Irlam Rangers v Winton Wanderers

11am  19 June 2016

Eccles Sunday League, Margaret Piggott Memorial Cup, Second Round
Irlam Rangers 3 Winton Wanderers 4 (att 10)

For the second Sunday morning in a row I took in a match in the Eccles Sunday League, a three-division competition that appears to be thriving having switched last year to a summer season.

This was a cracking cup tie, with division two Irlam Rangers denied an upset when their top division visitors staged a second half comeback to overturn a 3-1 deficit.

The hosts had taken an early lead, so early it was actually before the scheduled 11am kick off time, the tie getting underway about 10 minutes early. Winton levelled, but Rangers were clinical on the break, scoring twice more before half time.

The second half was less than a minute old when Winton made it 3-2, and they drew level with half-an-hour to play. After that it was pretty much one way traffic, yet it took until the closing minutes before Winton edged ahead.

Even then there were still chances at both ends, and Irlam came close to an equaliser which would have taken the game to a penalty decider.

Irlam Rangers, along with fellow Eccles Sunday League side Irlam Vale, are based at Prince's Park, a large public park with a sports centre attached. There are two football pitches, separated by a row of trees, although the second pitch looked much smaller.

Not a bad game for what will, most likely, be my final groundhop of 2015/16 (there's a slim chance of a game on Tuesday). My 2016/17 will begin in early July, but exactly when, or where, remains to be seen.









Moorside Social v Ordsall Park

11am  11 June 2016

Eccles Sunday League, Division Two
Moorside Social 0 Ordsall Park 3 (att 7)

I don't watch Sunday football, but I do watch summer football, and as the Eccles Sunday League has now switched to a summer season, and as it's very local, I decided to give it a try.

Plan A was a cup match at De La Salle's Lancaster Road ground, but 15 minutes before the scheduled kick off there was no sign of the game, so I headed elsewhere. The league website gives a score for the De La Salle tie though, so it was either played elsewhere or I should have been patient.

My alternative was Littleton Road, and one of the many grass pitches that form part of the Salford Sports Village complex.

The last time I saw a game on grass here, in 2003, was before the sports centre was built. The pitch used that day is now in an area of the park that looks to be mostly small-sided pitches for junior games.

There's plenty of full-sized pitches though, as well as the 3G which was also staging an Eccles Sunday League match.

Ordsall Park went into this fixture as league leaders. They deserved their win, but had to work hard to see off a determined Moorside team who restricted them to three second half goals. The one that broke the deadlock, 10 minutes after half time, was an excellent long-range strike that wouldn't have been out of place at much higher levels of the game. Having gone ahead the outcome of the match was rarely in any doubt.

Summer football doesn't guarantee good weather unfortunately, and much of the second half was played in heavy rain, but the game was entertaining enough and I'm sure I'll be back for more summer Sunday league football.








Stenhousemuir Community v Sunnyside Thistle

2pm  11 June 2016

Stirling and District League, Premier Division
Stenhousemuir Community 6 Sunnyside Thistle 4 (att 15)

I generally enjoy my occasional forays into the Scottish amateur leagues, and although there was nothing at stake in this fixture it was a goal-filled afternoon that was fun to watch.

Stenhousemuir and Sunnyside will finish second and third in the league, so I was seeing two of the better sides for my first taste of the Stirling and District League. There was some good football on show, mixed with signs that it was very much and end-of-season dead rubber.

The hosts scored early, and had doubled their lead by the break. The second half was a goal fest, with Stenhousemuir streatching their lead to 4-1 before looking vulnerable to a Sunnyside comeback. The home side scored the game's final goal to secure three points.

Stenhousemuir Community still have one remaining fixture before they can put their feet up for the summer. Next season they'll face a fresh challenge, having been accepted into the stronger Caledonian League for 2016/17.

The club used to be called Stenhousemuir Amateurs, but swapped the suffix for "Community" after a tie-up with Stenhousemuir's Scottish League club. Home games are at Russell Park, a pleasant enclosed public park with a single pitch surrounded by grass banking.










Theatre Boys v Baxters

7.15pm  8 June 2016

Catforth and District Summer League, Division One
Theatre Boys 2 Baxters 2 (att 14)

Theatre Boys might sound like a team of aspiring thespians, but in fact they're a long-established Sunday side with their roots in Preston's Theatre Hotel pub, where they were formed in 1971.

