Plungington v Brockholes Arms

7pm  29 June 2015

Catforth and District Summer League, Division One
Plungington 8 Brockholes Arms 0 (att 16)

My final game of the 2014/15 season, and it was a stroll for table-topping Plunginton who were far too strong for visitors Brockholes.

That the home side didn't score more was down to a combination of wayward shooting and good display by the Brockholes goalkeeper.

A flurry of goals near the end gave the scoreline a look that at least reflected the play, but the home side had only managed two in a dominant first half, one a penalty just before the break.

In a league that has a high turnover of competing teams Plungington are relative stalwarts. They change ground regularly though, last summer I saw them at home on a 3G school pitch, but now they're at the University of Central Lancashire's Preston Sports Arena.

The Arena is sprawling facility with several football pitches. Plungington are using the "Desso Grass Master" pitch, with is floodlit and enclosed by a high fence. Desso Grass Master seems to be a combination of natural and artificial grass, although it looked worn and a less than ideal surface.

I'm not yet sure when, or where, my 2015/16 season will begin, but it's likely to be just a few days away.








Longside Thistle v FC Fochabers

2pm  28 June 2015

Highland Welfare Cup, Second Round
Longside Thistle 3 FC Fochabers 1 (att 25) abandoned after 65 minutes

Not untypically for Scotland in summer, this game kicked off on a hot afternoon under blue skies and bright sunshine, but was abandoned 20 minutes into the second half after the heavens opened and a torrential downpour left the pitch waterlogged.

Despite the conditions the premature end to the game surprised me. The pitch, though saturated, was the same for both sides, I wasn't aware of any complaints from players, even from Fochabers as they trailed, and the rain was easing.

The football we did see was entertaining. FC Fochabers are top of the Moray Welfare League, and might have been expected to triumph against opposition mid table in North East Scotland League's lower division.

But the home side were unstoppable in the first half, scoring three and having a penalty saved. Perhaps Fochabers struggled to get used to the tiny pitch, as Thistle use a very small training pitch inside Longside Juniors' well-appointed Davidson Park home.

The rain, preceded by a clap of thunder and so intense that the word torrential barely does it justice, began during the short half time break. As the pitch became soaked Fochabers did pull a goal back, and threatened to make more of a game of it. Perhaps that was in the ref's mind when he brought the action to an early end.

I assume the game will be replayed, as the visitors certainly weren't out of it. As for my groundhopping, my rule is that if a game gets to at least half time then it counts as a "tick" in my book, albeit a rather unsatisfactory one.









Invergordon Social Club v Contin

3pm  27 June 2015

Ross-shire Welfare FA, Seaboard Cup, First Round
Invergordon Social Club 4 Contin 3 (att 36)

After a two-week hiatus I approached the end of my 2014/15 season with a groundhopping trip to the north of Scotland, where competitive amateur football continues throughout the summer.

Eight teams compete in the Ross-shire Welfare FA's league and cup competitions, a convenient number for the cups, so this first round tie was a quarter final. To be honest I was lucky, as it was the only one of the four scheduled games to take place, two were postponed and one forfeited.

It turned out to be cracking cup tie, as the lead changed hands several times before the home side just edged it thanks to a late winner. The outcome was harsh on Contin, who looked the better side and deserved to win.

Invergordon Social Club are based on a pitch at the towns Recreation Grounds. A modern building houses changing rooms, and directly in front it is a pitch that's railed off on thee sides. This belongs to Invergordon FC, due to return to the North Caledonian League for 2015/16.

Running parallel, to the right, is a second pitch that's home to Social Club. Beyond the football pitches, and right angles and with it's own clubhouse, is the floodlit home of Ross Sutherland Rugby Club.








Wishaw Juniors v Dunipace Juniors

7.30pm  8 June 2015

SJFA West Region, Central League, Division One
Wishaw Juniors 1 Dunipace Juniors 5 (att 60)

Only pride was at stake as Wishaw and Dunipace completed the Central League schedule, as neither clubs' league position could change regardless of the outcome. But football is always competitive in the Scottish Juniors, and there was no lack of effort in this game.

Wishaw had done their hard work last week, when they'd gained the points they needed to avoid relegation. It was just as well, as after a good start, and an early goal, they were comprehensively beaten.

Having gone behind after four minutes, Dunipace were level by the 10th minute. The visitors scored twice more before half time, and spurned several chances to open up a bigger lead.

Wishaw had more of the possession in the second half, although their efforts to get back into the game were laboured, perhaps the effects of a long season were catching up with them. Dunipace looked to hit their hosts on the break, and did so twice to produce a scoreline that was a little harsh on Wishaw.

