Thorner v Bramley Town

11am  17 June 2018

Leeds Sunday League, Play-off Cup, Group A
Thorner 0 Bramley Town 4 (att 14)

After spending all day Saturday sitting on the sofa watching World Cup matches on TV I felt a need to get out to see some live football.

Like its Eccles counterpart, the Leeds Sunday League has a summer season, putting it onto my groundhopping radar. There's only eight teams, and Thorner are unique as they not only provide two of them, but are alone in staging home games on their own ground rather than council pitches.

The Sandhills ground is shared with the local cricket club, although the undulating football pitch is beyond the cricket outfield and bordered by a car parking area. For a Sunday league venue it's not bad at all.

Thorner, who I think compete in the Harrogate-based Claro Sunday League during the winter, have had a tough side to their summer campaign. Having lost their two opening league games, including a 5-1 reversal against today's visitors Bramley, things didn't get any better in this cup fixture.

The first half, a close affair with few clear chances, ended goalless. Bramley's half time team talk must have been an inspiring one, as the visitors scored three times in five minutes, including a penalty, soon after the restart.

They were on top throughout the second half, but had to wait until a free kick in the final seconds before they added the fourth goal.










Lime Kiln v Doveridge

7pm  14 June 2018

Ashbourne and District Summer League
Lime Kiln 1 Doveridge 2 (att 40)

Earlier this month leaders Doveridge dropped their only points so far when they lost 2-0 at home to Lime Kiln, but there was no repeat of that surprise scoreline in the return fixture at Wirksworth Recreation Ground.

It was a close thing though. Lime Kiln, named after a Wirksworth pub, took a first half lead and, thanks to heroic defending, a linesman's flag and some poor Doveridge finishing, they held it until the closing moments.

Doveridge finally equalised with less than five minutes to play, before a powerful header from a long throw in edged them in front deep in stoppage time. A harsh climax for Lime Kiln, although the better side won.

New venues in Ashbourne's summer league are few and far between these days, and this was first time I've watched a game to recomplete the league for three years. The standard seemed higher than I'm used to, and Doveridge in particular looked much better than the norm for this league.

As well providing a home pitch for Lime Kiln, Wirksworth Recreation Ground is used in regular winter league football by Wirksworth Ivanhoe, apparently destined for the Central Midlands League next season after years in the Midlands Regional Alliance.

It's just a pitch, but a pleasant one with changing rooms housed in an old-looking building not far away. One side of the pitch is bordered by an impressive cricket ground, while the other touchline was roped off.









Gairloch/Aultbea United v Portree

3pm  9 June 2018

Skye and Lochalsh Amateur League
Gairloch/Aultbea United 7 Portree 2 (att 19)

I didn't get to Aultbea before the club joined forces with Wester Ross rivals Gairloch. Since the merger most games have been played in Gairloch, but currently there's no changing rooms there so the club have relocated, temporarily I assume, 13 miles north.

It meant an even longer trek for Portree, who faced a 260 mile round trip on slow Highland roads to fulfill the fixture. That's some commitment for amateur football, and I wasn't too surprised that the game kicked off a little late and Portree arrived with just 11 players and no subs.

That may have cost them the game. They scored first and looked marginally the better side in a first half that ended 1-1.

But just as the half time whistle was about to go a Portree player suffered a nasty-looking injury. He was unable to continue and so his team mates were a man down for the second half.

They battled well, but collapsed near the end as GA United (as the hosts are usually known) racked up goals, including two penalties. Portree did get one back, but by then they were already well beaten. The five goal margin was harsh on the visitors.

The football pitch at Aultbea is MacLennan Park, and while there's no facilities other than car parking at both ends it's a lovely place to watch football, with a view across to the nearby Isle of Ewe. Players change in the village hall and from there it's a short walk to the pitch.










St Margaret's Old Boys v Convocation

6.45pm  6 June 2018

Liverpool Old Boys Amateur League. Division Two
St Margaret's Old Boys 6 Convocation 1 (att 30)

It says something about the winter weather that the Liverpool Old Boys Amateur League's second division, despite only containing eight teams, is finishing its fixtures in June. I can't recall visiting a new ground in England, for a regular season game, so late.

There was plenty to play for at St Margaret's CE Academy, and the home side's win was a necessity to take the title race into their final game on Saturday. If they beat Collegiate Old Boys in that they're champions, lose and their opponents win the league, while a draw would leave rivals Wood Street top.

