Reckitts v Chalk Lane

2pm  22 November 2014

Humber Premier League, Premier Division
Reckitts 3 Chalk Lane 0 (att 41)

On a wet day the best way of guaranteeing a game being on is to head to a team that uses an all-weather pitch, or, as I did today, somewhere with plenty of 3G and 4G pitches just in case a back up is needed.

Reckitts play on grass at the Hull University sports ground in Inglemire Lane, but there are so many clubs in Hull using artificial pitches that getting a game was never likely to be a problem.

As it was the Reckitts pitch, although very wet, was playable, for a clash between two of the sides challenging at the top of the table. It was also a local derby, with Chalk Lane based just a few yards away on the university's 3G pitch.

The game lived up to its billing, with some good football played by two very committed sides on a proper old-fashioned muddy pitch. It was fun to watch.

Reckitts scored the first half's only goal, and added two more after the break. The 3-0 scoreline was harsh on Chalk Lane though, as they more than played their part in providing an enjoyable afternoon,

The Humber Premier League is a "step seven" league, but many of the venues are basic. Reckitts, traditionally among the league's strongest sides, have a base that's typical for the league (as least for those clubs who still play on grass).

It's just a pitch, taped off along most of one side where some dugouts are also positioned. Changing rooms are in the university sports centre building, which is on the opposite side of the road. Seven years ago I saw Reckitts play on another basic roped pitch, next door at the police sports ground.

Mid Annandale v Crichton

7.30pm  21 November 2014

South of Scotland League
Mid Annandale 2 Crichton 3 (att 65)

Following a brief exile in Annan, Mid Annandale have just returned to their home town of Lockerbie, and to a newly-built all weather pitch built next to their old ground.

The players still use the old changing rooms, and walk past the grass pitch at King Edward Park to get to the enclosed and floodlit artificial pitch, known as New King Edward Park and built on the site of a former school.

Mid Annandale are struggling in the league, but still attracted a decent number of spectators, in wet and windy weather, to this game against Dumfries-based Crichton. Apparently the club are planning more Friday night games in a bid to attract more spectators.

Given the testing conditions this was an entertaining game. Crichton were deserving winners, but had to come from behind. Mid Annandale took an early lead, which they held until just seconds before half time.

After the break Crichton were more on top, scoring twice. But the home side weren't finished, pulling a late goal back and then coming agonisingly close to equalising, but Crichton headed back to Dumfries with all the points.

Oughtibridge War Memorial v Swinton Athletic

2pm  15 November 2014

Sheffield County Senior League, Premier Division
Oughtibridge War Memorial Sports Club 6 Swinton Athletic 0 (att 43)

I wanted to stay fairly local today, so a trip to the outskirts of Sheffield suited me perfectly, especially as it's an area that's just out of reach for early and end of season midweek games after work.

I thought high-flying Swinton would win this game with ease, and they struck the frame of the Oughtibridge goal in the opening moments. But the home side scored first, after around 10 minutes, and soon after doubled their lead.

Swinton thought they'd pulled a goal back just before half time, but a linesman's flag ruled it out for offside.

Three minutes into the second half a foul in the penalty area handed Swinton an ideal platform from which to launch a comeback, but the spot kick was sent high over the bar.

Soon after that the home side scored a third, and a red card for Swinton ended any hopes they had. Oughtibridge scored three more, to cap a good performance the belied their lower mid table league placing.

Oughtibridge play at War Memorial Park, an quirky venue that was given to the local community as a war memorial in 1921. It has a lot to recommend it. A pavilion near the entrance includes changing rooms, a bar and tea bar, and was built recently after its predecessor was destroyed by floods in 2007.

From there the pitch is on the far side of a cricket square, and runs widthways. The near side is roped off, either side of the  cricket pitch, while the far side has a collection of assorted dugouts, covered and uncovered standing areas, and some bench seating. It's set in a valley, alongside the Rover Don,

A bonus was the free match programme, available from the clubhouse. It's an interesting read, although little of its content related to the match, but quite a lot had been cut and pasted from the Daily Mail website.

Crossgates Primrose v Hill of Beath Hawthorn

2pm  8 November 2014

SJFA East of Scotland Cup, Second Round
Crossgates Primrose 0 Hill of Beath Hawthorn 4 (att 103)

These very local rivals were drawn together in second round of the East of Scotland Cup, but there was never much doubt that Super League Hill of Beath would triumph over South Division strugglers Crossgates.

Any hopes of a cup upset evaporated within the first five minutes, as that's how long it took for the visitors to go in front thanks to a penalty.

But rather than pushing on and adding more goals it was a rather stuttering performance from Hill of Beath. They dominated play, but couldn't add to their lead, and Crossgates had their own moments going forward.

