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On This Day: Macclesfield Town 3 v 2 Chester City

25 April 2020

A capacity crowd saw Sammy McIlroy's heroic Macclesfield Town side secure back-to-back promotions on 25th April 1998, as another "impossible" dream was realised by securing a 3 - 2 victory against Chester City at the Moss Rose.

The turnstiles were closed half an hour before kick-off that day, as those who missed out climbed trees, hoardings and anything in sight to get a glimpse of history been made.

Just twelve months after winning the GM Vauxhall Conference for the second time in three seasons, McIlroy's blue and white clad warriors ascended to the third tier for the first time in our history after a mesmerising Football League debut.

Boasting the meanest home defence in the country, Macc knew that victory against our former lodgers would render our final game of the season at Exeter City as academic.

Yet it was the visitors who started in the ascendancy and could well have taken the lead after just 26 seconds. David Flitcroft's innovative through-ball caused hesitation in the Macc defence, with skipper Steve Payne toe-poking the bobbling ball towards his own goal. Ryan Price quickly made up the ground needed to prevent a disastrous opening however - as he cleared the ball deep into the Chester half almost effortlessly.

Manchester City loanee Rae Ingram then worried the Silkmen faithful, as he needed to be treated for a dead leg. The athletic defender had just been restored to the side after missing the previous week's trip to Cardiff City with an ankle injury.

It proved not to be the ideal start for McIlroy's men - yet this was to be a minor irritation, as the home side soon settled into their devastating brand of passing football which had gained constant national acclaim.

Just before the quarter hour mark, Ingram's free-kick was headed on by Darren Tinson and Neil Sorvel met it sweetly with a fizzing right-foot effort which flew marginally over the bar.

Although the deadlock remained in tact, there was no doubt that this was a sign of intention from Macc and it galvanised both the players and the fans into actively searching for a nerve-diluting opener.

This duly came seconds later, as Stuart Whittaker's tantalising corner to the back post was headed home by the irrepressible Steve Wood.

As Woody turned to celebrate with out-stretched arms, the cloud of apprehension tangibly lifted and Macc set their sights on adding to our tally in order to end the game as a contest.

Despite dominating possession for the remainder of the first period, our slender lead remained at the half-time interval. During which, everyone associated with Macclesfield Town knew that the ensuing forty-five minutes had the potential to live with us all forevermore.

The players knew that the second half could well prove to be the pinnacle of their careers and the fans knew that if we secured victory then it would something which would live on in their memories forever.

Everybody who was at the game remembers who they were with, what they did and most importantly, how they felt that day - it was truly the stuff that dreams are made from.

Four minutes after the resumption of play, Martin McDonald found space on the left and sent a rasping drive into the box - from which, Sorvel rose unchallenged to double our lead and send everyone into a state of delirium.

This was proved to be slightly premature three minutes later however, as a deathly silence engulfed the Moss Rose when Spencer Whelan's left-footed shot beat Price to raise the blood pressure once more.

The Chester skipper was in the thick of the action at the other end of the pitch just before the hour mark, as his attempted clearance was charged down by John Askey and the ball fell perfectly for Phil Power to clinically restore our two-goal cushion.

There was a late scare when Rod Thomas hit a thirty-yard thunderbolt into the roof of the net with eleven minutes left to play, yet the scenes which accompanied the final whistle are still amongst the most iconic in our history.

Courtesy of Silkman fan Gary Jackson, here is a short compilation of how the BBC and ITV covered our glorious promotion -


Macclesfield Town: Price, Tinson, McDonald, Payne, Ingram, Sodje, Askey (Chambers 74), Wood, Sorvel, Power, Whittaker.

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