Cod Almighty | Article
by Baz Rockliff
6 August 2007
Last season's 22nd place finish was a massive achievement for the Silkmen, having looked dead and buried earlier in the campaign. A poor start saw Brian Horton leave the club, and after a 0-0 draw at Bristol Rovers in October, Macc were sat on a meagre five points, still without a win, seven adrift of third-bottom Barnet.
Paul Ince took charge in a blaze of publicity but only took one point from his first three matches, including a home defeat to eventually relegated Boston. Now 11 points from safety, Ince needed results; and he got them. A shock FA Cup win at Walsall kick-started the season; then came by a creditable draw at Edgeley Park in the derby against Stockport. Another FA Cup win against a to-be-promoted side, Hartlepool, was followed by that elusive first league victory, against Rochdale at Moss Rose. Then they took 16 points out of 18 followed, Kevin McIntyre scoring some vital goals from the spot, and John Murphy also coming up with the goods after his move from Blackpool.
By the time Macc went to Stamford Bridge in the third round of the cup, they were still in the relegation zone, but only on goal difference. Chelsea beat them 6-1, Murphy scoring for Macc, but it was a good day out and a money-spinner for a club with an average gate of under 2,500. Two weeks later, after a 3-0 win over Hereford, the Silkmen jumped to 20th (two places above Town). Inconsistent form followed, but it was enough to keep heads above water, as Torquay sank beneath them.
A 2-0 win at home to Stockport on the second Saturday of April seemed enough to see Macc safe, but they lost the next three, including a 5-0 battering at Rochdale and a 3-2 loss at Accrington. There was still a chance of relegation on the last day, but Boston's defeat at Wrexham made the Silkmen's draw at home to Notts County irrelevant, and safety certain.
Ins and outs
As we all know, self-styled 'Guvnor' Paul Ince has left the club, taking over at Franchise FC after Martin Allen's departure for Leicester City. Former Manchester City man Ian Brightwell has succeeded Ince, having been on the coaching staff at Moss Rose for the last three years. He is to be assisted by another former Maine Road man, the experienced Asa Hartford.
John Murphy has returned to his first club, Chester, while his strike partner for much of last season, Matt McNeil, has signed for Stockport. Another striker, John Miles, has left for AccyStan. Midfielder Martin Bullock has gone south, to Wycombe Wanderers.
The attack has been beefed up with the arrival of ex-Town striker Martin Gritton, who joins from Lincoln after a decent loan spell at Mansfield last term. He is joined by 23-year-old Michael Husbands from Port Vale, who will be desperate for a chance after spending much of his spell at Vale Park on the bench. The versatile Francis Green, who scored at BP last season for Boston, has also signed for the Cheshire club. Another former Pilgrim, Danny Thomas has signed from Hereford, and former Mansfield and Chester man and Malta international Luke Dimech has arrived from the wonderfully named Marsaxlokk, title winners in his homeland.
Winger Simon Wiles has returned from Blackpool for another loan spell, this time until January. The other new faces to date are two more men with Man City connections: full-back and ex-teammate of Brightwell, Richard Edghill from Bradford, and creative midfielder Terry Dunfield from Worcester City. Always-ace-against-Town keeper Sam Russell is currently on trial at Moss Rose, hoping to win a permanent deal after leaving Darlo.
Most Macc fans would be happy with a mid-table finish this season, and after the heart attack stuff of last year, that's fair enough. Not many seem to expect them to be challenging for promotion, but while some expect another struggle, the majority think they'll be fine.
Realistically a club of Macc's size will be up against it in League football more often than not. And I can't see this year being any different. Saying that, '07–08 will be the Silkmen's 11th season of League football since winning the Conference, and they've survived so far, and I can see them battling their way to safety again... in 20th place.