Full-time report from Moss Rose
Oxford United will be in the draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup again this season, but so too will Macclesfield Town after the teams fought out a 0-0 draw at Moss Rose this evening. Both teams will go into the hat once the tie is decided in a replay back in Oxford a week on Tuesday.*
This turned into a decent cup tie after, as expected, the National League side came out of the blocks quickly. They had a couple of early efforts including a speculative overhead kick from man-mountain John McCombe that was shepherded past the post by an alert United back line and a header across goal by Danny Rowe.
It took time for a changed United side to find their usual rhythm. Some of the charges were enforced, such as the suspended John Lundstram being replaced by Joe Rothwell in midfield and Aaron Martin coming into the defence for the injured Curtis Nelson. Others were tactical, such as Tyler Roberts joining Chris Maguire in attack and Marvin Johnson coming in on the left.
Hounding down United at every turn, the Silkmen set the tempo while United tried to settle the game down. Alex MacDonald flicked the first half-chance wide on 20 minutes before Ledson and Rothwell started to give their side a foothold with some strong challenges and clever movement and distribution.
It was the Macc lads who were on top though. There was a scare when Eastwood had to reach behind him and retrieve a stabbed interception by Dunkley that both prevented a goal and almost turned into an own goal and Paul Lewis blazed a good chance over after 31 minutes, but United had stood firm despite their hosts playing very well and having the better of the first half.
There will have been strong words at half time to wake the U's up, although captain Skarz’s evening ended early when he limped off to be replaced by Josh Ruffels five minutes into the second half. Johnson switched to left back with Ruffels in front of him and whether it was this switch, a half-time talking to, or Macclesfield starting to feel the pace, United began to find their feet, banging a couple of shots well wide but beginning to look more dangerous.
It turned into a proper end-to-end cup tie. Macclesfield still threatened to find the first goal, and had dominated the first hour but the introduction of Ryan Taylor gave the U's a different sort of threat and a focal point and chances now started to appear at the other end as well. Dunkley rose to head a Maguire free kick against the outside of the post on 67 minutes, Roberts forced the best save of the match from Craig Ross after yet more forceful play by Ruffels had created a chance to fire at goal from close to the penalty spot, and Taylor flicked a third effort just wide on 71.
However the game was opening up by the minute and on 75 Eastwood needed to make another good save when Lewis - a former Everton teammate of John Lundstram - found space in the area but again couldn't beat the keeper with a low shot. There was an almighty let off when Mackreth cracked a shot against the post on 80 but United had defended stoutly and kept a clean sheet to bring the Silkmen back to Oxford. The last kick of the game saw Maguire clip a free kick just wide but that would have been harsh on the home side, who deserved their draw.
Good honest cup football, and a chance to do it all over again.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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*subject to TV