I REMEMBER someone saying things couldn't get any worse for Town away from home - well they just did.
This was a real hiding in which the scoreline flattered Town and left the travelling supporters - 42% of Macclesfield's biggest crowd of the season - both sick and angry.
The players and manager Peter Jackson, too, looked more dejected than at any stage this season and they now have a big job on their hands to stay in the play-off race.
An excellent home record alone is not going to sustain a push for the top seven and some serious thinking needs to be done about personnel and formation, especially with Nathan Clarke facing a three-match ban after Saturday's home clash with leaders Oxford United.
Town remain 10th and are only five points off the play-off slots, but they've now won only twice in 11 outings since chalking five straight wins a couple of months ago - and that's a crippling slump in form.
Unfortunately, it was pantomime season in the defence on Saturday and committing such mistakes at the back is going to make it extremely difficult for Town to gain any momentum on their travels.
Take nothing away from Macclesfield, because they were stiflingly solid at the back, hunted in packs through midfield and looked lively and creative up front, but Town were a shambles defensively and second best throughout in every department.
Never at any stage did Town threaten to match their performance in the 3-3 draw at Mansfield and a change might well have helped - Jackson had plenty of options on the bench - even before Macclesfield scored their second and effectively decisive goal.
Macclesfield, whose passing and movement was far superior, were given far too much time and space to play and, building from the back with too much ease, they built on an impressive first-half show to finish in completely dominant style.
Behind to Matthew Tipton's 13th-minute strike, when the danger should have been cleared from a Chris Priest break into the area, Town got overrun in midfield, where Lee Fowler had an off day, skipper Rob Edwards got a first start since September and Danny Schofield faded after a very bright start.
There was precious little for Andy Booth and Jon Stead to work with up front and, until home keeper Steve Wilson made his first stop of the match from Stead after 55 minutes, Town's best attack had finished with hard-working Anthony Lloyd seeing a shot blocked at the back post.
Town looked a mess as Danny Whitaker, Colin Little, John Miles and Tipton taunted them in waves of attacks and, with big Michael Welch a constant threat at set pieces (he hit the woodwork after only six minutes), it was a surprise that John Askey's side were only one up at the break.
The home fans chanted Askey's name at regular intervals in a clear indication they want the caretaker manager to get the job on a permanent basis.
He had, in fact, been told before the game that Macclesfield will re-interview for the post despite only one defeat in seven matches and, if his players wanted to underline their apparent disagreement with the decision, then they did it emphatically in the second half.
Even though Town started quite brightly, with Efe Sodje - who had a miserable return to his former club - missing a clear heading chance from a corner and Stead twice trying his luck, Macclesfield never looked back from Miles' putting them two ahead on 64 minutes.
He brushed off Paul Scott far too easily before curling a shot past Phil Senior, and that just about summed up Town's day - they were brushed off too easily by opposition who are steadily moving away from the danger positions near the foot of the table.
Typical of the defensive confusion and frailty was the build-up to Tipton's second goal from the penalty spot with 15 minutes left.
It should have been a simple task to deal with a high punted ball, but Clarke was slow to react as he didn't get a warning call that Tipton was lurking and, by the time he wrestled the striker back, he was well inside the box as the last defender.
While referee Mike Thorpe from Suffolk consulted his assistant on both the penalty award and the red card for Town's 20-year-old defensive star, there was no doubt about either and Tipton's successful spot-kick simply rubbed salt in the wounds.
It was mayhem after that as 10-man Town were left chasing shadows and Macclesfield passed the ball for fun around that now infamous black change kit which has yet to inspire a win.
Whitaker curled a shot inches wide before Tipton netted the fourth, tw o minutes from time, from a Tipton break - his initial close-range header being brilliantly blocked by Senior before the follow-up was smashed into the roof of the net.
Town's fans behind that goal, who had earlier booted a ball out of the ground rather than returning it to the pitch to illustrate their growing frustration, were leaving in droves at that stage and many missed the saves which Senior made from Whitaker and Little to prevent a complete rout.
Town's performance in a second four-goal defeat of the campaign (they lost 6-2 at Scunthorpe only a few weeks ago) was bad enough, however, and Jackson seems certain to make changes for the visit of the leaders on Saturday after a two-week break did his men no good whatsoever.
He must also restore some confidence to a line-up which looked utterly gutted at the final whistle if Town's impressive unbeaten home run is to continue and hopes of a top seven finish are to be prolonged.
TOWN FORM (3-5-2)
Phil Senior Made terrific late saves from Whitaker and Little to prevent a complete rout as Town were clinically taken apart Rating: 4/10
Nat Brown Caught in no-man's land in the first half, when the home side attacked with menace down his flank, he improved pluckily Rating: 3/10
Anthony Lloyd Stuck to his guns on a bad day for the defence and put in some solid and spirited challenges as Town were swamped Rating: 6/10
Paul Scott Made a couple of desperate clearances but will be disappointed with how he lost Miles for the second goal Rating: 3/10
Efe Sodje Back in the side for injured Ian Hughes and will not remember fondly his return to one of his former clubs Rating: 3/10
Nathan Clarke Dejected to be sent-off for pulling back Tipton in the box when Town's communication at the back ammounted to zero Rating: 4/10
Lee Fowler Often had three of the opposition around him when he got the ball and failed to exact any of his usual influence Rating: 3/10
Rob Edwards Back in the starting line-up for the first time since September and in midfield, where Town got totally overrun Rating: 3/10
Danny Schofield Made a very bright start to the match and tried as hard as anyone to get Town going, but his efforts proved in vain Rating: 4/10
Andy Booth Had an early effort blocked but chances were very scarce as support for the front two was negligible Rating: 3/10
Jon Stead Had a couple of efforts well saved by Wilson but was often too isolated and his frustration was clear Rating: 3/10
Wilson, Munroe, Adams, Priest, Tipton, Miles, Widdrington, Whitaker, Welch, Abbey, Little.
Has earned his place in the first team with some battling displays in the Reserves over the past 18 months and he showed all that gritty character on Saturday in a performance which the team as a whole will quickly want to forget. Stuck to his guns.
TURNING POINT: Had Town been able to get back on terms in the early minutes of the second half then they might have made a game of it, but Steve Wilson saved the best chance from Jon Stead and it was all Macclesfield from then on
Subs used: Macclesfield: None. Town: Holdsworth for Fowler 78 mins.
Subs not used: Macclesfield: Delaney, Hitchen, Carragher, Haddrell, Ross. Town: Ahmed, Onibuje, Yates, Martin
Scorers: Macclesfield: Tipton 13 and 75 (pen), Miles 64, Priest 88.
Dismissal: Town: Clarke.
Bookings: Town: Scott.
Referee: Mike Thorpe (Suffolk).
Shots on target: Macclesfield 11, Town 3.
Corners: Macclesfield 10, Town 7.
Caught offside: Macclesfield 1, Town 1.
Free-kicks awarded: Macclesfield 13, Town 11.
Attendance: 3,059 (Town: 1,280).