Macclesfield beat spirited Brackley in FA Cup thriller

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Brackley Town’s FA Cup run finally came to an end with an enthralling 3-2 second round defeat to Macclesfield Town at the Moss Rose stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Macclesfield appeared on course for a comfortable victory having led 2-0 midway through the second half, but Steve Diggin and substitute Owen Story pulled Brackley level before Jack Mackreth scored the decisive goal nine minutes from full time.

The Conference Premier side had dominated in the opening hour and deservedly led thanks to goals from Danny Andrews and Scott Boden, but Brackley produced a stunning fightback to almost force a replay.

Saints had chances to win it after pulling level, Diggin twice going close, and they almost snatched a replay in the 94th minute but Rhys Taylor pulled off a brilliant save to again deny the impressive Diggin and put his team in the hat for the third round draw.

Macclesfield seized the initiative from the start with Danny Halls putting an early sighter well over Billy Turley’s goal and - although Saints had the first shot on target through Diggin - the Conference Premier side continued to dominate the opening exchanges and enjoyed plenty of the ball with a neat passing move resulting in Halls fizzing an effort across goal and wide.

Brackley struggled to cope with Macclesfield’s intensity in the opening quarter and the home side continued to control possession and territory, keeping Saints on the back foot, and their dominance was rewarded on 18 minutes when Andrews collected the ball 20 yards out, skipped past Glenn Walker and rifled home an unstoppable low shot into the bottom corner, giving Turley no chance.

The two Macclesfield full-backs caused Brackley problems and the visitors remained on the back foot with Mackreth’s low cross somehow evading everyone before Ryan Austin almost headed into his own net.

The hosts had further chances to double their lead ahead of half time - Danny Rowe going closest - but Brackley survived to the break to remain just one down.

Macclesfield picked up from where they left off at the start of the second half and they were only denied a second when Turley did well to tip Danny Whitaker’s low effort around the post.

The second goal was inevitable, however, and it took just five minutes of the second half to arrive as Boden converted Rowe’s cross to seemingly end Brackley Town’s FA Cup dream.

However, Saints refused to lie down and the change to 4-4-2 following the introduction of Owen Story and Ben Mills completely changed the game.

The change worked immediately as the visitors, almost out of nowhere, pulled a goal back when Walker’s corner was headed towards goal by Austin and Diggin poked home after Macclesfield failed to clear.

That goal visibly filled Brackley with belief and they almost drew level minutes later when Story’s cross was headed wide by Walker.

The game burst into life with chances coming at either end, first Macclesfield’s Connor Jennings headed over following a fine move before former Silkmen player Izak Reid shot straight at Taylor from 18 yards.

Taylor then produced a fine save from Walker before Saints dramatically levelled when Macclesfield again failed to clear and the ball ping-ponged around penalty area before falling to Story, who smashed home in front of the delirious travelling fans..

The game had totally transformed and, remarkably, it was now Brackley who looked the likelier to snatch victory with Diggin chipping an effort just over before screwing a shot wide.

Just as it seemed Brackley were on the verge of another stunning FA Cup victory, Macclesfield delivered the telling blow ten minutes from time through a fine solo goal from Mackreth, who jinked past two men before rifling a into the far corner.

Brackley once more looked to rally and they almost forced a replay when, in the 94th minute, Diggin was denied by superb Taylor save.

Despite Saints throwing everything forward, Macclesfield held on to see out a thrilling victory and put themselves into the third round draw, while ending Brackley’s historic cup adventure.

Macclesfield: Taylor, Andrew, Martin, Turnbull (c), Mackreth, Jennings, Williams, Boden, Whitaker, Rowe (Winn 75) (Connor 84), Halls

Subs not used: Holroyd, Kissock, Lewis, Branagan, Kay

Brackley: Turley, Reid, Austin (c), Solkhon, Sharpe, McDonald (Jarvis 86), Towers, Sandy (Story 53), Walker, Diggin, Mulligan (Mills 53).

Subs not used: Cartwright, Odhiambo, Worby, Griffin,

Referee: T Harrington

Attendance: 2,438