Newton-le-Willows v Newton Athletic

6.15pm  3 May 2016

Warrington and District League, Division Two
Newton-le-Willows 4 Newton Athletic 5 (att 20)

The Newton-le-Willows derby wasn't the game I'd set out to see, but a slower than usual East Lancs Road ruled out plan A and left this fixture just about in range in time for kick off.

The home side are bottom of the division, but local derbies can do strange things to the form book. Newton-le-Willows looked anything but a foot of the table side as a pair of well taken goals put them 2-0 ahead, but they looked very much a foot of the table side when they conceded three in quick succession to trail by half time.

Newton Athletic didn't let their lead slip, although they needed to fine goals to stay ahead as Newton-le-Willows netted two second half penalties.

Venue was Newton Sports Club in Crow Lane East. Judging by the facilities football comes third, after cricket and rugby (the league code presumably), in importance. The sole football pitch shares one side with a railed rugby pitch, while the other side was roped off to keep spectators in place.







Rhyl Rovers v Llandudno Albion

1.15pm  2 May 2016

Vale of Clwyd and Conway League, Premier Division
Rhyl Rovers 3 Llandudno Albion 7 (att 16)

I took the easy option this Bank Holiday, heading for a single game on the north Wales coast rather than driving long distances chasing two or more matches.

I was rewarded with plenty of goals, and a fixture that was okay despite having an end of season feel to it.

Llandudno Albion had already won the league, and their attention was more on a forthcoming cup final than a league game at a Rhyl Rovers side who also had little to play for. In those circumstances it could have been a dull contest, luckily it wasn't.

Rovers took an early lead, which they held only briefly. A penalty restored the hosts' advantage, but again it didn't take Albion long to level. Then two goals in quick succession meant the visitors led 4-2 at half time.

Rhyl Rovers pulled a goal back early in the second period, but eventually Llandudno Albion's superiority shone through and they established a commanding lead thanks to three more goals.

The venue was pitch accessed from Rhydwen Close in Rhyl, not far from the town centre and seafront and tucked in behind a housing estate. It's just a pitch, not railed or roped off, but it has an enclosed feel.








Bilborough United v Ashland Rovers

12.45pm  29 April 2016

Nottinghamshire Senior League, Division One
Bilborough United 1 Ashland Rovers 0 (att 238)

From the morning's match in Beeston it was a short and simple drive to the Nottingham suburb of Nuthall, and the Basil Russell Park which is now home to Bilborough United.

It's a park pitch, but a pleasant one with the pitch roped off and close to a pavilion that sits on top of a grass bank. As always with hop games, the host club had put a lot of effort in to cater for the large crowd.

The only goal came early, after six minutes by my watch, and despite their best efforts Ashland couldn't find a way to equalise. Similar to the earlier game at Beeston, there was no lack of quality on the pitch, just a lack of clear chances.

My plan after Bilborough had been a Notts Senior League game at 3pm at nearby Aspley Park. Annoyingly the kick off was brought forward to 2.30pm, making it very tight after this match. Luckily the Bilborough game finished promptly, giving me hope, but when I pulled into the car park at Aspley Park's ground I discovered that the venue, as well as the kick off, had changed.

I still had 30 minutes to drive to Shirebrook Rangers for a Midlands Regional Alliance game at 3pm, but I arrived at 2.59pm to learn it had started half-an-hour early. I didn't hang around to find out why, and headed home instead.









Beeston v Underwood Villa

10.05am  29 April 2016

Nottinghamshire Senior League, Premier Division
Beeston 0 Underwood Villa 0 (att 291)

An early start and a large crowd ... yes it's another organised groundhop. This time it was the Nottinghamshire Senior League's turn, staging four matches with staggered kick offs for those of us keen to tick off extra grounds.

Having already been to the last two venues my schedule wasn't as hectic as some, although my plans for a third game of the day, at a non-hop ground, were to bite the dust.

