Manchester Saturday Morning League, League Cup 1st Round
Brownley Albion 2 Blackley Town 4 (att 3)
After days of rain I was surprised to learn that Stockport Council's grass pitches were to be open at the weekend, and playable subject to referees' decisions.
Two Saturday morning games were scheduled at the William Scholes Playing Fields in Gatley, so despite a previous visit I was guaranteed a new pitch, subject of course to a final decision by the match officials.
Heavy rain as I left home for the short drive to Gatley meant I was expecting a wasted journey, but I was in luck. One game was off, Parrswood Thursday's pitch was waterlogged, but Brownley and Blackley's Manchester Evening News-sponsored league cup tie was on.
Last time I saw a game at the venue, the now defunct Gatley FC in 2000, they played on an open pitch alongside an enclosed ground that was surrounded by an ageing running track. The playing fields have had a makeover since then, but the pitch Gatley used that day was Parrswood's waterlogged pitch, while Brownley Albion were playing on the "track pitch".
The old running track now looks entirely abandoned, but the ground is fenced off from the rest of the playing fields, giving it the feel of a "proper" venue. The pitch must drain fairly well, as although it was muddy it wasn't in bad condition considering the rain. The old track provided some useful hard standing for spectators (all three of us).
It was a lively and entertaining game, and one played in a commendably good spirit. Both sides are in the league's second division, but Blackley have the better playing record and their win was no surprise.
They had to work hard for it though. They started well and took a deserved lead, but Brownley fought back, took advantage of some slack play by the visitors, and went into half time 2-1 up. Blackley turned things around in the second half, but it took a pair of own goals to put them in front.
Brownley weren't out of the tie, and the outcome remained in the balance until a late fourth goal for the visitors secured their place in the second round.