Murphy Enjoys Magic Moment

Slough Town

Slough Town

Macclesfield Town

Macclesfield Town

League Attendance: 1096 Robert Smith
THE absence of five first team regulars - including all three recognised strikers - no doubt contributed to the first goalless scoreline at Wexham Park this season when the third-placed Rebels drew a blank with second-placed Macclesfield on Saturday. But though Slough clearly lacked a cutting edge, this top-of-the-table clash demonstrated once more that they have become as competitive as any other club in the Conference.

At the end of the day, however, the Rebels were overhauled by Stevenage Borough, who hit four goals, and Woking, who struck seven. The return of top-scorer Gary Abbott, who has now served his three-match ban, for the coming trip to Kettering could not be more welcome news for the Rebels.

But with Abbott, Mark West and Lloyd Owusu still out of the equation - and midfielders Simon Stapleton and Gary Blackford both sidelined - manager Brian McDermott chose the moment to give a debut to former Langley Grammar student Michael Murphy.
The 19-year-old, who was given a contract with Reading when only 17, is fresh from a spell in Finland.

He scored on both occasions he has appeared in the Reserves and was told of his inclusion just an hour before kick-off. Murphy, who became the 10th player under 21 years of age to pull on a Rebels shirt this season, showed some of the guile which obviously impressed Mark McGhee when he was in charge at Elm Park.

He got away from his marker with two brilliant turns in the latter stages of the game, but at other times lacked the synchronisation with his new team-mates which might have broken the deadlock. But in a game which highlighted the defensive strengths of both sides, Murphy had a wonderful opportunity to mark his first game with a goal midway through the first half.

Put through by strike partner Cliff Hercules, he got to within five yards of the line before being finally pincered by two defenders and Stoke City's on-loan keeper Phil Morgan. For all but the last five minutes of the first half it was one-way traffic with Slough freezing Macclesfield out of the game for long periods.

Starved of decent possession, the Silkmen looked disoriented with what scraps they did get. And reduced to 10 men for 15 minutes after central defender Steve Payne clashed heads with Hercules, they retreated further into their shell. It took until the 41st minute for the Northerners to win their first comer and it was winner Derek Simpson's block on Ces Edey's shot which defused the danger.

With both sides trying to strike a crucial blow before the interval, Hercules flicked wide with only Morgan to beat, Paul Wilkerson got down well to stop a Phil Power drive and Morgan pouched a Steve Bateman header on the line.

Slough always posed the more serious threat and from the second of two early comers in the second half, Payne whipped another goal-bound header from Bateman off the line while Morgan had to steer a solid strike from Fiore over the bar. Only a lack of rhythm then stopped Hercules converting a Murphy lay-off inside the area followed by a drive from the Slough newcomer which brushed past the upright.

With Slough aggressively disarming the Macclesfield attack, the one moment of danger came 13 minutes from the end when a winning tackle by Fiore sent the ball to the feet of Marc Coates who pulled his shot wide of the target. The pace never faltered as Slough continued to search for the winner.

But with five minutes to go and the match reaching boiling point, many of the crowd began to shuffle off home. McDermott was perturbed. "I simply cannot understand how with everything to play for, some spectators decide they have had enough. I could not ask for more from my players - they would die for each other. But I could not say the same about some of those who come to watch.”

"We have shown we can compete with the best teams in the Conference. We go into the game with two great battling performances away from home behind us. And just when we need them most - they go home."

McDermott's disappointment after instilling a will to win not seen at Slough since Alan Davies' side won promotion in 1990 may be justified. His case will be strengthened when he turns desire into deed.

Macclesfield Town Lineup

Morgan, Tinson, Edey, Payne, Howarth, Sorvel, Askey, Wood, Circuit (Coates), Power (Williams), Mitchell


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