Leith Athletic v Tynecastle at Preston Athletic FC

2.30pm  15 October 2017

East of Scotland FA, Alex Jack Cup Final at Preston Athletic FC
Leith Athletic 0 Tynecastle 3 (att 220)

Back in May I watched as these two sides contested the East of Scotland League Cup Final. On that day Tynecastle took a first half lead but were unable to withstand a second half recovery by Leith Athletic.

I thought I might be in for a repeat as Tynecastle once again went into the half time break with a one goal advantage after a lively first half. But this time Leith were unable to stage a comeback.

Whether the memory of May's defeat was a factor I don't know, but Tynecastle's desire and determination to protect their lead was greater than anything Leith could muster to get back into the game.

An own goal doubled the advantage, and a late third goal put the outcome beyond any doubt, meaning Tynecastle were able to lift the Alex Jack Cup, a competition open to the handful of East of Scotland League clubs who aren't eligible for the season's Scottish FA Cup.

As winners, Tynecastle now enter a play for a place in next season's Scottish Cup, although these days there seem to be so many ways of qualifying for the national cup I don't understand why the Scottish FA don't just open it up to anyone who wants to enter.

The venue for this year's final was the impressive Pennypit Park in Prestonpans, home to Preston Athletic FC. The ground's main feature is a good-sized seated stand (identical to the stand at the next door rugby stadium), and grass banking surrounds the rest of the pitch.









Aslockton and Orston v Linby Colliery Welfare

3pm  14 October 2017

Central Midlands League, South Division
Aslockton and Orston 2 Linby Colliery Welfare 3 (att 46)

I had completed the full set of Central Midlands League grounds last season, but Aslockton and Orston were one of three new clubs to join for 2017/18 whose grounds I'd not been to.

The club are based at Orston Recreation Ground, a very rural venue that's just outside the village of Orston. It's been used by clubs with various names in recent years, and Aslockton and Orston is a renamed version of Aslockton Cranmers who played here last season.

The new name apparently recognises the support the club has had from the village in which they're (almost) based, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people watching the game. The crowd also included support for Linby, a couple of whose fans who enthusiastically wielded old-fashioned rattles when their team scored.

Their side had to come from behind to win an entertaining game. Linby started the game well enough, but once they went a goal down they looked poor. They were better after the break though, and two second half goals put them ahead.

Aslockton and Orston's young side battled back and managed to level, but it was the visitors who scored a decisive late goal to claim all three points.

A lot of work has gone into turning Orston Recreation Ground into a proper football venue. There's a new clubhouse close to the railed-off pitch, which also has a pair of dugouts and a small covered area with a few chairs inside.










Brushes Rangers Spartak v Old Stretfordians

10am  14 October 2017

Manchester Saturday Morning League, Division One
Brushes Rangers Spartak 3 Old Stretfordians 1 (att 6)

Brushes Rangers Spartak really are the gift that keeps on giving  for a Manchester-based groundhopper, as they seem to find a different home ground almost every season. This time they're using a new 4G pitch at Alder Community High School, on the edge of Hyde.

Like most 3G and 4G pitches it's not an exciting venue, but the fenced-in pitch is set back from the main road, is some distance from the school buildings, and on an October morning was surrounded by trees in autumn colours, making it a nice place to watch a game.

The only annoyance - other than an earlier-than-advertised kick off which meant I missed the opening few minutes - were the overhead wires used to divide the pitch into areas for small-sided games. They seemed unusually low, and were hit by the ball several times. Surely they could be removed when the pitch is being used for 11-a-side fixtures?

That aside it was a decent game. A pair of well-taken goals, one in each half, put the home side in control of a keenly-contested fixture. Old Stretfordians, newcomers to the league but well-established in Saturday afternoon football, pulled a goal back, but a third for the hosts settled matters.









Houghton Main v Stocksbridge Park Steels reserves

3pm  7 October 2017

Sheffield County Senior League, Premier Division
Houghton Main 0 Stocksbridge Park Steels reserves 3 (att 40)

Getting from a 1pm kick off at Grimethorpe Sports to a 3pm start at Houghton Main was always going to be a challenge, and leaving the ground at Athersley, and then extricating myself from the car park, cost me time that meant I arrived a couple of minutes late at Houghton Main.

The linesman I spoke to assured me there'd been no goals before I arrived, and I then watched as Stocksbridge scored three, all before half time, to set up a comfortable win.

The league's Full Time website says the result was 4-0, so either the site is wrong, the linesman forgot about a very early goal, or I dozed off and missed something.

Whatever the final score it was a very easy win for the visitors, who took their collective feet off the gas in the second half with three points (and either three or four goals) already in the bag.

