FOUR DAYS THAT SHOOK THE NATIONAL LEAGUE
Back-to-back away wins over title rivals
THE MORNING after beating Tranmere the night before: Elliott Durrell was looking after his two young children, David Fitzpatrick was sat at the desk of his full-time job by 9am, veteran defender George Pilkington was feeling the effects of two games in four days and Macclesfield Town fans were reading and re-reading statements about the future of boss John Askey.
Thankfully the Silkmen supporters seem to have got the news they all wanted with legendary boss Askey surely staying to continue their remarkable title charge.
League Two Grimsby Town had been showing an interest in his services following their dismissal of Russell Slade. He couldn’t go now, could he?
Even with the resource constraints, it hasn’t been smooth sailing off the pitch for Askey with rumblings about his relationship with the hierarchy and a banking error blamed for late payment of January’s wages.
But on the pitch it’s had the makings of a remarkable story and Askey has to be the man to pen the crowning chapter.
A club legend from his playing days, he joined them in the Northern Premier League as they rose through the Conference into the old Second Division. After years at the club in various roles, including a brief spell as manager, he was finally handed the reins again in 2013 and consistently delivered results – including memorable FA Cup runs and an FA Trophy final at Wembley.
Now he could be guiding them into the Football League.
Tuesday’s 4-1 away victory over Tranmere followed up a 2-1 success at Aldershot Town last Saturday to take six points from two of their direct rivals and make it three wins in a row. Was it a four-day period where the title’s destination took a step towards Moss Rose? There will no doubt be twists and turns but with 12 games to go, it moved them five points clear at the top of the National League and closer to a storybook ending.
“It would probably be one of the biggest things the club has achieved,” attacker Durrell tells
The NLP. “The gaffer’s doing a great job. It obviously came out at the back end of January what happened – which, from what I can see, was a genuine error – and some clubs could have seen that as a weakness against us. We just saw it as an opportunity to bring us closer together. It made us even more determined to go on another good run.
“There is a lot of football to be played, we know that. But if we do pull it off, what an achievement it will be.”
Durrell was one of many summer arrivals as Askey, once again, pieced together a side to punch well above its weight. The former Hednesford Town, Wrexham and Chester attacker set up Nathan Blissett’s goal against the Shots before he struck twice himself against Tranmere to take his own tally to six.
“I needed to make sure it was the right club I joined last summer,” Durrell says. “I spoke to a number of clubs but it was about making the right decision. When I heard Macclesfield were interested,
having their style played against them, I felt of football would suit me. I think that’s showing with the way I’ve performed this year. It’s great to be contributing to a team and fighting for a title.
“It’s not anything we didn’t believe in ourselves. Everybody has to believe they can do it, but we did believe we had an opporseason. tunity this season As soon as we started to put a string of results together that confirmed it.”
Victory at Tranmere took their run to one defeat in 15 games which, as Askey pointed out in a post-match interview with Silk Radio’s Alas stair Patrick, is chamrm. pionship form At various points throughseason, out the naysayers have claimed the wheels will fall off. None more so than following a 6-0
thumping by AFC Fylde at the end of January.
“We win together, we lose together,” Durrell says. “Probably 90 per cent of people wrote us off after that. Going on past seasons that’s what Macclesfield have tended to do, they’ve tended to drop off after Christmas.
“That result was probably when people started to say, ‘Here they go again’. But we’ve dug in; worked hard and come through. People were saying we were in bad form, but we lost once to Fylde with a bit of a freak result – although credit to them they deserved to win – and then drew against Torquay, who are scrapping for their lives, and drew with Solihull, who have been in form.
“Aside from that there wasn’t a bad result in there. This league is tough to put a string of results together as it is. To do what we’re doing is a credit to everyone. But we know there’s a long way to go and hopefully we can carry it on.”
Perhaps their current position is an indicator of the characters Askey has in his changing room.
“Before I came here I’d been told the gaffer likes characters that are all going to go that little bit extra for each other,” Durrell says. “From the performances and results we’ve had of late, that shows what we’re about as a team, a squad and a club as a whole. It’s well documented we haven’t got the greatest budget, but you don’t have to if you’ve got a good bunch of lads who want to work hard for each other. You can achieve whatever you want.”
DURR-ABLE: Elliott Durrell leads the celebrations against Tranmere, before Danny Whitaker scores a third from the penalty spot, below. Whitaker also netted from the spot against Aldershot, left. Inset below: John Askey