Cwm Welfare v Newport Civil Service

2pm  24 January 2015

Welsh League, Division Three
Cwm Welfare 4 Newport Civil Service 0 (att 16)

Comfortable win for league newcomers Cwm Welfare, and a result that should ease their fears of slipping towards the relegation zone.

They dominated the match, scoring three in the first half and adding one more after the break, much to the delight of their small band of followers.

Cwm Welfare are based in Beddau, which is very much rugby territory. The Mount Pleasant Park venue is almost bolted onto the side of the local rugby ground, which boasts several stands, floodlights, a PA system, and - as they were at home at the same time as the football - a large crowd.

Like their crowds, Welfare's home is more modest. The pitch is railed off, with a few advertising boards attached, and a small, but perfectly adequate, covered standing area complies with Welsh League rules.

Apparently the club have plans to lay some more hard standing for spectators, which on the evidence of the very muddy pitch surrounds, would be a welcome move. Keeping a football club going in a rugby-dominated town must be difficult, and Cwm Welfare's friendly officials deserve credit for all they've achieved so far.









Swansea City U18 v Crystal Palace U18

11am  24 January 2015

Under 18 Professional Development League Two
Swansea City U18 2 Crystal Palace U18 4 (att 77)

Swansea use a couple of venues for youth team games, most are played at Fairwood, developed by the club in conjunction with Swansea University, but a few, including this one, are instead at the Landore training ground, not far from the Liberty Stadium.

It's a newish facility, with a two-tier building housing changing rooms and offices, beyond which are three parallel pitches, running widthways. This game was played on the one nearest the changing rooms, beyond it a second pitch has a trio of small seated stands, and beyond that is an all-weather pitch. All three are floodlit.

This was the cliched game of two halves, or rather a game of the first 40 minutes and the following 50. Little of note happened during much of the first half, and I thought I'd be lucky to see a goal. Then Palace seized on a rare opportunity to go ahead five minuted before half time.

The second half was much more entertaining. Swansea started the half on the front foot, and it wasn't long before they turned the game around to lead 2-1. But palace weren't to be denied, and played some good football as they scored three to run out convincing winners.

I enjoyed my visit to Swansea, who unlike some clubs at this level welcome supporters to academy games (Brighton take note). I'm yet to see the club's youngsters play at Fairwood, so may be back in Swansea before the season ends.






St Cuthbert Wanderers v Abbey Vale

3pm  17 January 2015

South of Scotland League
St Cuthbert Wanderers 3 Abbey Vale 2 (att 62)

Another Saturday when the weather made planning where to go a bit of challenge, although hardly unexpected in January.

I had slim hopes of going to Dumfries YMCA, with this game as a back up, but when my first choice was called off early I decided to head to south west Scotland anyway, rather than waste time at home trying to find  other games that were going ahead.

St Cuthbert have recently installed an artificial pitch at their St Mary's Park ground in Kirkudbright, and as the town missed the snow that blighted other parts of Scotland there was no doubt about this match going ahead.

The excellent surface contributed to a very enjoyable match, between two sides who can clearly play a bit, and it seemed a better standard than I'm used to in the South of Scotland League.

The home side started well, and deserved the lead they established thanks to two goals inside the first half-hour. Abbey Vale were no pushovers though, and having halved the arrears they drew level with a well-taken free kick just before half time.

The visitors started the second half on top, but failed to take any of several good chances they had to go in front. Instead it was St Cuthbert who regained the lead, thanks to what I thought was a rather dubious penalty.

With over 30 minutes still to play the major surprise was that there were no further goals. Both sides had chances, and Abbey Vale pushing for an equaliser and St Cuthbert dangerous on the break. All in all it was a great game, with Abbey Vale unfortunate not to get a point.

Although this was my first visit to St Mary's Park, I know it's been transformed recently with the installation of the new pitch. Unfortunately, an old wooden grandstand has gone, but it's been replaced by a decent section of covered terracing. A building opposite houses changing rooms and a "tuck shop", and the ground is fully enclosed and very neat and tidy.









Kent Football United v Crockenhill

2pm  10 January 2015

Kent Invicta League
Kent Football United 2 Crockenhill 3 (att 31)

Once again the weather was a major factor in deciding where to go. Kent Football United's helpful secretary told me on Friday night that the game was certain to be on, and Halls Athletic's Kent County League match on a 3G pitch nearby was a back-up just in case.

