By Chris Sweetman
James Askey’s heroics as a stand-in goalkeeper ultimately fell to naught, as ten-man Newcastle Town slipped to a 2-0 defeat at the Red Industries Stadium.
Newcastle were looking to follow up victory over Clitheroe by upsetting league leaders Macclesfield, but were hamstrung by goalkeeper Joe Slinn’s early red card.
Captain Askey took over between the sticks, and made several crucial saves as Newcastle defended resolutely to preserve the deadlock until halftime.
However, Alex Curran fired Macclesfield ahead shortly after the break, and although Newcastle grew into their search for an equaliser, they could find a telling chance.
Instead, Brandon Lee secured the points for Macclesfield with a late goal, to give the visitors a ten point margin at the top of the table.
Against the dominant league leaders, Newcastle got off to a promising start, as Joe Thompson forced an early save off a long throw.
The hosts continued to play positively in the opening minutes, with Nathan Morley in particular finding room behind the Macclesfield defence.
However, it was the visitors who had the first real chance, as Dan Sweeney just failed to reach what would have been a tap in.
Moments later Neil Kengi should have made it 1-0 to Macclesfield, as he was found by Tre Pemberton’s cross, but shanked his shot wide from close range.
Macclesfield were starting to take control of the game, but Newcastle still carried a threat, as Jack van der Laan played in Morley, whose cross was blocked for a corner.
Moments later, both sides wasted golden opportunities to take the lead, as first Alex Curran forced a save off Slinn, which Mark Duffy couldn’t follow up to tap in.
From there, Newcastle broke forward in numbers, but a poor touch from Luke Walsh as the chance developed allowed the Silkmen to clear.
Macclesfield were dominating possession and building pressure, before they forced the game’s defining moment.
A long ball towards the Newcastle box forced Slinn to come forward, and in doing so he handled the ball outside the area and was sent off.
This forced a reshuffle for Newcastle, with Askey sent in goal, and Luke Walsh sacrificed for Kyle Stubbs to maintain defensive numbers.
The free kick was fired over by Mark Duffy, but from there the game developed into attack versus defence, as Macclesfield laid siege to the Newcastle goal.
However, Askey proved unflappable in goal, starting by making a superb tip-over save from Kengi’s long-range shot.
From there, Askey made several more key saves, as Newcastle proved able to weather the Macclesfield pressure and take their chances to clear.
The closest the visitors came to breaking the deadlock in the first half came when Curran found himself one-on-one with Askey, who got out well to block the shot.
With the game still goalless, Newcastle went into the break on the back foot, but hopeful that they could sneak a result.
Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed soon after the restart, as despite a positive start, Macclesfield soon took the lead.
The visitors broke from a Newcastle throw, surged forward and got the ball to Curran on the left, who dummied Mikey Conlon, before firing past the stranded Askey.
However, Newcastle did not let their heads drop after falling behind, as Stubbs audaciously tried to shoot from the kick off, with goalkeeper Wyll Stanway off his line, but the ball just went over the bar.
Macclesfield rallied from that cheeky attempt, and resumed their siege of the Newcastle goal, but were let down by horrible inaccuracy in front of goal.
However, James Hardy almost doubled the lead as he tried to sneak a shot in at the near post, but Askey got down well to get a glove on it and save.
Newcastle were beginning to find opportunities to break, but with Max Chimenes isolated up front, they rarely had the numbers to truly threaten the Macclesfield goal.
Meanwhile, the visitors were spending most of their time camped in and around the Newcastle box, but kept finding their shots blocked by defenders, or saved by Askey.
Instead, intelligent play by Chimenes won Newcastle a corner, which needed an excellent take by Stanway to deny Stubbs at the back post.
Will Lloyd and Patryk Mazurkiewicz were introduced at this point, and the pair added impetus to Newcastle’s attack play, with Lloyd almost playing in Connor Russo straight after coming on.
Meanwhile, Mazurkiewicz intercepted a lazy ball from Laurent Mendy, and broke into the box, but chose to pass instead of shoot, which allowed Stanway to smother the ball.
Immediately after, Macclesfield put the game to bed as they broke downfield, and worked the ball left for Lee, who fired home for his first goal of the season.
Newcastle were not letting Macclesfield sit on their advantage, with Mazurkiewicz in particular putting pressure on the visiting defence, with and without the ball.
However, they could not work a real scoring chance until stoppage time, where a free kick saw Lloyd’s shot hit a defender, before Russo fired the rebound well over the bar.
The final score was harsh on Newcastle, who had produced one of their best performances of the season, against the league’s dominant team.
Match cancellations mean Newcastle maintain their five-point cushion over 17th place and the top of the relegation zone.
And they will have a chance to extend that gap next Saturday, as they travel to Colne, currently in 17th, before welcoming City of Liverpool to the Red Industries Stadium the week after.