Tuesday 25th August 2020 18.45
Whalley Range 2 West Didsbury AFC 2 HT: 0-0 Att: 30 hc
from King’s Road
Dave and I had planned to go to new club Aintree, who play literally in the middle of the Grand National Race Course, and also a motor racing circuit to boot; a unique venue that would make up for any lack of stands.
Unfortunately, Storm Francis had raged all day; it had rained with irritating persistency and with maximum wettability – the type that if you stand out for 10 seconds you have to peel your trousers away from your legs. Despite guarantees that the game would be on and mild disbelief that we’d even asked, it was postponed. This set off a domino rally of postponements all across the northwest – at much higher venues than Aintree.
I performed some serious twitter mining in the passenger seat to see Whalley Range FC claimed their game was still on. We exited at Junction 19, rather than carrying on to Liverpool, knowing that despite the game being on, it was unlikely to stay that way. Even if it kicked off, the chances of finishing were low.
The ground was difficult to find at first, being hidden behind surburban houses, off a hidden entrance. Never mind Where’s Wally?, this was Where’s Whalley Range? Their ground is actually on the other side of the road from Maine Road FC, and not too far from Alexandra Park where I ‘hopped’ a Parkrun venue earlier in the year, coming in 61st out of 384, in a time of 21.58.
Whalley Range FC play in a league I’d never heard of – the Lancashire and Cheshire League. This is one league, not two as I first thought, and Whalley Range won it by miles last season, dropping only four points out of 54 with a goal difference of 68. Their opponents were West Didsbury AFC, not to be confused with West Didsbury & Chorlton. They play in the Manchester League.
The car park was full but there is ample parking on King’s Road. The ground is nicely enclosed by surrounding houses and has a perimeter bar in place. It has a smart clubhouse, bar and even snack bar, which was much appreciated this evening. They advertised Cheeseburgers and for those who didn’t like cheese, cheeseburgers without cheese 🤔.
As well as the perimeter bar there were two skeletal stands behind the goal – not much use in the deluge as they were literally just the framework, I’m not sure if they’re half-finished or derelict.
When we got there the pitch was looking very soft and waterlogged in patches. The game did start though, and despite the conditions and areas of the pitch where the ball had to be dragged along through puddles, this was yet another good friendly with quality football. West Didsbury looked the likelier to score but it was goalless at half time.
The rain was still unrelenting, but the second half started and it seemed that the ref was going to plough on to the end; and good for him. The 0-0 likelihood was high, but Whalley Range got a penalty on about the hour mark, which was converted into the bottom corner. Shortly after, a nice move was finished from close range for 2-0.
This was unfair on the visitors and they knew it, which seemed to spur them on as they made two excellent finishes to get back into the game to set up an end to end finish.
I’ve really enjoyed these county league venues this season, but it’s a dangerous precedent. I’ve entered the wardrobe of minor leagues and a Narnian forest of new grounds has opened up in front of me. Saturdays from now on I may well be picking from the Manchester, Cheshire, West Cheshire, West Lancs, hitherto unknown Lancashire & Cheshire, Hope Valley, Midland Regional Alliance, Central Midlands and lower leagues of the WMRL and Midland Leagues – to name a few.