Wythenshawe Amateurs v Maine Road at Newall Green High School

2.30pm  19 July 2014

Pre-season Friendly at Newall Green High School, Wythenshawe, Manchester
Wythenshawe Amateurs 1 Maine Road 0 (att 37)

Another friendly and another chance to tick off a rarely-used venue, this time an all-weather pitch at the rear of a school in Wythenshawe, with Amateurs' usual ground probably out of action at the moment due to cricket commitments.

The pitch looked narrow, but otherwise this venue was typical of its type, floodlit and surrounded by a high fence. No facilities for spectators, but enough space for those watching to stand inside the fence. As far as I'm aware the pitch isn't used by any Saturday club on a regular basis.

This match followed an earlier friendly between the two side's reserves. I don't know how that game finished, but in its closing minutes I saw the Wythenshawe goalkeeper concede an unfortunate own goal when the ball deflected in off his face.

As Maine Road play two leagues higher than their hosts I expected to win this comfortably, but instead we had a surprise result. The only goal came midway though the first half, thanks to a penalty given for handball. Amateurs showed greater commitment and deserved their lead.

The home side had a strong shout for a second penalty early in the second half, but as the game wore on Maine Road became more dominant, and frequent substitutions meant the game became more disjointed. The visitors hit the crossbar twice but couldn't score, ensuring a narrow win for the Manchester League team.








AEL Limassol v KV Oostende at Leigh Sports Village Pavilion

7.45pm  17 July 2014

Pre-season Friendly at Leigh Sports Village Pavilion
AEL Limassol 0 KV Oostende 0 (att 46)

Pre-season games seem increasingly odd these days. Tonight's game saw top flight sides from Cyprus and Belgium meeting in front of a few dozen people at the home of Leigh East Amateur Rugby League Club.

A rather excessive £10 admission charge might have kept the crowd down, but even if it'd have been free I doubt many more would have been keen to watch what was a low-key game. For me though it was a chance to see a game on an unusual ground.

Leigh East's home is the Pavilion at Leigh Sports Village. It's modern, neat and tidy, with the main grass pitch enclosed and floodlit, and open to spectators on two sides. No cover for those watching, but none was needed tonight and I guess amateur rugby league fans are a hardy bunch.

On the pitch we had 90 minutes of skillful football, but no goals. Both sides had their moments, with AEL having most of the possession and looking more likely to break the deadlock, but I guess they'd all be happy with a draw in a pre-season workout.







Morton Thistle v Ship Inn

1.30pm

Stewartry Sunday Amateur League, William Telfer Memorial Cup Semi Final
Morton Thistle 4 Ship Inn 3 (att 24)

Best game of my season so far, although it is of course very early days. The crucial action was in stoppage time, when Morton Thistle recovered from conceding a last minute penalty to score twice to book their place in the cup final.

I'd expected them to win this tie comfortably, but although they looked the better footballing side they struggled to create chances. Ship Inn had the benefit of a strong wind behind them in the first half, and took an early lead.

Morton were soon level, but it proved just a temporary setback to Ship who were back in front by half time.

With the stiff breeze now favouring the home side it took just two minutes of the second half before Morton Thistle made is 2-2. Again they looked capable of scoring more to make the game safe, but failed to do so.

Extra time looked a certainty (or maybe penalties, I wasn't to find out what the rules of this cup demand after a drawn 90 minutes) when a clumsy challenge in box presented Ship with a 90th minute spot kick, which they scored from.

Morton are on a long unbeaten run though, and they weren't going to let it slip. In a generously-long period of stoppage time - about 10 minutes by my watch - they first equalised, and then found a winner.

Morton Thistle spent 2013/14 in the Dumfries and District Amateur League, but with the league folding at the end of the season they jumped straight into the local summer league. I think they may even have played in both leagues at the same time for a short while.

I believe they played elsewhere in the Amateur League, but for summer league games they use one of the three pitches at Jock's Loaning, a playing field, with an on-site changing room block, on the northern edge of Dumfries.







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Chadderton v Runcorn Town at Oasis Academy

2pm

Pre-Season Friendly at Oasis Academy, Hollins Road, Hollinwood, Oldham
Chadderton 2 Runcorn Town 0 (att 30)

I don't usually add blog posts about revisits to grounds, but the truth is I didn't realise I'd been here before until I got home and checked. What is now Oasis Academy looks very different to what was, when I came in 2009, the Oak Pit Colliery ground.