Unfortunately neither Beeston not Underwood Villa could provide a goal for the many watching. The woodwork was struck in the first half, and near the end the referee ruled out the one effort that did hit the back of the net.

The football was decent enough, but neither side was able to create much in the way of chances, and the nil nil scoreline had the air of inevitability about it.

Beeston hope to move to a new ground, possibly as early as the start of next season, so it was good to get to the Hetley Pearson Recreation Ground while they're still there. There's a modern pavilion and a football pitch that was roped off.









Illingworth St Mary's v Denholme United

6.15pm  29 April 2016

Halifax and District League, Division One
Illingworth St Mary's 10 Denholme United 0 (att 15)

It's been quite a season for Illingworth St Mary's. This was their 24th and final league fixture, and they duly secured their 24th win at a canter against a Denholme side who needed a win to retain a chance of promotion.

It was always a tall order for the visitors, and they had their keeper to thank for a string of fine saves, including stopping a harshly-awarded penalty, to keep Illingworth at bay for the first 25 minutes.

Having gone ahead the home side doubled their advantage by half time. The second half was mostly one way traffic, as Illingworth put Denholme to the sword for my first double figure scoreline of the season. If it wasn't for the Denholme keeper the score would have been well into the teens.

Illingworth St Mary's play home games on a 3G pitch at Trinity Academy, just north of Halifax. Finding the school is easy enough, but finding the pitch was a challenge. I thought the game was off such was the lack of activity in and around the car park.

Luckily, while searching for the pitch I heard a distant referee's whistle, and just about made it to the venue before the game got underway.

There's a car park behind the goal of the 3G pitch, and at half time I took the opportunity to move my car from the school car park. Just as well I did, as when drove past after the game the school car park appeared to be locked up.






The 3G pitch at Trinity Academy isn't yet on Google Maps, but here's a link to its location

West Park v Old Mill

6.30pm  28 April 2016

St Helens and District Combination, Premier Division
West Park 0 Old Mill 0 (att 10) abandoned at half time due to weather conditions

Having enjoyed my first taste of the St Helens Combination earlier in the week, a nine-goal thriller featuring West Park FC, I decided to see the side again for their home game against Old Mill.

The game began in bright sunshine, and despite being goalless was quite lively, but as half time approached the storm clouds were, quite literally, gathering around the pitch.

Once the ref blew for the end of the 40 minute first half I headed back to my car for an umbrella, fearing I'd need it. By the time I'd got it the hailstorm was torrential and there was fork lightning overhead.

It was no surprise to see players heading for the changing rooms as I returned to the pitch, and abandoning the game was surely the correct decision.

Abandoned games, and whether or not to "count" them, is a topic that often divides groundhoppers. My rule is that if a game gets to at least half time then I'll consider the ground "ticked", and as the ref blew for half time before stopping play then that's good enough for me.

That said, the Bishop Road venue in St Helens isn't far from home and is used by several clubs, so there's every chance I'll return in the future for a full game.








Farnworth Town v Bolton Wyresdale

6.50pm  27 April 2016

Lancashire Amateur League, Division One
Farnworth Town 3 Bolton Wyresdale 0 (att 10)

When it gets to late April you expect to be watching games in spring sunshine, but at Farnworth's Fern Street ground we had hail, sleet and snow to contend with. Luckily the players made light of the conditions and produced an entertaining game.

Neither side had much to play for, although the threat of relegation still lingers for Wyresdale after a comprehensive defeat. The home side scored twice in the first half, then added a second half penalty to complete the scoring.

Bolton Wyresdale played their part and created chances, but found Farnworth's keeper in fine form whenever a goal looked likely. A later than planned kick off meant we had two 40-minute halves, but it was an enjoyable 80 minutes, despite the weather.

The last time I saw a Farnworth Town home game they played nearby at Harper Green, but this season they've returned to their former home at Fern Street. There's changing rooms (replaced after they were stolen in 2011) and space for a couple of pitches, and it has an enclosed feel even though it is, in effect, a public park.