ONE moment of hesitancy, one lapse in concentration and a one-goal defeat.
There was very little between United and Macclesfield, but the Gulls were sent home with zero points when Dan Whitaker punished a defensive mistake for the only goal of the game on 57 minutes.
The big news in the United line-up was the decision to play youth-team scholar Levi Ives at left-back ahead of Tom Cruise after the weekend draw with Gateshead. Manager Chris Hargreaves also had Angus MacDonald back from injury to take his place on the bench.
Macclesfield manager John Askey made two changes from the weekend win over Alfreton. Matthew Barnes-Homer was unavailable after completing his loan spell from Whitehawk and was replaced by Malachi Lavelle-Moore in attack. The defensive change saw Alex Grant come in for Andy Halls.
Macclesfield came out of the blocks with a burst from Adriano Moke and his pass inside to Paul Turnbull prompted a first-time shot that was only a fraction too high to force an early save from Martin Rice.
The Silkmen continued their positive start with a fierce shot from Waide Fairhurst deflected into the side-netting after the Gulls only half-cleared a corner. The flurry of corners placed United under huge pressure but Krystian Pearce was the hero with a superb defensive header.
United were struggling to get hold of the ball and maintain any meaningful spates of possession until a flick from Ryan Bowman did briefly provide a sniff a goal for Toby Ajala, but he was quickly crowded out by the home defence.
Macclesfield were soon back on the attack with a surge down the right and when the ball was delivered to Lavelle-Moore, he was in space in the penalty area but a weak effort was comfortable for Rice.
The Gulls, however, were slowly improving and the home defence needed all their reinforcements to close down Louis Briscoe after crafty footwork from Ajala had created some room in the box.
United were suddenly laying siege and a pass from Bowman gave Briscoe a chance to shoot at goal, forcing a decent block from goalkeeper Rhys Taylor and the rebound was hacked off the line by defender George Pilkington.
The concern for Hargreaves was early bookings handed to Durrell Berry and Luke Young, placing two combative players on a disciplinary tightrope.
A terrific change of feet from Briscoe earned United a free-kick on the edge of the area but Macclesfield did well to clear the cross from Young, and the game was tapering toward a half-time blank.
The assistant referee then saved United to ensure the game did remain goalless, as he swiftly waved a flag to deny Macclesfield a crucial opener after Chris Holroyd thought he had scored with a header from a free-kick.
Ives responded with a deep cross that had Taylor furiously back-pedalling to palm the ball over his own bar. The subsequent corner fell to Bowman, who forced Taylor into another decent save.
The second period started in fairly tepid fashion and United would clearly need something special to breach the meanest defence in the Vanarama Conference.
However, only leaders Barnet have scored more goals than the Gulls in the opening 20-odd games of the campaign and a strong run from Briscoe reminded the Silkmen they were facing a Yellow outfit with real attacking intent.
Disaster then struck on a bitterly cold evening in Cheshire, as a Macclesfield cross caused confusion in the Yellow defence, presenting Whitaker with a gift to calmly stroke the home side in front.
Bowman was the first Gull to take up the challenge and the former York and Hereford striker was very unlucky to see his snap-shot fizz inches wide of the far post.
Hargreaves turned to the bench by introducing Elliot Benyon for Briscoe but the miserly home team were clearly comfortable protecting the lead, and Holroyd came close to doubling that advantage with a shot narrowly off target.
A set-piece for Young presented Pearce with a glimpse at goal and the big defender wasn’t far away with a steered header toward goal.
It was, however, only a glimpse and Macclesifeld were soon up the other end for a cross toward Fairhurst, who possibly should have done better with a header nodded wide of the post.
Duane Ofori-Acheampong replaced Courtney Cameron for the final 15 minutes but it was over to Young for a sizzling trademark free-kick from distance and credit to Taylor for producing a sensational save to thwart the Yellow skipper.
The Silkmen were in their comfort zone as a powerful defensive unit and United could not find the right formula to genuinely threaten for an equaliser.
The effort, as always, never wavered but Macclesfield had the luxury of coasting to victory without United really testing Taylor and the defenders in front of him.
Macclesfield (4-3-3): 1 Rhys Taylor; 28 Alex Grant, 5 George Pilkington, 31 Liam Hogan, 3 Scott Barrow; 23 Dan Whitaker, 6 Paul Turnbull, 11 Adriano Moke; 9 Chris Holroyd, 10 Waide Fairhurst, 7 Malachi Lavelle-Moore. Substitutes (not used): 12 Dan Cowan, 14 Arthur Gnahoua, 19 Domaine Rouse, 20 Richie Branagan (GK), 30 William Bailey.
Booked: Grant 31
United (4-4-2): 1 Martin Rice; 29 Durrell Berry, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes, 25 Levi Ives; 11 Courtney Cameron (24 Duane Ofori-Acheampong 76), 8 Luke Young (capt), 16 Courtney Richards, 10 Toby Ajala; 7 Louis Briscoe (17 Elliot Benyon 63), 9 Ryan Bowman. Substitutes (not used): 21 Angus MacDonald, 22 James McQuilkin, 23 Jordan Seabright (GK).
Booked: Berry 14, Young 25
Referee: Adrian Holmes