Back then it was home to AFC Oldham 2005, of the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League, and was a semi-enclosed grass pitch towered over by some former mill buildings (Google Maps is yet to catch up, so the map below the photos shows the "old" pitch).

Now it's a state-of-art the school, with the pitch turned through 90 degrees and the grass replaced by an excellent 4G surface. There's even a section of open stepped terracing, built onto the front of the changing room pavilion and giving a good view of the pitch, albeit from behind the goal and over a fence.

Some might count such a transformation as a "new" ground to visit, but as there's a considerable overlap between the old and new pitches then by my rules it doesn't count. Mildly frustrating, but I tend not to travel far for friendlies and had few options for a game today, so this was as good as any.

For a friendly it wasn't a bad game. Chadderton, nominally the home side as the borrowed pitch is far closer to their base than Runcorn's, scored a goal in each half. Runcorn were disappointing, and came closest when they hit a post in the final minutes.

Not a bad afternoon out ... just not a new ground.







And this is how the same ground looked in April 2009 (AFC Oldham 3 Santos 0)




Atherton Collieries v Farnworth Town at Atherton Community School

6.45pm

Pre-season Friendly at Atherton Community School
Atherton Collieries 6 Farnworth Town 2 (att 20)

I'm not a big fan of pre-season friendlies, but I made a late decision to head to Atherton School's playing field, which apparently doubles as Atherton Collieries' training ground, for this warm-up match.

The fixture was apparently a late decision itself, replacing Collieries' scheduled fixture in Eccles against AFC Monton.

The Manchester League side might have given them a tougher game than Farnworth, who play in the third tier of the Lancashire Amateur League and were no match for hosts.

Collieries scored three goals in each half, and virtually fielded a different team in each half. Their only blip was slack defending which saw them concede twice within a minute, about 20 minutes into the game, to see their early 2-0 lead wiped out.

No facilities for spectators, not that any would be expected for a game like this, although a steep grass bank along one side provided a good viewing point.






Cheadle Town v Dinamo Bucharest at Mottram Hall Hotel

7.30pm  30 June 2014

Pre-Season Friendly at De Vere Mottram Hall Hotel
Cheadle Town 0 Dinamo Bucharest 5 (att 156)

Yesterday I saw my final match of the 2013/14 season, and planned a break of a week or two before embarking on 2014/15.

Then I spotted that Cheadle's intriguing pre-season friendly against Dinamo Bucharest had been moved, at short notice, from their Park Road ground to the plush surroundings of the Mottram Hall Hotel, in the Cheshire countryside.

Dinamo are based here as they prepare for the new season, and so an immaculate pitch in the grounds of a luxury hotel staged one of football's more unlikely fixtures.

It was never going to be a close contest, but Cheadle did well, limiting the Romanians to just one first half goal. Mass substitutions at half time gave Dinamo more of an edge on the second half, and they added four more goals.

Cheadle had a few half chances, and will doubtless have been pleased with their performance, while Dinamo might had scored more had it not been for wayward shooting. Of course, as a pre-season friendly, the result was unimportant, but it was an enjoyable way to kick off my new season.










Market Inn v Ship Inn

1pm  29 June 2014

Stewartry Sunday Amateur League
Market Inn 4 Ship Inn 2 (att 25)

A season which began, for me anyway, on 29 June 2013 in Orlando, finally ended exactly a year to the day later, in Castle Douglas, south west Scotland.

Occasionally, when attempting to explain the idiosyncrasies of my hobby, I point out that I don't watch Sunday league football and I don't watch pub football. But sometimes the lines are blurred, and as I do watch summer leagues the Stewartry Sunday Amateur League is certainly "do-able", despite its title and the number of teams in it that are named after pubs.

This was actually the first Stewartry League game I've seen, and the two sides provided a very enjoyable game to round off the season. It lived up the cliche about a game of two halves. The Ship Inn looked the more accomplished side, scoring twice in quick succession to lead to 2-0 by about the 20th minute, a lead they held to half time.

Perhaps the Market Inn manager inspired his side with an interval team talk, because they turned the game around completely in the second half. Their four goals included a penalty, and a fantastic volley from distance, that will go down as my final goal of 2013/14.

Market Inn use a pitch found off Birkland Road in Castle Douglas. Comments on the league's Facebook pages were uncomplimentary about the condition of the council-maintained pitch, and I'd sympathise with anyone having to play on it. It's hard, bumpy and has little grass, so the Market and Ship Inns deserve credit for an entertaining afternoon.








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