A failure to defend long straight balls over the top, a massively poor, decisively influential referee and a performance which was encouraging but unrewarded. Just another day at the office for Wrexham this season.
It’s tricky to know how to feel about this match. Having seen a couple of Macclesfield’s recent games, I figured beforehand that this would be a terrific test, and having conceded a penalty after 12 seconds and subsequently gone behind with exactly a minute on the clock, to turn in a performance like we did was very pleasing. But we still lost.
Of course we weren’t helped by the ref. Ben Toner’s decision to give that penalty was, frankly, scandalous. It was a smashing piece of goalkeeping by Andy Coughlin, who clearly won the ball, knocking it at right angles in case the ref needed to have the legality of the challenge confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt. Turned out he needed more than that.
The 94th minute winner was controversial too: it came from a free kick which was given for a foul which I can’t really spot despite poring through the replay in slow motion a few times. I think I’ve fathomed out what he gave it for, as Adrian Cieslewicz’s hand brushes his man’s arm. However, the Macclesfield player doesn’t react because he doesn’t even feel it, and play continues until the ref suddenly decided to pull play back.
Toner’s decisions had the feel of a man who hadn’t played the game, frankly. Apart from pulling play back for that Cieslewicz “tug”, some of his other calls weren’t terribly sympathetic to the game: a decision to play advantage in Wrexham’s favour when the ball fell to Joe Clarke, surrounded by opponents, springs to mind. Not that he was one-sided though: the free kick we scored from was an interesting one as I’m not totally sure Connor Jennings fouled David Artell; I think the big man might have played on the fact that he was the last defender and the referee would have to make a bold call to not blow his whistle. Also, the incident in the first half when Andy Coughlin clashed with Jennings was a strange one: having apparently not seen it, surely Toner consulted with the linesman for so long because he was convincing him that he was wrong so he didn’t have to give Coughlin a red card (either that or he was explaining the rules to his assistant!)
However, let’s not get too bogged down with the ref. Andy Morrell was angry with his defence after the game, and with some justification. Once more it had the heart torn out of it during the first half as Leon Clowes broke down once more. Still, the goals we conceded weren’t just down to the official: we could have dealt much better with them anyway. Artell could have got rid of the ball into the box for the penalty, and we were beaten by a straight ball over the top for the second. The third, as Morrell pointed out, was a long ball hurled half the length of the pitch into the area and we didn’t contest it, which is unforgivable.
Also, we were unlucky enough to come up against a striker who looks too good for this level. Jennings is on loan from Scunthorpe and has been scoring at will lately: he’s now got 12 in 9.
So the negatives outweigh the positives, which is a shame as we were the better side, the front three played with energy and our midfield controlled much of the game. We showed real character after going behind so soon, and their keeper made two terrific saves to deny Andy Bishop and Jay Harris. On balance, we deserved to win.
But when you end up with no points, the positives seem immaterial, don’t they?
Macclesfield (4-4-2): Taylor; Halls, Martin, Williams, Andrew; Rowe, Whitaker (Holroyd 84), Turnbull, Winn (Kay 69); Jennings, Bodin (Mackreth 69). Unused subs: Connor, Gnahoua.
Wrexham (4-3-3): Coughlin; Carrington, Artell, Clowes (Tomassen 32), Ashton; Harris, Keates, Clarke; Anyinsah (Cieslewicz 75), Bishop (Ormerod 75), Ogleby. Unused subs: Mayebi, Evans.
Referee: Ben Toner
Man of the Match: Dean Keates
Miscellaneous: Jay Harris’ 150th Wrexham appearance.