As it was I needn't have worried. As predicted by the home side, the pitch at the Glentworth Club in Dartford drains well and was perfectly playable.

Kent Football United moved here at the start of the season, and are working hard off the pitch to bring the venue up to standard for a "step six" league. They still have work to do, but the progress made so far is clear; the pitch is railed off on three sides, the exception being the far end, dugouts are in place, and other pitchside structures are being built.

The club has some work to do on the pitch as well, but after a difficult start to the season results have improved. A win today against fellow strugglers Crockenhill would have lifted then further away from the bottom, but it wasn't to be.

Comical defending presented Crockenhill with a 2nd minute lead, the only goal of a mostly scrappy and undistinguished first half.

The game was better in the second half. The visitors doubled their lead about 10 minutes after the restart, then the sides traded goals near the end, with Crockenhill, who'd lost their keeper to a first half injury, ending deserved winners.










Albion Sports reserves v Harrogate Railway Athletic reserves

7.45pm  9 January 2015

Lancashire League, East Division
Albion Sports reserves 2 Harrogate Railway Athletic reserves 5 (att 20)

Given the weather, tonight wasn't really a night to go out and watch football, but I try not to let wind and rain put me off, even if it just to see a reserve league game

Albion Sports' second team plays on a 3G pitch at the Thornton Recreation Centre, on the western edge of Bradford. The venue is exactly what you'd expect, an enclosed pitch with dugouts and floodlights (not the brightest) and no shelter for spectators.

I counted 20 people watching the game, but very few stayed until the end. The blustery conditions won't have helped, but if they were supporting Albion then the first half might have sent them packing, as the visitors scored four times without reply.

Harrogate Railway had the better conditions in the first half, and I did wonder if Albion might manage a comeback after the break with the wind more in their favour. Instead the visitors added a fifth in the 50th minute, and missed chances to add to their total.

Albion did score the game's final two goals, in the last 15 minutes, to at least "win" the second half. The referee, who'd clearly had enough of the conditions and didn't think Albion were going to complete their comeback, blew for full time a few minutes early.







Walker Central v North Shields Athletic

2pm  3 January 2015

Northern Alliance, Premier Division
Walker Central 0 North Shields Athletic 0 (att 15)

The weather forecast correctly suggested the North East would be one of the few parts of the UK to stay mostly dry today, so with several games to choose from it seemed a sensible direction in which to head.

My reward was the first goalless draw I've seen since August. As nil-nil games go it wasn't too bad, but for the most part it felt like an average game that just needed a goal to come properly to life, but unfortunately the goal never game.

Both sides had chances, with the visitors most guilty of being wasteful in front of goal. North Shields Athletic were the better team, and played their best football in the first half. The second period was more even, but clear chances were fewer.

Walker Central are based in a housing estate close to Newcastle's city centre. A modern pavilion houses the changing rooms and a refreshment bar, and is separated from the pitch by a small floodlit all-weather training pitch.

The main pitch beyond is enclosed and fully railed off. There's a pair of dugouts, and hand standing on, the near side, but no cover for the few spectators.










Needham Market v AFC Sudbury

3pm  1 January 2015

Isthmian League, Division One North
Needham Market 1 AFC Sudbury 0 (att 473)

The New Year's Day fixture list is slimmer these days than in years gone by, with more and more leagues taking a break over the festive period.

I don't need many grounds at this level, and Needham Market was my only option for a new ground today. It's a long drive from Manchester to Suffolk, but the effort was rewarded with a feisty local derby.

Needham Market top the league, and I expected them to be too strong for AFC Sudbury, even more so when the visitors lost a player to a red card for a dangerous challenge only five minutes into the game.

But Sudbury defended well, and even came closest to scoring, in a goalless first half, when a shot from distance came back off the post.

The second half was much better than the first. The home side upped their game and seemed to be just a matter of time before they'd score, but clear chances, and shots on target, were few and far between.

As the 90th minute approached a tangle between players resulted in another red card for AFC Sudbury. With a two man advantage, Needham Market finally went in front, with the game's only goal, in stoppage time. A dramatic finish, and harsh on Sudbury, although with two red cards they've only got themselves to blame.

I liked Needham Market's ground, Bloomfields. The main stand is quirky enough to be interesting, more so than the smaller seated stand behind one goal. There's plenty of cover running along the far side, with smaller shelters behind the other goal.