Houghton Main's Middlecliffe Lane ground is one I've wanted to visit for a while, having seen photos of what is a very nice venue for this level of football. Three sides of the pitch are railed off, the exception being the roped off touchline closest to the cricket square.

The ground's main feature though is the stand. It's typical of the stands found at miners welfare sports grounds in Yorkshire but, while many are now neglected and falling into disrepair, Houghton Main FC have added seats, spelling out HMFC in club colours. A pair of modern dugouts and an excellent playing surface complete an excellent ground.









Grimethorpe Sports v Penistone Church reserves

1pm  7 October 2017

Sheffield County Senior League, Premier Division
Grimethorpe Sports 1 Penistone Church reserves 1 (att 50)

Sadly Grimethorpe Sports are no longer based in Grimethorpe, but having embarked on a nomadic existence they're settling into their new home on the second pitch at Athersley Recreation FC's Sheerien Park ground.

They're going well in the league, and should have won this top of the table battle against Penistone's second team. The home side took a first half lead, and spurned plenty of chances to extend their advantage.

They paid the penalty for wastefulness in the second half, literally, when a spot kick given for a trip in the box was converted to make the score 1-1. Both sides had chances to win the game, Grimethorpe again guilty of missing the best of them, but there were no more goals.

The home side's identity seems to be in a state of flux at the moment. The gateman asked if I'd come to 'see the reserves', Grimethorpe's kit looks similar to Athersley's, and the badge on the shirts calls them Grimethorpe and Athersley Sports FC.

If they're not already, they're well on the way to becoming' Athersley Recreation's de facto second eleven.

Such semi-official backing from the host club at least meant the tea bar was open for the early kick off (ahead of Athersley's game on the main pitch at 3pm) so as well as a pre-match coffee I was able to enjoy pies and peas at half time.

The second pitch at Sheerien Park is a decent football ground in it's own right. The pitch is railed off on all four sides, although there's no access to the end backing onto the main ground, and there's a pair of neat dugouts.








Noah's Ark v Totley West End

10.30am  7 October 2017

Sheffield and District Fair Play League, Division One
Noah's Ark 3 Totley West End 1 (att 5)

Today was Non League Day, when in the absence of Premier League and Championship fixtures fans are encouraged to watch their local amateur and semi-professional sides for a change. I watch non-League football almost all the time, so I marked the day by going to three games.

First up was debut in the Sheffield and District Fair Play League, one of a number of leagues with Christian roots that play on Saturday mornings, providing 'Sunday league' football for teams who prefer not to play on the Sabbath.

These days the Fair Play League seems to have a mix of teams, with village and sports club sides among those whose names suggest a religious background. And with four divisions at a time when other leagues are contracting or disappearing it must be doing something right.

I chose Noah's Ark versus Totley West End because I wanted a top division game, and it was in range for my planned second game of the day at 1pm.

The 3G pitch at Sheffield Park Academy was never going to be an interesting venue, although the modern academy buildings at least provide an impressive backdrop. Unfortunately though they didn't provide much shelter from the strong and cold wind blowing across the pitch.

Noah's Ark - who disappointingly didn't enter the pitch two-by-two ahead of kick off - won this after turning around a 0-1 half time deficit. It wasn't a high quality game, although the strike that put the home side in front was excellent.

With regular 10.30am kick offs on Saturdays I'm sure I'll be watching more games in the Sheffield and District Fair Play League.







Lifton v North Hill

2.30pm  1 October 2017

Launceston and District Cup, Preliminary Round
Lifton 4 North Hill 3 (att 14)

I had two potential Launceston Cup games to choose from (a third tie featured a reserve side at home) but after the previous day's heavy rain it was no surprise when the match between St Cleer and North Petherwin was postponed.

Luckily there was better news after the pitch inspection at North Hill. Their pitch wasn't fit, but the tie was to be reversed and played at Lifton Recreation Ground, which was playable.

Credit to North Hill, who could presumably have insisted the tie was simply postponed so they could retain home advantage. I doubt home advantage counts for much at this level, but North Hill must have been struggling to put out a strong team.

They played the first half with just 10 men, their eleventh arriving just in time to hear the half time whistle. By that time Lifton, who play two Duchy League divisions lower than North Hill, led 4-2.

North Hill made is 4-3 just five minutes into the second half, but remarkably after what had gone before there were no more goals.

The Recreation Ground in Lifton, just outside Launceston but over the border in Devon, is a basic football venue, as you'd expect at this level. It's very pleasant though, with a single pitch, car park and and a modern Football Foundation-funded pavilion housing the changing rooms.