By Gerry PrewettAfter their very entertaining and decisive victory at Plainmoor on Boxing Day Bristol Rovers entertain the team they overtook to claim second spot, Macclesfield Town. On the current ‘form’ tables covering the last six games Rovers top the Home, Away and Combined listings.
However Rovers should not be lulled into a false sense of security. They have failed to beat the Maxonians in 8 meetings at the Mem. Games between the teams are inevitably tight. In none of the 16 games played has there been more than 1 goal difference. The last time the teams met was in 2001/12 season and both games finished scoreless.
On Boxing Day, whilst Rovers were battering the Gull, the Silkmen went down to their first home defeat of the season to Grimsby Town. Although Macc began well enough they fell behind to a fourth-minute strike and a returning former Silkman was the man responsible.
Nathan Arnold's low drive was parried by Macc keeper Rhys Taylor but the ball didn't roll to safety and Jack Mackreth, who ended a two-year stay at the Moss Rose with a summer move to the Mariners, pounced to bundle the ball home.
The 18th December 1998 saw the Silkmen travel to The Mem for their first game against Rovers, it ended in a 0-0 draw in which the Cheshire side gave a battling performance.
The return leg at the Moss Rose, on 8th May the last day of the season, provided one last kick in the teeth for the Silkmen in a relegation season. After going 2-0 up after 20 minutes and still leading 3-1 just after half time, two goals in two minutes and an 87th minute strike gave Rovers a 4-3 win.
For Rovers, Jamie Cureton scored a memorable hat trick and Frankie Bennett notched a rare goal. For Macclesfield, Efe Sodje’s season finished early after he was sent off.
The Silkmen have the upper hand in the records having beaten Rovers seven times with seven draws and just two Rovers victories. It seems remarkable that Rovers have never beaten Macclesfield in Bristol.
Macc’s Chris Holroyd said he was looking forward to facing promotion rivals Grimsby and Bristol Rovers over the Christmas and New Year period but perhaps wisely admitted it would be challenging. Speaking after their 5-1 away win at Alfreton he said, “It’s three tough games but Saturday’s result gives us a nice little confidence boost. If we come out the other side of them with good results then we can keep that form going into the New Year.
The midfielder also said that he feels the side compete better in front of bigger crowds, something that he himself is looking forward to doing.
“They’re both big stadiums, Bristol Rovers and Grimsby. I think we performed well at Grimsby last year and got a good result, I think playing at these big arenas probably suits us. There’ll be big crowds and a good following from the Macclesfield fans so it’ll be great.”
One recent departure from Moss Rose has been midfielder David Gonzalez who has returned to his native Spain.
The 24-year-old signed for the Silkmen in July after impressing manager John Askey in a trial, but the club announced last week that his contract had been "cancelled by mutual consent".
Gonzalez, who played for his country at Under-17 level, initially announced he was leaving the Moss Rose via Twitter.
"It's time for me to go back to Spain. I wouldn't like to leave MTFC without saying thanks to all my team-mates and to all Silkmen fans for their support to me. It has been a great experience for me these last six months at Macc."
The Barcelona academy graduate made 11 appearances for Macclesfield and Chairman Mark Blower says Gonzalez leaves with the club's best wishes.
"David was nearing the end of his contract and asked if he could leave early to return to Spain for Christmas and then seek new playing opportunities. He is a fantastic lad and technically very capable. He leaves the club with our very best wishes."