MACCLESFIELD Town fought tooth and nail to beat promotion-chasing Grimsby Town 2-1 at the Moss Rose on Monday afternoon.
Jack Sampson tapped the Silkmen in front after Danny Rowe’s cutting run from the left-wing but Jon Nolan blasted through Shwan Jalal to level matters early in the second half.
Reece Styche scrambled home the winner, just three days after netting a hat-trick at Gateshead, to complete the perfect Easter for himself and the Silkmen who worked tirelessly throughout to earn the three points.
Grimsby were looking to avenge a defeat to Macc in the August Bank Holiday fixture but came out of the traps the slower of the two sides.
They were indebted to goalkeeper James McKeown that they didn’t go behind as early as the third minute. Rowe, a constant menace on the left-hand side played the ball low into the path of Chris Holroyd whose left-footed shot looked a certain goal, but the Grimsby number one saved heroically.
Even early doors it was clear this game was a clear clash of styles. Macclesfield played fluid passing football, seemingly trying to create the perfect goal whilst Paul Hurst’s men were happy to play the percentages with long diagonal balls into the Silkmen half.
The division’s top scorer, Padraig Amond, shanked wide when well placed to give the Mariners the lead on 24 minutes and his side were made to pay for his profligacy almost immediately when John Askey’s side went in front in the very next minute.
A ricochet in centre-field fell favourably for Rowe who ran towards the Grimsby goal, outpacing the Mariners right-back Richard Tait. As McKeown went to ground to try and halt Rowe’s progress, the number 11 flicked the ball over the goalkeeper and towards the goal where Sampson was there to poke home his first goal at the Moss Rose all season.
The rest of the first half saw Macc knocking on the Grimsby door for a second goal whilst the visitors struggled to gain any sort of possession, the Silkmen were hampering and harrying their opponents at every opportunity and that stemmed from the front where Sampson, and particularly Styche, were incessant in their harassment of the Grimsby defenders.
On 35 minutes, Holroyd pulverised Gregor Robertson on the right wing and played the ball into Sampson who opted to tee up Danny Whitaker but the Silkmen captain fired wildly into the Star Lane terrace.
Grimsby showed no signs of a team sitting third in the table in the first 45, they rarely, if at all, threatened Jalal in the Macc goal but they improved markedly after the break.
Just six minutes into the second half, Nathan Arnold cut inside Andy Halls and set up Amond whose low shot was saved by the body of Jalal.
A nice move at the other end started by John McCombe and involving Holroyd lead to Rowe firing towards goal where the feet of McKeown stopped the hosts doubling their lead.
On 58 minutes, Grimsby drew level after a long ball forward was seemingly neglected by Macc centre-back George Pilkington and Nolan capitalised by lashing through Jalal and into the goal. This was a third strike of the season for the former Lincoln and Stockport man.
Grimsby should have gone in-front a minute later when McCombe was slack to another over the top ball and Arnold nipped in on goal, Jalal was smart to the danger though and saved well. Visiting captain Craig Disley was also thwarted by the Iranian stopper after picking the pocket of his opposing number Whitaker as the Lincolnshire side ramped up the pressure on the hosts.
It was therefore very much against the run of play when Macclesfield re-took the lead, this time it was a long pass of their own that found Styche goal-side of his man, he glanced to the linesman who instructed play to continue and the Silkmen front man finished in the nick of time beyond McKeown. Styche now has four goals in four days for Macc and was the outstanding performer today both with and without the ball.
The remainder of the match largely saw Grimsby getting closer and closer to finding an equaliser without success. Arnold and Disley passed up great opportunities as the Silkmen legs started to tire.
As the clock struck 90 minutes, Danny Whitehead rasped a shot against the post for Macc on the break and the fourth official indicated that Askey’s troops would have to hold out for five minutes longer.
In the third of these, the visitors earned a corner and almost all 22 players were inside the Silkmen penalty area, including McKeown, but Arnold’s delivery flew over everyone’s head.
Grimsby had one final chance to rescue a point at the very last but Nolan drove inches wide of goal when he should really have scored after good work out wide from makeshift striker Shaun Pearson to find his team-mate unmarked on the penalty spot.
When Steve Rushton finally ended what had been a pulsating match, it was music to the ears of the home support – they had been waiting since mid-November to taste victory on home soil and gave the players a hero’s reception as they left the field.
Grimsby will be disappointed; they carved out more clear-cut chances than their opponents but the lack of cutting edge will hold them back in their pursuit of promotion.
The final word must go to Styche. The Gibraltarian would have been on international duty this week were he not out of favour with manager Jeff Wood and the Rocks loss is Macclesfield’s gain.
A superb hat-trick at Gateshead on Friday was followed up with a tireless display, he was a nightmare to play against all afternoon, fighting for every ball, chasing every seemingly lost cause and also netting the winner.
When he was replaced with three minutes to go the crowd rose to salute an exhausted Styche who may well be having his golden week.
Macclesfield Town: Jalal, Halls (Cowan 78′), Pilkington, McCombe, Fitzpatrick, Holroyd, Whitaker (c), Whitehead, Rowe, Styche (Diagne 87′), Sampson.
Subs not used: Sutherland, Templeton, Dennis.
Booked: Whitehead, Sampson, McCombe, Halls, Fitzpatrick, Jalal
Goals: Sampson (25′), Styche (68′)
Grimsby Town: McKeown, Tait (Pearson 92′), Gowling, Disley (c), Robertson, Nsiala, Arnold, Clay (Jennings 37′), Nolan, Bogle (Hoban 75′), Amond.
Subs not used: Horwood, Stewart
Goals: Nolan (58′)
Referee: Steve Rushton (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 2,326 (982 visitors)
By Jordan Davies at the Moss Rose