Macclesfield Town endured a frustrating evening as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat away to Halifax Town in the first round of the 2017/18 FA Trophy.
The Silkmen made the journey to face their fellow National League opponents with good memories of the competition- having reached the final at Wembley last season.
Clearly recognising the importance of keeping players fresh for the league run-in, John Askey made five changes ahead of the game at The Shay. In came Scott Wilson, Courtney Richards, Noe Baba, Scott Burgess and Kieran Kennedy. David Fitzpatrick, Tyrone Marsh, Ryan Lloyd, Danny Whitehead and Danny Whitaker all moved to the bench.
The team selection looked to have had the desired effect early on, as Macclesfield created the first noteworthy opportunity. Having intercepted his man on the by-line, Koby Arthur fed Scott Wilson in on goal. However, the club’s top scorer couldn’t direct his chance past Halifax keeper, Sam Johnson.
Halifax, through their own leading marksman, Tom Denton went close to opening the scoring themselves after 13 minutes. A 25-yard free-kick from Jake Hibbs found the forward at the far post, but he could only loop his header over the crossbar in the aftermath.
A temporary hold-up in play followed due to an injury to Halifax defender Cliff Moyo, but the game restarted with the visitors creating yet another opportunity. It was Wilson again who was presented with it, his volley from the edge of the area causing all sorts of problems for Johnson. John MacDonald also went close for Halifax in the following period of play, but Sam Ramsbottom was equal to his effort.
However, the hosts would, eventually, go ahead after 37 minutes. It was MacDonald who proved to be the architect, as his pinpoint cross found the head of Matty Kosylo to put the Yorkshire side ahead from close range. That goal proved to be the difference in the first half, as Halifax entered the break 1-0 up.
The early stages of the second period began quietly, but it was soon livened up when the away side created another opportunity. The attack began through defender Kieran Kennedy, who found space to advance down the middle of the pitch, before finding Wilson in the area. After bearing down on goal the forward eventually saw his powerful effort gathered by Johnson.
The Silkmen had goalkeeper, Ramsbottom to thank for preventing Halifax extending the lead. He produced a moment of brilliance to tip Kosylo’s 55th-minute free-kick over the bar after Keith Lowe had been penalised for a foul outside the area.
Tyrone Marsh entered the fray after 64 minutes, as John Askey looked for a route back into the contest. He replaced Courtney Richards.
Wilson was cursing his luck again just two minutes later, as his brilliant curling effort from the edge of the box evaded everyone before trickling wide of the Halifax goal frame.
Danny Whitehead was introduced to the action shortly afterwards for Macclesfield with Noe Baba making way.
The night continued to be a frustrating one for Wilson as he went close twice in quick succession. His first effort was well saved by Johnson low down before the second flew over the bar from the corresponding corner. Scott Burgess also went close for The Silkmen just five minutes later.
The home would introduce former Macclesfield striker Ben Tomlinson towards the end of the game and he almost had the immediate effect on proceedings. His low drive, however, was well matched by Ramsbottom.The Macclesfield keeper was once again called into action in injury time as he saved well from Michael Collin’s curling effort.
Despite the away side continuing to pile on the pressure in the closing stages, they couldn’t find a way through and it would be the home side who progressed to the next round of the competition.
The result means there will be no fixture for Macclesfield this weekend, with the next one being our trip to AFC Fylde on January 20th.
Macclesfield starting line-up: Ramsbottom, Lowe, Pilkington ©, Durrell, Wilson, Richards (Marsh, 64), Baba (Whitehead, 74), Kennedy, Hancox, Burgess, Arthur.
Subs not used: Fitzpatrick, Lloyd, Whitaker.
Attendance: 503 (36 Macclesfield fans).