Moss Rose, Macclesfield
Match Rating: 3
For the second game during my short break in the Greater Manchester Area, my original plan to tick off another of the 92 this evening was thwarted when Bury switched their home game to a Rugby League ground in Salford. So the next best thing was to visit a former league ground. In terms of a good old fashioned (former) Football League stadium, a visit to Stockport county's Edgeley Road was very tempting, although the testimonial nature of the match, with players from the 90's coming out of retirement to take part, promised a rather pedestrian game. And so instead I headed south to eastern Cheshire, to watch a Conference National club hosting a team from the Championship, who had stated that they were treating this as a first team fixture.
The Moss Rose is about a half hour walk southwards from Macclesfield train station, and proved to be a really pleasant surprise, with plenty of interesting quirks about it and a lovely rural backdrop. As one approaches the stadium, unfortunately one is confronted with the ugliest part, a rather ramshackle and scruffy wall behind one end of the ground, although it does contain some very attractive mosaics of the club's history. The stands on either side also have attractive club signage for passing visitors, and with the club's badge positioned in the pavement. Once inside the ground, I chose to sit in the most modern stand along one length, a small one-tiered all-seater structure with hospitality rooms along the top. It felt compact yet spacious, with excellent views. Straddling the half-way line on the opposite side is a fairly narrow but quite tall all-seater stand, which is traditional non-league style and for which one has to climb a flight of stairs to the front to gain access. Either side and to the front of this stand are uncovered terraces. Green rolling hills behind this length makes for a very pleasant backdrop. Behind one of the goals is a stand covering six rows of seating along the front and terracing to the rear, whilst behind the other goal is an uncovered terrace. The club produced a programme covering all three of their home friendlies and was a good publication, glossy and in full colour, presumably just a slimmed down version of what is produced for a league game.
Both clubs had very average seasons last season. After bowing out of the Football League in 2012, a return any time soon looks unlikely for Macclesfield. They finished last season in 15th place, 16 points adrift of the play-offs, and a summer of turmoil, with a looming and eventually averted threat of being thrown out of the Conference along with Hereford and Salisbury for financial issues, left the club with only nine registered players as they entered pre-season. Bolton Wanderers finished last season in 14th place, 13 points adrift of the play-offs but 15 points clear of the relegation zone.
On a warm but mainly overcast evening, although it turned out that Bolton would field a youthful line-up, they still dominated the early exchanges, and it seemed that Macclesfield might struggle to contain their visitors. However, on 18 minutes, they had a great chance to open the scoring. Their player took possession of the ball on the wing, driving into a more central position before curling a beautiful shot against the inside of the far post, but the ball stayed out. That really seemed to inspire Macclesfield though, and indeed they took the lead on 22 minutes. An initial drive into the penalty area was blocked by Dorian Dervite, recently signed from Charlton, but Chris Holroyd ran onto the ball before firing home from a central position about 12 yards out. They went on to look quite comfortable, indeed they almost doubled their lead when a long range shot forced a one handed save.
Bolton reasserted their control of the game in the second half, although with no attacking threat at all. However, they did score an equaliser ten minutes from time when Wilkinson played the ball across the penalty area and Zach Clough drilled the ball home, to provoke surprisingly raucous celebration from the Bolton fans, who numbered almost 300. They finally showed some threat towards goal in the remaining minutes, but 1-1 was how it finished. Macclesfield acquitted themselves very well, but Bolton's youngsters, although they controlled the game for long periods, they posed very little attacking threat and really didn't seem to make the most of their opportunity to shine. This was one of the better friendly games, with a competitive feel to it, although perhaps my opinion was made rosier by a very pleasant overall experience at Moss Rose.