Moss Rose | Att: 4201 | Vanarama National League | 28/4/18
01. Shwan JALAL 02. Jared HODGKISS 03. David FITZPATRICK 04. Keith LOWE 08. Tyrone MARSH 13. Nathan BLISSETT 15. Kieran KENNEDY 16. Mitch HANCOX 17. Callum EVANS 18. Danny WHITEHEAD 23. Danny WHITAKER
30. Mark COUSINS 02. Ben NUNN 03. Luke PENNELL 05. Craig ROBSON 06. Matt ROBINSON 07. Luke HOWELL 11. Fejiri OKENABIRHIE 14. Dan SPARKES 17. Andre BOUCAUD 23. Michael CHEEK 29. Jake HOWELLS
cHAMPIONS mACCLESFIELD TOAST TITLE VICTORY WITH SILKY DISPLAY
As a plane carrying the message ''Silkmen Champions - Thank You Sir John'' proudly adorned the cloudy Cheshire skies, it encapsulated the joy evident down below at a visibly-euphoric Moss Rose after Macclesfield Town sealed a fantastic campaign with a classy performance befitting of league winners, lifting the Vanarama National League trophy following a final-day victory over an unlucky Dagenham outfit. With play-offs now mathematically impossible, John Still's side had the freedom to play an expansive and open style of football which provided a stern test for Macclesfield, who managed to grind out one final victory with two near-identical finishes from substitute Scott Wilson in a result which epitomised their ability to dig deep and secure good results in any circumstances. On this occasion the win only served the purpose of strengthening an impressive points total and giving the Champions a deserved coronation, but such has been the standards demanded by manager John Askey that even with the title already sewn up, they were never going to loosen their tempo, and it's that attitude which will see them in League 2 next season. So after an entertaining afternoon for both sides they now head their separate ways and from a Dagenham perspective, a potentially-defining Summer is in store.
The last game of the season always proves to be a memorable day in the football calendar and though the Daggers' hopes of sneaking into the top seven had dissipated, they arrived in Greater Manchester looking to spoil Macclesfield's party, while also hoping to provide a positive end to what has been a campaign full of frustration, turbulence and financial worry. After supplying their hosts and the champions with a richly-deserved guard of honour for this lunchtime kickoff, they quickly looked to silence a 4000-strong crowd at Moss Rose, which - bar seventy or so loyal Daggers congregated in one corner - were all backing Macc to commemorate their title victory. In an opening few minutes devoid of much action and chances, the visitors showed signs of testing a stern home defence as wingers Sparkes and Okenabirhie got to the byline and whipped in crosses which may have amounted to little, but offered a sign of what the Daggers were capable of, even after losing many of their most talented players since the turn of the year.
Eventually the home side began to find their rhythm and with several clever interchanges, passes and throughballs were beginning to resemble champions, but the nearest they came to asserting their domestic superiority was courtesy of Danny Whitehead's low strike, which trickled out for a corner via the outstretched glove of Mark Cousins. However, being one of the only clubs to have beaten Macclesfield this season, Dagenham continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack and Okenabirhie, seemingly on a one-man mission to take the top-scorer crown off Cheek, jinxed his way into a good position in the box. While this would usually guarantee danger, the England C international's clinical touch evaded him as his trademark curling effort flew wide on this occasion, but once again it was a wake-up call to Askey's men. It seemed to do the trick as a spate of home chances ensued, with Blissett seeing a one-on-one smothered by Cousins before Lowe bundled home from a cross only to be denied by the offside flag in what was the last action of a half which took a while to get going, but eventually transformed into an entertaining exhibition of football played in a calm environment.
This tempo resumed after the break as Dagenham came flying out of the blocks with an onslaught on the Silkmen defence. As a corner was headed back across goal at the far post, it landed perfectly at Cheek to potentially break the deadlock with a header; the box was packed but the space on offer promised more than the tame header which was eventually directed into the grateful arms of Jalal. Not long after and, following a shot over the bar at the other end for Fitzpatrick who had looked dangerous on the overlap all game, an even bigger chance presented itself to the Daggers. Robinson surged forwards and poked the ball through towards Howell and Cheek, who were both running in behind Macc's defence. It reached Cheek and the striker's blocked effort fell perfectly for Howell to take it past the keeper and poke it across goal, with the ball agonisingly evading two arriving white shirts and despite the away fans' claim that the ball had at some point gone over the line, the ball was desperately cleared and the chance passed them by. That proved to be a turning point in the contest and the outcome of the game hinged on one substitution, where Blissett made way for fellow forward Wilson in the home ranks. Under ten minutes later, Wilson would've scored twice, Macclesfield would be in control and Dagenham's very realistic hopes of getting anything from the match would be ruthlessly dashed.
Earlier on in the half a last-ditch tackle by Nunn had superbly denied Blissett when bearing down on goal so when they continued to knock on the door, an opener seemed somewhat inevitable. Much like the reverse fixture in October, Macclesfield carried an ominously-threatening vibe with them when on the counter-attack and the attacking full backs of Fitzpatrick and Hodgkiss, coupled with the danger of the wingers, exploited both flanks. Eventually the overlapping Hancox on the left side unlocked the away defence and squared for Wilson, who'd taken up a good position between both centre-backs, enabling him to make a darting near-post run and calmly sidefoot into the corner. Cousins made a remarkable save from Blissett minutes earlier but was powerless here and could only watch as a roar echoed around Moss Rose, igniting a promotion party which had previously seemed slightly quiet. Soon after and the scenario was frustratingly similar as Marsh got down that left side again, once more the ball was fizzed in towards the near post and predictably Wilson was there to meet it and apply a composed flick past Cousins before setting off in celebration again. That quick-fire double killed Dagenham and from then on the countdown begun for Macclesfield, who wound down the clock before the final whistle confirmed their victory. What followed was a raucous reception from both sets of fans for the expectation-defying side of Macclesfield, who finally got their hands on the trophy and capped a fine season. The wait now commences for next campaign as attention turns to the World Cup in Russia...
CONGRATULATIONS TO MACCLESFIELD TOWN, 2017/18 VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS!