Lancashire Amateur Cup, Quarter Final
Howe Bridge Mills 2 Hurlston Hall 3 (att 60)
This wasn't the cup tie I'd set out to watch. Another of the quarter finals, at Southport and Ainsdale Amateurs, had a midday kick off, opening up the possibility of watching two games, on two new grounds, in a single afternoon.
But I arrived to find it had been switched to an alternative venue, and learnt via Twitter that my potential second game, at Burscough Dynamo, had failed a morning pitch inspection. So I headed back towards Manchester and to a cup tie that more than made up for the earlier disappointment.
Howe Bridge Mills, struggling in the top division of the Lancashire Amateur League, and Wigan Leaguers Hurlston Hall were surprising quarter-finalists.
It was the visitors who took an early grip on the game, scoring two very well taken first half goals that looked to be sending them into the last four. But slack defending gave Howe Bridge Mills a goal back in the second half, and the home side were further buoyed when a Hurlston Hall penalty was saved.
Inevitably Howe Bridge Mills scored an equaliser, to the delight of most of those watching. It set up a thrilling end to the game, which was settled in the 90th minute by a wonderful strike by Hurlston Hall's very impressive number three.
Howe Bridge Mills play on a new 4G pitch at Howe Bridge Sports Centre in Atherton. The game was always going to be more interesting than the venue, especially as I'd already seen Howe Bridge play here twice on different grass pitches (plus two visits to see Manchester League Atherton Town on different pitches).
The 4G, next door to one of Howe Bridge's previous pitches, is floodlit and enclosed by the usual high fence. One touchline was roped off to keep spectators clear of the action.