Visitors Convocation, formed by Liverpool University graduates and apparently with a Kuwaiti international in their ranks, needed a win to avoid the division's wooden spoon. After competing well for the first hour or so they collapsed towards the end.

It took 30 minutes for St Margaret's to take the lead, and the score was still only 1-0 at half time. Two second half goals in quick succession gave the hosts breathing space, and as the game wore on they exploited ever bigger gaps in the Convocation defence to add more goals. The visitors at least scored one for their efforts.

The crowd was boosted by groundhoppers taking advantage of a match when options to watch football are scarce, if available at all. We stood around an open pitch in the school playing field, and on a warm and sunny evening, with some decent football, it was very enjoyable.









Fauldhouse United v Tayport

2.30pm 2 June 2018

SJFA East Region, Premier League
Fauldhouse United 0 Tayport 4 (att 130)

There may have been nothing at stake at Park View but Scottish Junior games tend to be competitive right up to the season's end and this was no exception.

The difference between the sides was the visitors' sharpness in front of goal, and they scored once in the first half and three times after the break for a comprehensive win. The game was closer than the score suggests though, and Tayport's last two goals were both late in the game.

League positions weren't going to change whatever the result, with Fauldhouse finishing runners-up and Tayport fourth. Both sides are promoted to the East Region's top flight next season, but it remains to be seen exactly what that league will look like given the exodus of the region's junior clubs to the senior game.

While the East of Scotland League will have tripled in size come 2018/19, what's left of the East Region juniors might be well be playing out one of the final seasons for that grade of non-League football.

I just hope that if the junior game is eventually subsumed into senior football - and it now looks to be a matter of when rather than if - then it doesn't get too sanitised. It'd be a terrible shame if a scourge of the English non-League pyramid, clipboard-wielding ground graders, were allowed to condemn some of the wonderfully-old junior grounds with their crumbling terracing.

Fauldhouse's ground is neat and tidy enough for senior football though. Its main feature is a large covered enclosure by the halfway line that was home, for this game at least, to a group of Buckfast-drinking home fans.

More unusual is the seated stand behind the goal at the car park end, converted from a lorry trailer and popular when it rained during the second half. The rest of the ground is open standing, with some grass banking. Much of the perimeter is lined with trees which also provided some welcome shelter from the rain.










Runcorn Albion v Moorfield

6.15pm  29 May 2018

Warrington and District League, Division One
Runcorn Albion 5 Moorfield 0 (att 25)

Large divisions and a bad winter are the main reasons why the Warrington and District League is completing its fixtures, finally, in the last days of May. Helpful to groundhoppers like me, but it must be difficult for players and officials.

Nothing at stake in this fixture, but unlike some late season Warrington League matches it wasn't given as a walkover, and both teams team turned up with full teams and substitutes.

It wasn't a bad game in the circumstances. Moorfield had the better of the opening exchanges, but they went behind to a 25th minute goal and from then on the game swung very much in Runcorn Albion's favour.

The home side got a second just before half time, and scored three more in a second half that they dominated.

Runcorn Albion play at The Heath Playing Fields, a surprisingly pleasant location with pitches spread out over a wide area.








Workington Athletic v Cleator Moor Celtic reserves

7pm  23 May 2018

Cumberland County League, Premier Division
Workington Athletic 1 Cleator Moor Celtic reserves 3 (att 40)

Cleator Moor's second team went into this, their final fixture, bottom but one in the table and knowing that nothing short of a win would remove the threat of relegation from the Cumberland League's top division.

Given the circumstances they could have hoped for a better a fixture than a visit to champions Workington Athletic, but the home side had nothing to play for and it showed in a flat first half. The sole highlight was Cleator Moor's opener, which had a suspicion of offside about it.

They doubled their lead early in the second half, but Workington Athletic upped their game and pulled a goal back. The home side pushed hard for an equaliser, but a mixture of resolute defending and luck preserved Cleator Moor's advantage.

The visitors were finally able to breathe more easily when in stoppage time they hit on the break for a decisive 3-1 lead.

Workington Athletic are based on a new 3G pitch at Lakes College, just outside Workington in Lillyhall. The ground has a barriered area for spectators running the length of one side of the pitch, but it's set quite a way back from the pitch so the action feels a little distant.