A second half backs-to-the-wall display from Chester meant we were able to hang on to the lead they had deservedly gained in the first half. Aiden Chippendale’s whipped freekick from wide eluded everything except the netting and Gareth Seddon kept his composure brilliantly to chip over the onrushing ‘keeper after a dreadful mistake from Sodje. Macclesfield managed to reduce arrears with a well taken snapshot during their first real spell of pressure towards the end of the first half. The second half though, was all Macclesfield and Chester were frankly lucky to come away with the points after they missed a series of sitters, though it could have been much easier if Ben Mills had scored the penalty awarded mid-way through the half. Here are a few (very late, I’m sorry) thoughts on the match…
Neil Young made a number of small changes, but significant, changes to the team that started on Saturday against Salisbury. Titchener, Harrison, Heath and Linwood were all benched with Seddon, Chippendale, Pugh and Horan replacing them respectively. On paper these were all pretty much straight swaps, and it’s notable that the first three of each of the groups were subbed on and off for each other during the match. I think though, with the exception of the Linwood/Horan swap, they were all subtle tactical changes. Seddon is better at holding the ball up than Titchener, whose main strength is running the channels, and this allowed our long ball game to be more effective in the first half. Harrison plays quite deep in the midfield and swapping him for Chippendale meant we had a proper winger and could have a more naturally positive midfield partner for McIntyre in Nathan Turner. Finally Pugh adds his monster of a throw to the mix and has an excellent tackle, whilst Heath is slightly better positionally. Admittedly these aren’t huge differences, but they do add up.
Right, on to the match. Bloody hell eh? Most of our defending turned out to be of the last ditch variety, but it got us through. I’m not happy that they managed to spend that much time in our half, but it does show that we have players who’ll put their head where it hurts if needed, which is always going to help. There is one criticism of the players that I keep hearing that I find extremely stupid though – “stop backing off”. Ok, I get that you want a tackle put in, I really do, but don’t you think that over-committing and potentially leaving a massive gap behind you is worse than screening the space directly in front of the ball? I even heard someone criticise Higginbotham for it – surely if a former Premier League player repeatedly backs off, it’s not because he’s scared but because it’s the right thing to do? Yeah, exactly.
I mentioned in the introduction that things would have been a lot easier if Mills had scored the pen. It was at a crucial period of the game and the goal may well have made the last 20 minutes a lot more boring (and bearable) than the torturous final minutes we had to endure. But should he have taken it? Yes. Absolutely. He’s a striker, he wants goals and frankly he was a bit unlucky not to score as it was a pretty decent pen, though obviously too close to the ‘keeper. I am very interested to see who the penalty taker is next time though…
My nerves haven’t been shredded like that at a Chester match in a long time (in that place beginning with G) and in a weird way, it’s actually quite nice that’s the case. Winning every week is brilliant obviously, but sneaking a win is a very different kind of pleasure and one that I’m sure we’ll get a bit more used to over the coming months.
And hopefully on Saturday against Grimsby. Looking forward to that ale festival too!