MACCLESFIELD Town survived Alfreton Town’s comeback in a five-goal thriller at the Moss Rose to reach the first round of the Emirates FA Cup.
The Silkmen stormed into a two-goal lead in the first seven minutes with Kristian Dennis and Paul Turnbull netting in a blistering start for the home side.
Top scorer Dennis gave Macc a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead later in the first half before Sam Jones smashed Alfreton onto the scoresheet.
Jordan Robertson headed in his ninth goal in nine games for the Reds early in the second half but, despite their best efforts, the Derbyshire visitors couldn’t penetrate Shwan Jalal’s goal for a third time to force a replay.
Macclesfield came out of the traps by far the faster of the two sides, peppering former Hull keeper Matt Duke’s goal from the offset.
Danny Whitehead screwed wide and David Fitzpatrick flashed across the face of goal before Danny Whitaker, playing his 300th game in Silkmen blue, slipped Dennis in on goal who, in spite of an initial poor touch, tucked the ball under Duke after just five minutes to open the scoring.
Two minutes later, Lindon Meikle skipped down the right flank and whipped in a superb ball to the backpost where Macc captain Paul Turnbull managed to superbly dive and head the ball beyond the hapless Duke.
Alfreton’s five at the back approach combined with the Silkmen playing five men in the midfield meant the National League North side were overran in the middle of the pitch and, as a result, Macc pressure continued on the Reds goal.
Dennis and Danny Rowe both had chances to increase the Silkmen’s lead to three but found Duke a stubborn obstacle in the way.
In a rare foray forward, Alfreton should probably have scored with their first chance of the match, Robertson glancing over from a corner when it seemed easier to score.
Alfreton switching to a 4-5-1 system meant they were able to gain a foothold in the game but it didn’t stop them falling three goals behind in the 37th minute.
Whitaker carried the ball into opposition territory before playing a sublime disguise pass to pick out Dennis who slotted beneath Duke and, at this stage, it was a question of how many for John Askey’s men.
Two minutes later, the Silkmen proved the old adage of ‘you’re at your most vulnerable when you’ve just scored’ when they failed to deal with a Dan Bradley cross from the right, allowing Jones to smash high into the roof of the net and give the Reds a deficit of two going into the second half.
In stark contrast to their first half showing, Alfreton were quick out of the blocks in the second period, earning four successive corners before Robertson made amends for his early miss by heading a Jones cross beyond Jalal on 50 minutes.
Nicky Law’s men were knocking on the door of performing a great FA Cup comeback, Joe Leesley cut inside and shot wide before Ryan Wilson missed a golden opportunity firing over when slipped in by Robertson, the Silkmen were clinging onto their advantage that at one stage looked never in doubt.
Macclesfield weathered the storm however and used their higher division knowhow to see out the rest of the game with little fuss, in fact it was Macc who came closest to the sixth goal of the game, Meikle smashing over when found after a great run from Rowe.
Hearts were in Macclesfield mouths, however, when in the final minute of added time, the ball fell to Leesley whose effort took a deflection but was safely held by Jalal.
And, when Timothy Wood blew the final whistle, the relief was palpable around the Moss Rose as the Silkmen celebrated reaching the FA Cup first round for the 20th time in the last 21 seasons.
Macclesfield Town: Jalal, Halls, Pilkington, Diagne, Fitzpatrick, Meikle, Turnbull (c), Whitaker, Whitehead, Rowe, Dennis.
Subs Not Used: Cowan, Branagan, Adarabioyo
Bookings: Diagne, Meikle
Goals: Dennis (2), Turnbull
Alfreton Town: Duke, Moyo, Allen, Galinski, Jordan (Jackson), Wilson, Thanoj, Leesley, Bradley (c), Jones, Robertson.
Subs Not Used: Berry, Ironside, Draper, Heaton, Paling
Goals: Jones, Robertson
Referee: Timothy Wood (Gloucestershire)
By Jordan Davies at the Moss Rose