Cambridge United were unable to recover from Arthur Gnahoua’s early free kick, as Macclesfield Town edged the U’s out 1-0 in Sky Bet League Two at Moss Rose.
The U’s lined up with three changes Dan Jones, George Maris and Liam O’Neil, replacing for the suspended Reggie Lambe and Luke Hannant and Harrison Dunk dropped to the bench.
United found themselves behind on five minutes when Gnahoua snuck a low free kick around United’s wall from the apex of the U’s area, which curled into Callum Burton’s bottom corner.
The Silkmen continued to press forward after the opener with Jay Harris only just missing the far corner from a 25 yard effort that had Burton at full stretch, before David Fitzpatrick’s mid-range strike was not far off either on 13 minutes as United failed to adapt to the poor pitch conditions at Moss Rose.
The U’s first foray forward came on 15 minutes when George Maris picked up possession 18 yards out, where he took a touch out of his feet but couldn’t bend his shot enough to find Owen Evans’ bottom corner.
Gnahoua was the Silkmen’s main threat as the half progressed and cut inside Dan Jones too easily on 20 minutes, with George Taft in a good positon to block the winger’s left foot shot and bail his defensive colleague out of trouble.
United opened up their best opportunity a couple of minutes later when Knibbs found Paul Lewis in space inside the host’s area, but the former Macclesfield man’s strike took a deflection which was cleared off the line by centre back Fiacre Kelleher.
Silkmen striker Joe Ironside was proving a handful for U’s centre backs Taylor and Taft, and when the forward got away from the latter ten minutes before the break, United would have counted themselves fortunate to see his left footed blast at goal fizz just wide of the mark.
Luke Hannant was introduced in place of Jack Roles by Colin Calderwood at half time, to lift United’s offensive energy for the second half. And the U’s certainly looked more lively in the opening stages of the second half, albeit in a far more stretched looking encounter.
Macclesfield thought they had scrambled in a second goal through Fraser Horsfall ten minutes into the half, but the offside flag was raised very late against the defender with United still facing just the one goal deficit.
Lewis then missed United’s best opportunity at the back post after the hour mark when the midfielder was found unmarked by Smith’s header across goal, but was unable to squeeze a shot in on the volley which cracked the outside of the post.
Hannant used an overlapping run by Dan Jones as a decoy well to cut inside and lace a right footed shot which had Evans rooted but zipped across the face of goal.
With United pushing men forward for a leveller, the U’s were almost caught out for a second Macclesfield goal when the ball was dislodged from Darling but Connor Kirby ran right into Burton who stopped the move bravely by diving at the forward’s feet.
And despite the introduction of Norville-Williams and Dallas in the final ten minutes, the U’s could not break down a Macclesfield side who defended their 18 yard box to keep Evans untested in the latter stages.
Macclesfield Town: Evans, McCourt, Kelleher, Gnahoua (Stephens, 90 mins), Harris, Ironside (Blyth, 87 mins), Welch-Hayes, Kirby, Horsfall, O’Keeffe (Cameron, 75 mins), Fitzpatrick
Cambridge United: Burton, Darling, Taylor, Taft, Jones (Norville-Williams, 79 mins), O’Neil (Dallas, 79 mins), Maris, Lewis, Roles (Hannant, 45 mins), Smith, Knibbs
Bookings: Jones, Hannant
Attendance: 1,454 (180)