The last time we played Sandal was a seminal moment for Andy Appleyard’s team; it was February 2020, we were sitting pretty at the top of table but it was an ugly day at Priory Park. I recall speaking to the referee before the game, who remarked that the conditions would suit Sandal’s big forwards and 10-man style of play; it wasn’t something that I wanted to hear from a referee before kick-off! Naturally, you will recall, if you were there, he was right; added to which, for the Macc Lads, what could go wrong, did go wrong. The pitch had taken a hammering and its condition stifled our usual game strategy, added to which there were, in retrospect, some wrong decisions at crucial times.
Andy Appleyard remembers it well: “When we went to Sandal earlier that season, their number 10 (Greg Wood) wasn’t playing, and we beat them convincingly. It was completely different when they came to Priory Park; Wood sat in the pocket and fired kicks into difficult situations on the muddy pitch. When they had the ball, they looked after it – with a simple game plan, playing around the corner and keeping their hands free for the off-load to happen, keeping the ball alive. Obviously it’s something that we’ve been looking at in training”.
Sam Moss scoring against Sandal, February 2020
Last time out, we turned around at half time, 10 – 19 down, after facing a strong wind, after 64 minutes we pulled it back to 15 – 19 with a Sam Moss try, and with the wind behind us we were rightly optimistic. This is when everything went wrong, panic set-in and we gifted two penalties to make it easy for Sandal to hold on for the win 15 – 25. Conditions should be different this time, with a much better playing surface on Saturday, which should suit Macclesfield’s hi-tempo strategy. Harry Blackwell makes a welcome return after a series of injuries has made him unavailable, but we are without Will Davies, so there will be a re-shuffle at half-back and probably elsewhere in the Backs to accommodate Harry Blackwell.
There is not a lot to choose between the two side’s results so far this season, having played very similar fixtures; Macclesfield has found scoring a little easier, also gaining one more win. Having said that, the only real advantage is playing at Priory Park, and that did not quite work out last time around! The boys will be hoping that the Priory Park faithful are boisterous from the whistle.
A big thank you goes to Tim Peakman, who valiantly stood in for me, for the thrilling contest against York, two weeks ago. I will be back on Saturday with the “Whaa-Hoo” machine at the ready. Please make as much noise as you can, Sandal will be bringing their support, so please get behind the lads with 80 minutes of Priory Park hollering!