I don't watch Sunday football, at least not winter leagues, but at this time of year Theatre Boys are one of the clubs who make up the two division Catforth and District Summer League.

Until recently it was an unofficial league, with the county FA presumably turning a blind eye to allow village teams to compete. Now its official it's increasingly dominated by regular Preston sides keeping fit during the close season.

Theatre Boys are based, this summer at least, on a school pitch in Ashton-on-Ribble, a Preston suburb. I'd expected them to use the enclosed artificial pitch, but instead they played on grass, one of two pitches marked on the school playing field.

The home side scored early and before too long had doubled their lead against Baxters, who play Saturday football in the Mid Lancashire League during the winter. It was an even game though, and Baxters were good value for the two second half goals that earned them a point.







Campbeltown Pupils v Oban Saints

2pm  5 June 2016

Scottish Amateur League, Premier Division
Campbeltown Pupils 2 Oban Saints 1 (att 150)

Campbeltown is the sort of place that seems a long way from everywhere. It took us around five hours to drive there from Inverness, but a five hour drive through splendid scenery in fine weather is something to enjoy rather than endure.

This fixture was the "Argyll derby", but in this part of the world even local derbies involve long trips, it's about 90 miles and two hours drive from Oban to Campbeltown. The home side needed three points to avoid relegation, ensuring another season of league games against Oban.

In front of a much larger crowd than I'd expected for an amateur game, Pupils started well. The Oban keeper flapped at a 10th minute corner and it went straight in to put the home side in front. Saints looked like they might be overrun, but Pupils couldn't score again and it was still 1-0 at the break.

By the second half Oban were much better, and eventually Pupils slender lead disappeared when the visitors scored. Campbeltown batted back though, and got their reward with a dramatic winner just five minutes from time.

After going back in front there was a few minutes of desperate defending by the hosts, but they held out for three points and another season of premier division football.

Kintyre Park is a venue to deserves to host a good level of football. I believe it dates from the club's long-gone Junior days, and is fully enclosed with a railed-off pitch, dugouts, grass banking, a few park benches and small pavilion, complete with a covered area for spectators to the front.











Inverness City v Bridge of Don Thistle

2pm  4 June 2016

SJFA North Region, Super League
Inverness City 3 Bridge of Don Thistle 0 (att 24)

I don't need much of an excuse to spend a weekend in the Highland capital, and with few games to choose from in early June it was an easy decision to pick this fixture, especially as Inverness City are reportedly having problems with the local council over extending the lease on their fledgling home ground.

Hopefully they'll reach agreement and continue to be able to play at Lister Park. The club have worked hard, and presumably spent money, to enclose an area of Bught Park and turn into an acceptable, if basic, junior football venue.

Portable buildings on one side of the pitch provide changing rooms, there's dugouts, a railed-off pitch, complete with advertising boards, and the while ground is fenced off from the rest of the park. The shinty stadium next door is far grander, but in this part of the world shinty attracts bigger crowds than non League football.

Inverness City and Bridge of Don Thistle had little to play for, but Junior games are usually competitive, and although City won comfortably this wasn't a bad game. The home side were 2-0 up early on, and left it until stoppage time at the end of the game before getting their third.










Talysarn Celts v Aberffraw

2.30pm  30 May 2016

Gwynedd League
Talysarn Celts 0 Aberffraw 5 (att 33)

The plan when I set off for an afternoon in north Wales was a visit to Caernarfon-based Waunfawr, but uncertainty over the kick off time was quickly followed by news that the game was off. Talysarn was a worthy replacement though, with warm weather, stunning views and plenty of goals.

It may have been an end-of-season fixture with nothing to play for, but that didn't bother Aberffraw as they took and early lead and never looked back. They played some good football and scored three in the first half and a couple more in the second.

For their part Talysarn may have been second best, but they put in a decent display and were unlucky not to score, even if they never threatened to get anything else out of the game.

Talysarn is a small village on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. Other than the football pitch there's not much there; the Celts pitchside snack bar appeared to be the only the shop in Talysarn, limiting locals' access to cans of coke to home fixtures.

Apart from the snack bar, in a building which also houses the changing rooms, facilities include a pair of dugouts on the far side and a short section of railing. There's not a lot else, but you don't need much else on a sunny day with glorious scenery all around.