Milton v Salford Victoria

2pm  21 January 2017

Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League, Division One
Milton 4 Salford Victoria 2 (att 12)

Not for the first time this season I stayed close to home and was rewarded with an entertaining game in the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League.

The 4G pitch at Heywood Sports Village is the third home ground I've seen Milton play on, and while it's not an interesting venue the excellent surface at least helped the quality of the football.

The game was about 15 minutes old when Milton went in front, the first of three goals in as many minutes as they added a second goal then conceded a penalty to put Salford Victoria back in the game.

Milton extended their lead in the second half, but within a minute or so they again conceded to keep things in the balance. Salford couldn't get level though, and in stoppage time a fourth goal for the hosts rounded things off.

The last time I was at Heywood Sports Village, in 2000, it had the more humble title of Heywood Sports Centre. That day I saw the short-lived Heywood FC on a grass pitch that still exists (I think it's now used by Hooley Bridge Celtic). The new 4G pitch is adjacent to that, at right angles, and is floodlit and surrounded by the usual high fence.

Team Dudley v St Martins

7.45pm  18 January 2017

West Midlands Regional League, Division One
Team Dudley 2 St Martins 2 (att 117)

Team Dudley only played the first game at their new home ground on Saturday, so did remarkably well to cope with the inevitable influx of groundhoppers when staging a midweek fixture just a few days later.

Plenty of programmes, hot drinks on a cold night and easily-available team lineups for those take note of such things. Not only that, but they and visitors St Martins provided a decent game to watch as well.

The home side went ahead early, but two second half goals turned things around and put Shropshire-based St Martins in front. They looked like winning, until a fine strike in stoppage time salvaged a point for the hosts.

Team Dudley have close connections to Dudley College, and their new Priory Road ground is adjacent to the college buildings. It's a functional facility with a floodlit artificial pitch and a fenced off area, along the centre of the near side, for spectators.

Notes in the match programme suggest the club has long-term ambitions to add a stand and build a venue capable of hosting a higher level of football, which would be good to see.

Independent Schools FA U18 v Australia Schools at Clifton College

2pm  15 January 2017

Representative Game
Independent Schools FA U18 1 Australia Schools 4 (att 100) at Clifton College, Bristol

I keep an eye on the usually-excellent Independent Schools FA website as occasionally it throws up interesting fixtures at unusual venues, such as this.

I'm not sure how many games the Australian schools sides are playing while they're in the UK, but I'm they'll have enjoyed this comprehensive win again best the English public schools could field against them.

To be fair the scoreline was a little flattering to the visitors. They scored the only goal of an even first half, but it was no fluke when the ISFA team levelled early in the second.

Midway through the second half though the young Aussies upped their game, scoring twice in three minutes for a commanding lead. ISFA battled to get back into the game but to no avail, and conceded a fourth in stoppage time.

The venue was the well-equipped sports ground of Bristol's Clifton College, which is a few miles from the city, and from the college itself, in Abbots Leigh.

The main grass football pitch is fenced off on the two sides where there's room for spectators, and there's a grass bank and a small seated stand, uncovered, along the side. Adjacent is an artificial pitch, on which Australia Schools girls team were also beating their English opponents.

Hanham Athletic v Southmead CS Athletic

2pm  14 January 2017

Gloucestershire County League
Hanham Athletic 1 Southmead CS Athletic 1 (att 57)

For a game between the bottom two sides in the league this was much better than I had any right to expect, which shows that the Gloucestershire County League is one of the better 'step seven' leagues.

Southmead were seeking their first league win of the season, while Hanham were without a win since their visit to Southmead back in September. Both clubs can be grateful for the recent demise of Cheltenham Civil Service, whose withdrawal should mean one fewer relegation spot.

After a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes, for the neutral at least, both sides' winless runs continued. A long range strike that went in off the post, after 15 minutes, put Southmead in front. They held the lead into well the second half, when Hanham's pressure finally paid off with a deserved equaliser.

