Taylor made - Millers 3-0 Macclesfield

Last updated : 02 January 2008 By DavidR

One change from the away win at Notts County, fever hit O'Grady sent home an hour or so before kick off, replaced by Newsham. So, the same sort of 4-3-Hudson-2 formation that featured at Meadow Lane, made its debut at Millmoor.

Macclesfield, meanwhile, opted for 4-5-1 and a solidly Tupperware approach: containment, for them, was all. Coughlan won the toss and - after a minute's silence for Phil O'Donnell - the Millers prepared to attack the Tivoli.

Here's how the first half works. Brain, in the Macclesfield goal, rolls the ball 3 yards outside his area to a full-back. Full-back passes to centre-half, who passes to central midfielder, who passes back to other full-back, who passes to centre-half, who passes to central midfielder. And repeat.

The whole purpose of this exercise was to tease a Harrison or a Mills or a Hudson out of the middle of the pitch, to leave space for two tricky, quick winger/forward sorts to run into, to expose a full-back or a central defender to a through runner with pace. But choose how much leg Macclesfield flashed, the Millers midfield remained resolutely unmoved. Lacking the guile to play their way through, the Silkmen ended up launching the ball forward to generic bustling centre-forward unit, who made limited impact on Sharps or Coughlan, or passing interminably sideways in front of a well-organised Millers defence.

This approach gave Macclesfield the majority of possession, but created little in excitement. In tablet form, the first half would sell millions of units as a hangover cure; no sudden movements, no major excitement, it turned neither head nor stomach, but gently soothed sore heads for 45 minutes. Macclesfield smothered play, they were patient, they were disciplined, they were cautious. They had, in fair haired midfielder Tolley, an energetic purveyor of cotton wool plugs for any holes that threatened to develop, but were otherwise almost wholly lifeless.

As for us, we seemed happy to subsist in this airless environment, unable to create the spark that might ignite some sort of meaningful attack. Newsham craftily hung on shoulders and got crowded and bustled out of any possession that might come his way. Holmes scuffled manfully, directing flicked headers that no-one seemed to either read or be inclined to chase. Mills and Harrison chugged away, picking up possession and not doing much with it, Hudson carefully shielded the ball for a full-back to waste, Ross, ably finding a bit of space, meticulously picked out the wrong option every time.

And then drama! Neat interplay on the edge of the Macclesfield area between Newsham, Ross and Harrison saw a lay off to Joseph, who, finding himself in nearly the same place that he scored against Notts County from, walloped a shot goalwards which Brain tipped over. A Ross corner, a Coughlan header, an outstretched arm, no penalty. A Brogan cross, a clearing header, a clipped Ross half-volley from the edge of the area which curled past Brain's outstretched arm, smacked off the crossbar and bounced in front of the goal-line before being scrambled clear.

The five minute exception that proved the rule having passed, the first half turned over, wrapped the soft duvet around itself and drifted back to sleep.

The Millers kicked off the second half with that kick off thing they do (you know, Ross to Newsham, back to Mills, lump to wing, opposition throw). Macclesfield respondend by throwing the ball to the full-back, who passed to the centre-half, who passed to the midfielder, who passed back to the full-back, who passed to the other centre-half.

Huh? Wha...?!? Sorry, dropped off there. What's going on? Newsham's lost his marker for the first time, look he's got yards of space! Oh, I see, he's being subbed and Taylor's replacing him. Ah well, back to my snooze.

Taylor, though, has a radical idea, which is this: Macclesfield want to pass the ball tentatively between their defenders and the central midfield in the hope of drawing us out - I wonder what it would be like if I hassled them a bit?

Hey up, it's great! They get all flustered and hit it long early and we can pick the ball up and have a bit of space to play in because they've not got all lined up like they want to. That means I can run here, where they aren't, bear down on goal and .... the keeper gets a touch and it hits the post.

So, what happens if, instead of flicking it on or laying it back I turn here and run towards goal?

Wow! They foul me. Ross curls the ball carefully round the wall and wide of the near post, but still, this works!

Suddenly, a bit of life on the pitch that Macclesfield can't snuff out. Taylor, tracking back into midfield, holds off a challenge, finds space and flicks the ball to Hudson. Taylor runs to pick up the return pass, but Hudson's clever, he delays, jinks and squares the ball out to Brogan who, at last, has space to work in. He drives to the byline, cuts the ball back, beating the keeper and Taylor's headlong charge and finding HUDSON who heads home at pace.

Relief for us, an instant substitution and a need for greater adventure from Macclesfield. And that means space. Like a plant starved of light and air which is placed out into the summer sun, the Millers started to take control. Mills, imperiously surveying his territory, picks up the ball and prompts action. With Taylor harrying the defenders, there are now options up front.

Tolley - Macclesfield's best player - prompts a moment of panic with a neat through ball that releases a winger into the area, which Brogan pulls back, coming dangerously close to giving away a penalty. Mills loses out on in the air on the edge of his own area and poor marking allows the another winger space to shoot over from a narrow angle.

But that is the sum total of Macclesfield's goal threat and soon the game is won. A Mills prod through aimed for Hudson is blocked, Harrison challenges for the loose ball, which breaks into the area where TAYLOR, alert and free of his man, gathers possession takes one touch three paces and calmly slots home. A richly deserved goal.

Macclesfield, punctured, pass tamely amongst themselves with limited purpose. Discussions in the Millers ranks about whether Robins will give them a day off tomorrow.

And then the finishing touch. A Taylor flick and turn inside from the right wing opens space. A reverse pass finds Ross, who juggles the ball before sliding a pass to Harrison. A look up, a pass slipped back to the penalty spot where TAYLOR, who's looped run hasn't been tracked by the defender can't miss and doesn't.

This is getting serious. This is the sort of game we always drop points in. It's just what we do, like losing to Chesterfield and failing to win in Nottingham. And yet we didn't drop points. We ground out a win. A 3-0 win. We're third in a league. And it's January. There is a serious possibility that this team is the real deal, that we might somehow, despite the poor standard of the ground and the precarious finances and the gloom and despair that seems our lot in life, have assembled a genuinely resilient, competitive, skillful side which is going to push for promotion all the way to the end of season. The first trembling fronds of hope have been around for a little bit now; this new feeling is weirder, scarier - it may just be the beginnings of belief...

Millers 3-0 Macclesfield

DavidR's man of the match: Mills was his usual awesome self, Coughlan and Sharps effective, but TAYLOR changed everything and gets the nod for that reason alone

Ref watch: M Oliver - alright actually. Consistent, unfussy, not noticed. He can come again.

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