Match report: Macclesfield 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Reda Johnson heads in the opener.
Reda Johnson heads in the opener.
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Miguel Llera played without his skullcap on Saturday because he hoped it would bring him a change of luck.

It nearly worked but the defender still has yet to finish on the winning side this season when he has started a game.

Neutrals will take their hats off to Macclesfield for earning a Hillsborough replay. Silkmen centre-half Steve Williams crowned his team’s second-half fightback with a goal of which a striker would be proud.

But if the Owls can sustain for the best part of 90 minutes at home the form they showed in the first half then the replay will not be a matter of luck - they will be heading into the fourth home.

Macclesfield were fortunate to be only one down at half time after Reda Johnson nodded home one of several testing corners from Stephen McPhail.

Playing the tried and trusted away formation of 4-5-1, the Owls were dangerous at set-pieces and lorded it in midfield, though not always achieving penetration and missing the threat up front of Connor Wickham, the club’s December Player of the Month.

Some would say they were were fortunate not to go behind in the 14th minute when Liam Plamer cleared a header from a corner off the line - but that’s what he was there for.

Wednesday played some good stuff in the first half.

Jose Semedo had a header from a Jeremy Helan cross deflected for a corner and must have thought his second goal for the Owls was looming when he met Kieran Lee cross on the half-volley. Keeper Rhys Taylor clawed it off the line and prevented the midfielder from adding to the goal he netted in a 2-1 win at Wycombe in October, 2011.

From McPhail corners, Reda Johnson clipped a half-chance wide and Glenn Loovens glanced a header wide. Helan smashed a shot past the angle on the break after a thorw from Damian Martinez released him.

Wednesday started the second half similarly to the way they began the first - but, as Stuart Gray reflected later, this is the FA Cup: Macclesfield had a real go at them, got the crowd going and disrupted the Owls’ flow.

Another goalline clearance from Palmer and a great tackle by Llera in the box were forced by directness and pressure from the home team.

When Williams headed a far-post corner into the side-netting, the Owls were living a bit dangerously.

Comfort could have been restored when the Owls made their only opportunity of the second half, in the 60th minute. Lee teed the ball up for Reda Johnson and his rising shot was saved impressively by Taylor.

Martinez matched that soon afterwards, springing to divert a drive from midfielder Danny Whitaker.

But it was no real surprise when the resurgent Silkmen equalised, and what a simple goal it was. A long ball down the middle, and Williams ran in behind Loovens to guide the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot. For a centre-half, it was some finish.

Straightaway, and not for the first time, Gray made a double substitution in an attempt to change the tone of a game, but on this occasion it did not force any profound change, after Rhys McCabe and Jermaine Johnson took over from McPhail and Helan.

Wednesday could have nicked a win in the last few minutes. Palmer raided down the right and had Maguire and McCabe in support but the full-back’s ball into the box was inaccurate.

That may have been uppermost in Gray’s mind when he said: “The final ball let us down in the second half.”

But there were no excuses from the man who looks set to be named as manager this week.

“The lads are very disappointed they

haven’t won. If you keep allowing the ball to come into your box, they will get a break. We invited pressure on ourselves,” he said.

“The second half showed what the FA Cup is all about. Suddenly the crowd were up for it. We didn’t come out of the traps.”

Gray felt that Martinez justified his place and he explained: “”I just wanted Damian to have a game. He pulled off a great save in the second half.

“His distribution was excellent as well. Chris (Kirkland) is struggling a bit with a knock as well, so I thought I’d freshen it up.”

The Owls boss also felt that Llera and Loovens coped well with strikers Scott Boden and Chris Holroyd.

Indeed Llera made a decent stab at replacing Roger Johnson.

Explaining

his bare-headedness, the

Spaniard said: “I think I needed to change something. I didn’t have too much luck in the last game. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of games!”

It is also a case of wait and see for Gray, who said he expected to meet Milan Mandaric on Tuesday. But he looks likely to be confirmed in the job.

The chairman was not at Macclesfield. The Owls had a compelling win against Blackpool. If after that Gray’s appointment was in any real doubt, then surely Mandaric would want to be there again to see for himself how the team performed, unless he had other pressing business.

Next up on the field is the home game on Saturday against Leeds, one of the teams who were knocked out by lower-grade opposition. Wednesday at least avoided a shock exit.