As I entered the ground via the tightly packed car park, I found myself with enough time to have a wander around the ground and see what was on offer in this one. The ground had two stands, with one housing a few wooden long benches and the other covering a section of concrete terracing. Maine Road is a team that was formed in 1955 by Man City's Supporters Club and these days they are still heavily involved as the club's main sponsor. The club is run by City fans and as if to make this tie even more tasty, Abbey Hey are very much a United lookalike that play in the infamous red and black colours known to be one half of the legendary Manchester Derby. So, needless to day that the scene was set and the 150 or so fans were ready to see how their sides would get on in what was my second derby match of the day- with the result being a home game this weekend against Evo-Stik Premier side Altrincham.
Abbey Hey got the game up and running but it was Maine Road who pushed first, winning a corner inside the opening minute. Nothing came of this chance, but it signalled the first of many attacking plays that would come in an overall decent game of football. For Abbey Hey it was Ash Blake, pictured above, who had the first proper chance. As he ran inside from the left, the young winger slid to the ground and knocked his effort just wide in the 9th minute. This warning to the Maine Road defence was a let-off, but just a minute later they would not be allowed the same courtesy. George Noon had made a good run down the right for the visitors and when he crossed the ball in it was Rob Swallow who was waiting to apply a simple tap-in and the opening goal of the night. Maine Road 0-1 Abbey Hey. The Red Rebels continued to make chances and an 18th minute free-kick almost doubled their lead, but this time the ball smacked against the wall before looping on to the roof of the net.
It wasn't all going the visitors way, despite their lead, and Maine Road showed intent of their own as the Sky Blues captain ran in on goal before shooting over the bar. Half-time came with the score still perfectly-poised at 1-0 to the visitors. I headed into the clubhouse during half-time where I got chatting to a few of the travelling football enthusiasts that had also made the trip to Brantingham Road. Apparently ground-hopping regular Tony Incenzo was here, as was a chap from Epsom in Surrey and also the chap I got speaking to was the father of the linesman. I spent a good five minutes talking to the man, a Chesterfield fan, and he told me that he was an involuntary ground-hopper these days as he travelled around providing travel for his son- and as a non-league lino, I imagine he also has to provide security on the odd occasion! I also had a brief chat with a hard-of-hearing Manchester veteran fan, who asked me about my travels in the following conversation: He asked me how many grounds I'd done, to which I told him 86. He said, "how many you got left to do?", and I just said "dunno, thousands?" before he looked at me and stated "oooh, you've got a few to go yet, kid!"
I got back out to pitch side having missed the first few moments, but as I stepped out of the clubhouse I just about saw the Abbey Hey keeper being forced into a great save after a good strike from a Maine Road midfielder. With the home side dominating the start of the second-half, I had a very strong feeling that I'd still be stood here in an hour's time. A free-kick sailed just wide and were it not for excellent challenge after excellent challenge from Matt Cook, Maine Road would have undoubtedly been level. The right-back was the best player on the park by a country mile on this occasion. With the darkness forming in the sky, the match began to come towards its conclusion and credit must go to the Abbey Hey manager for introducing a new striker to the pitch in the form of Rhys Webb, who would prove to be just the breath of fresh air the visitors needed.
Webb ran the show in the last 10 minutes and really took advantage of a tiring Maine Road defence. He burst down the field and through the opposition, before hitting a shot straight at the keeper and then a rebound effort was blocked by the backtracking centre-backs in blue. The resulting corner saw him nod the ball just wide and then he even popped up as the free-kick taker in the 85th minute, with another effort being deflected away from the goal. With time almost up, there was yet to be a couple of goals in this one and Webb finally got his goal in the 89th minute after hanging the Maine Road right-back out to dry out wide before hitting his shot past a flat-footed keeper. Maine Road 0-2 Abbey Hey. Credit must be given to the hosts after conceding the second goal as they did not see this as game over. Deep into injury time Maine Road's number 8 looks up and sees his chance to smash home an expertly whipped strike from 25-yards, which gave the hosts a final straw to clutch at with seconds left. Maine Road 1-2 Abbey Hey. Needless to say that the equaliser could not be purchased for love nor money in the final minute and it would be Abbey Hey who would finally claim the victory after an almighty 285 minute series of footballing rivalry.
It's not often you get to go to a Replay of a Replay, but that's exactly what the second match of my Monday double groundhop had in store for me as I headed over to Brantingham Road in the Chorlton-Cum-Hardy district of Manchester. Having already been to a game at Chester just a few hours prior to this game, I arrived in the south of Manchester nice and early in time for a top notch Hot Dog at the Wetherspoons just around the corner. It was during this between match downtime that I looked into the stats behind this derby match. Not only are the two sides in the same league, sitting 18th and 19th with 3 points and minus 5 goal differences apiece, but they were also playing each other for a third time this season already in the FA Cup. After a 2-2 Draw at The Abbey Ground in the original tie, the replay last week went into extra time following a 1-all draw before a 105th minute head-injury to Adam Hampshire for the Red Rebels player meant that the Ref had to abandon the game. With that being said, I'd predicted another draw for tonight's encounter which would mean the teams could potentially end up playing 315 minutes of football all-in-all!
|Anyone for a pre-match wander around the on-site garden?|
|Third time lucky, let's hope!|
|I would say I was at the edge of my seat, but so was everyone|
|I literally took a pew during HT|
|Ready for some late action? I know I was|
|And you'll never guess who the Red Rebels face next Monday in a League away match...|