whittaker into the action - a move which paid off almost immediately.

It was from Whittaker's tantalising corner into the Cardiff area that Sodje was able to latch on to in the 57th minute, as he ghosted in at the near post to delicately head the ball past Hallworth.

The rest of the players stood stunned and motionless, as the bandana-clad warrior saluted the joyous travelling supporters who had vociferously kept the faith throughout.

Macc were never going to settle for a point however, it was not part of our DNA at that time and after laying siege on the Cardiff goal for much of the period following Sodje's equaliser, our reward came with ten minutes left on the clock.

Darren Tinson released Neil Sorvel, before the latter fired a low drive which skimmed off the 'keeper's underbelly and proceeded to inch over the line.

At the end of the game, every one of the Silkmen side emotionally applauded the travelling support as everyone began to realise what we were on the verge of. Suddenly, it wasn't just a dream any more.

As Sammy punched the air in fierce determination, his silhouette against the giant Ninian Park stands became ever-more clearer as he advanced towards the incredible Silkmen fans.

That image in itself tells it's own poignant story.

Macclesfield Town: Price, Tinson, McDonald, Payne, Howarth, Sodje, Askey (Chambers 87), Wood, Sorvel, Power, Durkan (Whittaker 53).

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