It was ill-discipline which ultimately cost Crossgates. They lost two players to red cards, either side of half time, and it was then only a matter of time before Hill of Beath added more goals. They scored three more, in quick succession around halfway through the second half.

Crossgates Primrose is one of Scottish Junior football's evocative club names, as is the name of their home ground, Humbug Park. It's a neat and tidy venue, but basic by Junior standards. There's no cover, so an umbrella was necessary on a wet afternoon, but it's enclosed, railed on three sides, and there's some overgrown and uneven terracing behind the far goal.

Dennistoun Vale v Whitefield Rovers

10am  8 November 2014

Strathclyde Saturday Morning Amateur League, Premier Division
Dennistoun Vale 1 Whitefield Rovers 3 (att 25)

I was planning a day in South Wales today, but the weather forecast ruled that out, so instead I headed north with plenty of options including a number of games on all-weather artificial pitches.

Dennistoun Vale play on a 3G pitch at Whitehill School in Dennistoun, close to the centre of Glasgow, not that the weather was a problem on a bright, but chilly, Glaswegian morning.

Dennistoun Vale and Whitefield appeared locked in what is likely to be a battle for runners-up spot in the league, having both dropped their only points by being beaten by table-topping Tynecastle.

The home side impressed most during the first half, but when they deservedly they went, about midway through the half, they only managed to hold the lead for about two minutes before Whitefield levelled.

Whitefield enjoyed a better second half, although there was little to choose between the sides. It took a great goal from Whitefield to get in front, and as Dennistoun pushed forward in search of an equaliser they conceded a third.

I've not seen much football in this league, but what I have watched has been a good standard, and this was probably the best I've see so far, justifying the early departure from my Salford home to get here in time.

Hurlford United v Stirling Albion

2pm  1 November 2014

Scottish Cup, Thurd Round
Hurlford United 1 Stirling Albion 1 (att 551)

I fancied Hurlford to cause an upset in this cup tie, and after leading for most of the game they came within a few minutes of doing. Stirling's equaliser came with just 12 minutes to go, and just minutes after a sending-off reduced them to 10 men.

Hurlford should have been out of sight by then, but lacked the necessary cutting edge in front of goal to take more of the chances they created. For a Scottish League side, Stirling looked poor, and are lucky to have got a reply.

The visitors started on the front foot, but it didn't take long for Hurlford to get into their stride, and it only took until the 10th minute before Hurlford opened the scoring. The goal seemed to knock Stirling's fragile confidence,  and from then on it was the Junior side who had more of the play, and created more of the chances.

I though they'd need a second goal to make the tie safe though, as while Stirling were second best they were getting half chances. Hurlford should have extended their lead, but when they created opportunities they failed to take them.

Stirling had more of the game in the second half, but there was little between the sides and Hurlford still looked stronger. As time went on it seemed the one goal might be enough, even more so when Stirling picked up a red card. But slack marking at a corner allowed Stirling to make it 1-1.

Despite that setback Hurlford finished strongly, probably sensing that their best chance to progress was in the final few minutes, at home, against 10 men. They had a series of corner, and half-chances, but couldn't score.

Hurlford's Blair Park is a neat and tidy venue. Most of the ground has a few steps of shallow terracing, with a small covered section on one side. The far end is out of bounds to spectators, although it provides a decent free view for residents whose homes back onto the ground. In one around 20 people were watching the game through the garden fence.

Hurlford United FC in a larger map

Espial U19 v Collingham U19

7.45pm  29 October 2014

North Midlands Development League
Espial U19 4 Collingham U19 1 (att 47)

Not the sort of fixture that I'd normally consider, but new grounds midweek are few and far between these days, and the under 19 side is the most senior that Chesterfield-based Espial have, having formed two years ago as a academy for young players.

According to the match programme (included free with the £3 admission they charge) Espial was set up "when it became clear there was a demand for high quality football coaching within an academy framework but without the constraints of a football club academy structure".

I've no idea what the "constraints" of a club set up might be, but on the evidence of the 90 minutes I watched Espial have players capable of performing to a good standard. They had this game won by half time, scoring three first half goals without reply. Collingham had their moments, but the biggest difference was finishing.

The second period brought just a goal apiece, Collingham's consolation in the closing moments thanks to a howler by the Espial keeper.

Espial's home venue for under 19 games, and the reason for my visit, is Chesterfield Panthers rugby union ground. It's newish, with a nice clubhouse and a main, floodlit, pitch that's fenced on the near side, with dugouts opposite and some grass banking. The football goals are placed in front of rugby posts for Espial games,

As for the name, my dictionary defines as Espial as "the act of being seen or discovered". Whether any local professional or semi-professional clubs notice Espial's youngsters remains to be seen.

Espial FC in a larger map