I last watched a Wishaw home game in 2007, when they played just up the road at Wishaw Sports Centre. Since then the club has moved, and done well to turn a fenced off area of a public playing field into an acceptable Junior football venue.

Within it's sturdy boundary fence, "The Beltane" has a small covered enclosure, a collection of portable buildings that provide changing rooms, a snack bar, committee room and toilets, and hard standing along one side of the railed-off pitch. Dugouts face eachother on either side of the pitch, and plenty of advertising boards suggest the club is doing well to harness support from the local community.











Vale of Clyde v Cumbernauld United

2pm  6 June 2015

SJFA West Region, League Cup Quarter-Final
Vale of Clyde 4 Cumbernauld United 3 (att 150)

It may be several days into June but the Central League Cup is only at the quarter-final stage, although with semi-finals in midweek I'd expect the final to be next weekend.

Vale of Clyde, based in Tollcross in the east end of Glasgow, claimed their place in the last four after a thrilling, and occasionally comical, game.

Cumbernauld, who play a division higher than the hosts, started the game well, and it took some great goalkeeping to keep them out. Eventually though a well-taken goal gave them a deserved lead.

It didn't last long, Vale's equaliser was a speculative long-range effort that sailed over the keeper's head and into the goal. It got worse for Cumbernauld when a throw in decision went against them, and quick-thinking Vale of Clyde took it quickly, broke forward and scored.

The first half action was far from over though, and amid good football from both sides it took an own goal to level the scores, a Vale defender heading a long ball back to his keeper, not realising the keeper had come out to claim the ball, allowing it to bounce into an empty net.

Vale of Clyde got the second half's opening goal, and then were gifted a fourth that, ultimately, won them the game. What must be the most bizarre goal I've seen all season was a Cumbernauld throw in, thrown back to the keeper who took a swing at the ball, missed it, and watched in horror, and embarrassment, and rolled slowly into the goal.

From where I was standing, not that close, it looked as if the keeper didn't touch it, and so as you can't score direct from a throw I thought it should have been a corner. Either the keeper knew he'd touched it, or didn't know the rules, as his immediate reaction probably helped the match officials give the goal. A third goal for Cumbernauld, in stoppage time, came too late to affect the outcome.

Vale of Clyde's Fullarton Park is a good venue. From the entrance, the near side has open terracing, with club buildings including changing rooms and a snack back lining the top. The rest of the ground is surrounded by grass banking, which might cover long-lost terracing, and there a section of covered standing along the far side.










Hambleton Spartans v Fulwood Park Rangers

7pm  4 June 2015

Catforth and District Summer League, Division Two
Hambleton Spartans 8 Fulwood Park Rangers 0 (att 33)

More summer league football as I slowly tick off the handful of new venues in this year's local "off-season" competitions.

Hambleton Spartans have made a storming start to the Catforth League's lower division, and had no problems seeing off Fulwood Park Rangers, scoring four goals in each half.

I was told that many of the Hambleton players turn out for a nearby West Lancashire team during the winter, and the speed and quality of much of their football suggested that could be the case. Fulwood Park Rangers are a Sunday side during the winter.

Hambleton are using a pitch on the tree-lined village recreation ground, and on a warm and sunny evening it was a good place to watch a game, with a good-sized crowd for this level of football, including a handful of fellow groundhoppers who provided good company.







East Kilbride YM v Hamilton FP at Dalziel Park

7.15pm  3 June 2015

Caledonian League, Presidents Cup Final at Dalziel Park
East Kilbride YM 1 Hamilton Former Pupils 0 (att 157)

It may be June but there's still plenty of football being played in Scotland, with this final rounding off the season for amateur clubs in the Caledonian League.

The Presidents Cup is for teams in the second tier of the league, divisions 1A and 1B, and its final was a local derby played at the impressive facilities at Dalziel Park, near Motherwell, home to Caledonian League side Dalziel HSFP.

Being a cup final it was predictably tight, settled by a single goal for East Kilbride YM in the 43rd minute. They deserved to lift the trophy, having been the better side throughout, but both sides played some good football on an excellent artificial surface.

Hamilton FP had begun the game well, but were on the back foot once YM got into their stride. The Hamilton keeper was much busier than his YM counterpart, and pulled off several top saves which at least kept the outcome in doubt until the end.

I last visited Dalziel Park for a game in August 2007, when I watched Motherwell's under 19 side on a grass pitch inside a running track. That pitch remains, as do a couple of other open grass football pitches, but since then new artificial pitches, suitable for football and rugby (rugby seems the primary sport here, the main rugby ground having a large stand) have been installed.

Logically, with a crowd in to watch, the final was played on "pitch one", closest to the changing rooms and with a fenced area on one side for spectators (although it got so crowded I joined a few others for a better view from the far side). A second pitch runs parallel beyond the first.