The home side were well on top as the game drew to a close, but despite twice hitting the crossbar they couldn't find a winner.

Hanham's ground is a typical county league venue. The pitch is railed off on the three sides with spectator access - just dugouts and the playing fields boundary on the far side - and there's a two-tier building in the corner with changing rooms on the lower floor and a clubhouse, with a handy viewing area, above.

Billingshurst v Langney Wanderers

2pm  7 January 2017

Southern Combination League, Division One
Billingshurst 5 Langney Wanderers 1 (att 15)

Billingshurst are an upwardly-mobile club, having reached 'step six' just a few years after stepping up from village football in the West Sussex League.

Their Jubilee Fields ground still needs a bit of work to meet the ground gradings for this level, there's no seats, covered accommodation or floodlights yet, but it's on the edge of town so if funds allow I wouldn't expect planning permission to be an issue. Indeed it looks as if a space is already being prepared for small stand close to the dugouts.

On the pitch it's been a mixed season so far for Billinghurst, but this comprehensive win will help as they aim to stay clear of possible relegation places. They took an early lead then doubled it early in the second half.

Langney pulled a goal back with around 25 minutes to play, and seemed to have enough momentum to score again, but a third goal for the home side decided the outcome. Langney collapsed once they went 3-1 down, and had a player sent off as they conceded twice more.

One curiosity was the match programme. If I hadn't asked just before kick off I doubt I'd have known there was one on sale, but chances are I'd also have avoided paying the £5 admission charge.

I'm always more than happy to pay to watch a game, as running a club at any level costs money, but I didn't spot any effort to sell programmes or take a gate. I wonder if I was the only one watching who paid to watch.

West Ham United v Manchester City

7.55pm  6 January 2017

FA Cup, Third Round
West Ham United 0 Manchester City 5 (att 56,975)

These days the occasional need to recomplete a full set of 92 Premier League and Football League grounds can be a bit of a chore, and having heard many complaints about the suitability of the former Olympic Stadium for football I wasn't especially looking forward to a visit to Stratford.

Perhaps my low expectations helped, or perhaps it was a few pre-match pints in central London with my West Ham-supporting sister, but overall I enjoyed this experience far more than expected ... and no doubt a lot more than all the home fans.

As a contest it wasn't much of one, at least once City scored the second goal, which was followed moments later by their third. Detailed match reports of a game like this are available all over the internet, so there's not much point in elaborating here.

The view from my £25 upper tier seat was good. It's a long way from the pitch, but I've felt more distant from the action at other venues. I wouldn't have fancied one of the upper tier seats behind the goal though.

The London Stadium - as it's now called at least until a sponsor stumps enough cash for the naming rights - is impressive. It's far from ideal for football, but it's no more soulless than most the new-build plastic bowls that have been built to stage football in the last couple of decades.

Slough Town v Chesham United

3pm  2 January 2017

Southern League, Premier Division
Slough Town 1 Chesham United 2 (att 918)

One of the pluses of this season has been the return of Slough Town FC to the town and to a ground of their own for the first time for a few years.

Arbour Park is still a work in progress, with the main stand taking an impressive shape but not yet open for business. The facilities that are available are good though, with a smaller seated stand on the far side and two terraced and covered ends.

Even with its artificial pitch it's a better venue than many of the new non-League grounds that spring up these days, and as a club with a good level of support I wonder if the venue will be the catalyst for Slough to climb the leagues.

They're currently going well in the Southern League Premier Division, although this home defeat to local rivals Chesham will have dented their hopes of making it to the National League South for next season.

All seemed to be going the home club's way when they took a first half lead, but early in the second period they switched off at the back and allowed Chesham to score twice in a minute, to the delight of their contingent of travelling fans.

Once they were ahead Chesham never looked like losing the lead, and for all Slough's effort they created little in the way of clear chances. I suspect it'll only be a temporary setback for Slough Town though.