Macclesfield 1 Newport County 1
DESPITE conceding an equaliser with just nine minutes remaining, this was very much a point gained for Newport County AFC.
Macclesfield Town were a League Two side last season as County floundered at the bottom of the Conference, and this was a game where the hosts showed their Football League pedigree.
The Silkmen were behind at the break to Tony James’ opener but they dominated the second half and created enough chances to win three games.
Matthew Barnes-Homer, a striker who was close to joining the Exiles in the summer, headed in to earn a deserved share of the spoils.
Justin Edinburgh’s men will reflect on Aaron O’Connor’s shocking miss on the stroke of half-time, which should have made it 2-0, but only an heroic defensive display stopped Macclesfield scoring three or four goals.
And after this early kick-off was over and done with, the later results proved it to be a very valuable point indeed.
Wrexham’s defeat at home to Lincoln City and Forest Green Rovers’ loss at Mansfield Town means the Exiles still sit proudly at the top of the Blue Square Premier table.
And as we head into an FA Cup break next weekend they have in fact extended their lead to a very healthy-looking four points.
There were signs in this match and the 1-0 win over Ebbsfleet that several of Edinburgh’s top performers could do with a break and the likes of O’Connor, James, Ismail Yakubu and maybe even Lenny Pidgeley could be rested for the trip to Yate Town.
Promotion is the main aim this season and Jake Harris, Conor Washington, Ryan Charles and Joe Perry will be chomping at the bit to start.
With due respect to Yate, they should have enough to earn County a shot at a League club in the next round and allow the weary and the walking wounded to rest ahead of the Woking league match on October 27.
Edinburgh denied that the 12.30pm start for Non-League Day affected his players, but both sides started sluggishly at Moss Rose on Saturday and it was only James’ assured sidefoot home from Jake Thomson’s free kick on 43 minutes that sparked the hosts into life.
O’Connor should have bagged his 11th goal of the season a few minutes later as the ball fell to him a few yards out and he blazed over under almost no pressure.
And that was ultimately to prove costly.
It was pretty much one-way traffic after the break as the visitors dropped deeper and deeper and Macclesfield took charge of proceedings.
The excellent James and Yakubu were at the heart of everything for County but captain David Pipe, before he was forced off though injury, and left-back Andy Sandell also played a big part in keeping the hosts out.
Yakubu bravely headed clear as Barnes-Homer’s boot narrowly missed his head and then took a John Paul Kissock drive smack in the kisser.
That took the wind out of him and a knock to the calf led to his withdrawal and the introduction of Andrew Hughes.
Chris Holroyd fired wide from close range and Pipe and Sandell made important blocks on the line before Pidgeley saved from Craig Braham-Barrett and Sam Wedgbury.
Charles came on for Pipe and made a fleeting impact as County launched a few counter-attacks, but just as it looked like they had weathered the storm, Sandell slipped and Barnes-Homer was left with a simple header at the far post to level matters.
Macclesfield sensed a winner was coming but the knockout blow never came in front of watching It’s a Knockout host Stuart Hall and the Exiles’ unbeaten run stretched to eight matches.
If this carries on, rather than being the stars of the show, County might, just might, not be involved at all in next year’s Non-League Day.